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Steve Bannon Claims Executive Privilege; Attorney General Sessions Doubling Down on Immigration; Clock is Ticking for GOP to Pass Budget Bill. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 16, 2018 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, HOST, CNN: ... deputy chair of the DNC. We will test them and see where it all comes out. Thanks for watching. CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, the man, starts right now.

DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Breaking news on the Russia investigation. Steve Bannon sits for more than 10 hours of questions from the House intelligence committee but refuses to answer their questions about the transition or his time in the White House, making a surprise claim of executive privilege and infuriating lawmakers.

Congressman Adam Schiff calls it a gag order by the White House. We're going to talk about that. Was the whole thing an attempt by the former chief strategist to get back in the good graces of President Trump?

More on all of that in just a moment. Plus, all the president's men -- the women -- and women, I should say, trying -- tying themselves up in knots, trying to say something, anything, to put an end to the firestorm over President Trump's crude racist remarks about immigration from African countries.

Now they have seemed to have settled on the 'I don't remember defense.' Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen repeatedly telling the Senate judiciary committee today she just couldn't remember exactly what the president said in that Oval Office meeting. It infuriated Senator Cory Booker, slamming Senator Nielsen.


CORY BOOKER, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: You're silent and you're amnesia is complicit.


LEMON: And Senator Lindsey Graham going on to say this.


LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: This has turned into an s- show. And we need to get back to being a great country, where democrats and republicans have worked together to do something that we should have done years ago.


LEMON: Yes. Good luck with that now. Now, hopes are fading for DACA, a DACA deal with just three days to go, until the deadline to avert a government shutdown.

There is lots to talk about and we have the perfect person here. CNN's chief political correspondent is Dana Bash. She joins us now with more on this breaking news. Where do we start?

Let's talk about tonight, all right? Let's begin with the breaking news. Steve Bannon appearing before the House intel committee, Dana, today in a marathon session. It lasted for more than 10 hours. What's going on? What do you know?

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It lasted for more than 10 hours, and yet it seems as though much of the toing and froing was about the questions that Steve Bannon said he was unable to answer.

I am told by a source familiar with the process, the legal process that Bannon has gone through, that he was told explicitly by the White House, at least his legal team was, you cannot talk about things that happened in the transition and things that happened while you were in the White House, because we, the White House, the executive, the president is claiming executive privilege. As you said, they pushed back on that, even subpoenaed him and it didn't go very far.

LEMON: Don Junior did the same thing, didn't he?

BASH: Well, no, Don Junior...


LEMON: Did they say executive privilege?

BASH: Well, he actually, he answered the question -- one of the questions that he was asked about things that he told the president, his father, saying it's executive privilege, which doesn't actually really exist in that particular context. But in this one, it actually does.


BASH: And -- but what I am told is that it made lawmakers on both sides of the aisle even more angry is that Bannon explicitly said that he was going to give answers to Robert Mueller. And the reason is because executive privilege only exists when you're talking about the legislative branch versus the executive branch. It doesn't exist when you're talking about a federal criminal inquiry.

LEMON: So he said he's going to give answers to Robert Mueller.

BASH: He will.

LEMON: OK. But why did Robert Mueller subpoena him then?

BASH: It's a really interesting question. I am told that the likely answer is that because Steve Bannon said the things that he said in the book "Fire and Fury" and then kind of walked it back in a statement, subsequent statement, what the special counsel, Robert Mueller, wants to do is make it very clear to Steve Bannon and also the president that he, Steve Bannon, is going to have to come before Mueller and tell the truth, what really happened. What he really knows.

LEMON: So that is -- but that happens when Mueller...

BASH: Exactly.

LEMON: ... when he -- when Mueller gets his chance. But now, with the House, can they force him to cooperate? What happens now?

BASH: No. They really can't force him to cooperate. I mean, I don't think any more than it has. There could be more toing and froing if the republicans who are in charge in the House in particular want to make a bigger deal out of this.

And they could try to challenge the claim of executive privilege in a more formal way. But it's unclear if they will really go there, particularly knowing that at the end of the day, this is kind of what executive privilege is. And also, knowing that he is going to answer questions in a formal setting, with the special counsel.

[22:05:00] LEMON: Democrats are not happy, because Adam Schiff, the ranking democrat in the House intelligence committee accused the White House of putting a gag order on Steve Bannon.

BASH: And that is kind of what they did. I mean, by saying -- by claiming executive privilege, they're saying, don't answer the questions about the time you were in the White House or the time in the transition. So he's not wrong.

LEMON: I want you to stand by, Dana, because we're going to need you a little bit longer in this broadcast. I want to bring in now CNN contributor, John Dean, a former White House counsel for President Nixon, and Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who is running for attorney general of Illinois.

Gentlemen, good evening. Welcome to the program. Renato, I'm going to start with you. Bannon's testimony appears contentious and he's right to invoke executive privilege for the period of time, including the transition, according to Dana's reporting. Is there precedent for that?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: There isn't. I mean, that is really bizarre. They're claiming executive privilege when Donald Trump was not yet the executive. So that's a problem for them. You know, we have seen very often people from the administration refuse to answer questions, without saying why. Without saying that they're actually invoking executive privilege. And that's -- and this -- now we're seeing the reason why that is.

Because when you invoke executive privilege, there's actually, you know, case law out there, in other words, court decisions out there on this issue and I think if the Congress actually pushed back, which is a big question, I think Dana is right, you know, Congress seems to have been fairly compliant with the president thus far, but if they do push back, I think they would prevail on those questions.

LEMON: John Dean, Representative Himes, Jim Himes, a member of the House intelligence committee, says that Bannon is also claiming executive privilege for conversations that he had with people other than the president. Is that going to wash?

JOHN DEAN, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: It shouldn't. As was outlined, there really is no such thing as executive privilege. It's a myth that has been codified by the supreme court in case law in U.S. versus Nixon. But it really is based on the separation of powers. The fact that the president himself can withhold information.

He can't force Bannon to not testify without it getting an injunction against him somehow, which would be unprecedented. If Bannon wanted to testify, he could testify. I was in the same situation when I testified. Nixon didn't want me testifying. He could have said, well, it's executive privilege, and I would say, I'm going to tell the truth. I don't care what you think about it.

LEMON: Interesting. So Renato, Heims also said that there were a number of copies of "Fire and Fury" in the room and that Bannon testified that his comments about the June 2016 meeting being treasonous were hyperbole. What's your reaction to that?

MARIOTTI: Wow. Well, you know, it's -- you know, it's funny. It seems to me like Bannon is trying to get back in the good graces of the White House. You know, I think John was right to point out that if Bannon wanted to talk, he could do it.

I mean, the only -- executive privilege is a shield, it's not a sword. In other words, it couldn't be used to stop him from talking. It just can be used by him to prevent himself from talking.

So, you know, it seems to me like he's now bending over backwards to say, you know, just like, you know, you were talking at the top of the hour, we have the secretary now saying she didn't recall the president's words from a few days ago.

Now we have Bannon saying, well, I didn't really mean what I said.

Unfortunately, for him, he's got to go before Robert Mueller. You talked about that earlier. He's not going to have such an easy time, because unlike Congress, Mueller is going to be very aggressive about any claim of privilege, and he wouldn't be successful in claiming it against Mueller.

LEMON: Go ahead, Dana.

BASH: And there's something else just by way of context and Steve Bannon has not been shy about saying this, that just even take the executive privilege out of this. He's not been shy about saying that he thinks it is outrageous that the republican-led Congress in the House and the Senate have agreed to investigate the republican president.

So you have to remember that that's the backdrop and that's the context through which the president's former counselor agreed that what the White House is telling him is something that he should follow, meaning executive privilege.

LEMON: Yes, I just think it's interesting that he'll talk a book author and will answer questions from a book author, but won't answer questions from the American people...


BASH: I'm guessing that's something that was brought up inside that legal hearing today.

LEMON: Yes. So John, what's the legal jeopardy that he could possibly be in?

DEAN: Well, if the republicans were aggressive in wanting to get his testimony, they could hold him in contempt for failing to answer and that would certainly bring the issue into litigation.

But right now, it's just being used as sort of a double speak. The president says, I can't talk, so I'm not going to talk. But he's doing that voluntarily. Before the grand jury, he doesn't have that option. That law has been settled and the grand jury has the right to his testimony. So, he's going to have to talk there.

[22:10:01] LEMON: Hey, Renato, I want to ask you, because Dana has said this. You mentioned it just a moment ago. White House communications -- no, this is sources have confirmed to CNN that special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed Steve Bannon to testify before a grand jury. This is a first member of the Trump inner circle. Why issue a subpoena here? What's that all about?

MARIOTTI: I think that's a really, a really interesting question. It's one I explored earlier today on Twitter, because I found it a fascinating question, too. You know, typically in a situation like this, Mueller's team would reach out to Bannon's attorney. He would -- you know, there would be an informal interview that would be negotiated, just like we saw with the other folks in the Trump team.

And what it told me was, Mueller really wants to get Bannon in a room without a lawyer and a court reporter present. So just so viewers at home understand, when I would put witnesses in the grand jury, there would be no one there, no defense attorney making objections or talking to his client. It's just the grand jurors, me, and a court reporter and that witness.

And I would be asking tough questions, you would -- you could ask them if you wanted to in a very cross-examination-like style. And those questions would be recorded by a court reporter. It's different in an informal interview. And often those interviews can be very productive.

And as we found out earlier this year, obviously with Gates -- or, excuse me, with Papadopoulos and Flynn, you know, lying to an FBI agent in an informal interview can be a problem, too. But I think Mueller really wants to pin Bannon down and I think he is concerned that, you know, he would not get as good of answers if Bannon had an attorney present and didn't have a court reporter there.

LEMON: And up next this week, Hope Hicks, Corey Lewandowski. We'll be reporting on that. All right. Thank you, John. Thank you, Renato. I appreciate that. Dana, I want you to stick around.

When we come back, the clock is ticking for Congress to figure funding -- how to fund the federal government before the weekend. Now republicans are making a last-ditch attempt to avoid a shutdown. Do they have a shot?


LEMON: We have breaking news tonight on a looming government shutdown, just three days away. Republicans in the House moving to pass a short-term spending bill to fund the government, including introducing, I should say, a continuing resolution tonight that would go through February 16th.

I want to bring in CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly to fill us in on all of this. So, Phil, the government shutdown deadline on Friday at midnight fast approaching. What's the state of play on the government shutdown and the DACA deal?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, on the former, it's a bit of a mess right now. On the latter, it's stalled out completely. Look, it starts with the government shutdown. Republican leaders, Don, have made very clear in both the House and Senate they are moving DACA to the side. Even though that's what democrats say is a prerequisite for any of their votes on this issue, republicans leaders want, as yo noted, a short-term spending bill.

Well, that spending bill in the House was unveiled tonight. And just a short while ago, the House Freedom Caucus, the very conservative hard line wing of the House republican conference was meeting behind closed doors. And at least one of their members emerged and made very clear House republican leaders don't have the votes for the spending bill they released tonight.

Now, to put this in context, for House republicans and for Senate republicans to even get this process started, basically, to get the car out of the garage without the axle breaking before you even hit the ignition, they need the House republicans to pass this spending bill. If that is not an option at this point, they're back at square one.

And perhaps more importantly, democrats are now back on the table and democrats have made clear they're not willing to move, at least to this point, without DACA. So where does that leave us now as we approach about 48 hours, 72 hours before an actual shutdown? Open questions, Don. Right now, there are not a lot of answers. We are

still at this point we've been for kind of the last three or four days with House republicans, Senate republicans, pretty sure where they want to go, but no actual pathway to get there yet.

LEMON: But let me get this right. They're proposing something that they know they don't have the votes for off the bat?

MATTINGLY: Yes. So it's been an interesting last couple of hours. House republican leaders, there's kind of two things to keep a very close eye on here. House republicans and what's going to happen in the Senate.

Obviously, in the Senate, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs democratic votes. So that's been a lot of interplay right there basically because of the DACA issue.

In the House, they can pass this on their own. They have a majority, a simple majority, enough to pass a spending bill in the House. Speaker Paul Ryan tonight had a closed door conference meeting with House republicans where a lot of republicans and a lot of senior aides came out of that meeting saying, things are pretty good. We think we can get this four-week spending bill done. We think we can get the majority to actually move this through, kick this over to the Senate.

Now with this group of conservatives meeting behind closed doors, deciding that they are not in support of this, they're back to square one. Right now, they need to figure out a pathway forward, or for republicans who don't want to deal with the DACA issue now, who have made very clear that the bipartisan deal that's on the table right now is not sufficient, the deal the president himself rejected, if they can't pass a spending bill on their own in the House, they don't have a plan right now.

So, obviously, there's a lot of talks right now in terms of how this is actually going to progress. But Don, this all happened just within the last three hours. Things seemed to be OK, seemed to be moving in the right detection and then things fell apart.

And they haven't even gotten to the senate yet where there's a whole litany of thorny issues that they're going to have to deal with. All of this just underscores that right now on Capitol Hill things are a mess, there's no clear resolution forward, and in terms of what the pathway is to ensure that the government is open on January 20th, the one-year anniversary of the president's inauguration, nobody has a great answer yet.

LEMON: You've been very clear, but I'm still confused. I mean, it's crazy. Phil, thank you. I appreciate it.

I want to bring in now CNN contributor, Frank Bruni, Dana Bash is back, also joining me now, political analyst, April Ryan. Don't I have the right to be confused? What the heck is going on here, Dana?


BASH: Even if...


LEMON: Remember last week the president said, hey, look, I'll take the heat. What happened to taking the heat?

BASH: That was like, so a week ago.


BASH: Which is like...


LEMON: So bring us up to date.

BASH: Which is a million years in Trump news dog years. What's up to date is exactly how Phil spelled it out. That if you boil it down, there is no answer. There is no answer about how they're going to, first and foremost, keep the government running unless there is some way for democrats to get a signal that they either have to pass it or they get a signal that somehow, DACA can be dealt with.

And that signal was, as you alluded to, a week ago. That was -- and then everything changed when things blew up in the Oval Office with those -- with those remarks. And so it is unclear exactly how things are going to get worked out now.

[22:20:07] LEMON: Well, that's -- Senator Lindsey Graham said, I thought we were going to work on this. I was happy for the guy that I knew last week. And then all of a sudden, something -- let's watch it.


DICK DURBIN, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Call him two days later, Senator Graham and I and say, we've done it. We've met your criteria, we have a bipartisan bill, we're ready to go. And then to be called into the president's office to explain it to him and find that we've been sandbagged.

General Kelly and Steve Miller, as I understand it, invited five other members of Congress who are not in favor of immigration reform or in a very harsh sense, and they were there to refute any assertions we made that this was a good policy.

GRAHAM: I think somebody on that staff gave him really bad advice between 10 o'clock and 12 o'clock on Thursday. I think the president I saw on Tuesday is the guy I play golf with. They actually like the guy. He's actually funny. I thought he commanded the room.

And the conversation at 10 o'clock on Thursday was pretty consistent with the guy I saw Tuesday. Something happened between 10 and 12.

This has turned into an s-show and we need to get back to being a great country where democrats and republicans have worked together to do something that we should have done years ago. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: As I said in the open, good luck with that. Why are you shaking your head?

FRANK BRUNI, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: I'm shaking my head, because I'm listening to Senator Graham, and he's expecting something from Trump called consistency. And the fact that a year of Trump in office has taught him not to expect that confounds me.

And I'm also just a little bit tired of the Lindsey Graham of slap, of gently slapping Trump with one hand and heavily petting him with the other. He's trying to have all things all way. He wants to be the president's golfing buddy. He gave us the impression that he was golfing with the president because that was going to put him in the position, him, meaning Lindsey Graham, you know, to forge and get through some great deal on immigration.

And here we are. There is no such deal. Lindsey Graham has spent a year buttering the president up, telling him how wonderful his golf swing is, how masterful he puts and he has absolutely nothing to show for it. That's why I'm shaking my head.

LEMON: Well, do you want to respond to that?

BASH: No. I mean, a lot of people agree with that, there's no question. And people are scratching their head asking, what is Lindsey Graham doing when he went from being the president's sworn enemy to his BFF. And his answer was, he's the president we've got, I think we can cut a deal with him and I think even he admits that he's got egg on his face.


BASH: The question still is, and he made clear in that gaggle today, that he is holding out hope that it's not over and that he thinks that the president at some point or more importantly, the conservatives who sandbagged them, to use Dick Durbin's words, are going to have to back down.

Because when the pictures start coming out of, you know, unfortunately, if there isn't a deal, this is going to happen, of people being deported, who came here through no fault of their own, that the president's back is going to be up against a wall. But that's a very, very big gamble to take.

LEMON: But at the point when he said that, that's the point in the sound bite that Frank started shaking his head. And you're right. I think a lot of people are saying the same thing. Lindsey Graham gently, you know, will admonish the president and then say in the same breath how much he loves him. And I think you're right, he's speaking for the people at home.

BRUNI: Well, he's repeatedly served as a character witness for President Trump over the last few years. LEMON: April, I want to get you in here. I have something to ask you.


LEMON: But I want to play something for you. But I just want to get your response, because you're at the White House every day. What's going on?

RYAN: It's mayhem and, you know, there was a window that Stephen Miller thought that he had to bring people in. And they thought that the president was going to be agreeable. And it turned out the other way, because the base does not like anything that deals with any kind of pathway to citizenship.

We keep hearing Sarah Huckabee Sanders talking about merit-based system and the wall. So, something happened that went awry with the president's staff. But at issue, and this is the thing people aren't talking about.

There are people who are very concerned and scared, congressional leaders who are very fearful that Friday comes and there could be a government shutdown. And this president talks about this great economy. The economy will shift if this happens.


RYAN: I mean, hundreds of thousands of people could be furloughed for a while. So you not only have this immigration situation that's looming, you have a government shutdown. And there are five which is not just DACA, that are up in the air.

It's the budget caps, it's also disaster relief and CHIP. Things like that, and DACA. So there are a lot of things up in the air and they cannot seem to get a handle on. And this government shutdown is really looming.

[22:25:01] You've got this immigration issue. People being deported. And then you've got this issue of a government shutdown. There's a lot on the table in just a matter of days.

LEMON: Yes. Well, Jeff Sessions is speaking out about immigration. We'll talk about that after the break.


LEMON: Back with Frank Bruni, Dana Bash, and April Ryan. April, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions was on Fox Tonight. Here's what he said about immigration reform.


JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: What good does it do to bring in somebody who's illiterate in their own country, has no skills, and is going to struggle in our country and not be successful? That is not what a good nation should do. And we need to get away from it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: My God.

BASH: Should I talk?

RYAN: No, I just...


LEMON: No, but April, it's just...

BASH: It's actually...

LEMON: How did most immigrants come here, most Italians, Irish people.

BASH: A big part of the reason...

RYAN: Yes.

LEMON: Even me, even me as somebody who came over as from -- from slavery, didn't have educations.


BRUNI: My grandparents were...

LEMON: They didn't have...

RYAN: But yes, we, so, you know, people cannot say -- people can't say slavery was immigration. That's not...


[22:30:02] LEMON: I didn't say it was immigrant. I said we came over as slavery.

RYAN: Let's get that straight. Slavery is not immigrant. I know, but people want to believe...

LEMON: I'm saying we didn't have education.

RYAN: I know, I know, but people want to believe that. Right.

LEMON: I did not use the term immigration, by the way.

RYAN: And this goes back to what -- right.




APRIL RYAN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: ... people cannot say -- people can't say slavery was immigration. That's not...



DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: I didn't say it was immigrant. I said we came over as slavery.

RYAN: Let's get that straight. Slavery is not immigrant. I know, but people want to believe...

LEMON: I'm saying we didn't have education.

RYAN: I know, I know, but people want to believe that. Right.

LEMON: I did not use the term immigration, by the way.

RYAN: And this goes back to what -- right. I know. I'm just saying. But people, whenever we bring -- they want to believe. Everyone says, we are a nation of immigrants. No, we're not all immigrants, we're natives, slaves, and immigrants.

But let me say this. Don, this goes back to what happened last week when they were talking about a merit-based system. And this goes back to the s-hole stuff. And it goes back to Nigeria. The Nigerians in the huts thing and the Haitians and HIV.

People need to stop going by feeling and deal with the facts. And, you know, let's quantify and qualify who they're talking about when they say, we don't want illiterate people coming. Let's quantify and qualify who they're talking about overall.

Because, again, throwing back the fact, we see statistics, fact, from the Center for American Progress, who came out and even updated. I had -- the last report we had last week was 2012. They came back with something from a survey from 2016 and they just reported it this weekend.

And it's substantiate -- and it also throws in employment, as well. Black immigrants have higher levels of obtaining college degrees than any other minority group. And also, there is a component when it comes to jobs. So they need to stop this. They need to stop making these blanket statements. Because it makes them seem racially biased.

LEMON: Well, it's just obvious when you listen -- you can't listen to that sound bite from Jeff Sessions and not be enflamed. But that is, but even with all of that, and that's their talking point now, that they want a merit-based system. That's not what the president said. That's not what the president's comments were about. His comments were not about merit-based.

RYAN: It's not -- no.

LEMON: His comments were about country-based and color-based.

BASH: Right. That was the president. I didn't hear Jeff Sessions talk about that, but I think what Jeff Sessions just said is worthy of a very real discussion and big question mark, which is, as you were saying, Frank, that is not what this country is about.

This country historically not about letting people in if they can read and write. And if they are -- if the leaders in this country are confident that they can, you know, come here and be millionaires, not at all. It is supposed to be the land of hope and opportunity, explicitly for people who can't get a chance...


BASH: ... in their countries and can't get a chance to learn to read and write and get ahead.

RYAN: Exactly.

BASH: And this is the place they can do it.

LEMON: Go ahead.

FRANK BRUNI, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: No, no, I was just saying earlier, my Italian grandparents on my dad's side both came here from Southern Italy, which back then was considered an s-hole area. You only wanted people from the north. Both were illiterate when they came here.

You would never have met two more patriotic Americans, who worked harder, all of their children were successful. That's the American story that we really are talking about or should be talking about.

And when I hear Donald Trump's comments from that meeting and when I hear Jeff Sessions there, even though he didn't say the same things, I hear stuff from this administration that I think takes us farther away from the meaning of America, not back to some better meaning of America. And it's -- after a year, it's wearying.

LEMON: I also hear the dumbest things from some supporters of the president saying, well, you know, Harvard does this and colleges do this, and you don't let in the worst people, you let in the best people.

And companies -- America is not a company, nor is it a university. And so you really can't compare an admission system at a university or a hiring practices at company -- at companies with how you do immigration in the United States. That's absurd.


RYAN: But, Don.

BRUNI: I'm listening to you and I have to laugh, because the anti- elitist Trump administration is comparing immigration to Ivy League University of Michigan, that's rich.

LEMON: OK. I need -- listen, I need to move on and talk about this, because it's very important... (CROSSTALK)

RYAN: Bu, Don...

LEMON: I got to talk to you about this, April. We heard today from a doctor who recently examined the president. He says the president is in excellent health. Watch this.

RYAN: Yes.


RONNY JACKSON, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PHYSICIAN: If the president had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old, I don't know. I mean, he has incredible -- he has incredible genes I just assume.

I was not going to do a cognitive exam. I had no intention of doing one day. The reason that we did the cognitive assessment is plain and simple because the president asked me to do it. His overall health is excellent.

Are there a few things he could do to make himself a little healthier with a diet and exercise, absolutely. I would say he sleeps four to five hours a night. And you know, I think he's probably been that way his whole life. That's probably one of the reasons he's been successful.


LEMON: Sorry. Clean bill of health. Incredible genes, right?

BRUNI: Apparently. Listen, I want to -- let's take it at face value. And we spend so much time criticizing the president, as we should, that's our job. I mean, I want to say the fact that he came out and answered questions for an hour today, that surprised me, and I think that surprised you, Dana. That's a good thing. And so, do I believe every single number there? Not exactly.

[22:34:56] LEMON: Well, I was -- I was just chuckling at how energetic he was, not exactly what he was saying about the president, but I mean.

BRUNI: He seemed like a Trump fan boy.

LEMON: What'd he say 239 pounds.

BRUNI: Whatever, but I mean...


LEMON: I know I'm being a girther, but, come on.

BRUNI: We rightly complain -- we rightly complain all the time about this administration's lack of responsiveness to us. That guy came out here for an hour today, he answered a lot of questions, let's give credit where it's due.

BASH: Yes. And I just thought it was very, very telling that he explicitly said that he wasn't going to do what he called a cognitive test.

LEMON: Cognitive, right.

BASH: But the president wanted him to do the test and then go out and report on it. That is so, so telling.

LEMON: Yes. All right. Thanks, everyone. I appreciate it. When we come back, a top democrat accuses the White House of slapping a gag order on Steve Bannon. Is Bannon trying to get back into the president's good graces?


LEMON: Russian investigators putting the squeeze on Steve Bannon, who was hit with subpoenas from both the House intel committee and the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

Let's discuss now with CNN national security analyst, General Michael Hayden and former Director of the CIA and the NSA. Also with us is James Clapper, the former director of the National -- of National Intelligence.

Good evening, gentlemen. Thank you so much for coming on.


[22:39:59] LEMON: I appreciate it. General Hayden, I'll start with you. Steve Bannon, the president's former chief strategist called to testify before the grand jury as part of the investigation into possible links between Trump's campaign or his associates and Russia.

What is Mueller using a subpoena tell you about the investigation?

HAYDEN: Well, number one, all along, I thought Bob, Director Mueller was going to be absolutely exhaustive in this investigation. And so now you've got the book out there, you've got the Bannon quotes in the book. I mean, he's got to go pull that rock up and look under that rock. So that's one thing.

So I think Bob is just being thorough. Secondly, though, you know, the more rocks he pulls up, the more things we learn. And so, I think there's a -- besides just being complete here, I think there's a genuine curiosity on the part of the special counsel to see exactly what it is that Bannon knows and why it is he said the things that he said.

LEMON: In that book. In that book.


LEMON: All right. Director Clapper, to you now. Steve Bannon certainly faced questions about his reported comments in this book, "Fire and Fury." "The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump tower in the conference room on the 25th floor with no lawyers." That's a direct quote from the book.

Director Clapper, what's your take on how close to the president that this Russia investigation is getting?

JAMES CLAPPER, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: Well, it's getting pretty close. And just to key off something that Mike just spoke about, the approach that Bob Mueller, director Mueller is taking as special counsel in this, and the thoroughness and the methodical way he's approaching this, and now, of course, you know, if you'd think of it as a series of concentric circles ever-closer to the president.

So you know, who's closer to -- has been closer up until recently to the president than Steve Bannon? One of the things that I thought was interesting from the previous discussions was the concept of executive privilege. I'm not sure how that applies, particularly during the transition face, before the presidency actually started.

And also, I'm not really aware of executive privilege as a legal concept. So, I don't quite understand how the White House and other -- other than just the issue of a blanket muzzle on Bannon with his remarkable appearance at the House intelligence committee today, if he couldn't talk about anything, I wonder why it went so long.

LEMON: Yes. Well, you have that. Them not talking about it and then the president is, you know, has been downplaying a lot of it. He continues to push the narrative, General Hayden, that the Russian involvement in our election system was manufactured.

And he just tweeted this he said just today, as a matter of fact. He said "The Russian collusion hoax is dead except as it pertains to the dems. Public gets it."

Are you concerned the president is not taking seriously the involvement Russia had in the U.S. electoral system, especially when it comes to the midterms working possibly on?

HAYDEN: My God, yes, all right. Now, put the whole question of guilt, which we may or may not see.

LEMON: Right.

HAYDEN: Responsibility, which we probably will see as this evolves, put all of that aside, that's history. Let's talk about present and future.

LEMON: Right.

HAYDEN: Look, I've said all along, what the president needs to say is, you did it, we know you did it, I know you did it, we're going to punish you for doing it, and you're never going to be able to do it again.

Look, this Russian effort, sophisticated in its own way, audacious in its own way, hit a seam. Public, private, policy, politics, federal, local, intelligence, law enforcement. A bit like, I don't want to overdramatize this, a bit like the 9/11 attacks in that way. Kind of an unexpected threat against an unknown weakness.

And the only way you respond to that is through extraordinary effort and extraordinary structures. And Don, I'm telling you and I think Jim would confirm this, our government doesn't go extraordinary without the direct involvement of the president. Until the president does that, this is going to be an exposed weakness, an exposed flank in our political structure.

LEMON: General Clapper, the question is, you know, General Hayden said before, we know you did it, stop it, I'm paraphrasing what he said. But the question is, why won't the president do that?

CLAPPER: That's, of course, the key question. One point I would like to make is, distinguishing between collusion, which is, you know, that's pretty significant. Whether there was or not, I really don't know, and as Mike said, we may never not -- we may never know exactly the evidence of that.

[22:44:55] To me, from the outset, from the first time I've briefed along with others then president-elect Trump on January 6th, was his refusal to -- for whatever reason, to acknowledge what the Russians have done, did do during our election, and will continue to do.

And to me, that is the bigger issue. That is a profound threat to the very system, political system in this country. And I completely agree with Mike, you know, what he should be doing is being pretty stiff with his good friend, Putin, about not messing with us. Because -- but to me, that is the bigger issue here. Is the president's mysterious indifference to the threat that Russia poses.

LEMON: Yes. North Korea also mistaken missile crisis or missile alerts, what's going on? I'm going to talk to these two gentlemen when we come back about that.


LEMON: North Korean state media ripping into President Trump calling him a lunatic.

Back with me now, General Michael Hayden and James Clapper. Director Clapper, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attending a -- or some are trying to deal with North Korea's provocations. Here's what he said the end game was right here.


[22:50:01] REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: The object of our negotiations if and when we get there is the complete, verifiable, and reversible denuclearization of North Korea.


LEMON: Does that seem possible? CLAPPER: Well, not to start with. I mean, I certainly subscribe to

that as a long-term objective with North Korea, but to establish that as a condition for negotiations for that illicit a commitment from the North Koreans that they agree to walk on the path of denuclearization, from my experience in dealing with the North Koreans, that is a non- starter.

LEMON: Yes. Is that realistic?

HAYDEN: I'm with Jim. He was a J2 in Korea. I've had two tours in Korea. Let me be very candid. Given the current security situation in Northeast Asia, the North Koreans would be irrational to agree to give up their nuclear weapons. We call them an irrational erratic regime, but this is coldly calculating.

They've seen what happened to Iraq, what happened to Libya, and to a lesser extent what happened to the Ukraine after they didn't give up weapons or didn't achieve, didn't achieve weapons. So Jim is right. This might be an ultimate goal as the by-product of a new security structure, but as a going in position, it's a non-starter.

LEMON: Can I ask you, Russia and China potentially probably the two biggest important parties in dealing with North Korea, they chose not to attend this summit.

HAYDEN: Right.

LEMON: Is the U.S. involvement, do they need their involvement to make a deal?

HAYDEN: Yes. Particularly the Chinese. The Russians are a bit of a peripheral player here when it comes to the North Koreans. The Chinese are very important. It's a sadness that they weren't in Vancouver for the meeting.

Frankly, I'm glad that we were in Vancouver for the meeting, because given some of our positions, some of the things the president said, I mean, I can envision circumstances where we wouldn't have shown up, either.

LEMON: Interesting. Director Clapper, North and South Korea, they seem to be making some degree of progress. They've been holding talks about sending athletes to the upcoming Olympics. The Japanese foreign minister says that we should not be fooled by the North's charm offensive. Does he have a point?

CLAPPER: Well, he does. And what's going on now I think is transactional, and this is typical North Korean. And by the way, just to underline a point Mike made, the North Koreans are very rational in their context. They're very rational and they know -- they know what they're doing.

And so, the North Koreans wanted to participate in the Winter Olympics, and so they reached out, and, of course, South Korea, who was -- has the most at stake here since they're closest to North Korea and the North Korean threat, was receptive. And so, this is a good thing. We've had these interludes of this dialogue before. It probably won't be sustained, but every time they do it, it's a good thing.

LEMON: This weekend, General Hayden, was in Hawaii who dealt with that, that false alarm of a possible missile strike. Today Japan dealt with a similar scare about incoming North Korean missile from North Korea.

Everyone is wondering because this sort of made us think, what would happen if this was real?


LEMON: How prepared are we here in the United States to deal with an erratic North Korean a possible missile strike?

HAYDEN: Not erratic, coldly calculating. But then again, if they have this capacity, you always have this danger that for one reason or another, they might use it.

Frankly, Don, I think the most telling part of the sequence of events on Oahu this weekend was not the false alarm. I get it, that was bad. But no one knew what to do. Once they got the alarm, what's the plan? What happens next? And based upon all the local accounts, everyone was pretty much on their own saying goodbye to their loved ones.

LEMON: How much -- how much do the folks in Washington had to the administration no one know what to -- knew what to do?

HAYDEN: Well, it's a state responsibility. So the president is right, the state needs to get their act together. And they will. I mean, there's a responsible people. They'll do the right thing. A mistake was made, they'll correct it.

But you know, the president consciously, and this is not all bad, but the president consciously has created a state of heightened tensions in which Saturday's kind of event can take place and have the effects that it had.

LEMON: Yes. And that's my question. A similar question to you, Director Clapper. North Korea blasted President Trump's boast of having a bigger nuclear button than them, calling his tweet the spasm of a lunatic. I mean, President Trump is not the original author of a North Korean -- North Korea standoff.

[22:55:01] Are you worried about this rhetoric that's been escalating, that making the problem worse?

CLAPPER: Well, yes, I am. And I have spoken about this before, that I just think it would be better to temper or moderate the rhetoric. I mean, typically in the past, we haven't dignified, you know, the wild rhetoric that comes out of North Korea. Some of it is almost a musing. We haven't dignified it. Certainly presidents haven't in the past and just ignored it.

So this rhetorical heat, you know, the bellicose schoolyard exchanges, kind of heightens the angst, and that's clearly was evident in the false alarm in Hawaii. You know, I conjured up recollections, and Mike may recall this as well, the duck and cover exercises we used to do in grade school during the Cold War.

And we haven't done that or even thought about it since the end of the Cold War, and I have -- I believe that this heated-up rhetoric contributes to this atmosphere of anxiety.

And again, to emphasize the point Mike made, what it showed was no one had any idea what to do. I guess the one upside was the communication system worked.

LEMON: Well, that's glass half full, right? That's optimism there. Thank you, Director Clapper. Thank you, General Hayden. I appreciate it.

When we come back, a government shutdown is looming, a DACA deal is all but dead, and the president blames -- surprise -- democrats. We'll get one congressional democrat to respond. That's next.