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Christians Ignore Trump's Rough Language; Trump Member Negotiating with Mueller's Team. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 23, 2018 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us.

We have exclusive breaking news on the Russia investigation report to you tonight. Here's what we are learning. There are new signs that former Manafort deputy Rick Gates may be negotiating with special counsel Robert Mueller. Again, that's new tonight.

Sources also tell CNN that Mueller has indicted interest in questioning President Trump about the firings of FBI Director James Comey and national security adviser Michael Flynn. But those sources say there is a lot to be negotiated and that interview may not happen in the next few weeks.

Shortly after Trump fired comey, he reportedly asked acting director Andrew McCabe, who he voted for, who McCabe voted for in the 2016 election. That is according to the Washington Post. We've also learned that Mueller's investigators have spoken with both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI director James Comey.

The White House saying today the president hasn't fired Mueller partly because of how the press would react.

President Trump, himself, denying today that FBI Director Christopher Wray threatened to resign in the wake of pressure from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make changes in the senior ranks at the bureau.

And in our new CNN poll, nearly eight in ten, eight in ten people say President Trump should testify for Mueller, if asked. There is a lot I know that I just gave you right there but we're going to get through all of it.

So I want to get right to CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, also CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, and Michael Zeldin, he is Robert Mueller's former special assistant to the DOJ, and CNN national security analyst Susan Hennessey.

Again, good evening. That is a lot that we need to get to. But Jim, I've got to get to you first. Because so much to get to. But let's start with the CNN, the breaking news here. New signs that former Paul Manafort deputy Rick Gates may be negotiating with Mueller's team. What do you know about that?

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: That's right, Don, here's what we know. CNN has learned that the former campaign aide Rick Gates has quitely added a prominent -- a white collar defense attorney to his defense team.

And that attorney was seen twice last week at special counsel Robert Mueller's office in Queens, suggesting that there is an ongoing negotiation between the defendant's team and the prosecutor's.

At this stage with Gates' charges filed and bail set, the talks could concern both those charges and Gates' plea. Now to be clear, should a deal be worked out? It would mean that Mueller has the cooperation of one more Trump insider.

I should note Gates pleaded not guilty on October to eight charges of money laundering and failing to register foreign lobbying and other businesses. His long-time business partner the former Trump chairman Paul Manafort, he pleaded not guilty as well to nine counts in the same case as Gates. None of the attorneys involved with the special counsel. We reach out to them tonight knowing they would comment for this story, Don.

LEMON: Michael, how significant is this that Mueller may have the cooperation of another Trump insider?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, we don't know for sure that it involves cooperation. It could be that Tom Green, the White House new lawyer for Gates has been reported by CNN is just trying to strike a deal for his clients so that he gets some level of reduction in his sentence.

It doesn't imply necessarily cooperation. If however it is a plea and cooperation agreement, then what you have is another person who has knowledge about a couple of things. One is, does he have knowledge about money laundering allegations with respect to the Trump organization that mirror the charges that were brought against him and Paul Manafort.

Second, he stayed on after Manafort was fired from his job. So what does he know about contacts with the Russians during the campaign, perhaps up to the transition that we wouldn't get from another person. So he's got a couple of things that are important for us to learn that Mueller may want a cooperation agreement with, in order to lock that down.

LEMON: OK. Susan, I want to bring you in now. Because here's what the Washington Post is reporting tonight, that shortly after the president fired Comey, that he summoned the acting FBI director Andrew McCabe to the White House and ask him whom he voted for in the 2016 election. McCabe told him that he didn't vote.

And the president also vented his anger over McCabe's wife politics. You wrote on Twitter the president can't claim ignorance here. He should know this is highly inappropriate.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Right. So President Trump has been warned sort of again and again and again about the importance of an independent Department of Justice and independent FBI. He's gotten lots of pushback. And so the idea that sort of immediately following the firing of the FBI director and all of the backlash of that, he is immediately focused on the political loyalties of the acting director, somebody he was considering making director at that time.

And he really can't plead ignorance anymore. He can't say that, you know, he is new to this, he is new to politics, he doesn't understand. You now, he has been warned about sort of the obligations of his office.

[22:04:59] And so, you know, I think moving forward you really have to ask yourself, either he doesn't care or there is some kind of nefarious intent here.

LEMON: Well, it's the same thing that Comey claimed, right? That he also wanted his loyalty.

HENNESSEY: Right. So it's certainly part of a pattern of behavior. Both sort of an obsession about obtaining the personal loyalty of individual in law enforcement. So, not asking for their loyalty to the U.S. Constitution, to their office even to the office of the presidency but to Donald Trump personally as an individual.

LEMON: Same question, Laura. I mean, you hear what McCabe, you got to answer McCabe. I mean, you've got this with Comey. It sort of backs up what Comey said. It seems like he want -- he wanted some sort of loyalty pledge or want some sort of loyalty pledge for people who are supposed to be independent.

LAURA COATES, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Yes, and corroboration is exactly what Mueller's team is looking for. Yet, another indication that the contemporaneously written memos that Comey talked about at his different hearings, et cetera, has made very vocal about its corroboration.

And not only as Susan talked about can the president no longer really claim or fain ignorance. He may no longer be able to fain innocence with respect to his motive of his intent. Because remember, the entire investigation certainly began about the issues of collusion.

But now it's evolving into one talking about obstruction and Trump trying to have a hand in stringing along the FBI as a political marionette and puppet. And that can't happen. But what it signals to Mueller's team is that there is something that this president, perhaps and his team, was trying to hide.

What do you not want us to look at when you're doing all these things? And so it almost guides the hands of the investigators and says, well, what you don't want me to look at is exactly what I like to see. Why do you want me to fire McCabe? Why do you want me to fire Comey? What were they on a trail for? What did they pick up the scent for? And we want to smell that.

LEMON: Yes. There is a -- Jim, there are at least four or five things that we get, it could have been the first question that we could led with or done the entire newscast on. But I mean, this should not be given short trip. Because then there is this, the special counsel Robert Mueller seeking to question the president. What does Mueller want to focus on?

SCIUTTO: Well, the Washington Post says that lawyers for the White House are saying that he wants to focus on a couple things, specifically the firing of James Comey and the firing of Michael Flynn.

Now we know as well through CNN's own reporting, that the firing of James Comey, certainly focused widely known, gets to the question of whether there is obstruction of justice. I think the Flynn issue here as well not just limited to the obstruction of justice issue.

Because keep in mind that Michael Flynn was fired. The president said he was and we know from the testimony of others including Sally Yates that was fired because he lied to the FBI about communications with Russians during the transition, specifically with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

So, while there is clearly focus on the obstruction of justice questions, keep in mind the witnesses that Comey -- rather, Mueller is sitting down with now have knowledge of contacts with Russians, some of them have lied about those contacts with Russians.

I mean, Jeff Sessions also interviewed last week, he well, if you -- don't use the word lie, he did not disclose forthcoming his contacts with Russians during the campaign and was later found to have not been full in his answers and had to recuse himself from the Russian investigation because of that.

So look at the witnesses here. Many of these questions, including speaking to the president and Comey and Sessions lead to obstruction of justice questions, but they also still have in that field questions about Russia, contacts with Russians, lying about contacts with Russians, and what was the substance of those conversations.

LEMON: So, Michael, help us out here, when you hear the direction Mueller seems to be going, are you thinking this is an obstruction of justice case?

ZELDIN: I think that there are three broad work streams that Mueller probably has under inquiry. One is money laundering. That's an inquiry about illegally sourced money coming into the Trump businesses in order to keep them afloat during their years of bankruptcies and other financial difficulties. That's in the late '90s and the mid-2000s and that's similar to the Manafort indictment.

The second is the so-called collusion and that is the efforts on behalf of his campaign to coordinate in some way with Russians or Russian operatives like WikiLeaks in order to obtain information that was prolonged either from the DNC or John Podesta or otherwise and that's the essentially the collusion, the conspiracy to interfere with the election. And then there is obstruction of justice.

So I think all three of those things are live topics for Mueller to discuss, which is why I think that maybe the Washington Post is correct about this and that Mueller is going to do more than one interview with Trump. And there is some precedent for that and other independent counsel investigations.

[22:09:57] Or if he's going to do it in one fell swoop, it would strike me that we're still too early in the process as least as to the money laundering part of it to have a full under oath interview with the President of the United States.

LEMON: Interesting. Susan, I want to play this, what the president said. This is about a potential Mueller interview. This was weeks ago, watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll see what happens, I mean, certainly I'll see what happens. But when they have no collusion and nobody has found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: SO, Susan, the president has been so focused on the word collusion but this investigation goes far beyond that, in fact that's not really a legal term. We are talking about, you know, as Michael just said maybe obstruction, money laundering and other things.

HENNESSEY: Right. So, you know, look. Certainly it's inconceivable that Trump is not going to be interviewed at some point. So sort of this question of could they even interview, you know, Mueller could subpoena him, that he could be faced with a grand jury subpoena.

Special accommodations are going to be made. You know, I agree, there are lots of different threads that Mueller might be interested in. He also might not -- he might be interested in talking to the president as a witness here, right.

So he might not only be interested as sort of getting Trump's story, you know, because he's looking at indicting the president or sort of getting the top echelon, he's trying to understand what those lower level staffers might have done.

And Donald Trump had some critical information there. So the notion that this isn't going to ultimately lead to the president at some point, you know, that's just, that wouldn't be consistent with a thorough investigation. Whether or not it's an investigation that ultimately concludes the president, you know, is cleared of wrongdoing at the end or if he actually did do something wrong.

LEMON: Laura, what do you think of that?

COATES: Well, I think the President of the United States in his commentary that you just played seems to have hit a fast forward button on a movie no one else has seen at this point in time. He has no idea what conclusions had been drawn by Mueller's team or their investigation. We are largely deciding between what the M, media knows and what M,

Mueller knows. And what Mueller knows is a great deal more than any of us. And so for the president to say, look, there has been no collusion, therefore, I'm cleared, therefore any type of interview would be ridiculous for us to have.

Well, that pre supposes that Mueller has actually reached that conclusion and he does not. Remember, think about an examination done like a jigsaw puzzle of sorts. You've got to have enough pieces in play to be able to understand what the ultimate image will be. When you have the president of the United States who is looking to be interviewed by Mueller and Mueller would like him to interview him obviously.

It seems that Mueller has a much clear picture of what that jigsaw looks like. And he is trying to put in the remaining pieces. But Trump has no idea what Mueller knows. That's probably the reason he was trying to get ahead of it in his media-related commentary. But he, just like everybody else is perhaps thinking what do you know and what can I avoid saying.

SCIUTTO: Don.

LEMON: Jim, I need to get this in. I'm sorry because we're going to run out of time. CNN is also reporting that Mueller's team has interviewed Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the former director James Comey. What do we know about that?

SCIUTTO: Well, look at this, Jeff Sessions was just last week. Comey was the end of last year. It's natural that the special counsel will speak to them. Comey's firing is a central focus of the investigation, at least as it relates to the possibility of obstruction of justice.

Sessions was attorney general at the time and while he had recuse himself from all aspects of the Russian investigation, he has said publicly and his name is on a letter recommending to the president that he fire James Comey, so Sessions involved in the firing of James Comey.

But keep in minds as I said earlier, not just in potential questions with obstruction of justice, Sessions, himself lied or didn't disclose contacts that he had during the campaign and the transition with Russians known to U.S. intelligence, including the Russian ambassador to the U.S., so it keeps opened more than one line of investigation for the special counsel, and that's why he would have interest in speaking to both of them.

LEMON: All right. I want everyone to stick around. When we come back, the White House says the president hasn't fired Robert Mueller, in part because of how the press would react. Are they completely misunderstand? Do they completely misunderstand just how serious the situation is?

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Lots of big revelations in the Russia investigation today, including a pretty surprising statement today from the White House.

Jim Sciutto, Laura Coates, Michael Zeldin, and Susan Hennessey are all back with me now. Susan, I want to get your reaction to something that we heard from Sarah Sanders today in the press briefing. She was ask if they believe the whole is a witch hunt, why not just fire Mueller. Here's her answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We want to see this come to a complete and full conclusion. I think we all know what everybody in this room would do in the president did that, I don't think that's helpful to the process.

The president wants to see this ends and he wants to see them finally come to the same conclusion that I think most everyone in America has that there is nothing to this. They've spent the better part. Most of you have spent the better part of a year, looking, digging, obsessing over trying to find something and have yet to find anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, there's a follow -- God, so much to say. Well, if you believe that, then why...

SCIUTTO: Yes.

LEMON: ... then stop calling it a hoax. If you really believe that, no one followed up with that, Susan. But, go on.

HENNESSEY: Right. So, look, it's a rare moment of honesty out of the White House press briefing room in which she is saying, you know, look, we are concerned about we are not firing Robert Mueller because we are concerned about the press response, that they recognize that the ultimate mechanism here the thing constraining them from dismissing -- from dismissing Mueller and trying to ends this investigation is the question of political accountably.

You know, early on we saw lots of members of Congress sort of talk about the firing of Robert Mueller as being a red line potentially that position has softened. We've seen quite a bit of efforts to sort of delegitimize or undermine that investigation.

You know, so I do think that the White House is acknowledging something that they're not wrong about which is that ultimately their calculation of what they can get away with in terms of firing Mueller really does come down to public opinion.

SCIUTTO: But Don -- Don.

LEMON: Go ahead.

SCIUTTO: Here's another point. Just the idea that you hear from the president, you hear from the White House spokesperson, you hear from some that not all republicans that nothing has come out of this investigation. Just to remind here. Look at the facts. The president's campaign chairman, former campaign chairman Paul

Manafort indicted on nine counts. His deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates indicted on eight counts, granted for money laundering, no small thing, prior to the campaign but for criminal wrong-doing.

[22:20:02] His former national security adviser pled guilty to a federal crime, lying to the FBI about contacts with Russians.

His -- George Papadopoulos, they call him coffee boy, although he was present in many meetings and was dispatched by senior campaign officials for overseas trips, including for the possibly of meeting with Russian for dirt on Hillary Clinton. He has pled guilty for a federal crime, lying to the FBI, and he has been cooperating like Michael Flynn.

So the idea that this investigation is netted -- nothing doesn't stand up to the facts. And if it's going nowhere, why is the special counsel sitting down with 15 current and former members of the Trump administration, including Jeff Sessions the first cabinet secretary to do so, and why isn't he negotiating to speak with the president of the United States on these questions?

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And there is a long list.

SCIUTTO: Their statement does not stand up to the facts.

LEMON: Laura, I'm going to let you get in there, I will let you get in. But just to back up what Jim says. You had Rod Rosenstein, you had Dan Coats, you had Mike Rogers, you got Sam Clovis, you had Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, K.T. McFarland, Hope Hicks twice, Don McGahn, Jeff Sessions, Reince Priebus, on and on who have been -- yes.

ZELDIN: And the investigation is only seven months old.

LEMON: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

COATES: Right. Think about this.

ZELDIN: So you have to -- you can't -- you can't forget that.

COATES: How bizarre, I mean, the idea that the press secretary has come out and not said that the reason that they are not going to try to fire another FBI director, who by the way is supposed to have a ten-year tenure to be longer than a successive administration possibly is because of optics, not because it would be the wrong thing to do, it's an independent agency, that they are targeting anyone in the orbit of the president of the United States, that we are not going to re-visit the scandal in the error of Watergate but because the press might complain.

That says a great deal about the priorities and the understanding, or perhaps of the administration about the gravity of this particular investigation. Optics is one reason perhaps not to do so.

But the larger isn't this because if you fully want justice to prevail. Remember, it's the Department of Justice, not the department of conviction, which means that either possibility is actually possible, acquittal or conviction or no actual indictment whatsoever.

But if you'd like justice to be done, it can't be that you hope that optics don't get in the way of you getting away with something. You have you to have a greater leg to stands on.

And frankly, I'm disturbed that the idea that the media is the one that's obsessing over this, as opposed to the idea that democracy requires that the FBI conduct the investigation and figure out if anyone had a hand in trying to undermine our democratic autonomy. It's absurd.

LEMON: Go ahead, Michael.

ZELDIN: I was going to say something similar to Laura, which is that really who would be yelling the loudest was when there was a firing of Mueller should be Congress and they should be looking at that as an impeachable act in the same way that they looked at the firing of Archibald Cox, as part of an impeachable offense abuse of office by the president.

So I think that these people in the White House communications operations really need to spend a little bit more time with their history books, to understand that the real issues that they face are legal and not just perception.

LEMON: Well, and they should also know that they actually do work for the American people. I know that they're there to get the president's message out. But their intention not be to lie to the American people or to call something a hoax, a legitimate investigation a hoax, we are living in an upside down universe.

Jim, there is also another thing that we need to report on tonight. The president is denying that FBI director Christopher Wray threatened to resign in the wake of the pressure from his administration. What's going on here?

SCIUTTO: Well, CNN is reporting, Washington Post is reporting contradicts the president, frankly. And this is based on people familiar with the conversations, but the conversation as recounted to CNN was the Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaking to Christopher Wray, and in effect asking him to clean house, names mentioned among them Andrew McCabe, not clear if the message was to directly fire him or reassign him.

But the overall message was to clean house and the response from Christopher Wray was, I won't do that and I'll resign, if you make me do it, in effect. So you are seeing, you know, we've seen it at different times in this investigation and in this presidential administration when demands are made of senior law enforcement officials, they resist those, even when they come from the president or the president's attorney general, they resist them and sometimes at their own peril, right?

I mean, that probably it seems to have led to James Comey's firing. Andrew McCabe is still there. But you know, it's a part of a pattern of this administration doing its best to influence this investigation whether that is obstruction. That's for the lawyers to decide.

[22:25:02] But there is a pattern here in terms of the president trying to influence the investigation to his advantage.

LEMON: I should add to that...

(CROSSTALK)

ZELDIN: And Don.

LEMON: I have to go, Michael, but I should also add in that their job is to answer to the American people. That means take journalist questions and by the way, almost eight in ten Americans 78 percent say President Trump should testify under oath if asked by Mueller.

To break it down by party, 59 percent of republicans, 75 percent of independents, 95 percent of democrats want to see this happen. People want answers.

Thank you. We'll continue the conversation another time. I appreciate it.

When we come back, a prominent Evangelical leader says President Trump should get a mulligan for an alleged affair and a cover-up, among other things. So how does a thrice married admitted adulterer continue to enjoy the support of so many Christians? Franklin Graham is here to help explain that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Also President Trump still has plenty of support among white Evangelicals in spite of his behavior and constant use of disparaging language.

Joining me now is Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Billy Graham Evangelic -- Evangelistic Association. Thank you so much. I appreciate you joining us here on CNN. It's good to see you.

[22:30:07] FRANKLIN GRAHAM, PRESIDENT AND CEO, BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELISTIC ASSOCIATION: Thank you.

LEMON: So I want to ask you just about the, because it's a one-year anniversary really within a few days of this president in office.

GRAHAM: Right.

LEMON: And aside from Neil Gorsuch's appointment which was a win, how would you rate his year, his first year?

GRAHAM: Well, I think this year has been good. You have to understand nobody gave him a snowball chance in hell to get where he is. The republicans certainly didn't believe he could make it and when he beat all of the 11 other rivals, the Republican Party had their mouth opened. They were just stunned.

And then, of course, he goes into the election against Hillary and nobody thought that he would win. And so when he wins, he comes into the office with a Republican Party, very cool for him kind of reluctantly halfway, not even halfway supporting him.

Of course the democrats are united against him. And I think for his first year, he's done a lot.

LEMON: Yes.

GRAHAM: And look at the economy, because this affects all of us, whether you are a Jew, a Christian, Protestant, a Catholic, an Atheist, when the tide rises, all the boats float. And you look at the economy. It has come up. And it's benefiting all of us, regardless of what our faith, regardless of our backgrounds. We are all getting helped by Donald Trump's business expertise, coming into Washington.

LEMON: But you do understand that that economy started coming up six, eight years ago, under President Obama, that he inherited a very strong economy and a very strong stock market?

GRAHAM: Well, first of all, it was creeping up, it has taken off like a rocket under President Trump. And so, I think we have to, I think people have confidence in his business ability and I think that's why we see the stock market where it is.

LEMON: Yes.

GRAHAM: And of course the tax -- the tax issue is huge and the billions, they say trillions that will come now back into the United States, this is going to be helpful for everybody.

LEMON: Yes. Well, for the sake of time, it's not creeping. But I want to move on to other issues, because I have you here to talk about character issues as well. Because it's important, especially with what is going on with the president.

I want to read this. This is from Michael Gerson, he's a former speechwriter from George W. Bush. He is an Evangelical and he wrote an editorial in the Washington Post which is today, and he said, reverend, he said, "Some Christian leaders are surrendering the idea that character matters in public life in direct exchange for political benefit to Christians themselves. It is a political maneuver indistinguishable from those performed by business of union lobbyists every day."

Why do you think Evangelicals were so willing to call out say, Bill Clinton's behavior but not President Trump's?

GRAHAM: I think that's a very good question, Don. And I appreciate that. The difference is what happened with Bill Clinton, he did this while he was in office and that's the difference and what Kennedy did, the affairs he had was while he was in office. The affairs that Johnson had while he was in office.

These alleged affairs, they're alleged with Trump, didn't happen while he was in office. This happened 11, 12, 13, 14 years ago. And so, I think that there is a big difference and not that we give anybody a pass, but we have to look at the time line and that was before he was in office.

And I think the president has changed quite a bit in the last 11 years, at least I had seen that...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK. Well, let's say that...

GRAHAM: ... and I think there's a maturing of the president.

LEMON: OK. Have you read his -- have you read his Twitter account? Because, listen, a number of different things here, the -- he admitted to was the Access Hollywood tape, right?

That happened. It came out, you were already supporting him when that came out. You didn't take your support away.

GRAHAM: But I didn't support that, Don.

LEMON: OK.

GRAHAM: I didn't support that.

LEMON: But you are saying in one voice that you didn't support that but you are still supporting him. And then also, the payout to the porn star, that was in 2016. That wasn't 11 years ago. That's now. he threatened nuclear war with North Korea. That's now.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: I think the story came out...

LEMON: He calls for a ban on religion entering the country. That's now. He has 15 accusers, some of them said it was shorter than a long time ago as you said. He started a fight with a gold star family, a fight with gold star widows.

He fights with people on Twitter. He uses the word s-hole about certain countries. That's all in the current timing now. That's not from years ago. So that argument that he has changed or he has somehow evolved, that just doesn't stand. Most people don't see that.

[22:34:58] GRAHAM: Well, no, but the affairs that Clinton had were while he was in the Oval Office, Johnson, Kennedy the same thing. There are more to...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You are saying that the only thing that matters is an affair? GRAHAM: All right. No. No. That's what you spend a lot of time, Don,

on the media focusing on this. But you take his rough language, there is a lot of presidents that have had rough language and a lot of these things that have been accused of the president, I am not sure are true. He says he didn't do it. And the others that said he didn't do it. So, suppose you don't have...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But does that make it right because someone else -- because someone else is a sinner or someone else used bad language and this president uses bad language, does that make it right?

GRAHAM: No.

LEMON: That you shouldn't excuse the behavior from any president? Isn't a president supposed to be a role model for all?

GRAHAM: Well, you certainly want them to be a role model. But he's a businessman, Don, he's not a politician. And so this is new territory for him. And I believe...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: He's the president. Are you saying business people don't have morals as well, reverend?

GRAHAM: No. No.

LEMON: And they shouldn't have standards?

GRAHAM: Come on, Don. I'm not saying that at all.

LEMON: But you are saying he is a businessman, not a politician. He's the president of the United States.

GRAHAM: That's not what -- he's a businessman. And but he's in business meetings, he talks a certain way. And he's trying to get the point across.

But, Don, I believe -- I believe Donald Trump is a good man. And I believe he is the President of the United States for a reason. I think God put him there. He offended everybody just like you said. He seemed to be -- he did everything wrong as a candidate and he won and I don't understand it.

Other than I think God put him there. And Don, listen, all of us are sinners, you, me, and Donald Trump, there is a lot that we can do to improve. Donald Trump is not perfect.

LEMON: Yes.

GRAHAM: He is not president perfect. Again, I believe president perfect comes down the road, we'll vote for him. But until...

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: Well, we had a president that was pretty close to perfect that didn't have any scandals and Evangelicals didn't necessarily support him. Because I don't remember any extra marital affairs from the former president. You certainly didn't support the former president either.

GRAHAM: No, I don't either.

LEMON: And out of the mouth of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Doesn't Luke say that?

GRAHAM: Listen, I appreciate, Don, you and your program and President Obama, I appreciate him. I just could not support him on certain moral issues and of course, same sex marriage, abortion, these are things I cannot support him on.

And as a result of that, you know, I guess I wasn't very close to him. I just couldn't support those issues because I believe as a Christian, we hold to God's standards, we are all flawed individuals. I'm flawed. But we want to try to move this country forward, Don, and that's the thing we are doing. Right now, we're looking at all of these other issues and we need to be moving America forward.

LEMON: Reverend...

GRAHAM: And just unite...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I understand that.

GRAHAM: We will have another lecture, maybe Hillary will win next time.

LEMON: I understand what you're saying, but there are people who find that this president is done and things he's done just as important as the issues that you mentioned. They find them just this reprehensible. And it sounds to me like you're saying that you believe he is good because he is good for what you think is right that the ends justify the means.

GRAHAM: No.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And if that's the case.

GRAHAM: No, that's not true, Don.

LEMON: Then poor people should be out in vain.

GRAHAM: That's not the case. No, that's just not the case, that's just not the case, Don, at all. But when he said the word in that meeting that when he was talking about Haiti and these other countries. He said he didn't say it. And there were some other senators in there that said that he didn't say it. He is accused of having an affair with Stormy Daniels. He said he didn't. She said he didn't.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Why do you need a $130,000 payoff if you didn't?

GRAHAM: I don't know that that's true. I don't know -- you don't know if that's true.

LEMON: Do you not believe Stormy Daniels, do you not believe the other people who were in the meeting with him as well? Why would you believe him over the other people when there are, it's one him and there are more people in the meeting?

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: He says he didn't have an affair.

LEMON: OK.

GRAHAM: He said she didn't -- he said he didn't have an affair with her. And there is no evidence and this is and I think that's an alleged affair was what, 11 years ago. I believe, I think that was 2006 or '07.

LEMON: Reverend, with all due respect, he said it wasn't him on the Access Hollywood tape as well. He said that wasn't him.

GRAHAM: No, it was him. It was him.

LEMON: But he said it wasn't him.

GRAHAM: It was him. All I know that was -- that was a long time ago. I'm more interested, Don, in who a person is today than what they were 11 years ago. And I believe that he's a changed person and I've never seen anybody get attacked like he gets attacked. He is attacked by the media every day.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Have you ever seen...

GRAHAM: There is a new accusation that...

LEMON: ... any president attack other people as much as he attacks other people?

[22:40:00] GRAHAM: Well, he uses Twitter. He says it's like having his own newspaper to get...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Turn the other cheek. Isn't that Christian value to turn the other cheek.

GRAHAM: ... his message out to the American people. LEMON: Aren't you supposed to turn the other cheek instead of attack? All he does is attack? He's attacked all of his opponents, he attacks anyone, he attacks the media for reporting facts. He attacks everyone.

But then if someone criticizes him or reports on him or uses the same words back at him then he says he's under attacked. I don't understand the cognitive dissidence of Christians and people who twist themselves into pretzels to try to make excuses for Donald Trump's bad behavior, I don't understand that especially for someone who was -- I went to Catholic school, I went to catechism. And then I went to Sunday school at my Baptist church.

And the bible and everyone always taught me to do unto others, and to not to attack others. And that's all this president does.

GRAHAM: Well, he's not the pastor of our country, Don. And I'm not...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: He certainly should be a moral authority in our country.

GRAHAM: I hope and pray that he will be a better moral authority in these next three years. He's got the first year behind him and I just hope as we go forward, he'll do better.

And I'm sure, Don, if you encourage him and I encourage him, he'll be a better man. Because I think he's a person who does listen. I think he does learn and he is willing to take advice. So give him your advice from time to time. And I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

LEMON: I do. And I have someone...

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: And he's president for the next three years.

LEMON: I have some coming up at the top of the hour for him as well, especially when it comes to attacks on the media. But thank you so much, reverend. It's always a pleasure to have you on.

GRAHAM: God bless you, Don. Thank you.

LEMON: You as well.

Mike Rogers, a former house intelligence chairman joins me with his take on the Russia developments next.

[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Breaking news tonight on the Russian investigation including CNN exclusive reporting that a member of the Trump campaign could be negotiating with Robert Mueller.

I want to bring in now Mike Rogers, he's a CNN national security commentator who is a former chairman of the House intelligence committee. Mike, so good to have you on. Thank you so much. (CROSSTALK)

MIKE ROGERS, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: Hi, Don. Thank you for having me.

LEMON: There is so much breaking news today in this Russian investigation. So first, let's talk about...

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: When isn't there breaking news, Don?

LEMON: Tell me about it. Tell me about it.

ROGERS: Boy, it can wear you out.

LEMON: Every night I got a week for two hours. Tell me, I started. I looked like I was 17, now I look like I'm 87.

So let's talk about CNN's new reporting that Rick Gates may be negotiating with Robert Mueller. What is your reaction to that, Mike?

ROGERS: Well, as a former FBI guy, I can tell you that is just likely to happen. So here's a guy that got caught up with his business partner by all appearances Paul Manafort, who has engaged in what at least the indictment has says is moving money illegally in and around the country, money laundering.

And so, here's a guy that probably thought this is nothing that I signed up for. I was going to hang with him. But it would be surprising to me if his lawyer didn't say, hey, we better go cut a deal, we're going to jail. I mean, the indictment was really strong on what they did.

Now it had nothing to do with the Trump campaign, all of the allegations in that affidavit had nothing to do with it. But it was pretty serious.

LEMON: So, according to Post, after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey he summoned the acting Director Andrew McCabe. There is the quote there up on the screen -- in the screen to the White House and asked him who he voted for.

And then President Trump also vented his anger at McCabe over the several hundred thousand dollars in donations his wife -- in donations to his wife, a democrat, received for her failed 2015 Virginia State Senate bid for a political action committee controlled by a close friends of Hillary Clinton.

To everyone's account, he was pretty open about that, sent e-mails, wanted protocol about it. Was this an appropriate thing to do?

ROGERS: No, not really. But I will tell you, that it worries me again, as a former FBI agent, worries two things about this. I mean, the president is just too sensitive about this. He should let the investigation go forward, if he doesn't believe he has done anything wrong, then that's what the investigation will find.

I do believe Bob Mueller will find exactly where the facts lead him. I don't think he's going to make anything up or try to do anything untoward.

That said, the optics of what the FBI was engaged in. The text messages, McCabe's driving down, meeting with the governor of Virginia. Why his wife was engaged and possibly a state Senate campaign which two things, one, at a time there was an investigation against the governor, and two, they have the broader Hillary Clinton investigation, the optics of it are not good.

And so, you know, I said this to my FBI friends, you got to fix the optics of that. The American people expect better. Even if he did nothing wrong and apparently, there is an internal investigation says that they couldn't find anything he's done wrong.

You need the optics to be better. America needs to have faith and confidence in their FBI that they're not doing anything shady. And this certainly looks bad. So they need to fix that.

But the president also shouldn't have his attorney general looking around to say, hey, you know, McCabe should get fired. He is already going to retire anyway in March. None of that looks good. I just hope we get this pushed past. Because we have American institution at risk the longer this goes.

LEMON: Right. Can I ask you as a former FBI guy, did it matter who was president? Did it matter how you did your job? Did you care?

ROGERS: No, I didn't. As a matter of fact, one of my first big cases was against the republicans. I'm an elected republican in Congress. But it was against republicans. There was a corrupt mayor of the town of Cicero, Illinois. And that never factored in. And it could never, and should never.

It doesn't mean again, that the FBI agents don't have political opinions. They show up in votes, too. They do. But when it comes to criminal activity investigations they don't and they shouldn't. And that's what the optics of it worries me.

It's not necessarily who were on the investigation did anything wrong, I'm not sure they did when Mueller saw that there was somebody who was engaged in activity.

Well, first of all, it was probably the activity that got him in trouble. Having the affair with a fellow FBI employee, all against the rules in the FBI. But at the same time, although those text messages weren't that helpful either, he removed that person. You know, that's the right thing to do. You need to, you know, take corrective action when you find that kind activity.

It's just again the optics. Can they do an internal investigation and get it out there and clear the air? I hope so. Because now you have, Don, is these committees they're not doing investigations anymore. They're doing campaign issues, right. [22:50:01] It's the first one to the microphone. The most dangerous

place in Washington, D.C. today.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Is in front of camera.

ROGERS: Yes, exactly. And a classified meeting.

LEMON: Yes, absolutely.

ROGERS: That they don't run right to that like to kill you on the way there.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Mike, I want you to stick around. We're going to continue to talk about this investigation. Where you think it's going next and other issues. We'll be right back.

ROGERS: Happy to do that. Thanks, Don.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Mike Rogers is back with me. CNN national security commentator and former chairman of the House intelligence committee.

Mike, sources are telling CNN that the Mueller wants to interview the president in the coming weeks, plan to focus his inquiry on the president's decision to push out Comey and his national security adviser Michael Flynn. You know Robert Mueller, you've worked with him. What does this tell you, does this tell you anything about his probe?

ROGERS: You know, again, when these investigations that are really of a sensitive target, a very high-profile target, the last person you interview is that most high profile person in that investigation.

And so -- and why you would do that as you build your case along the way. So people come in for interview with their lawyer, probably don't get a lot of information. But there is tidbits. And then the investigators move on to next one.

Now they have cooperating witnesses, Michael Flynn would be really key in that who has told the prosecutors if you charge me with a light crime I'll tell you everything you need to know. And that was -- that's always part of the deal.

So that -- you know they're working him to death getting ready for these bigger high profile interviews. And so that's normally the end. Ninety five percent of the time, Don, I'd be surprised if that weren't a wrap-up at least on a portion of the investigation.

LEMON: CNN has learned also that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with Mueller's team for several hours last week. What value is -- what value is in his testimony? [22:55:06] ROGERS: Pretty significant. So he was very active on the

campaign. He was very active on the -- as the national security adviser for the campaign. And then he switched over to the transition team later.

So he would have been involved in lots of those discussions along with Michael Flynn, Bannon and others who were on the campaign. So, his testimony would be very, very relevant, especially if they were saying, hey, were you actively -- were you -- being the Trump campaign, were you actively seeking help from the Russians?

Remember, we have all agreed that the Russians were trying to interfere in the election. That is not really a disputed fact. Was the campaign soliciting them and then using that information in their campaign? That is where all the dispute lies.

He would be able to walk through meetings and conversations and other things that would give the prosecutor, in this case, the general counsel, a better view of what exactly happened.

LEMON: Mike Rogers, always a pleasure. Thank you, sir.

ROGERS: Thanks, Don. I appreciate it. I still think it looks like you're 17.

LEMON: Well, thank you very much. Thank you very much. I'm going to have to come to you for advice all the time.

So, listen, I promised in the couple of interviews ago with Franklin Graham that I had a message for the president and I do. This is very serious. So gather everyone around the TV. This is important. This one really hits close to home.

So when we come back, I'm coming to gun you all down. That was a chilling threat against CNN employees which led to an arrest. It's not the only threat. Some of you haven't heard about. That's the one you've heard about. Is the president's hateful, ignorant rhetoric leading to more threats against the press? We'll talk about that next.

[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)