Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

Trump Ordered Mueller To Be Fired Last June. Aired 11-Midnight ET

Aired January 25, 2018 - 23:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:00:15] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: This is CNN tonight. I'm Don Lemon. 11:00 p.m. here on of the east coast live with huge breaking news on the Russia investigation. A source confirms to CNN tonight that President Trump ordered Robert Mueller, the special counsel heading up the Russia investigation, fired this past June. The only thing that stopped him was when his own White House counsel, Don McGahn threatened to quit rather than carry out the order. Let us discuss now. I want to bring in CNN contributor Walter Shaub a former Director of the office of government ethics. Walter thank you so good to have you on. You tweeted this. I want to read it and then I'll ask you question about it. You said before you canonize McGahn remember he pressured Sessions not to recuse. He warned that firing was dangerous. This is not the first leak to paint McGahn in a good light at Trump's expense. If I were Trump I'd wonder about McGahn.

What would you wonder about it?

WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the question is where are the leaks coming from? And who stands to benefit from them? This leak certainly paints McGahn in a favorable light as the guy who saved the republic from another Nixon type midnight massacre. And in fact I'm sure he did do that. The question is what were his motives, right? Was he doing it because he thought it was wrong or because he thought it was dangerous? And we have some evidence as to what that might be. At least that we can infer. Remember, he is the one who sat there across from Sally Yates who warned him about Michael Flynn and reportedly McGahn's response was, why does DOJ or the FBI care about what one White House official says to another, or words like that? I don't mean that to be an exact quote.

But he brushed her off. Then he was also involved reportedly in trying to get FISA warrant information, which is a terrible breach of the independence of the Department of Justice that I can't imagine any White House counsel would have engaged in before. And where was he during Comey? And Comey's firing? And where was he when Trump was recently calling for Wray to fire McCabe? So I remain skeptical about Don McGahn who hasn't impressed me as a real rule of law kind of guy. All we know is that he has enough of a self-preservationist skin to not go along with something that would by historical precedent be the third rail. Although I'll throw in I think he has more confidence in congress to step up and do the right thing than maybe congress deserves after the recent complicity and silence about a lot of the President's actions.

LEMON: Are you saying the story could have come from Don McGahn himself.

SHAUB: I have no way of knowing. All I'm saying is he is the one who benefits from it. And we saw earlier reports that he threatened to quit, because of Kushner's access to the President. And we saw sympathetic articles about how sorely he is misused in the White House, and that he is supposedly frustrated at his advice not always being taken. Well, who was in the room for every last one of those conversations? It does seem like a lot of sympathetic information leaks out about Don McGahn. So I don't know if Don McGahn is the leaker. Maybe he is a guy who the victim of a lucky coincidence. But I'm saying if I was Donald Trump I'd be eye balling Don McGahn right now.

LEMON: The other person in the room he know of would be Donald Trump himself. Listen, I asked John Dean about your tweet in the last hour. And this is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well I don't think he -- he has any choice. In this instance. He -- his client is not Donald Trump it's the office of the President. He has to respond accordingly. I think Walter makes a good point about canonizing the counsel for doing what he is supposed to do. But I think it also suggests that he saw the peril in this and the potential criminality of it and that is why he backed off and was wise to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So very similar question Mr. Shaub I asked you before, do you think McGahn is pulling a John Dean here, John cooperate with the investigators during the Nixon administration by the way when they were looking into the Watergate cover-up.

SHAUB: Well it sure sounded from that excerpt like John Dean thinks that. You know, it's funny because I had John Dean in mind when I wrote that tweet.

[23:05:00] I don't know history well enough to have any clue what was going through John Dean's head at the time. But you heard him just now talking to you make the point that this is a very dangerous situation and that pretty much any attorney would know that this is the bare minimum that you have to do. And I like John Dean's point that you don't go pinning a medal on somebody for doing what's merely required. If that is the case, I would like to somebody to pin a medal on me for taking the trash out tomorrow or doing the dishes after breakfast.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Very good point. Do you think that this matters that it was -- happened months ago and nothing came of it? Do you think it matters? SHAUB: Well, you know, you've heard some of Trump's White House folks

I think Scaramucci was on earlier -- by the way why is any Davos.

LEMON: That was my question when I saw him there. Go on.

SHAUB: But you saw him asking why now? And you know, it tells us a couple of things. It tells us that the hints we had before that Mueller is -- is really good at keeping information confidential seems to be proving to be true right now. And it also tells me that somebody is feeling the squeeze and feels the need to get this information out on behalf of Don McGahn, whether McGahn himself or somebody who cares about McGahn, it certainly seem to be an effort to paint him in a good light.

LEMON: I thank you for your time. And by the way I didn't do it your face I called you Schwab earlier. I'm sure it happens a lot.

SHAUB: If you get anywhere in the neighborhood of Shaub I'll be happy.

LEMON: Thank you. I appreciate your time.

I want to bring in now Robert ray who was a former white water independent counsel. CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin. Robert Ray Mueller's former special assistant at the DOJ. Legal analyst Laura Coates and former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti who is running for Illinois Attorney General. Thank you all for joining us this evening, this is a very important subject, big breaking news. Michael first what is your reaction to this story tonight?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it's a hard thing to sort of digest. The President of the United States is trying to fire the special counsel who is investigating him and we don't understand exactly what it is that the President is motivated by in order to do this. That is for me the biggest mystery is what is it he is so afraid that Mueller will find? We know in Nixon that Nixon didn't want to give up the tapes, because the tapes were so incriminating that when given up he was going to lose the office of the presidency. What we can't figure out here is what is it that the President is so afraid of here with respect to Mueller? Or alternatively is it just that he is so detests the notion of being investigated that whoever holds that position is going to find themselves in his cross hairs and this is just sort of almost a child- like response to someone who is bullying him in his estimation. I just don't know, Don.

LEMON: Not only did the President order the firing, but Mueller learned this through his own investigation. You know Mueller. How do you think he reacted it this news, Michael?

ZELDIN: Well with be so the question is how does this fit into an obstruction of justice analysis? Because that is what relates mostly to.

LEMON: Does he ask him now, why did you try to fire me? ZELDIN: Well I don't know if he asks that exact question. But he

understands that in June he was going to be fired for made-up reasons, the conflict of interest that was going to be the basis for the firing is not real. So then Mueller has to say, let's look at the actions of the President there after to determine what his state of mind was with respect to them. Because in order to prove obstruction of justice you have to have an intent to obstruct justice. And so this gives Mueller the opportunity to look in a sense into the mind of the President and analyze his actions in light of that now-known fact that he wanted to fire him. So I think it will be informative of the President's -- of Mueller's review of the President's actions when he comes down to the interview.

LEMON: Robert, what do you think about the President nearly firing Robert Mueller, especially when you consider the reaction when he fired James Comey?

ROBERT RAY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR AND INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Seriously, this is a bunch of speculation and a whole with you bunch of ridiculous nonsense. I mean I understand the now supposed mosaic theory of obstruction of justice. Nobody during Watergate claimed that Richard Nixon committed obstruction of justice in firing Archibald Cox.

[23:10:02] That was not the obstruction piece. And again the notion that the President obstructs justice by firing the FBI Director or seeking to fire the special counsel, frankly, I think is not only not really news, it's not surprising. No President -- nobody likes to be under investigation. You don't think Bill Clinton wanted to get rid of me when I was the independent counsel? I mean like news flash, hello.

LEMON: You think he ordered people to get rid of you? You don't think that Kenneth Starr would wonder why he would order -- one someone to get rid of you if he had nothing to hide.

RAY: Look the essence of judgment is understanding that, that would not have been productive to do. If the President wanted to have somebody fired, the President knows how to fire somebody. The fact that it didn't happen frankly is the story. The story is not that he ordered it to happen. The story is that he -- he made a judgment not to fire him.

LEMON: Renato go ahead.

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I have to say. I have to say -- I've got to say I'm surprised that lawyer is saying what was just said a moment ago. The fact that somebody something didn't succeed is completely irrelevant under criminal law. First of all.

RAY: That has nothing to do with anything. Yes that is -- it that is certainly true. But that doesn't turn that fact into the fact -- into a fact leading to obstruction of justice.

MARIOTTI: Well, actually what it does is it suggests his intent. And really what I think is most informative about this is he had a desire to fire the special counsel after he already knew he was under investigation for obstruction of justice.

RAY: So what.

MARIOTTI: For firing Comey.

RAY: So what.

MARCUS: He already knew he had liability.

RAY: So what.

MARIOTTI: So what. What do you mean so what?

RAY: It's the President of the United States. He has the absolute right to fire the FBI Director. And he has the absolute right to fire --

MARIOTTI: For corrupt purposes.

RAY: For any reason.

MARIOTTI: So -- so you're telling me if the President of the United States got -- fired someone as a result of a bribe that would be lawful.

RAY: That is different. That is different.

MARIOTTI: Ok that is -- that is a corrupt purpose. This is another corrupt purpose.

RAY: You guys I understand this is wishful thinking by the Democrat Party. You're all dreaming.

LAURA COATES, CNN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL ANALYST: Excuse me.

RAY: You're all dreaming.

COATES: Excuse me, sir but Mario I have to share my bewilderment with you. This is not partisan issue from her where I'm coming from neither is anyone else on this panel it's not dismiss connotation about being a Democrats or Republican.

RAY: Sure it is.

COATES: Two points here. Number one if you're reporting that the President may believe Archibald Cox is a red headed comic book character as close to somebody who can give you pass --

RAY: That is disparaging that is a poor excuse for an argument and you know better.

COATES: I will finish my point.

RAY: You know better stop.

LEMON: Let her finish please. COATES: You know the volume of your voice is neither persuasive nor

respectful and doesn't match my persuasion at all. Number two the point is this obstruction of justice is simply not the end game. To talk about this as a conscious effort of obstruction is but part of the inquiry that Mueller is engaged in. The larger issue is what would be the thing you are trying to obstruct or confuse. That is the nature of Mueller's the argument and the investigation. To be dismissive frankly is baffling.

RAY: It's not baffling. The last point is the only point that you've made that makes any sense. That actually is relevant. The issue about what.

COATES: Your (inaudible) actually is quite improper and both of my points had quite worthwhile standard.

RAY: Again that is an excuse for an argument, get to the point.

LEMON: Let her. Hang on hold on.

COATES: No.

LEMON: We need to be respectful of each other we shouldn't name call and be rude.

COATES: You're right. And Don you are absolutely right.

LEMON: Go ahead.

COATES: That is my point I wanted to be clear that it may be your M.O. to be disparaging to people who share your (inaudible).

RAY: Do you have a point?

LEMON: Let her finish Robert.

COATES: Yes and my point is this. The volume of your voice and the tone you're taking.

RAY: I'm just waiting for your point. What's your point?

LEMON: Robert, let her finish, don't be rude.

COATES: Perhaps you're accustomed to that being persuasive or accustomed to that carrying some weight. But your argument that is based on her a logical and legal fallacy is what I address, what Mario talked about which I am sure Michael would (inaudible) momentarily.

RAY: It's not logical or legal fallacy. If you want to talk about a relevant question. The relevant question is whether or not you think an attempt to fire the special counsel would constitute obstruction of justice there isn't anything else relevant to talk about.

LEMON: Go ahead Michael.

ZELDIN: Robert. That is not correct in my estimation. Where we disagree is, it may not be in and of itself an obstruction of justice chargeable offense to order your White House counsel to order the deputy Attorney General to fire the special counsel when there is no good reason under the statute to do that. That may not -- excuse me.

RAY: I don't think Richard Nixon.

LEMON: Let him finish.

RAY: Had a good reason to fire him to fire Archibald cox.

LEMON: Hang on Robert you have to let the man finish or the woman finish before you interject.

RAY: Go ahead.

[23:15:00] LEMON: Because then we will let you respond. But people can't make the points if you're rudely interrupting them all the time. Ok.

RAY: Ok.

LEMON: All right.

RAY: Let's hear it I'm waiting.

LEMON: You know what let's -- we'll wait a little longer. We'll take a break. We will come back. But please don't be rude, all right.

RAY: I hear you.

LEMON: I'm saying all right. I'm not asking if you hear me.

RAY: Ok.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So back with me now Robert Ray. Michael Zeldin, Laura Coates and Renato Mariotti. Listen Renato, "The New York Times" is reporting that the order to fire Mueller came in June. Here is the President's friend Chris Ruddy at that time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, NEWSMAX CEO: I think he is considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he is weighing that option. I think it's pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently. I personally think it would be a very significant mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Um-hum. So the White House pushed back against this. But it seems many people new. It's no surprise that Mueller found out.

MARIOTTI: Right. Well you know what we saw -- what we saw, Don, is a number of people from the White House denying that, including the President himself. If you search you will find comments from the President in which he said he never intended to fire Mueller. Wasn't going to fire Mueller which is not the first time of course there's been dishonesty from the President. What I will say we had a conversation before the break about the legality of firing Mueller or Comey. I mean what I will say is the logical extension of the argument that there is no crime there is essentially that the President according to that argument would -- could fire every FBI Director anyone in the leadership of the FBI, fire the special counsel after special counsel until he found people who were willing to let him go, willing not to continue the investigation.

[23:20:18] LEMON: But isn't that the prerogative of the President to fire anyone at will?

MARIOTTI: Well not for any reason, right. For example, you know.

LEMON: He doesn't have to give a reason.

MARIOTTI: Well.

ZELDIN: Can I -- may I inter.

MARIOTTI: Mr. Ray if you can let me finish.

LEMON: No that was Michael. It wasn't Ray.

MARIOTTI: Ok. Sorry. But what I would just say is look private employers typically could fire employees at will too. But you don't do it for an improper reason, race or religion for example here the President can fire an FBI Director but can't do it if the purpose is to obstruct an investigation.

LEMON: Ok. Go ahead Michael.

ZELDIN: So just before the break, what I was trying to explain was that even if the order to McGahn to order Rosenstein to fire the special counsel on improper reasons is not in and of itself obstruction of justice, two things come from that. One is it gives the special prosecutor a view into the intent of the President with respect to that and all other actions relevant to his inquiry. And it's that intent that informs whether or not a combination of factors equals obstruction of justice. Secondly, however, this type of behavior is exactly what gave rise in the Nixon case in article 2 and in the Clinton case in article 3 for their articles of impeachment many process article 2 for Nixon, impeachment article 3 for Clinton, for abuse of office. And so it can be that this conduct, even if it doesn't rise to the level of statutory obstruction of justice can rise to the high crimes and misdemeanors federalist papers 65 Hamilton explains the abuse of office and this is what this could rise to.

LEMON: Yeah do you want to respond?

COATES: Let's not confuse the idea of those who serve at the pleasure of the President and he has the prerogative to do away with the prerogative a special counsel or a prosecutor to charge them for a crime if they've committed based on that action. Based on that prerogative. That is what we're talking about here. No matter what Mueller's investigation is, is not simply a matter of why did he fire James Comey and is that enough or his anticipation to fire Mueller? And was that enough? The investigation was ongoing at the time that both men were either contemplated as being fired or actually fired in Comey's case and that is the crux of the scope of what Mueller's investigation is about. It's not about whether or not the President can choose at his prerogative to not have people under his employment who does not serve what his policy objectives are. It's quite another thing to be dismissive about the idea that the President can commit a crime and merely his office will insulate him.

LEMON: All right go ahead, Robert.

RAY: I think Michael's got it right. The real relevant question here is one of whether or not the conduct would constitute abuse of office. And that is a determination ultimately that congress makes under its impeachment authority. I remain of the view despite how many times others can say it, the President is constitute entitled to have who he wants as the Attorney General, the deputy Attorney General, the Director of the FBI, and also the special counsel. If he were to fire the special counsel that doesn't mean we're not going to have another special counsel. There will be political pressure obviously in the system that would allow that to happen. Frankly the story of the system of the day is that the system worked. You saw back in June that the White House and people under the President understood what a bad political decision it would be to attempt to remove Bob Mueller from office.

LEMON: And that is what -- this decision as well.

RAY: And I think that is right. And I think also you also have seen over the course of the past seven months that the President's legal team has frankly got itself in place and its act together I think there has been a course correction. The course correction I think is going to lead to an interview of the President within the course of the next month and ultimately to a resolution and conclusion of the investigation well in advance of the midterm elections where it would be if it hangs over this White House any longer have untoward political effect. I think that is what the White House's desire is to accomplish and I think they're going about it in the right way.

LEMON: Even with that though the American people have the right to know if their President is trying to figure out how he can fire a special counsel.

RAY: And no President likes to be investigated. You know news flash that is been true for as long as this has been in place.

LEMON: That is absolutely true. I was surprised yesterday when he said he is looking forward to being interviewed by the special counsel. Because I said people don't want to go to jury, why would he be looking forward to it?

RAY: He was looking forward to the conclusion of the investigation if he can accomplish it yes.

[23:25:00] LEMON: I have to go thank you all. I got to run. Sorry last word.

ZELDIN: Ok.

LEMON: Much more on the President's attempt to fire Robert Mueller. Why would he even consider it after the fire some more from James Comey? Has he learned nothing? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Breaking news tonight on the Russia investigation. A source confirms that CNN to CNN that President Trump called for special counsel Robert Mueller to be fired back in June. But backed down when White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign rather than carry outs that directive it happened with the fire storm still raging over the president's firing of FBI Director James Comey. Let's bring in now CNN political commentator Matt Lewis. CNN Contributor Michael D'Antonio, the author of the truth about Trump and the CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. So this is big breaking news. Matt I want to start with you, the firing of James Comey this is what led to the appointment of the special counsel Robert Mueller in the first place. And you look at tonight's news, did President Trump -- did he learn anything from that? Did it matter? Did he care?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think so. This also goes back to Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General who recused himself which also led to this. In Donald Trump's mind he has not been well served by his team, people who should be loyal to him. This got out of hand. He needs to try fix it. And most one thing about Donald Trump -- in some ways Republicans love this I should say. You would go to somebody and say, Mr. President, or you know you just can't do that. This is a bad idea. And for Donald Trump those rules don't always apply. Sometimes they do. But he breaks norms. I think that any normal sane Republican right now would think don't go there. This is not going to end well with Donald Trump he goes there.

LEMON: Well, it seems though -- if you listen to the conversation -- the conversations we had the last one and the one a couple minutes ago that it doesn't really seem to matter, Michael, to Republicans. It doesn't matter. It happened months ago. The President didn't do it. They won't believe they'll think it's a conspiracy by the media. Does it really matter?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't think it matters to the President. I think it matters right about the idea that he breaks norms. But I think one of the ways to think about this is I think the President determines first whether he is playing offense or defense. So maybe when he goes into a setting with Robert Mueller and he is being interviewed he will be playing defense and he'll be less wild in the swings that he takes and more cautious because he has something to lose. I think in other settings, where something happened back in June and now he feels he is riding high on the benefits of the stock market or in Davos strutting his stuff he is going to think he is on offense. And I don't think he is going to care much at all about what's happened in "The New York Times" tomorrow morning when people see their paper and read this story. And he is you know succeeded quite well at deflecting big problems all along. I'm not sure this is going to have any impact on him. And he is teaching the rest of the Republican Party to go along with this idea.

LEMON: Yeah, Juliette, if we think of President Trump's tweets as a window into what he is thinking this is what he was tweeting in June of last year. He repeatedly called the investigation a witch hunt, said it was led by bad and conflicted people, said the idea of collusion with Russia was phony. These tweets don't exactly paint a picture of an unflappable, calm person, do they?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, it does paint a picture that someone maybe McGahn, the White House lawyer, really did have to stop him from, you know, his inner desires from playing out. And the thing about this story today is essentially it does come at a really sort of interesting time when you think about Trump overall. I'm just listing, Sally Yates. CNN, Comey, Sessions, McCabe, I mean this are all -- all of them have been either fired or threatened to have been fired or someone is going to try to fire them and all of them stand between Trump and trying to resolve or make go away -- like if only he could just snap it away, the Trump-Russia investigation. So this story is fascinating and somewhat disconcerting. But it is part of this larger thing that any -- he wants this done, and he wants it done either because he did something bad financial, or collusion, or -- or he is really bad at having the truth out. And they're bumbling towards an obstruction of justice charge based on possibly them not doing anything bad. And that to me would be to me sort of ironic result of the investigation.

LEMON: Um-hum. Matt, if Don McGahn hadn't convinced the President to take a step back and not fire Robert Mueller, what do you think would have happened? Could this have been the final straw for his Republican allies? Do you think they would have gone along with it and we would be in a constitutional dilemma or crisis or ticket as some have said?

LEWIS: That is a good question. Donald Trump -- that would have tested I think the bounds.

[23:35:02] We don't know the answer to that. I would say this. I still think it's possible that he fires -- that he fires him. And I think that the danger is that he has normalized the idea of doing it. If he had done this back in June, I think there could have been a revolt. You could have had Republican Senators standing up and saying, no, this is a bridge too far. But we have now -- we are now entering into an area where there is a lot of talk.

LEMON: Matt, you really believe that? Come on.

LEWIS: I do. We are entering -- I think we are now entering into an era where there is talk about deep state Cabal's and things like that Trump is creating a permission structure that might allow him to do it and Republicans wouldn't say anything. And so I don't know about June. But injury it's actually more dangerous.

D'ANTONIO: I can.

LEMON: Go ahead, Michael. Republicans loved it. You know the tinfoil hats have been handed out for some time on Capitol Hill and around the country. And it's -- it doesn't change anything.

D'ANTONIO: They have been. And now people are talking about these supposed secret societies which don't exist. That is a conspiracy theory. Too many Republicans on the hill have been willing to play the same game now. He has sort of deformed our politics and distorted it. And people see it works for him. They're going to defend him in the same way. And I agree with Matt. I don't think that today we would face the same crisis we would have faced in June if it had come out back then.

LEMON: Juliette.

KAYYEM: Yeah, but the difference -- the politics of it I don't know how it plays out. I think the difference now is there are now indictments and there are now pleas. I mean, in other words, before, it was what is Mueller doing? Why is he taking so long even though it had been a few months? Now we have real life cases, people facing Judges in 2018. We have people who now pled. We potential -- there is stories about maybe a third plea deal. So it's so far along now that while the politics may be in favor of Trump, because he is acclimated this idea. The law has sort of moved forward. In other words, what are you doing with the indictments? Right? He can't get rid of them. I do think that did -- I don't want it's too late. He can do it but it's not having the same impact as it might have had before. There was real cases before courts which is the case right now.

LEMON: All right. Thank you all. I appreciate it. I wonder what would have happened back in June, Matt I have to think about that.

LEWIS: Me too.

LEMON: What would have happened if this had happened in June?

KAYYEM: We were so young and innocent then.

D'ANTONIO: Different world.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: All right. Pat Benatar. Thank you all. Appreciate it. We were young, heart ache to heart ache. More Russia.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:42:25] LEMON: In the midst of the breaking news on the Russia investigation that President Trump wanted to fire Robert Mueller back in June, we have also had some breaking news on the potential deal for DREAMERS. One that comes at a high cost. The White House calling for a path to citizenship for DREAMERS and other undocumented immigrants in exchange for $25 billion for a border wall and other strict immigration reforms. I want to bring in our CNN senior economic analyst Robert Reich, a former labor secretary and CNN political commentator, Maria Cardona and Kevin Madden. So good to have you on this evening.

I want to get your reactions to the breaking news first and then we'll talk about immigration, Robert. What do you think?

ROBERT REICH, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALSYT: Well, I think that the entire Russian kind of situation has been Donald Trump has tried to deflect attention from all along. In fact Donald Trump is a master of deflecting attention. Creating enemies and scapegoats and the other right from the beginning of the campaign, Mexicans rapists and murders, Muslim terrorists. This is the how Donald Trump does it. Deflecting attention from the Russian investigation is what exactly what he is trying to do. And the DREAMERS and the wall -- I mean nobody thinks this wall is really going to keep out anybody or keep drugs outside the United States. That is silly. $25 billion, we could eradicate homelessness in the United States for $25 billion it is absurd.

LEMON: Hold on Robert. I want to get everybody's thoughts on the breaking news then we will turn to immigration. Maria what do you think.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that it indicates yet again that there is clearly something that Donald Trump wants us not to see that he clearly has something to hide. This has been the case again and again and again. If he truly was innocent, if there truly was nothing there, the way he says there is nothing there, then he would say, I'm an open book. Investigate me, investigate my team. But we know that that is not the case. I think at the end of the day there is issues with money laundering, with taxes, how beholden he is to the Russians. And then that leads to whatever imbroglio -- I love that world happened on the campaign.

LEMON: Kevin, listen, he said he can't wait to talk to the special counsel. Maybe he is frustrated. What do you think?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well I think this is emblematic how much the White House, how much time they spends fighting against this President's instincts. And his instincts when it comes to the special counsel is to really just create chaos.

[23:45:05] He has an incredible appetite for chaos. I think the White House in this instance won out against the President and Don McGahn's threatening to quit prevented this from happening. But I actually agree with one of the earlier panels that I still wouldn't take this off the table. I know the whole story is about how he was going to fire the special counsel Mueller, but didn't. But I don't think in any which in his mind the President ruled that option out.

LEMON: Ok. So let's talk now, Robert. Talk about immigration. Because here is what -- here is what they want. Ok. On immigration. A pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million people. Ends extended family migration for new applicants, existing applicants, grant grandfather in ends, diversity lottery. $25 billion for a border wall and security programs. How much of what the White House laid out do you think that they will get or make into law?

REICH: Well it's very difficult to tell because Donald Trump himself with regard to immigration keeps on changing his mind. I mean, two and a half weeks ago he said he would sign anything with regard to immigration, that everybody came up with. Then he has had two since then -- two bipartisan panels coming up to him and saying here we are and he says no. With the DREAMERS he has been all over the place. I don't think he has any idea what he wants. I think the White House itself is split. I think if people like Stephen Miller whispering in Donald Trump's ear fuel the flames of hate, fuel the flames of anger and bigotry, and chain migration. That term itself, is such a hateful term. We used to call it family reunification in the 1965 immigration act. That is what it was about. It was kind of an act in which we wanted to help families reunify in the United States. But now by calling it chain migration saying it's something bad, something, what racist? Isn't there a tinge of racism there? This is what's going on. I don't think we're ever going to see an immigration bill coming out any time.

LEMON: Do you think -- but Democrats wanted DACA. The bill includes DACA do you think Democrats should take the deal they have Maria?

CARDONA: Not this one. And I think what this proposal is a cruel Trojan horse that entices DREAMERS towards a path way to citizenship while it tries to cover up the radical nativist, anti-immigrant nationalistic policies underlying it. Because what they are proposing in addition to the citizenship and in addition to the wall is to completely change the way that America does America. It will reduce legal immigration by 50 percent, which is more than what has happened -- more than it has been reduced in over 100 years. And what's ironic is that Donald Trump shut down the government recently because he couldn't decide and couldn't negotiate which way to go on immigration. He now wants to shut down true American values. He wants to shut down the American dream for so many people both in this country and those willing -- those that are yearning to be free around the world.

LEMON: Maria I need to go, Kevin I'm sorry you don't get to talk about this tonight but we'll have you back. Appreciate it, because we have new information on the breaking news and get to it on the other side fortunate break. It's on the Russia investigation. Stick around. You want to hear it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:52:44] LEMON: We have more breaking news to tell you about on the Russia investigation. A source confirms to CNN, President Trump called for special counsel Robert Mueller's firing last June, but backed down when his own White House counsel threaten to quit.

Joining me on the phone with more on this is CNN political analyst Josh Dawsey White House reporter for the Washington Post. Josh thank you so much. I understand you have new information about who tried to intervene so that the President wouldn't do this.

JOSH DAWSEY, WASHINGTON POST: Don, what we're able to report tonight is in the time period, there was a concern inside the White House he was actually leading against former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former strategist and others to ask for intervention, basically talk to the President's friends, associates, aids and say how can we talk him out of this? There was a series of conversations in the White House during that period, because the President was fixated on this. In that period, we saw one of the President's friends go on CBS and

say that the President was considering firing Mueller. He said Mr. Ready doesn't know what he is talking about, this and that. David, he did this in the White House all day and had gotten out of a car as the reporter was in the White House, went straight to the studio and said this on air. It was inexplicable he wouldn't know what he was talking about. For seven months, the White House has been telling us there is never no plan with Mueller. That is just not the case.

LEMON: Listen, I want to read something from the report. It said Trump's (inaudible) and Mueller rose to such a level HANKS: then White House strategist Steven K. Bannon and chief of staff Reince Priebus grew concerned he would fire Mueller but the President according to a Trump advisor that requested (inaudible) to describe private conversations. Both of the member deeply worried about the possibility to discuss how to keep him from making such a move this person said. Priebus and Bannon did not immediately respond to request for comments with one meeting, Bannon raised the concern if Trump fired Mueller, and it could trigger a challenge to the presidency based on the 25th amendment that lays out the process who would succeed as President in case of incapacitation. Talked to me about that.

[23:55:15] DAWSEY: Yes. The president a month before had hired James Comey which has served incredible reverberation on the administration and probably the most key of any move he made and the appointment of the special counsel, and, you know, the month before he considered filing Jeff Sessions and asked for his resignation at one point because Sessions would not recuse himself. It was getting to the point that the Trump advisor here moves the fire or tries to fire anyone who is investigating him or probing his absence that is a major problem. Bannon and Priebus and others did not see how the President could survive.

LEMON: Yes. Josh with our breaking news and information, Josh Dawsey, thank you very much. We'll continue on in reporting this, but make sure you tune into "new day" tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m. That is it for us tonight. Thanks for watching, I will see you back here tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)