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CNN TONIGHT

John Kelly's Questionable Fate in the White House; FBI Director Sets the Record Straight; Porn Star Paid by Trump's Lawyer; White House Choose Whom to Sympathize; Democrat Rebuttal Memo Slim Chance to Get Through. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 13, 2018 - 22:00   ET

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


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[22:00:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: ... who despite the lack of full security clearance, may have had access to this nation's top secrets. A man who despite accusations that he had abused both of his ex-wives was not only still working in the White House, he was up for a promotion.

A promotion, that's right. Think about that for a minute. The White House knew about incredibly serious accusations about Rob Porter, accusations that he had assaulted both of his ex-wives. They knew that as a result, he wasn't getting approved for his permanent security clearance.

And not only did they look for ways to keep Porter, they were seriously discussing giving him a promotion. Right up until the moment the scandal blew up and he resigned.

Why is that? Well, because John Kelly liked the job he was doing, despite being aware that Porter's ex-wives could have damaging information on him.

A White House official telling CNN tonight, the chief of staff was reluctant to dig into what White House counsel Don McGahn knew about Porter. So this White House is doing what it always does. It's stonewalling, changing their story, flat-out lying. Even though FBI director Christopher Wray blew all of that right out of the water today by simply stating the facts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, FBI: The FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March. And then a completed background investigation in late July that soon thereafter we received requests for follow up inquiry.

And we did the follow up and provided that information in November. And then we administratively closed the file in January. And then earlier this month, we received some additional information and we passed that on, as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: So in the face of those facts, that the FBI repeatedly briefed the White House on its investigation beginning months earlier than the White House admitted, Sarah Sanders changed her story today, claiming that even though the FBI's investigation was, in fact, complete, the White House personnel security office hasn't made a final recommendation.

But when it came to answering questions about what John Kelly knew and when he knew it, even she seemed to be running out of road, resorting four times to some version of I can only give you the best information I have.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the White House still maintaining that John Kelly really had no idea about these allegations of domestic abuse until this story broke?

SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can only give you the best information that I have, and that's my understanding.

We're simply stating that we're giving you the best information that we're going to have. Obviously, the press team is not going to be as read-in, maybe, as some other elements at a given moment on a variety of topics.

But we relay the best and most accurate information that we have. And we get those from those individuals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You talked multiple times about wanting to get us the best information that you have. This scandal has been going on for a week now and we still don't have answers to the basic questions of sort of who knew what when whether General John Kelly...

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: I've done the best I can to walk you through that process, as has Raj. We've done that pretty extensively and I would refer you back to all of the statements we've given on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I'm going to ask you whether you've spoken specifically to General John Kelly and the White House counsel to ask them these questions. Because you've said I'm not aware or I'm not sure.

SANDERS: I have and this is the information that was given to me by those individuals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I shouldn't have to tell you that this is not normal. At least, it wasn't normal prior to this administration. This is not politics as usual. This is a White House consumed with spin, with deflection, and with outright lies.

At a time when the risk of global war is the highest it's been since the Cold War, did you know that? The highest it's been since the Cold War at a time when Russia is gleefully doubling down on its election meddling and targeting the midterms.

And the president of the United States, well, sources telling CNN he is still not convinced Russia meddled. And has, quote, "not specifically directed the intelligence community to fight back against a credible threat to our democracy."

So you have to ask yourself, why? What does he have to fear? Let's discuss now with CNN national security analyst, James Clapper, former director of national intelligence. Director, thank you so much for joining us.

I want to start with the cover-up in the White House. The FBI chief contradicting the White House timeline today. We're going to talk nitty-gritty. But first, who's responsible for this?

JAMES CLAPPER, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: For what, Don? The -- well, obviously, the White House ...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: The changing message and the screw up and...

CLAPPER: The White House is responsible for it. And good on Director Wray for setting the record straight, as to what the FBI did. And so, you know, it's really disturbing to me, once again, to see this performance.

[22:04:55] It would have been so much better if they had just fessed up and said, you know, we didn't handle this very well. We critiqued ourselves, here's what happened, and here's what we're going to do to correct ourselves.

But they just compound the errors here by changing their stories and not being forthright about this. And mistakes are going to happen, because even the White House, prior to administrations, you know, it's composed of people. People make mistakes. And I don't know why the reluctance to acknowledge that.

LEMON: Yes. Should John Kelly go, director?

CLAPPER: Well, that's a tough call. I -- you know, I know John Kelly, not well. I knew him when he was on active duty and he was a great marine, served as a military assistant to Leon Panetta when he was secretary of defense and his last assignment active duty was the southern commander, southern area commander.

To me, somewhat reminiscent of Mike Flynn, to be honest. He just seems to have changed since he's fallen into the orb of the president. And it's -- I -- it' kind of sad, for me.

LEMON: You mentioned the FBI Director Wray and his testimony today. Does the White House think the FBI is going to take the fall here? That they'll just stand by the White House lies and misleads? CLAPPER: Well, you know, I certainly hope not. I tell you, I don't

know Chris Wray. I watched his confirmation hearing. I was very impressed with him. And I think that he is living up to what he said in his confirmation hearing about telling it straight.

In fact, I was pretty proud of that entire panel today that appeared before the Senate intelligence committee. Because they all tell truth, the power, even if the truth doesn't -- even if the power doesn't listen to the truth.

And he did that, Director Dan Coats, my successor did that. I was very proud of him for some of the things that he said. And that takes courage, believe me, when you're there in front of the TV lights and you're kind of pushing back against your boss. But he did that.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, when you -- I want to ask you this. When you hear that 30 or 40 people in the White House still don't have permanent security clearances, including Jared Kushner, over a year into this presidency, at what point does this become unacceptable?

CLAPPER: Well, I might, Don, just take a moment to explain some terms that have been kind of thrown around a lot today in the media. And there are two very important but separate processes, distinct processes.

One is a background investigation. I think we know what that is. And then secondly, it's a second process called adjudication. And that's where someone in authority actually makes a determination based on the inputs provided by the investigatory body, in this case, the FBI, about that person's suitability, trustworthiness to have access to classified information.

What an interim clearance conventionally means is that someone has been given a lower level clearance. Typically, a secret clearance, which is much less demanding, and much less -- and the background investigation for which is much less rigorous than it is for a top- secret clearance.

And what that means is that person is segregated into a secret work area and only has access to secret material. Apparently, in the White House, interim clearance means, I'm just going to allow you to have access to very sensitive information.

And you know, the White House, obviously, is where all the very high classified material comes together. And the fact that 30 or 40 people on the White House staff, which is a relatively small population, are working there on an interim clearance basis, you know, you would think that maybe they would find somebody that could get cleared.

By the way, there is a law that stipulates what the timelines are. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which President Bush signed into law in December of 2004, title three lays out what the guidelines are for how long these processes are supposed to take. Adjudication, the standard for the 90 percent of fastest processed people for clearances is supposed to take more than 20 days. Seven months? You've got to be kidding. LEMON: Yes. The timeline is that there's a partial report submitted

to the White House. This was March 7 -- March of 2017. Then July of 2017, the final report submitted to the White House. More information submitted to the White House based on requests. That was in November. But we don't know between that time, when they sent the information, if they needed more information, we don't know, exactly that date.

And then January 2018, the FBI closed the file on background, on background -- on background the background investigation.

I want to talk more about this congressional testimony of the intel chiefs today, director, which you mentioned. They say Russia is already interfering in the 2018 midterm elections. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[22:10:05] JACK REED, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Has the president directed you and your agency to take specific actions to confront and blunt Russian influence activities that are ongoing?

WRAY: We're taking a lot of specific efforts to blunt Russian efforts...

(CROSSTALK)

REED: Directed by the president?

WRAY: Not as specifically directed by the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: This is a stunning admission, though, maybe not a surprise when the president calls the whole Russia investigation a witch hunt. Are we more vulnerable if the president isn't leading the charge against Russia interference?

CLAPPER: Absolutely. And I thought Dan Coats made that point. That we don't have anybody really in charge of preparing for the next election. And as we said, we -- you know, the formers from the prior administration, that the Russians are going to continue to do what they did in 2016, because it was so successful for them.

Why wouldn't they? And this is their way of undermining us. And to me, it is appalling that there isn't a concerted campaign to thwart their further interference. And they're going to do that, just as sure as we're sitting here.

LEMON: Director, thank you so much. Always appreciate your time.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, breaking news. Why President Trump's personal lawyer says he paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to the porn star who once claimed she had an affair with Trump.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: We have some breaking news to tell you about right now. President Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen says he paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket. Cohen says he was never reimbursed and he says the Trump campaign was not involved.

Stormy Daniels once claimed that she had an affair with Trump.

Here to discuss CNN political -- senior political analyst Mark Preston, CNN political analyst Michael Bender, and White House -- a White House reporter for the Wall Street Journal. OK, guys, thank you for joining us.

Just getting this new information. CNN has now gotten the information in and a statement from Michael Cohen. So, Mark, the Stormy Daniels story, now back in the news because of this. Why does Michael Cohen say that he paid this money, just out of the goodness of his own heart?

MARK PRESTON, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: No. In fact, we don't even know why he decided. He would not answer questions to the New York Times, to Maggie Haberman, who we heard last hour here on CNN who broke the story. We don't know why he made the payment.

He described this as a personal transaction. We also don't know why he decided to make the payment and we don't know if he has made similar payments in the past to other folks, presumably on behalf of Donald Trump.

So there is an incredible amount of questions that still need to be answered by this, but we should note that Michael Cohen was compelled to answer this because a complaint was filed with the Federal Election Commission by an outside group, because they were claiming that, in fact, what Michael Cohen was doing was -- he was exceeding the campaign contribution limits to a candidate by making the payment to Stormy Daniels.

LEMON: OK. So the statement says -- and it has Stephanie Clifford, who is Stormy Daniels, who is the porn star, by the way. And porn star makes it so sound glamorous. She is a woman who has sex on camera for money, basically is what it is.

In late January of 2018, I received a copy of a complaint filed by the Federal Election Committee, FEC, about common cause. Then it goes on about what the complaint alleges, that it violates campaign finance -- and then he says, "I am Mr. Trump's longtime special counsel. I have proudly served in the role for more than a decade and a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford. Neither the Trump organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford. And neither reimbursed me for the payment either directly or indirectly. The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone. I do not plan to provide any further comment on the FEC matter or regarding Ms. Clifford."

So, there you go. What do you think of that, Michael? There's a lot of questions to be answered here.

MICHAEL BENDER, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Yes, I don't think this is going to be the last we hear about this issue. And like Mark was mentioning, I think why we're hearing about this is exactly the fact that he -- that this has become a legal issue for him.

My colleagues at the Wall Street Journal broke this story a couple of months ago. It's hard to keep track of all of these controversies and time.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You were just reading my mind.

BENDER: Yes.

LEMON: You are just reading, I was like, so much for infrastructure week. But go on.

BENDER: It is infrastructure week, again. But, you know, Michael Cohen didn't participate, he wouldn't comment or answer these questions for us. It's only now where he is, you know, he sees some legal issues to do so. And I just think that there will be more to this story before it's over.

LEMON: Why now, though? Why would Michael come out? Because, I mean, he didn't really have to say anything. It was -- I mean, did they -- because they gave it to the New York Times, was somebody hot on his tail? Was he afraid it was going to come out in testimony? What do you think, Mark, why now?

PRESTON: Well, he had to give it to the Federal Election Commission.

LEMON: Yes.

PRESTON: He had to where his lawyer had to respond on his behalf to the complaint filed by common clause. So that statement was eventually going to get out.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: It's the time to do it.

PRESTON: So I'm sure he was thinking, I'll do it on my own terms as opposed to somebody else's point. But you know, to Michael's point, too, and Don, to your point, let's take a step back. And I don't think we do this enough. And Michael was absolutely correct.

There are so many things that have happened just in one day that it's so easy to forget. But right now, you have a sitting president who has multiple investigations looking into whether or not his presidential campaign colluded with Russia and we believe they're also looking into perhaps, was there obstruction of justice. That's number one.

Now you have a porn star, as you noted, sounds so glamorous and it's not, who received $130,000 from the lawyer of Donald Trump, who just decided to do it out of the goodness of his heart.

[22:20:00] And to add to that, you have a White House right now that is embroiled in unbelievable amount of controversy around defending somebody who's been alleged of domestic abuse.

Any other president, Don, would not be able to survive one of those attacks. And for Donald Trump, he seemed to just move on.

LEMON: Well, Michael, you talked about the stories coming left and right. Here's another story that we have. It's related to what Mark just said about the conversation over possible Kelly successor heating up in Washington.

This is according to our Dana Bash, Gloria Borger, Jamie Gangel, Jim Acosta, and Jeremy Diamond. There's been no decision on President Trump to -- by President Trump to replace embattled White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, but multiple sources say conversations over who could succeed him have heated up.

BENDER: Yes.

LEMON: CNN reported that the president has been calling his associates in recent days and discussing the possibilities. No decision has been made. The scrutiny increased after today's testimony by FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Go, Michael.

BENDER: Yes, I think that's exactly right. And it's not just recent days, it's recent weeks. You know, the big caveat here is that Trump -- President Trump talks to sort of anyone and everyone about the minutia of the White House and ask for feedback in how people are doing and the decisions he's made.

And I should point out that Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, was asked about John Kelly's status today at the White House briefing late in the day, after that testimony you mentioned. And she said the president has full confidence in John Kelly.

And that may be true, but I can tell you that if John Kelly has the confidence of the top of the White House, he certainly lost the White House underneath him. What he came in and really restricted access to the Oval Office. And rightly or wrongly, that has chafed at a lot of people underneath him, who haven't been able to get in front of the president quite as often.

Those chaotic -- you remember those first few months as very chaotic. I think for a lot of people in the White House, it was also very exciting. And no longer were they able to get in and have their input and have -- and see their influence, have their influence on the president and people have kind of been waiting for their moment to go after John Kelly and this is it.

And, you know, they -- and they are asking and pushing very relevant questions about how the White House handled some really serious allegations about a key member of the inner circle of the Oval Office. I mentioned that Kelly has tightened access to the Oval Office. The

one person that has kind of risen in John Kelly's world was Rob Porter, who has been protected for the better part of a year under this White House.

LEMON: OK, Mark, let's talk about this. Because sources say that conversations center on chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, and budget director, Mick Mulvaney.

PRESTON: So, do I have to throw a dart and figure out which one it is? I got to tell you what. If I'm Kevin McCarthy, I'm keeping my job in the House of Representatives because there's a good chance if Paul Ryan leaves, that I'm going to succeed him in the House and guess what, I'll be the captain of my own ship at that point if I'm Kevin McCarthy.

But I do think that we are going to see a focus in on Gary Cohn, someone who Donald Trump has known for many years. Somebody who might scare some real hard-core conservatives, because they feel as if Gary Cohn is more centrist, if I can say.

But let's also keep an eye on Mick Mulvaney, as well, for some reason, if they decide to move out General Kelly and Gary Cohn for some reason is not the pick, Mick Mulvaney might be the person forward, very conservative, very loyal to the president and has really, if you noticed, he's been one of his more effective spokespersons who go out there to defend the president in his policies.

LEMON: I have something that I want to say here. I'm actually texting with Michael Cohen now. But I want to ask you this while I get this together. Michael, I want you to talk to me about this off the record West Wing meeting. You were there in the hours after the Daily Mail published a photograph of Rob Porter's ex-wife.

Sarah Sanders set that up and Rob Porter took questions to, what, deny the allegations?

BENDER: Well, Don, I don't want to interrupt your texting with Michael Cohen, but I've never seen a case talk about -- I'm not going to talk about the content of an off the record meeting. You know, I will say that this is a common occurrence at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

You know, government officials they want to have off-the-record comments to in order to influence or shape a story without their comments becoming a story. Reporters usually want to hear more information than less information.

What's interesting about this meeting is that it was really at the nexus of where the White House's story began to turn.

[22:25:00] LEMON: Yes.

BENDER: It was on -- as of -- it was, what, Wednesday morning, as of Wednesday morning, the White House was defending the Rob Porter and not pushing back on our reporting that Kelly was trying to save Porter's job.

LEMON: Yes.

BENDER: By that night, Kelly had issued a second statement, saying that he was shocked by these new allegations and in the days since then, the White House has really struggled to say what changed during that time.

Initially, they were saying that Kelly and other senior staff at the White House weren't aware of the depth of these allegations and that they hadn't received a final report from the FBI.

We heard from Chris Wray today, under oath, in front of a Senate intelligence committee saying that wasn't true, those weren't his words. But he laid out the timeline saying that a background check was completed in July and a final report was given to the White House last month.

And that is just really a rock the White House and it was a really devastating takedown of their timeline. And they've really struggled to come back from that and to put together or put forward a timeline of what happened, who knew what, and when.

LEMON: I should say, I was texting about Michael Cohen, but I will tell you this is what I'm hearing. Just because something isn't true doesn't mean that it can't cause you harm or damage. I will always protect Mr. President.

And that is what a source is telling Michael Cohen is saying right now. We'll discuss that in the next block. Thank you, gentlemen. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:30:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: The White House insisting that President Trump's support -- supports the victims of domestic violence, even though he has not publicly expressed sympathy for the ex-wives of former top aide, Rob Porter.

They allege Porter abused them. The scandal and how the White House has mishandled it with conflicting explanations has some staffers facing some awkward changes.

I want you to take a look at this exchange today. It was between CNN's my colleague, Jeff Zeleny, and press secretary, Sarah Sanders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: In an op-ed this morning in the Washington Post, the first wife of Rob Porter said specifically of you, I expected a woman to do better. Based on what you know, do you believe you were personally misled and do you have any regret for how you have explained this to the American people?

SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, as I said, we do the very best job we can, every single day. I would never presume to understand anything going on with that individual, nor would I think that she could presume what's going on with me or the way that I'm responding. Look, we've condemned domestic violence in every way possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So I want to bring in now, CNN's senior political commentator, Jennifer Granholm, a democrat who is a former governor of Michigan, and political commentator Alice Stewart, a republican strategist. Good to have you both on. Good evening to you.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Thanks, Don.

ALICE STEWART, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Hi, Don.

LEMON: Alice, that was a pointed exchange between Jeff, but -- with Jeff there. But a lot of women are wondering the same thing on something as visceral as domestic abuse. Why isn't the press secretary taking a more forceful stand against violence against women?

STEWART: Because she is the voice of the president. And that is his sentiment. And generally for most people around the world, what's in your heart comes out of your mouth. And the fact that the president can't say these words that he condemns domestic violence is quite troubling.

But it's part of a pattern what he does when we're talking about domestic violence or sexual harassment, what he always does, is if it's someone that he associates with or someone that he likes and supports, he will downgrade the allegations. He will support the man and he will denigrate the women.

And that's just his policy, that's his nature. And that's the way it is in this case. And it really -- in my mind, it is irrelevant whether the person at the podium is a male or a female.

The fact is that, it's unfortunate that they can't come out unequivocally and say that domestic violence should not be tolerated, there is no place for that in our society and this administration is going to do everything that we can to support these women and put an end to the scourge in our society.

LEMON: And governor, tomorrow, another thing on their plate will be Stormy Daniels. They'll have to discuss that and defend that.

GRANHOLM: Yes. It's just another -- how many more of these examples do we have to have, right? And just to Alice's point, I mean, I agree with almost everything you said, Alice, expect this. When there is a woman who is standing at the podium, it doesn't matter whether the person at the podium has a uterus or not.

However, when you do have one, it's particularly pernicious. Because what you are doing is giving him cover, essentially.

It's when, you know, Kellyanne Conway was on Jake Tapper this weekend and didn't answer the question but pivoted to job creation or when Sarah tells five different stories.

You know, when I had a press con -- when I had a press secretary when I was governor, that press secretary her credibility was on the line. And if there was something she didn't know and it was potentially embarrassing or she needed to find out the facts, she was darned well going to track down those facts, because she is the one standing up in front of the press.

I cannot believe that Sarah Huckabee Sanders has let a whole week go and truly doesn't know or hasn't insisted on getting their act together. And that she's weaving all of this stuff, it's just particularly painful to see as a woman.

LEMON: And Alice, where has Ivanka been in all of this, Alice? She was outspoken, an outspoken critic of Roy Moore and was reported that she was upset last week when she saw the picture of Colbie Holderness. Why do you think we haven't heard more from her? She is an adviser. Today she tweeted about infrastructure.

STEWART: I don't know. That's troubling to me. I mean, it didn't take her anytime, thankfully, when the Roy Moore situation came about for her to tweet that there's a special place in hell for those who prey on children and sexually harass children.

[22:35:09] And I was expecting a similar tweet here. There's a special place in hell for people who beat their wives. And that's the reality. And the silence throughout the administration is deafening.

I do commend Kellyanne Conway. Over the weekend, she did, after she gave the party line, she did, herself, personally say that she believes these women and she hopes that those who are suffering silently do take this opportunity to come forward and speak and empower them.

But to the governor's point, I think it's critical from a communications standpoint, anytime I would have a press secretary or if I was speaking for a governor there or whoever I was working for, there are a few things you keep in mind when you're going to brief the media.

You talk to them before. You know the questions, you know the answers, and you tell no lies. And that's something that is critical anytime you're relating to the press. And that's, unfortunately, what I we're still talking about this story over a week later, because they cannot seem to get to the truth...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Their act together, yes.

STEWART: ... and keep the stories straight.

GRANHOLM: And straight.

LEMON: I want to -- governor, I'll give you the last word. I have short time here, though, Go ahead. GRANHOLM: Yes. Just quickly, this is why only 29 percent of women now

support Donald Trump, an historic low. And it's why, honestly, the 36th seat flipped from red to blue today. This was the one in Florida. Another woman wins.

These women across the country are feeling like they are not being heard, but they're finally feeling like, wow, this is our moment to take our nation back. And bravo for them.

LEMON: Thank you, Alice. Thank you, governor. I appreciate it.

STEWART: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, the FBI director says again today he has grave concerns about the Nunes memo, yet the president released it, so why doesn't President Trump want you to see the democratic response?

I'm going to ask a republican member of the House intelligence committee, next.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Democrats on the House intelligence committee standing firm tonight, saying they will not make revisions to their document, which rebuts the GOP memo claiming the FBI reviews its surveillance authority. President Trump holding up the release of the democrat's memo.

I want to talk about this now, another important issue with Congressman Chris Stewart. He is a Utah republican who is a member of the intel committee. Congressman, thank you so much for joining me.

CHRIS STEWART, (R) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: It's good to be with you. Thank you.

LEMON: First, I want your reaction to the White House, the way they handled this Rob, the Rob Porter allegations. What most people are calling a mess. Why can't the White House get the message straight on this, do you think?

C. STEWART: You know, to be honest with you, I haven't followed it very much today. I haven't been able to hear the news. I'll tell you this. This is a sad story. These young women, these battered wives that represent, frankly, millions of battered wives and young people around the world, it's just unacceptable. And I just don't know anyone who doesn't feel that way.

LEMON: Today the FBI director, Christopher Wray, repeated that he had grave concerns about the Nunes memo, calling it incomplete and standing by the FBI assessment that it is inaccurate.

Despite that, the president had no problem releasing it. Now the president is insisting that the democratic memo would pose a threat to sources and methods. Will this memo, you think, see the light of day?

C. STEWART: Well, I hope so. And I've got to tell you, this isn't comparing apples and oranges. This is comparing apples and dinosaurs. There's an enormous difference between the republican memo, which we wrote very, very carefully with the intention that it would be released.

And with that as our intention, we didn't include anything that we felt was classified. We ended up changing two words at the request of the FBI. When I started to read the democratic memo, it was obvious in the first two paragraphs, this can't be released.

You read a little bit further, that can't be released. You look at the footnotes, I think they've asked for revisions of 47 things in that memo. And that wasn't the White House, by the way, that was the FBI and the Department of Justice that ask for those revisions.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You mean in the democratic memo?

C. STEWART: Yes, exactly.

LEMON: But they asked for the entire republican memo not to be released, either.

C. STEWART: I'm sorry?

LEMON: They asked for the republicans or the Nunes memo...

(CROSSTALK)

C. STEWART: Yes.

LEMON: ... not to be released in its entirety either.

C. STEWART: You read that memo. How in the world could someone justify saying don't release that memo? It clearly doesn't include anything classified. It doesn't, you know, out any sources and methods.

That was important information for the American people to know. I hope and I would vote to release the democratic memo. But you can't include things that they know are classified. And I'm afraid that what they did was they wrote a memo that they knew was classified, that they knew couldn't be released.

And then they'll blame the White House and say, well, we're not able to tell our side of the story. For heaven's sakes, make the redactions to the White House or the Department of Justice and the FBI have asked for and release the memo, so the American people can decide. I want these two memos to be compared side by side and, again, for the American people to see that.

LEMON: But how can it be compared side by side when one is redacted and one isn't? And listen, I can't -- I can't pass judgment on the democratic memo, no one can, because they haven't read it.

But what I'm saying is the FBI, the Department of Justice said, you're talking about, you know, the 40-some redactions in the democratic memo. They said the entire republican memo, the entire thing should be redacted or not released.

C. STEWART: Yes.

LEMON: So, isn't that -- isn't that hypocritical?

C. STEWART: No, Don. Look, you've read the memo, you can make your own judgment, how can anyone read the republican memo and say, yes, the FBI was right, that shouldn't have been released. The FBI was just...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Yes, a lot of people read it and say it shouldn't have been released.

C. STEWART: Then tell me why.

LEMON: Because...

C. STEWART: Tell me something in that memo that the American people...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: The Department of -- they touched on it today and they said that they gave thousands and thousands -- there was lots of information. Thousands of pages of information, which was reduced down to three pages. And you heard what they said. You cannot reduce into three pages thousands of pages of investigation...

(CROSSTALK)

C. STEWART: Of course you can.

LEMON: And that they said -- they said the entire thing was inaccurate.

C. STEWART: Well, I'm telling you it's not inaccurate. I'm telling you that you can take thousands of pages and reduce it down to the essence. That's exactly what they did. I would challenge anyone, tell me anything in the republican memo that is not true.

[22:45:02] LEMON: If the president doesn't release it, will you vote to override it?

C. STEWART: I can't. I can't vote for that.

LEMON: Why can't you?

C. STEWART: Because it contains 47 elements of highly classified information.

LEMON: I understand what you're saying, but congressman, your entire memo says the Justice Department says that it gave away sources and methods. You're not applying the same standards to other people as you apply to yourself.

C. STEWART: No, of course. Of course we're applying the same standard. We're saying, don't release anything classified. Look, you've surely read the memo.

LEMON: I have read the memo and I have concerns about it, because -- listen -- but I also have not read the underlying documents as well.

C. STEWART: OK.

LEMON: And I'm smart enough to understand that there's probably something in the underlying documents that may negate some of this. But not all people know that. They take that document, that three-page document as gospel and it's not. And you know that. And you're being disingenuous if you believe the American people know that.

C. STEWART: No. You can call me a lot of things. I don't think it's fair to call me just disingenuous for telling the truth there. I challenge you, you've read the memo, right now, tell me something in that memo that you think is classified that should have ot been released.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Listen, I'm not an official. I'm going by what the...

(CROSSTALK)

C. STEWART: You don't have to be an official?

LEMON: Yes, I can.

C. STEWART: It's common sense.

LEMON: I'm telling you what the Department of Justice and the FBI says. And they are smarter than me when it comes to these matters.

C. STEWART: Look.

LEMON: They know more than I do when it comes to those matters.

(CROSSTALK)

C. STEWART: The American people...

LEMON: They know about sources and methods more than I do and more than you do, frankly, as a congressman. So I would take their word for it that...

(CROSSTALK)

C. STEWART: No, no, no, no. Let me tell you...

LEMON: ... there's possibly -- that you're possibly releasing sources and methods and you're putting people's lives at jeopardy and the American security at jeopardy. C. STEWART: OK. Don, listen, you're wrong on two things. Number one

is this. And this is very, very important. The FBI doesn't have authority over Congress. As a member of the intel committee, I am -- I have access to far more classified information than anyone in the FBI does. We look at much more broad things. There are things the FBI does not have access to that I do. The second thing...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But you're not investigative agency...

C. STEWART: The second thing is this...

LEMON: ... on par with the FBI.

C. STEWART: That doesn't matter. If you're saying that I have to defer to them, I'm telling you you're just wrong on that. And the second thing is this. I don't want the American people to be so cowed that they say, well, if the FBI says it, then I can't do it.

LEMON: Congressman, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

C. STEWART: All right, Don. Thank you.

LEMON: And when we come back, a democratic member of the House intelligence committee responds to Congressman Stewart. Representative Denny Heck joins me next.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Breaking news tonight. The top democrat on the House intelligence committee insisting that democrats will not make revisions to their document which rebuts the GOP memo claiming the FBI abused its surveillance authority.

We just heard from republican Congressman Chris Stewart now I want to bring in Congressman Denny Heck, a democrat from Washington also on the intelligence committee. Thank you, sir for joining us.

You just heard your republican colleague there giving all kinds of reasons about why your memo should not be released. And theirs had every right to be released. How do you respond to that?

DENNY HECK, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Well, Don, let's go back and reconstruct the chronology. Democrats uniformly opposed release of the Nunes memo frankly, because we thought it was gravely misleading. A point of view that actually ended being shared with the Department of Justice who warned that to release it would be reckless and that it contained serious mistakes and grave omissions. We were against that.

Once it was determined it was released we asked it to be subjected to Department of Justice review. That was declined. Once that was declined or defeated by the republicans we said we have to tell the whole story. They have to -- they have to have the benefit of hearing all of the facts. And so we produced a memo. And we offered it at that point - which

they supported. And at the time that we did that we said we wouldn't release it because we really actually believe in this national security considerations until the Department of Justice had had a chance to review it.

The president chose to reject it in total and sent it back to the committee. Frankly, Don, if you looked up on an online dictionary the word hypocrisy you'd see a video replay of this entire incident. Because they're holding the democratic memo to a complete double standard.

LEMON: Does your memo contain sources and methods?

HECK: As does theirs which was denied in the previous segment, was it not, Don? It will surprise you to hear this but let's remember. Christopher Steele is a source he's mentioned in the memo.

LEMON: Right.

HECK: That was never officially confirmed before to my recollection. And the FISA application is a method. So sources and methods were revealed in the Nunes memo.

But more important than that, and I think what really gets to the heart of what was of concern to the FBI is once these things become political footballs how incredibly compromising it is for any future effort, any relationship they have with a source or to protect a method going forward. This is a matter of basically national security concern.

LEMON: Your colleague Adam Schiff says that he is not going to redact anything in the democratic memo. Do you think this memo will ever see the light of day?

HECK: Nothing would surprise me anymore. I mean, Don, it's interesting to note that today is the one year anniversary of the resignation of Michael Flynn. Let us recall that the very next day President Trump then called in then-FBI Director James Comey and asked him to stand down on any investigation of Michael Flynn.

From the very get-go the White House has used every tool available to them, resorted to every means possible to slow down and get in the way of our effort to get at the truth.

LEMON: Was your memo released just so that you can say that -- that their memo was wrong? Or was it released just so you could say that the White House was doing this on purpose, asking to you redact information?

HECK: We're trying to get at the truth behind the collusion coordination and possible conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian interference. That's our objective. And the purpose of our memo was to correct the misleading nature of the Nunes memo.

LEMON: Well, that's not what they're saying. They're saying that you did it on purposes with sources and methods so that you can, at the end of the day say that the White House refused to release your memo, to make the White House look bad and republicans.

[22:55:04] HECK: Don, it gives me no joy to say this, but I frankly now have completely lost faith in the republican majority intent to get at the truth behind this.

I've been at this for 13 months now and our side will continue to work in every which way we possibly can to get at this truth because, because let's remember what's at stake here.

Russia interfered in the 2016 election. And they've interfered in elections of western democracies before or since on a scale unseen before that year. As when we sit and speak they're interfering in the Mexican national election later this year.

We have now had not one, not two, but I believe three intelligence community officials from the Trump administration acknowledge that the Russians are beginning to interfere in the midterm elections coming up later this year.

This from the same administration who two weeks ago yesterday, I believe, refused to actually implement the sanctions that passed Congress by a vote as I recall aggregated 517 to 5.

So the truth of the matter is, if we want Russia to stand down and stop interfering in our democratic process, then we have to deter them. We have to hold them accountable. We have to make them pay a price. And the way to do that is to implement the sanctions which Congress duly adopted.

LEMON: So what's your point then, why are you going there?

HECK: On sanctions.

LEMON: Yes.

HECK: Because they're going to stay at it. They're not giving up. They are coming at us again. And you know...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Well, I'm talking about in relation to this memo. Because we are talking about the memo and the releasing of the memo. And you're bringing up the sanctions for what reasons? Is that...

HECK: Because they have demonstrated no interest whatsoever in deterring Russia. And they haven't from the get-go.

LEMON: Do you think it's just in misleading the American people. I want to ask you if the democratic memo is sent back to the White House with redactions and the president refuses to release it, do you have any recourse? Do democrats have any recourse?

HECK: The law provides that the Congress can override it. Of course I'd have no faith that they would be willing to do that at that point. But what that constitutes is what I have been concerned about.

And I think I said on your program not long ago, Don, we are inching toward constitutional crisis. And there is a great irony really when you stop and think about it. I feel like we're working our hearts out to get at the truth of this thing because we don't want Russia to interfere in our elections anymore.

In fact, we don't want them to interfere in our elections irrespective of which candidate or political party they will be favoring at a time. I feel like we're working our heart out to protect not just my political party but their political party. Because Russia could turn on a dime and favor us in some future election if they deem it's in their self-interest.

LEMON: Congressman Heck, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

HECK: You're welcome, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, a new excuse every day from the White House about how they handled the allegations against Rob Porter. And it seems every excuse contradicts the last. What happened to hiring only the best people?

[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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