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President Trump Uninformed About Immigration; Government Shutdown Underway; Democrats Surge in November. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired January 17, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, HOST, CNN: Thank you for watching. Don't forget I'll be on tomorrow morning, every weekday morning with Allison on New Day starting at 6 a.m. Right now, CNN tonight with Don Lemon, the man, starts right now.
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
And these are the words we heard today from two people close to President Trump. Those words are uninformed and unprepared. Uninformed and unprepared, it's not me saying that. It's the president's chief of staff and his former campaign manager.
Chief of staff John Kelly told democrats behind closed doors today President Trump's border wall promises were his word, "uninformed." Sources also saying Kelly has worked to educate the president and move him away from those campaign promises. Promises the president's base expects him to keep.
And then there's the Russia investigation to tell you about. House Intel committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff saying former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told the panel today he was unprepared to answer questions about what happened after he left the campaign.
While Trump's former campaign executive Steve Bannon could be back before the House Intel panel tomorrow. That as the government edges closer and closer to a shutdown on the eve of President Trump's first year in office. A mess that could have been avoided if it weren't for that fire storm over the president's vulgar racist comments in the DACA meeting last week in the Oval Office.
So, here's where we stand tonight, right now, a shutdown looking more and more likely with republicans scrambling just to get a short-term bill to keep the lights on until February 16th. And democrats digging in their heels on DACA.
So, where are we? We're going to talk about all (Technical difficulty) CNN senior political analyst, also CNN political commentators Mike Shields and Charles Blow join me as well.
Good evening, gentlemen. Mark, you first. Washington is still consumed with the fallout over the president's comments, you know those comments that he gave, that have derailed immigration talks and put the country closer to a government shutdown. What's the state of play right now tonight?
MARK PRESTON, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, Don, it's extremely complicated. This issue is not as cut and dry as traditional republican versus democratic fight that we often see. And there are two hurdles that Congress must play. Let's put this in perspective now.
The 2018 federal government fiscal year started on October 1, 2017. That's right. October 1, 2017. And Congress has been unable to agree on a budget up until this time. Now if this stop gap measure is approved, Don, it will be the fourth time Congress has had to pump the ball down the field.
Now House democrats are not going to support it because there's no fix for DACA. This means that the House Speaker, Paul Ryan, needs 218 republicans to back this proposal. Now we don't even know if he has that support. And here's the kicker for him.
There's a group of influential fiscal conservatives, Don, who may oppose this measure because of their fiscal concerns and the fact that Congress can't get their act together. Now across the capital and the U.S. Senate, it's just as complicated. There are only 51 republicans in the Senate now, and you need 50 votes to pass this stop gap measure.
And one of those republicans Senator Lindsey Graham said today he's not going to support it, Don. Graham is trying to work on this DACA fix. So that means republican leader Mitch McConnell needs 10 democrats to join the republicans to get the 60 votes needed to approve the stop gap measure.
Now while many democrats are unlikely to support this short-term funding bill in the Senate without a DACA fix, Don, there are some who may break with their fellow democrats because they are for re-election this year and could vote to shut the government down could hurt them in November.
So that's where we are right now, Don.
PRESTON: It's the times like these that you really have to wonder, you know, is Washington really broken or is it really, really broken?
LEMON: It always seems that we get to these deadlines that are looming and then is the government going to shut down and what have you.
So, Mike, the president is blaming democratic Senator Dick Durbin for leaking the language in the Oval Office meeting. He told Reuters, this is a new interview. Quote, he says, "I have lost all trust in Durbin."
He's essentially saying that this racially charged controversy has had an impact on a deal. He doesn't know for sure, either, that is Dick Durbin. I mean, it could be Lindsey Graham, it could be a number of people. MIKE SHIELDS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: You know, first of all, I
think they will pass the C.R. And Mark, to your point, is it broken, it really broken me, I completely understand your point. But this is also legislating. I mean, there are deals being cut. People are actually at the table talking. It's not as though they're on the opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and no one's even speaking.
Keep in mind one of the big issues in this C.R. is a program called CHIP which is in the bill. And if Pelosi gets the democrats to vote no this will be the fourth time the democrats have voted against a program that they inherently want, the children's health and nutrition program that the Congressional Black Caucus is demanding be put into this republicans have put in there, they've lost some of their own ranks because of it.
[22:04:59] Pelosi is going to make them vote against it over a more political issue of DACA. And that gets to your question, Don, about what was being said in the Oval Office.
And I sat with you the other night the president shouldn't have said what he is supposed to have said. Those are terrible words to use. He should never do that. But if you really care about the immigrants you're trying to protect, why don't you not blow that up and turn it into a political issue and try and cut a deal?
The president is trying to negotiate and get a deal. And if you're going to put those children, if you are going to put the children who are at risk in DACA first, maybe you wait a minute before you start using this as a political football and you actually try to negotiate and get a deal.
Because there is a lot of negotiating going on in Washington, D.C. right now.
SHIELDS: And there are deals on the table that could actually help DACA. And you heard the chief of staff tonight say the president wants to get to a deal on DACA. So, that's why Durbin needs to be held accountable.
LEMON: But I want to read, when you say C.R. just so everyone knows we're talking about continuing resolution. And you're saying -- quickly because I need to get Charles in, you're saying you think that they're going to pass a C.R. Do you think it's going to be clean or do you think it's going to have to include some wall, some component of the wall?
SHIELDS: You know, I don't know the answer. I don't think -- it's not Friday yet. So we're going to have to wait and see how far down the road it gets.
LEMON: Your crystal ball doesn't go that far?
SHIELDS: No. LEMON: OK. So, Charles, listen, President Trump wouldn't say what specific words he used in Reuters, right? He told Reuters this. He says, "I'm not going to get into what I said, but I will tell you it was a tough meeting."
So you think about what started all this. Because remember when he said, you know, in the White House I will pass whatever these guys do in this room. So it's kind of a non-denial, denial statement. Do you think that this whole s-hole word describing, do you think that change the game here, is that the game changer?
CHARLES BLOW, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: In the C.R.?
BLOW: It -- I mean, it hardened positions, right? And it told people who were acting in good faith, thinking the president would be malleable to some degree and was willing to compromise, that he was not.
And it also signaled to people that he was -- that he was open to people whispering in his ear on his own staff. General Kelly plays a big role. And if people keep thinking about General Kelly and they keep saying, he's the adult who came in to calm the White House. And you know, he's there to make sure his mood is stable and people don't rush into the Oval Office, no.
General Kelly, you know, is a big part of this kind of deportation effort. And he has been since he was part of Department of Home -- Department of Homeland Security. And he has on D.C. And it was him who called back to the White House on Capitol Hill and said we have to make sure this doesn't happen.
It was him that kind of made sure that the hard liners were in that room. That all feeds that sense of feeling that we don't know what the president believes, but we know he's open to being manipulated. And the fact that even the Congress people on Capitol Hill don't know exactly what he wants. You talk with him to even craft legislation because they may come up and not be signed.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, there's been this whole fuzz over what it was, what for it, how's or who. Listen, that is terrible enough. But really it's the sentiment behind his statements. That's what more important. The words are awful, but what he's saying, the racist sentiment.
BLOW: Yes. It's really saying that there is that where you are from dictates what you're...
LEMON: It's not a cussword.
BLOW: No. It dictates it says something about your character as an individual who would come to this country.
LEMON: Yes. BLOW: And that if you come from a country that's primarily black or brown, that that says something different than if you come from a country that's mostly white like Norway. That is big thing.
BLOW: That is -- forget about these words. That is a big thing. That is a big racial element. And we have to deal with that that the president believes that, that John Kelly has been pushing that for months now. That is the big problem.
LEMON: I want to ask you, Mark, about this new Quinnipiac poll. The numbers are out today. Almost two thirds, 64 percent say that President Trump is doing more to divide the country than to unite it. And then there's this. The majority of black Hispanic and even white voters say President Trump does not respect people of color as much as he respects white people.
I mean, these numbers show how divisive the conversation is when it comes to President Trump and race, and certainly these comments do not help that.
PRESTON: And it's so divisive, I mean, it really is divisive of how President Trump has acted over the past year he's in office and some of the comments he's made. You know, you only have to go back to Charlottesville and we could have a whole long discussion on that.
But, Don, I dove into the numbers a little bit deeper from the numbers that we put up there. And this is what republicans are terrified about, certainly republicans that I spoke to today about it.
[22:09:54] This number right here. Fifty-eight percent of independents believe that President Trump doesn't respect people of color as much as white people. And 65 percent of independents say President Trump is doing more to divide the country than unite the country.
Now the reason I say that is if you look at the numbers, mostly democrats believe that that Donald Trump is dividing the country, republicans don't believe that. But as we all know why elections are one the margins. OK? You need your supporters to get to get to the poll but to get over the goal line in many of these congressional districts specifically going to this mid-term, republicans are going to need the support of independents.
And the republicans I spoke to today, those who were working on congressional races look at these numbers and they are, very, very upset by that.
LEMON: I want to get your opinion on this, because I think this is important and all of you quickly if possible. This was from a democrat who sent me this today. He said, "If democrats cave and agree to fund the wall to protect only 800,000 DACA kids, wouldn't that adversely affect 320 million Americans by raising all of our taxes to cover the $70 billion bill? They must have a clean bill or no bill at all."
That is also -- the democrats are facing that. That is an important question, isn't it?
PRESTON: Well, I'll just answer this very quickly and then pass the baton. There is a big fight within the Democratic Party right now about what policies to pursue and how far to the left to go. And I think that's exactly what we're seeing in that note that you received from a democrat today.
LEMON: That's a dilemma they're facing. Mike, you want do weigh in on that?
SHIELDS: Yes, that's right. I mean, you're going to see this play out on democratic primaries in these targeted races where democrats have a seat that they think they can target until the far left candidate comes through the primary that's out of touch with the district because they're going to divide along these lines.
And look, the president as I said, they're trying to negotiate and they've laid out exactly what they want. They want border security and they want to get a deal on DACA. That's sort of something in the middle where both sides get something which is what we always say we want to see government do. The polar sides of the party are going to pull that apart and that's what you're watching right now.
LEMON: Charles, I'll give you the last word.
BLOW: Well, it's interesting. The right has pulled so far to the right. That just kind of what was generally basic modern liberalism now feels like it's far left. I mean, we keep saying like far left. I just believe that these kids should be protected, if I just believe that we should fund a wall, that actually shouldn't be considered a far left opinion.
Previous cycles that wouldn't have been considered a far left opinion.
LEMON: Not in the Reagan.
BLOW: It's incredible how far we've shifted what is define as liberal.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, all. I appreciate it. When we come back, if the government runs out of money at midnight on Friday, who will take the heat for it, and what will it mean for the upcoming mid- terms?
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The federal government could run out of money in just two days on the eve of the president's first anniversary in office. Who is going to take the blame for it and what does it all say about the coming midterm elections. What does portend?
Here to discuss GOP strategist Mike Murphy. Mike, thank you for joining us. Always a pleasure to see you, sir.
The president is telling Reuters that he'll blame the democrats if there's a government shutdown. How does that work when republicans control the government?
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, that's the problem. A lot of us old gray beard republicans. Remember we tried to shut down the government science experiment back in the '90s, and it was extremely painful.
So, I think what you're really seeing here is massive negotiation going on. And I don't think, I think very, very few people in the Republican Party in the elected side wanted to shut down the government. This is just Kabuki Theater here, but it's coming down to the deadline because we now have government by Guillotine blade.
It has to be down to the deadline to get anything done. But I think the president want to win the Senate republicans on no shutdown and the DACA fix. And the House republicans I think want a punt on the budget. So the big pieces are here to get a deal. Now whether or not they can actually work it out or not, still an open question. But if I had to bet I bet we will get the short-term C.R.
LEMON: OK. So you think it will happen. But let's talk about the possibilities here.
LEMON: Friday is the deadline. The government is shutdown. So what will that mean for the big picture come Saturday for one year in office for this president?
MURPHY: Yes, all hell will break loose, because both parties, it'll be like a jump ball to blame the other. And I think what the sadder politicians in both parties know is that the voters are capable of hating both parties, of hating everybody in Congress.
That's part of the environment that's brought the energy for Bernie Sanders and the energy who Donald Trump that elected President Trump. So the idea is like nuclear war. Hey, we're going to win because we're going to be half as radioactive as the other guy is a pretty silly argument.
But if that happens, you're going to see this massive you know, you're wrong, you're wrong, scream slap fest between them trying to pin blame on the other guy. And my guess is there will be no winners in the end and they'll scramble to pass some kind of C.R. after about 10 days of blaming each other.
LEMON: Yes. So, I found it's interesting that the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters today the president hasn't indicated what he's willing to sign on DACA and immigration reform. He doesn't know what the president wants. Is that a huge problem?
MURPHY: Yes. We'll see. President Trump doesn't speak normal Washington negotiation language, so he's confusing people. That's one of the perils of this administration. But if you look through history where you kind of have Trump unplugged, you know, speaking himself, without staff driving it he's generally been pro-DACA. I think the problem they have is someone in the staffers in the White
House, particularly Stephen Miller who's really kind of a Sessions plant. I'm not sure how much of a Trump guy ultimately is, is a hard core ideologue on this issue. And they're trying to stir the president.
So this is the test. Is the president in charge on making a DACA deal or is he getting driven by his staff? And when that happens in Washington it refuses everybody.
So, Mitch over in the Senate doesn't quite know what he wants because he's not hearing a clear message and people in the House who agree with Miller who want to make trouble are emboldened by this.
So, you know, ambiguity is not a strengthen in last minute congressional negotiation. So, you know, we'll see what happens. But I'll tell you there are the votes in the Senate for a DACA fix. And without some movement on DACA it's going to be close on the C.R. The House, the leadership I think can muscle it through on the short-term budget extension. But you need 60 votes in the Senate and we don't have 60 votes.
[22:20:01] MURPHY: So, the question is will the democrats want to play chicken all the way, it's some real political risk to them. That's going to be close.
LEMON: OK. That's -- well, let's get -- and I just mentioned this. I don't know if you heard it, and I want to -- and let me see if I can find it again because I wonder if the democrats maybe, you know, are they not seeing the forest for the trees, and I'm not sure how people feel about this.
But I've got to note today which I thought was very interesting when a democrat said, "If dems cave and agree to fund the wall to protect 800,000 DACA kids, wouldn't that adversely affect 320 million Americans by raising all our taxes to cover the $70 billion bill. They must have a clean bill or no bill." What do you think of that?
MURPHY: Well, yes, no, it's an interesting argument. The great trick and the secret benefit of being in politics is we print money. So you can make promises and not pay for them.
MURPHY: We just did that partially with a tax cut. So, you know, under a Washington map it's often make the political deal now and figure out the paying for it long-term in a couple of terms. So, yes, from a fiscal point of view the wall is very expensive. One of the fights going on is the republicans on the Trump side of the equation really want a 10-year guarantee while the dems say yes, yes, yes, we're going to spend a lot on the wall, we're funded for a year...
MURPHY: Well, they think if they win the House they can come to yank the funding.
LEMON: But maybe I didn't ask a good and maybe I was not articulate in my question.
MURPHY: Or I didn't understand it.
LEMON: What I'm saying is -- no, no, no. I think are democrats, is it -- do democrats, do they see this -- because if they cave on the wall, again, then they'll get the DACA deal done. But then it will adversely affect more people than the DACA folks.
And I'm wondering if lawmakers are thinking about this or if this may be something real for democrats. That maybe at this point, you know, they need to figure out who this affects more. Does it affect 800,000 people or what's important than that?
LEMON: Or millions of people whose taxes are going to be going up who are going to be paying for the wall? That's it, I'm just wondering if they consider the calculation.
MURPHY: My take on it -- yes. And you know, I can't tell you I'm certain, but my take on it is the democrats are focused like a laser beam on getting a DACA fixed. That is a huge issue. It's politically important for them and I think it's important to do.
MURPHY: And they've got a quite republican support particularly in the Senate, and even the president, if you go back over the last -- since he was a candidate, he's been pretty pro-DACA in his statements. So I think and I'm a big Trump critic. I'm a never Trumper. But I think on DACA he wants to do the right thing. And those strike me as the ingredients for a deal, but we'll see.
LEMON: OK. Let's talk about a possible democratic wave. Voters are already showing signs that there will be a democratic wave in 2018. Signs that there will be. It's such as it could be. Just last night in Wisconsin there was a democrat, a democratic beat a republican in a state Senate race a seat held by republicans since 2000 in a district that President Trump won by 17 points.
LEMON: Is that some sort of indicator? Is it the canary in the coal mine? How big of a deal is this?
MURPHY: Yes, I think it is. I think we've got a big pile of dead canaries. Because starting with Virginia and then Alabama these specials are showing a surge in democratic turnout and real hostility in republicans. And you know, when you step back, it's really not that complicated. We have a republican president who is massively unpopular. Every polls
shows it. It's been decades since seeing someone this unpopular. And nobody this unpopular after the first term. So, democrats on the other side of the equation are incredibly energized which means those young democrats who often don't show-off in an off-year election or a special election to be sure are showing up.
So, you know, it's a year to the election. We can't predict the future. But all the signs are there is a democrat surge of intensity. And the president who's backed himself into a cul-de-sac where he only has republican support, has created a political environment where it could be a long day at the office for republicans up in the mid-term even in seats that lean republican, which is why I think we have a real risk. It will quite a battle to hold or lose the House.
LEMON: We love having you, Mike Murphy. You see someone in your caliber there's something like a book or something that's nothing that you need to promote here? Just happy to come on.
MURPHY: I got -- I got a Twitter feed. That's therapy for me. I rant and rave a lot.
LEMON: Always a pleasure.
MURPHY: Thanks for having me on.
LEMON: Absolutely come back.
MURPHY: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, President Trump's chief of staff in a closed door meeting with Hispanic lawmakers admitted his boss was uninformed on the campaign trail when it came to immigration. I'm going to speak to one of the lawmakers who was in the room. That's next.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: A remarkable statement today from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. During a meeting with Congressional Hispanic Caucus he said that candidate Donald Trump's positions on the border wall were uninformed.
So joining me now to discuss is Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, a New Mexico democrat who is Congress -- who is chairwoman of the caucus. Chairwoman, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.
So let's discuss this. You were in a meeting today between Chief Kelly, the chief of staff John Kelly and congressional Hispanic -- the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. What did the Chief of Staff Kelly say about this?
MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Well, he was clearly making the case that if we're bogged down in a 2,000-mile wall because it's a nonstarter for most members of Congress and certainly it's a nonstarter for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He referenced that President Trump is a completely different person than candidate Trump and that that's not productive, strategic, and that's not what is necessary to secure the border.
And that he was an uninformed candidate, and Kelly's job is to clearly provide the facts about what would secure the border. And frankly, what's refreshing is that he confirmed he made those statements in that meeting. So we're not bogged down and distracted on that part of the meeting. But rather our expectation...
LEMON: He confirmed the -- he confirmed the statements of what, that what was said about the s-hole?
[22:29:55] GRISHAM: He confirmed that he said that. No, he confirmed today in his press briefings that in fact he said he was not an informed candidate.
LEMON: Got it.
GRISHAM: Yes. And I appreciate it.
LEMON: OK. OK. So, listen, I want you to -- explain the bipartisan solution you presented the chief of staff with for DREAMers?
GRISHAM: Well, we talked about the USA Act, which is we keep referring to as a the two lead co-sponsors, Congressman Aguilar from California, Congressman Herd from Texas, that we have a bipartisan DACA fix which protects DREAMers but also addresses border security, which has really been what the White House has said has got to be part of any policy effort that protects DREAMers.
We have done that. It deals with everything that they've identified without building a 2,000-mile wall or minimizing those protections for DREAMers. And it's getting growing bipartisan support. It's nearly 30 republicans and 30 democrats in the House. And we feel like it's really got the kind of momentum that it would pass by an overwhelmingly majority in the House of Representatives.
I want you to listen to what Kelly said about the border wall tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: In one way another it's possible that we could get the revenue from Mexico but not directly from their government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So did he mention this in your meeting today, and if so what did he say?
GRISHAM: He did not talk about having Mexico pay or referencing -- and I saw that whole interview, so he talked probably increasing visa fees and making changes for NAFTA so that in fact Mexicans and the Mexican government in those indirect ways is paying.
Look, we are all -- I don't know a single member of the democratic caucus who doesn't care about a secure border and is really interested in productive smart ways to accomplish that. And we made really clear in our meeting with Kelly, we have a bill that does that.
It talks about technology and using evidence-based strategies, improving roads, patching fences and where you need any other kind of investments to secure the border. And we're willing to help you do that, but we are not going to get bogged down in protecting DREAMers in fantasies or issues that are just not going to address in securing the border or making it operationally secure in the future.
LEMON: So do you think you'll get done or do you think the government is going to get shutdown Friday night?
GRISHAM: You know, I wish I had a crystal ball and I can tell you exactly what's going to happen. But I feel that there's real momentum. I can tell you that every single minute of today and tomorrow and Friday, members of both parties are diligently working to get this bill over the finish line, have the Senate get their bill done. Let's go to conference.
Let's give the White House the chance to govern productively and protect these DREAMers. It's the kind of work we should have been doing all along. And I'm feeling optimistic about how people are motivated. But in the end only the leadership in the House and Senate can make that happen. Only they can make the determination that they're going to give us a vote on a DACA fix or an effort to protect DREAMers.
LEMON: Congresswoman, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.
GRISHAM: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, members of the president's inner circle testifying behind closed doors on Capitol Hill this week. But the White House is making sure they don't say anything President Trump doesn't want them to say. We're going to tell you what's going on. And that's next.
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: News tonight on the Russia investigation. Sources telling CNN Steve Bannon's appearance before the House intelligence community -- committee, I should say, is an indication of the Trump administration's effort to limit testimony to congressional investigators.
I want to talk about this latest, the latest on the investigation now with CNN political correspondent Sara Murray. There she is. Sara, thanks for joining us. What are we learning today about both Steve Bannon and Corey Lewandowski's testimony in front of the House committee?
SARA MURRAY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, look, a couple of things. We know that when Steve Bannon went in front of this committee he managed to infuriates both republicans and democratic members which is no small feat because he wouldn't talk about anything beyond the campaign. He wouldn't talk about his activities during the transition, he wouldn't talk about his activities during his tenure at the White House.
Then a number of lawmakers thought that an overly broad interpretation of executive privilege. Now Axios is reporting that Bannon did make what they're referring to as a slip-up. He apparently talked about this meeting that occurred in June of 2016 between Don Junior, we heard Jared Kushner was at that meeting, Paul Manafort was also at that meeting at Trump tower with a number of Russians.
And apparently, according to Axis, in a testimony Bannon did say that he spoke about that meeting with Reince Priebus, with Sean Spicer and with Mark Corallo who at one point was a spokesperson for the president's legal team. But basically investigators walked away feeling like they did not get from Steve Bannon what they were hoping to get. They did not answers to the questions that they wanted.
And they left with a similar feeling from Corey Lewandowski today. Remember Corel Lewandowski served as Donald Trump's campaign manager during the presidential campaign before he was fired. And it was a similar situation. Corey would not answer any questions about what happened after he left the campaign in 2016.
Now, he never served in the White House. The question of whether he could ever exert executive privilege is much more but he basically said he was unprepared to answer any questions about what happened after he left the campaign including questions about whether he'd spoken to the president about his testimony.
LEMON: Sara Murray in Washington. Sara, thank you.
Joining me now is Congressman Denny Heck, a Washington democrat who sits on the House intelligence committee. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. You were in the room yesterday and today for Bannon, Lewandowski, and Rick Dearborn testimony. Are you satisfied with what you heard?
DENNY HECK, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: No. In fact, I'm pretty discouraged by it. We had offered to us all sorts of new legal theories as to what constitutes executive privilege.
[22:39:57] Yesterday, as has been reported since Mr. Bannon was evidently gagged by the White House under pretense of executive order, and today we had a witness voluntarily refused to answer questions.
The question really is begged, Don, what do they have to hide? What are they afraid of?
LEMON: Yes. And do ask they why they're not answering questions, do they just refuse or are they just saying executive privilege or are they pleading the fifth? What's going on?
HECK: Well, no, they're not pleading the fifth. That's at least the constitutional basis for a legal theory. No. And the former it was executive privilege, which is dubious at best because it is the president that must assert executive privilege. And he must stipulate as to the specific issue areas or events when he does so. Today it was and believe it or not, Don, you're hearing this correctly. I'm not prepared.
LEMON: I'm not -- that's interesting. And what about your republican colleagues? How are they taking this? Are they frustrated or are they OK with this?
HECK: Well, yesterday, democrats and republicans joined together as you may have heard...
HECK: ... to on the spot issue a subpoena in an intent to compel testimony. Today didn't go so well, Don.
LEMON: Yes. Congressman Heck, what was the reaction in the room when Steve Bannon's lawyers spoke to the White House lawyers during the break?
LEMON: Simple as that. Explain.
HECK: Listen, he's long been departed from the White House. He's asserting executive privilege even though he's not an employee of the White House and hasn't been in quite some time. And he's doing so on his own via a telephone call, not at the specific direction in written form or verbally from the president.
The president that I might remind you, Don, said not that long ago, if I am asked to testify or grant this deposition I will be more than glad to do so. That stands at stark contrast or odds with the facts as they are unfolding.
LEMON: So, it sounds like when you're saying I'm not prepared, it sounds like they're trying to get the questions in advance and then come back and answer them, which, you know, is suspect.
HECK: Well, yes, that's a good theory. Another one might be that they're very concerned about their liability. Because, you know, right behind us is Bob Mueller and his investigation. And they may be able to stiff arm us or delay us in the way that they did today, but they're not going to be able to stiff arm Bob Mueller at all.
I'd like to remind people -- Don, you may not know this. Do you know what Bob Mueller's nickname was when he arrive at the Department of Justice?
LEMON: I want you to tell our audience.
HECK: Bobby three sticks, Robert Mueller the third, Robert Mueller the hockey player, most importantly Robert Mueller the Boy Scout. This is the straightest arrow that ever served in public service I
think in the history of the country. He eats one sheet of desk every day. This is marine veteran who was wounded in Vietnam and highly decorated.
This guy is the epitome, he's the quintessence of professionalism and integrity and honor. And he's going to get at this. He's going to get at this. They're not going to pull this chicken and coop games with him, I've got to tell you.
LEMON: Well, I've got to tell you that, you know, if someone is allowed to come in and you ask them questions and they say I'm not prepared to answer the question, I don't know I would give them anymore question. I would say, well, since you're not prepared, why don't you get prepared and come back.
Because then what they're going to do and I'm sure their counsel was there. They're going to figure out the answers to the questions and then come back and they're going to answer those questions. And then the next set of questions that you ask then they're going to say I'm not prepared and they're going to go figure out the answer to those questions. So I'm not sure I would give away my questions to have...
HECK: So they -- I think they're pretty concerned about what their legal exposure might be. But, Don, think about what would happen if you were in a courtroom during a criminal proceeding and you were a witness and you were asked a question and you refused to answer and the defense council said, can we have some time to prepare for that? I mean, it's prima fascia, honest face self-evidently absurd.
LEMON: In an interview in November you said nothing surprises you and people are going to prison. What do you think now?
HECK: Yes, I don't think there's any question. Well, we already have two plea deals where Mr. Flynn and Mr. Papadopoulos copped felonies. These are punishable by up to five years in prison. But as most of us suspect this plea deal is entered into because they're after bigger fish. And I'm pretty sure that Director Mueller has in mind that they'd be held accountable those bigger fish be held accountable.
LEMON: I've got to ask you, congressman, about Sarah Sanders. She spoke out about the investigation today. Here's what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think we've been dealing with this hoax for the better part of a year. We have to endure the ridiculousness for another month, we can certainly handle it. Do the American people deserve that? No, I don't think they do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What's your response, congressman? [22:44:58] HECK: Abject sadness. We're talking about a foreign power
interfering in the heart of our democracy, namely our election system in 2016. It is inarguable at this point. She does a disservice to herself, to the office that she represents but most importantly to her country to deny that this happen and continue to call it a hoax.
It happened, period. Full stop. And nobody who is objective doubt that whatsoever. No one doubts that they've interfered in our election on a bigger scale than they ever had, and they're intended to do it again and that they are doing it elsewhere. And in fact, we have some evidence that they are playing in the Mexican national election.
This is about safeguarding our democracy. And she does not serve us well be engaging in such rhetoric.
LEMON: Congressman Denny Heck, thank you.
HECK: You're welcome, Don.
LEMON: When we come back, as Robert Mueller digs deeper into President Trump's campaign, what will they find? I'm going to ask a man who has been covering Trump for three decades. Next.
LEMON: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders calling the Russia investigation a hoax, that is the same claim the president makes all the time. That's not stopping special counsel Robert Mueller.
[22:49:58] Let's discuss that now. David Cay Johnston is here, the Pulitzer prize-winning investigative reporter who is the author of the new book "It's Even Worse Than You Think, What the Trump Administration is doing to America." Thank you so much.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, IT'S EVEN WORSE THAN YOU THINK: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: It's even worse than we think?
JOHNSTON: It is. It is. In journalism we tend to cover the White House and the congressional leaders and the controversies. My book is about, what is Trump doing to our government? Well, he's putting your life in danger, he's putting public safety in danger, he's damaging our long-term economic prospects.
No one is helping China more to expand its political influence than Donald Trump by his complete inaction on trade deals. They've stopped posting since August worker deaths. Forty eight hundred people a year die on the job. They don't even put up the information anymore.
JOHNSTON: I could go on and on and on with information for a whole book.
LEMON: Well, I want to ask you about this, because digging into the -- remember, digging into the president -- we had you on talking about this -- into his financial operations was a red line for the administration, they said a red line for Robert Mueller he should not cross. They had been -- you have been looking into his money dealings for years. What can you tell us about Trump's financials?
JOHNSTON: Well, what Mueller is going to establish, I'm confident is, Donald was involved in money laundering, that there is some kind of financial connection going on between people in the Trump campaign and the Russians or emissaries of the Russians.
I'd said there is a fairly good chance they are going to establish that Trump knew about the hacking of the DNC ahead of time. You know, if you go back and look at the e-mail that Ron Goldstone wrote in June of 2016 to Don Jr., and Don Jr. a month later on Jake Tapper said, no connections, no connections, which was a flat-out lie.
And then they've told six lies since then. It says in that e-mail that Russian crown prosecutor their attorney general, as part of Russia's efforts to help. Well, I'm sorry, that's not a, hey, we would like to talk to you about would you like help, that means they already were helping and the Trumps knew it.
LEMON: Do you think because every -- they keep using collusion. Collusion is not -- do you think collusion -- there are people who believe collusion has already been established.
JOHNSTON: Well, yes, I think there's clearly been collusion.
LEMON: But it's not a legal term.
JOHNSTON: It's not a legal term. Conspiracy is the operative word. I know a lot of people hate conspiracy laws and the idea of them but there's a reason we have them.
LEMON: You have over the course of this book and over time, how much time have you spent with Donald Trump? How long have you been covering him?
JOHNSTON: Well, I've known Donald since May of 1988, so almost 30 years now. He hasn't spoken to me directly since April 2016 when once again, and since he has done since 1999. He called me up and threatened to sue me. He's never going to do it.
LEMON: Because of something you said on TV?
JOHNSTON: No, I was working on an article for Politico magazine and he said, if I don't like the way you write, I'll sue you.
JOHNSTON: He said it right there and waited.
LEMON: With that said, the president's son Eric Trump was on Fox & Friends weighing in on this whole s-hole controversy. I want to get your take on this because I think you can add to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S SON: My father sees one color, green. That's all he cares about. He cares about the economy, right. He does not see race. He's the least racist person I've ever met in my entire life. It's total nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Yes. That's the line, the least racist. He's told that to me that he said that to many other people that he is, you know. From the remarks you can see, the remarks are racist. There is no way around it.
LEMON: But he only sees green?
JOHNSTON: Well, Donald is absolutely about money or the assumption of money. He's not about building wealth. He's not a Warren Buffett. He's like a gang leader, he's a cash extractor. He goes in and he extracts cash from his enterprises and then they fall by the wayside. There are still successful casinos in Atlantic City. Donald has failed because he just pulled money out of them, he didn't rebuild any of them.
So Eric is right, his dad is about green. The Trump administration however, you know, Donald is different from the previous 44 presidents. Because, you know, we've had racist presidents, including one who's Andrew Jackson whose portrait hangs in the Oval Office right now.
We've had highly competent ones, we've had incompetent ones, we had smart ones, bad ones, middling ones, but they all try to make America better in the context of their times. Donald is totally different. The Trump presidency is about one thing, Donald, full stop, period, end of story. The glorification of the great Donald Trump.
LEMON: But I asked you during the break how this was different and there was a race -- racial component to it that this is different in modern history.
JOHNSTON: Yes. I mean, you know, institutional racism is one thing, but we haven't had a president in this country like Woodrow Wilson who was openly racist until Donald. And Donald is aggressively racist. And to stand there and say, I'm the least racist person you've ever met, it's just typical of his con. He's been a con artist his whole life and he persuades people to believe what's clearly false.
[22:54:57] LEMON: Interesting. The book is -- the book is great book, and there are great quotes in there. I encourage people to read it. It comes right after the other book that came out last week.
JOHNSTON: "Fire and Fury."
LEMON: Which was similar to a book that you wrote before. JOHNSTON: Well, "Fire and Fury" by Michael Wolff, who is basically a
gossip entertainment journalist, confirmed everything that was in my biography of Trump, "The Making of Donald Trump." He just backs it all up. But it is the story of the in-fighting and the chaos inside this dysfunctional White House.
My book is about here is what they're doing to you and to the rest of the world. Here's why your children are going to be l paying the price for this, how you're in danger. This whole get of regulation schemes. Many of the regulations they're getting rid of are going to lead to illness and literally to death.
He says he is the champion of veterans, and yet the budget proposal was, if you're a disabled, my dad was one of those, 100 percent disabled veterans.
JOHNSTON: When you reach retirement age, they want to cut your income. If you were getting 35,000 in disability, it would drop to 13,000. How is that taking care of the forgotten man and making sure the veterans are taken care of?
LEMON: This is your third book in 30 years...
JOHNSTON: On Trump.
LEMON: On Trump.
LEMON: Why are you so fascinated by him?
JOHNSTON: Donald, as soon as I met him I knew he was an important cultural force. Because here's this guy who get up and say the most astonishing things and people believe him. He's this master con artiste grafter, and he sells himself as this great businessman. He never a great businessman. There is no -- there's not a shred of evidence he was a billionaire. Remember he went on saying he had 10, $11 billion. His final disclosure statement, 1.4 billion.
LEMON: Yes. But people who saw the "Apprentice" didn't know that who live in New York.
JOHNSTON: That's right. That's right. People in New York knew that.
JOHNSTON: That's why he lost in his own voting precinct 9 to 1.
LEMON: Yes. The book is called "It's Even Worse Than you Think What the Trump Administration is Doing to America," by David Cay Johnston. Thank you very much, sir.
JOHNSTON: Hey, thank you, Don.
LEMON: Thank you. Good to see you.
When we come back, Steve Bannon striking a deal with Robert Mueller to voluntarily speak with his team of investigators. What will he say?
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)