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CNN TONIGHT

Government Hangs by a Thread; Blame Game is On Again. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 18, 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: ... and it's very complicated but that's the way D.C. works right now.

Thank you for being with us, watching this in real time. Don't forget, I will be there with Allison tomorrow morning on New Day starting at 6 a.m. CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, the man, starts right now.

DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Here's the breaking news. The House passed a short-term bill to avoid a government shutdown for now. The Senate is a very different story.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

The clock is ticking. You see it right there on the right of your screen. And it all comes down to what the Senate does. If they don't pass this bill, the federal government will shut down in a little under 26 hours. But remember, this is a bill that simply kicks the can down the road, funding the government only until February 16th, when this whole thing could start all over again.

So here's where we stand right now. Senate republicans desperately trying to find a way to get the 60 votes they need to pass the bill. But without some democrats voting yes it's just not going to happen. So here we are.

Let's get right now to our man on Capitol Hill earning his pay this week and doing a great job, Senate congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly. So Phil, the House voted to avoid a shutdown but the big question now is what's happening in the Senate? What's the latest?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: The partisan battle lines are officially being drawn. There is no resolution in the near term. There is no real possibility for a pathway forward as things currently stand, Don.

Just to give you a taste of what's happened in the last 30 minutes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brought up the House-passed bill, said he wanted a vote now with a simple majority threshold. Senate democratic Leader Chuck Schumer objected it. Senator Chuck Schumer said he wanted to have a 60-vote threshold vote that he knew was going to fail on that bill to start to shut it down.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell objected it. We basically are at the point right now where each side knows that there's no clear pathway forward in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader McConnell can't get 60 votes right now for what the House passed. Senator Schumer knows that there's no chance at least at the moment that Senate Majority Leader McConnell is going to move off his current position that the House- passed bill is the only thing he's willing to move forward.

So where does that leave it us? Well, Don, you can nail it best with the timeline that we have left. Twenty six hours. There will be no more votes tonight. There will be a vote everybody knows is going to fail tomorrow morning. And then this is like the shruggy emoticon moment basically.

I've talked to Senate republican aides, I've talked to Senate democratic aides. Nobody knows exactly what's going to happen next. Basically, everybody is digging in. Everybody is spoiling for a fight. Democrats believe this is their moment to have that fight on DACA. They recognize that there's a severe trust deficit with the White House, with Senate republicans, and republicans are saying look, we've got a short-term funding bill, we can keep the negotiations going, just join us.

So, to kind of sum up everything right now, we are absolutely at this point headed to a government shutdown. There is no resolution currently in sight. And whether or not the two parties, the four leaders, the White House will actually get into a room and try to hash something out, that, Don, still remains a very open question.

LEMON: You're right. The shruggy emoticon moment, that you're exactly right. Who knows? No one knows at this point. Phil, thank you very much. I appreciate that. I want to bring in now CNN senior White House correspondent that is Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, thank you so much for joining us. So, what is -- what is the White House position on all of this? They're thinking a tweet might solve everything?

JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Don, a tweet will certainly not solve everything but you can expect some tweets will likely be coming in the morning. But what's the tweet -- the White House hopes to send out would be about tomorrow night at this time if the Senate passes something.

So what the White House was saying earlier is that look, they still are hopeful that this can be resolved and if the Senate would happen to vote and approve some type of stopgap measure the president could send out a tweet or a simple old-fashioned e-mail announcement as others have done saying that he will sign this bill at some point over the weekend.

So they are hoping that they can -- if there is a shutdown to minimize the disruptions here in the service of the federal government. But as Phil was just reporting, it is absolutely unclear. That tweet will not come if the Senate does not vote on this.

So the question tomorrow is how will the president engage on this? Will he engage with Chuck Schumer? Will he call his old friend from New York, or at least acquaintance, and try to get him in a room and deal with this? Are there the democrats who are from red states like North Dakota, Indiana, West Virginia who are up in this midterm election year? Will they move on this?

So, a lot of moving parts in the next 26 hours or so almost here. But there, as Phil was saying, no certain end to this. And the White House is a little bit of a bystander at this point of this because they've lost a lot of credibility with those Senate democrats.

The question here is both sides realize the politics is not good for either of them.

[22:04:59] So Senate democrats are certainly, you know, holding fast on this. We'll see what a day brings. Oftentimes Friday in Washington on Capitol Hill something happens and, you know, the logjam breaks here.

But there's no clear path to that at this point. As of now, Don, the president scheduled to fly down to Mar-a-Lago tomorrow evening. He has this big one-year anniversary with the celebration of his election, of his inauguration plan. The question, if there's a government shutdown, will he go? The White House has not answered that tonight.

LEMON: And can you actually celebrate. Yes. And speaking of tweets, thank you very much, I appreciate that, Jeff. Tweet from the president causing a lot of consternation earlier in the day. We'll talk about that.

So let's bring in Nia-Malika Henderson, she is CNN senior political reporter. Chris Cillizza, CNN politics editor at large, and Kirsten Powers, CNN political analyst. Good to have all of you on.

So, Mr. Cillizza.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNN: Sir?

LEMON: House republicans are scrambling to get the votes and they got it, they got it done. On the other side, those Senate democrats holding firm against this C.R, this continuing resolution. We're going to talk blame, the blame game in just a second. But what is the way forward here?

CILLIZZA: Shruggy emoji is a good way to put it. Look, I think that there's not an obvious way that this House bill when they put it up for cloture, meaning it's got to get 60 votes tomorrow morning, I see no way that that happens. You've got...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: It sounds like every one, every expert we have on, all of our political folks here, are at a loss for words. You guys who do talking for a living, you're at a loss for words. Like we don't know.

CILLIZZA: I mean, look, I would say I think because of the relative unpredictability of sort of what happens if the government shuts down in terms of where the politics go, my guess is there's a very short- term continuing resolution, like a week, maybe less.

But if -- I see no way that this all the way to February 16th thing happens. There's no way. You've got Rand Paul against it, you got Lindsey Graham against it. You're talking about 12 democrats would be needed to cross the aisle. It's just not happening.

So basically, we're going to have this -- this happens a lot in the Senate. We're going to have this process that we all know how it ends and that's going to be with cloture failing and then it's going to be a where do we go next. My guess is the next will be a short-term continuing resolution. But I'm not convinced that that is a definite either, Don.

LEMON: OK. Let me ask you this, and I just want to get everyone's opinion quickly, just so quick. Do you see the government shutting down or do you see them reaching an agreement? Chris.

CILLIZZA: Sixty, forty reach an agreement.

LEMON: OK. What do you think, Nia?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, CNN: You know, 50- 50. I mean, that's sort of a cowardly...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You're the shruggy emoji.

CILLIZZA: Come on, Nia.

HENDERSON: I mean, the big surprise here, Chris talking about unpredictability...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Before you -- let me just say, Kirsten, what do you think?

KIRSTEN POWERS, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: I think it's -- if I had to get guess there would maybe be a brief shutdown. But I don't think -- maybe over the weekend kind of thing and then they get...

LEMON: OK.

POWERS: ... and they come back would be my guess.

LEMON: Nia, go on.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, the surprise here is that the democrats seem to be sticking together here. John Tester was just on with Cuomo. This is a guy from Montana, a state that Donald Trump won by 20 points, and he is voting against this saying that this is not something he can support and he feels like the republican leadership needs to get it together and they can't just be doing these quick fix measures.

And the fact that democrats can have him still in their corner and looking at a government shutdown essentially over DACA and any number of things is a pretty surprising thing at this point. So that's why -- and I think another thing starts to kick in too, right? I mean, Donald Trump is set to not only celebrate his anniversary of his inauguration but he's also got to deliver a state of the union. Right? On January...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: How do you going to give state of the union...

HENDERSONL ... how do you give a state of the union if the government is going to shut down?

LEMON: The state of our union is...

HENDERSON: Shut down. Yes. So we'll see.

LEMON: What did you -- Kirsten, you said you see a short shutdown, like a day or so? Is that what you said?

POWERS: I mean, maybe over the weekend. I just don't see how they avoid a shutdown. The democrats are very dug in on this and you already have a couple, you know, republicans who say that they're not going to vote for it. So where do the numbers come from?

Unless the republicans completely change their plan, which they seem also pretty dug in on this idea of the Schumer shutdown. They're really out there with their talking points. And so they're trying to, you know, to shift the blame to the democrats. And we can have a separate conversation about whether that's fair or not.

LEMON: And we will.

POWERS: But, yes. But I just don't see unless something magically happens by tomorrow night, I don't really understand how they're going to avoid a shutdown.

LEMON: So you don't think they can get the 60 votes? No?

POWERS: I don't see it right now.

LEMON: OK.

POWERS: Unless somebody changes their position.

LEMON: Let me ask you about this, Kirsten. The president dropped -- because we mentioned the tweet, right? And I asked Jeff Zeleny, it can all change with a tweet. But this morning he dropped this off-message tweet and essentially had to be schooled by Speaker Paul Ryan for 90 minutes. He lobbed a huge grenade into the whole thing, right?

[22:10:04] POWERS: Yes. Well, look, I don't think he's been particularly helpful to the republicans in this process. And it's because of his lack of interest in policy and the details. You would think he would have a little humility about that. It's not something he's particularly knowledgeable about. And we see this across the board. But instead he puts himself out there in the middle of these fights saying things that I think, you know, make things very difficult for the republicans.

LEMON: Does he know what's going on?

HENDERSON: You know, he seems to want to have a lot of executive time, right? At this point. Watching TV, then tweeting in response to what he sees on TV. You know, this idea that he's a great negotiator or you know, he can close a deal. And you saw Lindsey Graham trying to appeal to his ego that way, right? Basically saying come on, Donald Trump, you're the only one who can close this deal. But he seems largely unengaged at this point.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And that didn't -- Chris, a similar thing happened with taxes.

CILLIZZA: Yes. I mean, the issue here is that and with -- and by the way, the healthcare repeal attempt too, Don. He's not someone -- he's a unique combination in that he both doesn't know all that much about policy and he's uniquely incurious about what he doesn't know.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But he reads a lot of document.

CILLIZZA: I mean, no one --no one - right. No one goes into the presidency knowing everything about every issue, right? But most of them read and sort of try to bone up on it.

I think his belief is I know what I need to know, everybody said I didn't know enough to be elected president and I won. You can never get away from -- that's why he continues to talk about it. He talked about it in Pennsylvania today. You can never get away from for Donald Trump that formative experience of everyone said I was going to lose the presidency and I won.

And that affirms -- I think he takes a lot of wrong lessons from that victory of sort of why he won. And one of them is I don't need to know anything other than what I know, sort of a closed universe. And as a result you get things like this where he just kind of blunders into it because he doesn't know...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: If I won something, if I got something and everybody's expecting me not to, that would make me bone up and study more just to prove them wrong, I got this, let me show you.

CILLIZZA: Not if you were convinced that anyone who criticized you had an agenda because they hated you, that it was not legitimate criticism. And that's what he believes.

LEMON: Yes. Well, the best way to prove that wrong is...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: I mean, it's not right but that's what he believes. LEMON: Yes. Listen, I want to -- Kirsten mentioned that we're going

to talk about the blame game. So then of course the blame game, here's the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really believe the democrats want a shutdown to get off the subject of the tax cuts because they've worked so well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. So I keep asking this. Republicans control the House, they control the Senate, and the White House. So, and then why is he talking about tax cuts, Kirsten? Like what is that?

POWERS: I don't know. You want me to explain it? I can't -- I can't explain it. But I do think -- you know, I'm a little torn on the blame game thing because I do think it's true, the people who usually get blamed are the people who are in control. That's just the way that it works.

LEMON: Who are in control, you said.

POWERS: Yes. In control. Sorry.

LEMON: Yes.

POWERS: In control of the government. And in this case the republicans is in control of everything. The only place I would say I'm a little unsure about that is basically the problem is that what the republicans are offering is basically a continuing resolution that also has something the democrats like.

Now granted it's not the permanent fix that they want but it is still ultimately an extension of a program that they support. And you know, should continuing resolutions be used as vehicles to get your policy preferences in? I'm not sure about that.

And I certainly was very critical of republicans when they did it with Barack Obama in terms of trying to take things out that were supportive of Obamacare. So, I think ultimately, probably the republicans will win -- or will lose the fight because they're in control. But I also think they have a fair point that I don't know that the democrats have a right to hold this up because they want an unrelated program to be included in it.

LEMON: Let's talk about the House democratic leader, Nia, Nancy Pelosi. Had in-some choice words about including CHIP as a bargaining tool. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY PELOSI, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES MINORITY LEADER: This is like giving you a bowl of doggie doo, put a cherry on top and call it a chocolate sundae. This is nothing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That's quite an image.

HENDERSON: Yes, no, I wish just let's stay away from that. But yes, I mean, this whole idea of CHIP. And republicans obviously thought democrats, you vote against CHIP at your peril. But democrats come back and say they've been trying to push CHIP basically since the fall when, you know, when it essentially ran out...

LEMON: Despite the doggie doo, the democrats is right, is she right?

HENDERSON: In terms of -- in terms of what -- her argument is essentially that they're only giving CHIP six years and she wants it to be 10 years, which is what other democrats want. And apparently, if you give 10 years it saves more money than the six years. So that's what she's saying in terms of chip.

[22:14:58] But listen, you know, I think democrats have at least in their favor that this is what their base wants. In the same way that in 2013 that is what the GOP base wanted too. They wanted -- they wanted republicans to stand up to the democratic president. And guess what happened in 2014.

There was a blowout for democrats after republicans shut the government down. Republicans did really well in 2014, and it was a referendum in 2014 on Obama. And I think that's what democrats are hoping, that this is going to be some sort of momentum and generate, you know, obviously attention and enthusiasm among their base, and they already have the enthusiasm much more than republicans do.

LEMON: Kirsten, I know you want to get in.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: And Don, I would...

LEMON: No, it's Chris. Chris, I know you want to get in but I just -- let me ask you before you respond, but quickly if you can, are voters going to remember this do you think by the time the mid-terms come?

CILLIZZA: Again, two quick things. One, we're overthinking the shutdown. Republicans control everything. People do not follow this as closely as we do. I think that's a very simple argument for democrats to make.

LEMON: OK.

CILLIZZA: OK, that's one. Two, will they remember? I think Nia is right, the democratic base will remember. And it's already, you've already seen lots of results, not just polls but you've seen the Alabama special election, Virginia governor's race, 34 state legislative seats in the country going from republican to democratic since 2017. Largely the result of a democratic enthusiasm edge.

So yes, I don't know that it changes all that much. This is still going to be a referendum in November on Donald Trump.

LEMON: OK, yes.

CILLIZZA: But I actually think standing up and fighting, and even if it means the government closing to Nia's point probably plays well with a democratic base who you can't be too anti-Trump for the democratic base.

HENDERSON: Right.

LEMON: That's what I was thinking. That's sort of what the base, the democratic base wants for democrats.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

LEMON: Or lawmakers to fight Donald Trump and if they don't they'll remember that more than a government shutdown. Thank you very much. I appreciate all of you.

When we come back, much more on the breaking news. The House passes a bill to keep the government running for a month. But the shutdown threat is far from over. We're going to look at some of the major road blocks which stand in the way of a deal.

[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Here's our breaking news. The House passes a bill to fund the federal government for the next month. The vote, 230 to 197. But with the bill's chances in the Senate bleak, the shutdown still remains a major threat.

Here to discuss, David Axelrod, CNN's senior political commentator and a former senior adviser to President Obama. And Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain and the executive producer of Showtime's The Circus.

Good evening, gentlemen. Mr. McKinnon, you first. So we're careening toward a government shutdown possibly. Does it benefit anyone, republicans, democrats, the president?

MARK MCKINNON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, THE CIRCUS: No. I mean voters generally take it out on Congress in general. Although in all the government shutdowns we've had in the last 20 years or so have all been blamed on republicans. And even in those circumstances they didn't -- they didn't have all three branches of government which they do now.

So I think there's a high likelihood that most people will blame the republicans because they perceive that they are in power, not just perceive but they are. And so I don't see why -- and I think that's why democrats may push this over the limit because they think that historically they blame republicans and now with holding all three branches of government that there's a good chance they'll blame republicans.

LEMON: It seems like republicans, David, are telling the American people that there cannot be funding for CHIP and the Dream Act at the same time. What's the truth here?

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, the truth here is you're dealing with a Rubik's cube, Don. You know, the Freedom Caucus which has the republican caucus in the House by the short hairs won't agree to the kind of compromise that the Senate bipartisan group came up with on DACA.

The Senate needs -- in order to pass anything through the Senate, you need some democratic votes. And it's very hard to square those things. So you've got this Rubik's cube. And then you've got the president, who's approaching this Rubik's cube with all the sophistication of a tic-tac toe player and sort of, you know, sort of blundering into the middle of this and complicating the situation as he has for the last 10 days.

And so you know, you've got a mess on your hands. And it really -- you know, there is -- I think even though I agree with the fact that republicans will bear responsibility for this because they are the governing party, they run all the branches, and therefore it's likely to spill onto them, I'm sure there's a little bit of trepidation on everyone's part because the whole thing looks like a bloody mess and there's going to be a lot of just consternation among Americans if the government shuts down.

LEMON: I think you wanted to say something, Mark. It looks like it, I should say. Did you want to say something?

MCKINNON: Well, I want to say in a larger context, Don, I think one thing that's interesting is that when the government shuts down lots of personnel don't get paid. But you know who does get paid? Members of Congress. That's in the 27th Amendment, which I think we should change.

But that just goes to a larger problem, which is we have these continuing resolutions because Congress won't do its main job, which is to pass a budget. A budget is a blueprint for the government to work. And it's been months since the House kicked over something to the Senate.

That's why I supported with the organization no labels a measure called no budget no pay, which means if the Congress doesn't - pass a budget they don't get paid. And I think that would go a long way toward eliminating these stopgap measures that we keep having over and over and over again.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, I want to ask, Politico is reporting, David, about the president's TV habits may be partly to blame because he sent out this morning the tweet not necessarily understanding what was going on. That's according to two White House aides. That's before the president shot off that tweet.

The Ryan deal was discussed being -- was being discussed on Fox & Friends. Is "executive time," you know, quote unquote, is that getting in the way of policy here?

AXELROD: Well, look, the absence of any real study of materials -- the president that I worked for, the president Mark worked for did their homework and they understood the fundamentals of what they were dealing with.

[22:25:02] If you get your first morning briefing from Fox & Friends, that can lead to a lot of disastrous results.

Remember, it was just last week that the president screwed up on a FISA vote in the House because of something he saw on TV and ended up running -- tweeting something that was completely counter to the position that his administration and the republican leadership had taken.

So yes, I mean, there are consequences to a president who does not do his homework, who watches television all day and tweets all day. And I don't think -- that's not a partisan point. That's an observation from someone who has worked with a president and understands how complex the job is and how much work you actually have to put into it to make intelligent decisions. And we're beginning to pay a big price for that.

LEMON: All right. I want both of you to stay with me. Much more ahead. When we come back, in the middle of all this, a source telling CNN that the president is furious with his chief of staff after John Kelly said his boss was uninformed. Take a guess how that went over. We'll discuss, next.

[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: More turmoil in the Trump White House. Tonight a top aide to the president in his crosshairs over comments about the border wall.

Back with me now, David Axelrod and Mark McKinnon. Mark, CNN is reporting that President Trump was, quote, "furious" after Chief of Staff John Kelly told Fox News that his views on immigration had evolved but the president put on a good public face. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's great. I think he's doing a great job. I think General Kelly has done a really great job. He is a very special guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The president made sure to tell his followers on Twitter that his views hadn't changed on the wall. Why do you think Kelly spoke out, Mark?

MARK MCKINNON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, THE CIRCUS: Well, because it's the truth and it's obvious to anybody. In fact, it's obvious even if you look at the tape of Donald Trump himself. You go back and look at what he first said about the wall, it was going to be a big beautiful wall, it was going to be ten feet higher than whatever he said originally.

And then over time reality has set in and it's not going to cost as much, it's not going to be as extensive, there's going to be transparency, there's going to be rivers, there's going mountains, which is what we all knew from the very beginning.

So, John Kelly was just saying what was obviously to everybody, except maybe some of Trump's base. But I think it's just telling the truth. And by the way, most people give John Kelly very high marks. And so I think he was just doing what a good citizen would do, which is just tell the truth.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But Mark, when you said about the rivers and the mountains, everyone said that from the beginning. The president said today that, you know, I've said that, I've been saying that for three years.

MCKINNON: No.

LEMON: He has not been saying that for three years.

MCKINNON: I know.

LEMON: He's been saying a big beautiful wall with a big beautiful door and now all of a sudden -- and he says everybody knows, it everybody knows it.

MCKINNON: Yes. And there's plenty of tape to support just what you're saying, Don. You know, the signals have been so mixed starting with the DACA meeting and that he would sign anything. And then the next thing we're going to get is that Mexico is going to pay for the children's health insurance program. That will be the next thing.

LEMON: All right. David, I want to play. This is from Dana Bash's interview with Senator Lindsey Graham.

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Yes.

LEMON: She asked him if he thinks the president is racist. He urged her to do it.

AXELROD: Yes, he did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: You could be the pope and criticize him, it doesn't matter. He'll go after the pope. You could be Putin and say nice things and he'll like you. Here's what I've found. He's a street fighter. It's not the color of your skin that matters. It's not the content of your character. It's whether or not you show him respect and like him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So before that, though, usually people don't want to talk about this. And he said to her, why don't you ask me if he's a racist. Why don't you ask me the racist question?

So he wanted to answer that question. Then he responded by saying, you know, he -- it doesn't matter, as long as you like him or compliment him. He's a street fighter, not a racist. What do you think of that?

AXELROD: Yes, I listened to that earlier, the full -- I think the full thing was you could be, you know, black as coal or white as snow or whatever. And he'll -- now, look, I think part of what he said was absolutely right in that this president responds like a child to...

LEMON: Flattery.

AXELROD: Signs of flattery. And he responds angrily to any kind of criticism. And we've seen that over time. The world has seen it. World leaders have seen it. They've all sort of decided how to play him in this context.

So Lindsey Graham was absolutely right about that. Does that mean that the president doesn't have attitudes about race that, you know, that animate him? I don't know how you explain the history of birtherism. That had nothing to do with people being nice to him or not nice to him, you know, or the housing problem back in the '70s and so on.

So clearly, there's something there. But there are two separate issues. Does he have those attitudes? Yes. But is he subject to flattery and will he responds to anyone who flatters him? Clearly he will.

LEMON: Yes. Mark, I've got a question for you later but I'm going pose this one to David again. I'm going to ask about some new Wall Street Journal reporting about the stormy Daniels story.

President Trump's attorney Michael Cohen reportedly used a private Delaware company and pseudonyms to pay the former film star $130,000. It took place just before the presidential election in October of 2016. Is team Trump and the White House hiding something here, David?

AXELROD: Well, I don't know. Maybe he knew that the tax bill would treat this kind of entity with great benefits and wanted to get in early, Michael Cohen, by creating this entity in Delaware.

Look, it's obvious what happened. They wanted to -- they want to make sure that this story didn't come out before the election. It's -- talk about unflattering. It's an unflattering story. And they made a payoff here. It's not clear where the money came from for this payoff. But that's what happened.

And this is an interesting tidbit, though, that they went to the lengths of creating an entity in Delaware as a pass-through for this payoff. So that you know, I think speaks to the degree to which they wanted to keep this whole thing way off the radar screen.

[22:35:06] LEMON: Mark, I really want to ask you about your piece in the Daily Beast where you talk about the dramatic story of a DREAMer who unlike many of the kids in limbo was able to become a U.S. citizen. Tell us why you think this is what the American dream can be.

MCKINNON: Well, because we so often we don't think of immigrants in terms of actual people and their stories and their narrative, and some of them have amazing stories like Angie de Hoyos, Pineyra de Hoyos Hart, who at four years -- she was born in Monterrey, Mexico, she was kidnapped and her mother was kidnapped and went through extraordinary circumstances, was freed after 37 days, and her mother left an abusive husband who was the cause of all this who took her to electroshock therapy and did all sorts of horrible things to her to try to erase her memory of why she hated him.

So they fled to Austin, Texas where she got a Ph.D. over 11 years to maintain her visa status so that her daughter could -- she and her two daughters could stay in Austin, Texas.

And then one month before Angie would have been a DREAMer her mother got a green card. So effectively she would have been -- she's a DREAMer which is just by chance and circumstance of timing she missed that window.

But the point is that she graduated from U.T. in three years, she went to work for Google, then Dell, now works for G.M. She wants to run for governor in 15 or 20 years and be the first Mexican-born governor of Texas.

So it's an American story. It's an American story that starts in Monterrey. And I think she's just a great example of the kind of spirit that most immigrants bring to this country and we with kind of lose that in the larger debate, I think.

LEMON: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: Hey, Don, can I just -- can I just say...

LEMON: Yes, quickly because I've got to run.

AXELROD: Everybody should read that story. Super powerful. And there are many, many other compelling stories like this which are going to be told if there is a solution to this DACA, this DACA standoff. And I don't think the White House wants that and republicans shouldn't want that either because these stories say everything.

LEMON: Absolutely. It's in the - it's Mark McKinnon's piece in the Daily Beast today. Thank you very much, gentlemen. See you next time.

When we come back, transcripts just released today of closed door testimony from the co-founder of the firm behind that infamous Trump dossier and he is making some pretty serious allegations.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, whose firm paid for the infamous Trump Russia dossier making some serious accusations about the Trump organization in his testimony to the House Intel committee.

Joining me now with more is CNN's chief national security correspondent Mr. Jim Sciutto. Jim, good evening to you. After the infamous bipartisan vote, the unanimous bipartisan vote, the House Intel committee has released the transcripts from this Fusion GPS co- founder Glenn Simpson's testimony. What can you tell us? What do you know?

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, there are a number of headlines, I think a couple big ones. One is that the ranking democrat on the intelligence committee Adam Schiff focused on in a statement tonight, and that is Glenn Simpson talking about allegations, and we should make it clear, allegations, there's no hard evidence of this, but allegations that Trump organization was involved in money laundering with Russians.

And the point that Schiff made is that isn't that interesting in effect because that's the same thing that Steve Bannon said in Michael Wolff's book. He mentioned the possibility of money laundering.

Again, under questioning. He said he didn't have the evidence but signs, suspicions, et cetera. Republicans in questioning by looking at this transcript, Don, pushed back hard. They said OK, that's an allegation. What proof, Mr. Simpson, do you have of this? To which he answered he doesn't have the proof but Adam Schiff's answer to that is why won't my republican colleagues let us, let me, let the committee of the House intelligence committee look into these as part of its Russia investigation?

And just the way that committee is set up it's got, you know, it's got a big advantage to the republicans in terms of resources, the chairmanship, et cetera. That's a pathway that the House investigation at least will not go down. Now, Robert Mueller's investigation of course a different story.

LEMON: Yes. What more do you -- what do we know about Robert Mueller? What is he looking into these allegations about?

SCIUTTO: Well, there are indications that he's at least looking into financial entanglements involving the Trump organization. For instance, we know that the documents, some of the documents that Trump and others have given to Mueller under request have included financial documents. Not going back 100 years of Trump. A few years, but really just in a year or two, particularly during the time of the campaign.

We don't know that that's going to lead into anything criminal but at least it's a path of inquiry. And under that could fall an investigation of money laundering.

The other point I would note about this testimony, Don, is this. There's been a lot of attention on this dossier compiled by the former British agent. Of course Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS, was the organization, the firm that paid for that dossier.

But he made the point in the testimony here. He said, listen, one of the central allegations of the dossier was that there was a web of connections and communications between people in the Trump campaign and Russians during the campaign prior to the election that were suspicious and indicated the possibility of a conspiracy and that there was talk of sharing damaging information, helping -- the Russians helping Donald Trump win that election.

The point Simpson made in his testimony is this. Many of the revelations we've learned since then, for instance, the June 2016 Trump tower meeting, George Papadopoulos bragging to the Australian ambassador that he'd been told by Russians that they had damaging information on Hillary Clinton, that kind of stuff has borne out one of those central or at least indications some evidence of one of those central allegations of the dossier that there were these connections, these discussions.

Now does that lead to, you know, evidence of an illegal conspiracy? We're certainly not there yet but we do know it's something that Robert Mueller is looking into.

LEMON: Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

[22:44:57] LEMON: When he we come back, new reports out saying the president himself is behind Steve Bannon's tightly lipped testimony in front of the House Intel committee. Is the White House controlling other people's testimony?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The House Intel panel today releasing the transcript of its interview with Simpson, the man whose firm bank wrote the infamous Trump Russia dossier.

I want to bring in now CNN legal analyst Laura Coates and Richard Ben- Veniste, also former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. Good evening. All of you, thank you for coming on.

Renato, you first. Here's what the ranking democrat Adam Schiff had to say about the release of Simpson's transcripts. He said, "Those transcripts reveal serious allegations that the Trump organization may have engaged in money laundering with Russian nationals, the same subject which Mr. Bannon described in his interview with the author of "Fire and Fury." If the Trump organization did engage in money laundering with the Russians, it would be with the knowledge or approval of the Kremlin and constitute powerful leverage over the president of the United States."

What do you make of Simpson's allegations of money laundering here?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think it's interesting because Simpson and his firm looked it a lot, you know, they conducted their own investigation and they look at a lot of evidence. I think a lot of viewers at home are wondering, you know, what does Mueller know, what does Mueller see, what evidence does Mueller have?

[22:50:04] And I think what the Fusion GPS transcript today tells us is potentially some of the conclusions that Mueller could be drawing. So you know, obviously the conclusion that he's talking about in his testimony aren't themselves evidence, but you know, he's essentially drawing conclusions from the evidence that he does see.

Obviously if there's money laundering in the Trump organization involving Russian mobsters, that's a very, very serious problem and it's something that you, you know, could imagine being used as leverage. Obviously that's the sort of thing when all of us were federal employees, we were asked a lot of questions about potentially compromising details about ourselves, and that would certainly be one of them.

LEMON: So this is a what-if question. So what if it turns out to be these accusations turn out to be accurate, Laura? What kind of trouble could Trump find himself in?

LAURA COATES, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: A great deal of trouble. Because first you were talking about collusion, but now you're talking about corroboration. If you had corroboration in any of the allegations in either the Fire and Fury or Steve Bannon's isolated comments or anything else, and you have indication and evidence that there is somehow a foreign government who is participating in this way, or that somehow the president of the United States or his campaign was complicit in actually accepting of this, he finds himself in great legal peril, in addition to additional charges that might be brought that might be secondary to these issues.

LEMON: Yes. Richard, there are reports out there that the president, President Trump personally made the decision to limit the testimony of Steve Bannon while he was meeting with the White House -- with the White -- excuse me -- the House intelligence committee. What do you make of the idea that President Trump could be pulling the strings behind the scenes like this?

RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, if, in fact, there is an assertion of executive privilege and that assertion has to do with activities that occurred during the individual's tenure at the White House, not during the campaign, then that would have to be asserted by the president through his counsel.

It hasn't been done. There is this bizarre middle ground where there is a suggestion that maybe at some point the White House will assert executive privilege and, therefore, the individual would not, in this case Steve Bannon, should not be compelled to give testimony at this time.

It makes absolutely no sense for this to be accepted. Certainly Robert Mueller would not accept this, and I don't think either the House or the Senate committees should accept it as well.

LEMON: Yesterday we also saw his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, claimed that he was unprepared to speak to investigators. I mean, if turns out that the president is calling the shots, like this could -- that amount to obstruction? Renato?

BEN-VENISTE: That's ridiculous to suggest that somebody who is coming before a congressional committee is unprepared to answer questions that are central to the inquiry. It just...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So how could he away -- why is he allowed to do it, then? BEN-VENISTE: This has to do with the leadership of the committee,

which has the authority to hold him in contempt if he doesn't answer the questions or assert a legitimate privilege.

LEMON: Laura first and then Renato.

COATES: Sure. You know, well, there seems to be some kind of perverse game of Hansel or Gretel where this different agency had or people are the cabinet are dropping bread crumbs for the president of the United States in case he wants to assert the privilege.

LEMON: Right.

COATES: We saw it with Mike Rogers. We saw it Jeff Sessions, we saw it with Dan Coates, no relation to me. You see people saying, listen, I'd like to wait and see, if hint-hint, Mr. President, hint-hint, you would like to assert the privilege. That's never been done like this before, nor has it been done where neither party if two people are talking, and neither of them is the president of the United States, but instead is the president-elect, you're not technically a member of the executive, therefore the privilege does not relate to you yet. This is noble and it's perverse and it really shouldn't stand.

LEMON: Renato, is this obstruction?

MARIOTTI: I would say it's highly improper. Obstruction of justice, I don't know if I would go that far. I think it's improper. And really what it is it's essentially a way for the White House to, you know, derail a congressional investigation.

They're essentially saying, hey, you can't talk about anything related to your time in the White House because maybe some portion of it may be privileged or we may believe it to be privileged in the future. It's very overbroad, it's totally improper. They're going way beyond the scope of what privilege is.

LEMON: So why are they being allowed to do it then, Renato?

MARIOTTI: Because the republicans in Congress aren't forcing their hands. And we saw it again today. They've decided to kick, you know, they issued a subpoena yesterday, it looked like they were getting tough with Bannon, and now they've given Bannon, you know, a bunch of time before he comes in again so that this way the White House can get its crap together and decide exactly what executive privilege it wants to assert and probably this will die down by then.

[22:54:59] LEMON: Laura, the White House director Hope Hicks and the former Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon both had their appearances before the House, they had to pushed back. Again, Renato just mentioned that when it comes to Steve Bannon. Do you think President Trump could have something to do with that or maybe his attorneys?

COATES: Perhaps the attorney said of the Office of the White House Council, we're not quite sure. But it's telling me there is a playbook that's being followed. Because if what Bannon is doing and saying that he is preemptively going to excuse himself from having to answer any of the questions, then what do you think Corey Lewandowski or Hope Hicks will do, members of both, you know, the transition and also the current administration at one point in time who would say, well, listen, I also am going to preemptively do this.

It really is not that's ever been done before but the playbook is really now well-established. But I have to clear, to be fair. The idea of whether or not a congressional desire to compel someone's testimony and to hold them in contempt is not really just a republican issue.

Remember that the former Attorney General Eric Holder refused to answer certain questions, and they tried to get a federal court to try to hold him in contempt and they declined to do so. So, part of the issue here is that a congressional desire to compel testimony when you've got a criminal investigation going on is really a lot of bark with no bite. And until that changes, people continue to tout and flout the actual requirements.

LEMON: Thank you, all.

When we come back, the House avoiding to avoid a shutdown, but hopes are damning the Senate with the deadline just about 25 hours away.

Plus, a new poll shows the worse approval of American leadership is falling to a historic lows. Fareed Zakaria weighs in on that, next.

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