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Intel Chief's Unanimous That Russia Is Targeting 2018 Midterms; Trump's Lawyer Says He Paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 Out Of His Own Pocket; Retired Marine Calls On John Kelly To Resign; Budget Plan Calls For Billions For Military And Infrastructure, But Cuts To Entitlement Programs. Aired 11-12a ET
Aired February 13, 2018 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:58] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: This is CNN tonight. I'm Don Lemon. 11:00 p.m. here on the east coast. We are live with new developments tonight. President Trump's handpicked FBI Director throwing cold water on the time line put out by the White House in the Rob Porter scandal. Director Christopher Wray says the FBI repeatedly briefed the White House on the investigation starting months earlier than the White House admit it. So now the administration is changing the story and trying to shift blame to the little known White House personnel security office. Which one official tells CNN doesn't actually have any power to make decisions. All this turmoil coming at a time when Russia is gleefully doubling down on election meddling and targeting the mid-terms. And the President of the United States is it still not convinced Russia meddled. He has not specifically directed the intelligence committee to fight back against the incredible threat to our democracy.
Why would that be? That comes as we have breaking news. President Trump's long-term personal lawyer Michael Cohen says he paid foreign 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 had once claimed she had an affair with Donald Trump. I want to bring in now CNN White House reporter, Kaitlan Collins, political commentator, Jack Kingston, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign. And CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers. So good to have all of you on. Good evening to you. Kaitlan I'm starting with you. What is the reporting tonight coming out of the White House about the Chief of Staff Kelly.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well there are a lot of questions about whether or not John Kelly is going to last in this White House much longer. Because obviously you have seen the reporting the last few days. The White House completely botched in their response to the fallout from the Rob Porter scandal, who is accused of beating two of his ex-wives we have seen John Kelly not only double down on the way the White House had handle this telling the "Wall Street Journal" in a brief interview yesterday that he would not change the way he responded, but he is getting a lot of blame for this. We saw the shifting narrative that was blown up by the FBI Director Christopher Wray whenever he said the FBI completed the background check into Porter months ago. It goes against what the White House said. We are seeing John Kelly take a lot of heat. There are indications, there is rumors the President has been quizzing people about what they think about replacements for the Chief of Staff. That is certainly something for people to keep their eye on. There is no indication John Kelly will be out in the White House in the next 24 hours or so.
LEMON: Jack Kingston, do you think Chief of Staff Kelly should stay on.
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I think that he should try to stay on. But I think he has to show to the President where the breakdown was. He has to come clean as to who knew what, particularly why he didn't know at all. Because it's not so much that, ok, I didn't know. He should have known. And he needs to have a good explanation to the President and to the people of America that this is where it broke down. If you look at my whole record, I've been pretty solid not just in the White House but in the military. And admit that this was botched. Admit that this was a mistake so he can move on. But I don't think he can get there unless you say, go ahead, listen I'm sorry and it's on me.
LEMON: Bakari explain why you say John Kelly has taken on the personality of the White House.
BAKARI SELLERS, FORMER HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Well, I think if you look at today, the question is are we talking about Russia? Are we talking about the wife beater or the porn star? Those are the three headlines that emanates from the White House today. I gave General Kelly the benefit of the doubt saying he would bring stability, bring some calm to the chaos. But instead of being the person who we thought he was, he instead has taken on the personality of his boss.
[23:05:00] What we have seen -- I mean we have throughout the campaign trail -- we knew Reince Priebus, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kellyanne Conway. Those are three people who we've known doing TV, we had known from having drinks with them and being in the green room we would tell you actually be able to go to a job and have a calming personality and do it with some essence of common sense. But that hasn't been the case. It seems whenever people touch the orb of Donald Trump they become him. That means that their character flaws are heightened. You see things where people don't have a level of -- or have some allergy to the truth. And aren't able to tell the truth. It's very disappointing for someone like John Kelly who no one can impugn his military record. But he is a bad Chief of Staff.
LEMON: Let's talk about the porn star, let us talk about that Kaitlan, because this admission from President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen that he paid a porn star Stormy Daniels 130,000 he said of his own money, that was shortly before the election. He is also saying that the President didn't know about it, the campaign didn't know about it and he did it on his own accord.
COLLINS: That is interesting, Don. That is not usual for an attorney like that to pay someone out of their own pocket without the promise of being repaid for something like that, especially an attorney, someone like Michael Cohen. But he claims he paid in, especially without the President's knowledge. That is what I think raises the most eyebrows, during the heat of the election, when his potential presidency was on the line he says he paid for this out of his own pocket without telling the President, which is something very unusual to believe if you knew how the campaign worked, it was a small nucleus, a very small orbit. It is a realm of the president. They all knew what is going on. It is a very small orbit of people who have known the president for some time. So this is very surprising to learn that here tonight Don.
LEMON: Bakari, some people may not know you're an attorney. Do attorneys usually pay hundreds of -- or tens of thousands of dollars out of their own pocket without their client knowing about it?
SELLERS: There are a few things. I don't know how I'd react if my client asked me to do that. But two things people need to pay attention to. The New York bar association will have something to say about this and I anticipate a complaint filed against Michael Cohen first thing in the morning, because as an attorney you can't pay the bonds, you can't pay the fines, you can't pay the settlements out of your own pocket of your clients. That is improper. I do anticipate that happening. Second, there is a question about laundering. Where did the money come from? Why was the money paid? How was it paid? When was it paid? There are questions that he has to answer. He went from being a solid attorney into the realm of criminality. Not only are there ethics issue which I anticipate starting tomorrow morning with the New York Bar association but also the criminal issues to deal with. From what it looks like from the outside without knowing all the details, this is a horrible job of money laundering that he was attempting to do.
LEMON: You think he is alleging that he committed a crime of money laundering. He was not part of the campaign. Barring that, you're saying that doesn't matter, as an attorney he can't do what he admitted to doing, you're saying.
SELLERS: As an attorney he can't ethically do what he admitted to with paying a fines or settlements out of his own pocket. Not being reimbursed that is one issue. There are a separate issue. Because people want to know where he got the $130,000 to pay from. What is it campaign dollars? Was it a donation? Was it any of these things? That is going to have to be answered. And he left more -- he left more questions unanswered today by making this wild statement. And let me point this out.
KINGSTON: Let me get.
LEMON: I'll let you get in, finish your thought.
SELLERS: Let me point out one thing just for context. And I think a lot of reporters miss this. This was not in further with the campaign, this was actually a very personal payment. Many people believe this was done to keep in from coming out from his wife Melania not to make sure that he want President of the United States, because at this time even Donald Trump didn't believe he was winning the presidency.
LEMON: Um-hum. Go ahead Jack.
KINGSTON: Let me see say this -- and Bakari is a lawyer and I'm not. I do know Michael Cohen I'm not sure if Bakari does.
SELLERS: I do.
KINGSTON: He is known to be a hardworking and smart guy and extremely close to the entire Trump family. And so I guess number one, if he -- say -- if he is saying he paid it personally he did pay it personally. He is the guy who has the means to pay something like that personally. Number two, it was also not a fine, not a judgment. It was not -- not a legal matter to my knowledge. Now I don't want to say I know exactly where it was. It could have maybe turned into a legal matter. I don't think it was at that level though. I don't think he would be saying.
[23:10:13] LEMON: You think he did it out of the goodness of his own heart, Jack.
KINGSTON: I think He did it because of a long-term relationship with the family, part of his relationship with the family is somewhat to protect them from things. But, you know, I just want to say this, because again, not a lawyer, don't know all the nuances, don't know where all the laws of New York City particular New York. But Michael Cohen is a very smart guy, very dedicated lawyer and he would not come out with a statement like this if.
LEMON: I'm sure he would check into whether there were ethics issues. Maybe it' something he overlooked. Wouldn't he know New York law, Bakari are you sure it's ethics issues
SELLERS: There is no question about the fact that Michael Cohen is a bull attorney, he is somebody that you want on your team. I can say that very truthfully. The fact is though I mean if you were being sued, Don you were a friend and I go out and receive a confidentiality statement from the person who is suing you or threatening to sue you and I pay that person out of my pocket I'm giving you as my client something very tangible. I'm paying you. You can't do that. That crossing an ethical line. The question of the connection to the campaign or the family or any of these other things, they raise questions of laundering. I'm not accusing him of that. But he has put himself in the eye of criminality and has to answer those questions. I have no doubt it was unethical. Everything they do is unethical.
LEMON: There is a proximity to the election date make a difference, Kaitlan, do you think.
COLLINS: That is the question a lot of people raised when this came up originally, that this payment had been made, this affair allegedly happened. Don it goes to show what kind of White House we are operating under. In wasn't a scandal that went on for weeks, it is a 48 hour scandal in the White House. It's a testament to show how many scandals this White House faces on a daily basis. This with Rob Porter being the latest and longest lasting that we had seen lately. But the Stormy Daniels things was certainly something that White House tried to brush under the rug and didn't address very well because they couldn't answer the questions. They referred a lot of them back to the campaign. If that shows you anything that this White House is drinking out of a fire hose.
LEMON: that has got to be the last one. Sorry jack I have to go, I am sorry. We're out of time, thank you very much everyone. I appreciate it. When we come back at a major hearing today the head of the FBI contradicts the White House on Rob Porter and the President's own security chiefs have a revelation on the Trump and Russia. I'm talking to the former head of the CIA. That is next.
[23:16:16] LEMON: The FBI Director Wray testifying in front of a Senate Intelligence Committee that the bureau handed over its final background investigation into Rob Porter in January. So why did the White House allow Porter to continue serving until the accusations publicly surfaced? Joining me now is Ambassador James Woolsey, the former Director of the CIA. So good to have you on sir. Good evening to you. The FBI Director testified that the bureau submitted information to the White House, some four times regarding Rob Porter, starting in March of last year. Is that an unusual number of times for the bureau to approach the White House?
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: I don't know. I never had anything to do with granting of security clearances. I sometimes had to apply for one. But the mechanism and delays and so forth is something I didn't have to deal with.
LEMON: So it didn't take you a year or longer to get a security clearance?
WOOLSEY: Well my first security clearance came when I was a lieutenant in the army. That was a fairly straightforward process as I recall.
LEMON: So his -- the security clearance -- Porter's security clearance brought to light the wider of issue of dozens of other high level White House staffers, including Jared Kushner, they are currently working out interim security clearance status. It's now over a year into the administration. How does that -- you said you're not sure about how that works. How does that sit with you that long someone doesn't have a permanent security clearance possibly seeing classified information and operating at the level that Jared Kushner is operating?
WOOLSEY: Well, the FBI used to conduct all the background investigations. But they've got a lot to do these days, to put it mildly. And contractors have gotten into doing the background investigations. And that sometimes has produced confusion and delay. And it's one of those aspects of government, at least in my experience, that doesn't work very well.
LEMON: What contractors? Because the FBI is saying they did the backgrounds. WOOLSEY: Well probably they did. I have no knowledge of this
particular case at all. But as a general proposition, contractors are frequently hired to do background investigations.
LEMON: The FBI are saying said in March of 2017 a partial report was submitted to the White House in July of 2017, the final report submitted to the White House. November of 2017 more information submitted to the White House based on follow up requests. And January of 2018, the FBI closed the file on the background investigation there. So the FBI is saying -- if you listen to Christopher Wray today, they didn't say anything about outsourcing information.
WOOLSEY: I'm not saying they did in this case. I was describing in general the way the clearance process is sometimes slow. And I think that' having to get contractors in is sometimes indicative of how the process can get slowed down.
LEMON: I take your point. But some 60 to 70 people in the White House still don't have permanent security clearances which is higher -- 30 to 40 I should say.
WOOLSEY: I don't know.
LEMON: Higher than previous administrations. It's 30 to 40.
WOOLSEY: I don't know where they stand what the process is. Normally security clearances secret level clearance you can get with what's called an agency check, checking to see if you were ever arrested or had a criminal record and basics like that. Takes a very short period of time. But you can only see classified information up to the level of secret. Beyond that, for top secret and the rest you need a full background investigation. And that takes a great deal of time.
[23:20:05] LEMON: James Clapper was on earlier.
WOOLSEY: A friend mine was.
LEMON: James Clapper mentioned the same thing and explained that to us as well, but I want to move on, because I think it is important, I want to you weigh in because you would have knowledge of this.
LEMON: Another big topic today is Russia. All the intelligence chiefs at the congressional hearing today were united in that Russia has and keeps trying to disrupt U.S. elections. I want you to listen to this and get your reaction. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokesman and other means to influence and try to build on the wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States. There should be no doubt that Russia perceived the past efforts were successful and views the 2018 U.S. Midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So ambassador, how does the intelligence community counter this threat when the President refuses to acknowledge the threat.
WOOLSEY: Whether the President is personally involved or not, this requires a substantial amount of effort. The Russians are never not interfering with their neighbors elections and cultures and their religions. They attack the Catholic Church. They are anti-Semitic, all of these things are planned as part of what the Russians call disinformation. And the spokesman, whoever that was, had a good take on it. That is the way they operate. And so I think it's really something that we have to spend a lot more time and effort on countering. And also, we don't just counter -- or shouldn't just be countering that kind of activity from the Russians or any other country. We need to find an effective way to retaliate without having to require bullets and so forth. We need to strategically, economically and otherwise find ways to undermine what they're doing and that is --
LEMON: That is a good point. Because today they made it very clear the President hasn't directly told them to investigator or try to figure out how to retaliate or counter Russian interference, just an overall threat.
WOOLSEY: Well, one thing one could do is radically increase the level of and the effectiveness of the sanctions, with which are relatively minor by the way they're done now. One could give special credit to automobile producers to be able to -- for cars to be able to run on more than one fuel. And if they can run on two, then you have a lot of increase in competition.
LEMON: I understand what you're saying.
WOOLSEY: And that means oil gets lower in price and that is one of the things the Russians would hate the most.
LEMON: What they testified to today was the President hasn't directed them to do any of this.
WOOLSEY: Well, previous Presidents I don't think have either. And this would be a learning experience for a lot of people I think in the administration, people perhaps who aren't familiar with some aspects of intelligence. And it would be a very good thing to get started on but it would be for much of the U.S. Government and the intelligence community dealing with this information will be a relatively new undertaking.
LEMON: Ambassador, thank you for your time. When we come back more on the warnings from the intelligence chiefs that Russia is still attempting to interfere in the elections. Our intel experts will break down the threat and the President's inaction, that is next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [23:28:23] LEMON: A stark warning today from top intelligence and
national security officials, Russia is actively targeting our 2018 midterm elections. I want to talk about this now with CNN national security analyst Nada Bakos, a former CIA analyst and CNN global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier. Good evening to both of you. Kim let's start with you. We have been hearing from the chiefs of all six intel agencies and they're unanimous. There should be no doubt that Russia will continue the efforts to disrupt the U.S. elections. It's been a year since this assessment is first made. Yet lawmakers still have to ask the question, why?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, CNN: Well I think everyone knows why Russia is doing it. I also think it's instructive for the American public to hear that all of the intelligence chiefs back in assessment. But it is disturbing for their people carrying out the intelligence collection, not to hear it from the commander in chief. One on the positive side, the people in the trenches get to do their jobs without too much interference from the President. But on the negative side, when you have a CIA officer out in the field trying to get someone to say, spy on the Russian government for them, they'll say, well, your President doesn't seem to have my back on this. Think of this the way the President thinks of the Pentagon. He sort of leaves to Mattis, leaves them be. But -- and he does the same with the CIA and the other intelligence agencies. But that also means he hasn't declared that his is a crisis like ISIS and gathered together all the elements of U.S. national power to go after it.
DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: Nada, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the Senate Intelligence Committee top Democrat warned the U.S. was not prepared to the handle to the Russian threat to U.S. elections heading into mid-terms. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN MARK WARNER, (D) VIRGINIA: We had more than a year to get the act together and address the threat posed by Russia and implement a strategy to deter further attacks. But I believe, unfortunately, we still don't have a comprehensive plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Is this true? Is America more vulnerable than ever?
NADA BAKOS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALSYT: You know, I think part of what he is talking about is what Kim just said, where the whole government approach is missing. If we are looking at just parts of the intelligence committee to go about identifying some of the issues that Russia is actual implementing, the cyber threats, it has to be a whole of government approach. I think part of what he is saying there is that this piece is missing. We need leadership from the White House to say, please go forward, protect our elections, work with state electoral officials, trying to figure out how to protect not only the election itself, but then dissuade Russia from influencing the public vote and the public opinion.
LEMON: Is this threat not being taken seriously by the administration, Kim?
DOZIER: Well, what I think is happening is the people beneath the oval office are taking it seriously. At the NSC, Pentagon, cyber command, NSA. They all see the threat every day. But one of the things Russia is able to do -- because you do see some clear blue water between that of the President position and that his national security team. They are able to work that seam. They can keep trying to divide through social media and bots, the ranks of the Trump supporters who see anything related to the Russian investigation or accusations of Russian interference as a way to tar the Trump administration and call it illegitimate. And that means Russia can then keep targeting between those factions and the people who believe that Russian hacking is real.
LEMON: You said the people below the oval office are calling it seriously. But the President is calling Russian meddling a hoax. How can you tell this community to do its job when with confidence when the president won't even acknowledge this threat?
DOZIER: Well, exactly. You talk to -- it's as if you are dealing with two White Houses. And you do kind of get that impression, that you talk to the national security people in the field, who are dealing with problem day in and day out, and they're frankly annoyed and sometimes completely flabbergasted with some of the things that come out of Trump's tweets or some of the things that they hear after he has a meeting with a high-ranking official. But, look, you have a President who was never deeply interested in foreign policy or foreign affairs and has sort of let that side of operations sort of go on auto pilot. Sometimes that is good. But sometimes that means you don't have the Presidential (inaudible) to stop those like Russian meddling.
LEMON: Nada, there was a requirement for President to impose new sanctions on Russia for meddling but so far the administration has avoided putting the sanctions into place. At this point, with so many mixed messages coming from in administration, would sanctions actually work to deter the Russians in any way?
BAKOS: I think it's worth trying. I mean, at this point even if we're talking about mixed messages between what the intelligence community leaders are saying on the hill and what's coming out of Trump's tweets, we have to implement measures of deterrence. If we don't do that, Russia will not take this seriously at all. Like Kim said, if there are two White Houses making decisions here, we need to make it very clear there at least one and one actually that is interested in taking action against Russia and using the Intelligence community and using our resources to implement these sanctions. Otherwise, I think it's what it's basically doing is saying our backyard is open, go ahead come right in, we're ok with it. The majority of America I don't think is ok with Russia being involved.
LEMON: Thank you, both. I appreciate your time. When we come back a fellow former marine calling on John Kelly to resign. He is going to join me next. I'll ask him to explain why he says Kelly has betrayed the country's trust.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [23:39:27] LEMON: So in the wake of the Rob Porter scandal at the
White House, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders insisting today that President Trump has confidence in Chief of Staff John Kelly. But others no longer do. An op-ed posted on CNN.com under the headline retired Marine John Kelly should resign. Calls on Kelly to step aside. Written by CNN national security analyst Shawn Turner himself who is a retired marine with 21 years of service and he joins me now. Thank you for joining us sir, I really appreciate it. I want to read some of your piece, ok.
SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Ok.
[23:40:00] LEMON: You say by all accounts Kelly had some early success. However, he continues to find himself at the center of a steady extreme of controversies largely of his own doing. The situation left many Americans dismayed and disappointed with his performance, but perhaps none more so than those who know Kelly best his fellow marines. You serve in the Marine Corps for more than two decades. So tell us about marines why are they disappointed with Kelly's performance?
TURNER: Well I think first of all I have an immense amount of respect for General Kelly's military service, he served more than 40 years in the Marine Corp and he had a reputation at a strong leader. That is in no small part why he is where he is today. But for a long time marines have been watching him in this position. And as we watch him we have had to tie ourselves in knots trying to understand some of the decisions that he made and some of the behavior that he exhibited. As I say in the piece, you know, marines are a peculiar bunch. We learn the set of values when we become marines and we carry those values with us throughout our entire lives. It doesn't matter if John Kelly is the head of DHS or Chief of Staff. There is an expectation among his fellow marines that he is going to uphold those value from the attack on the Florida congresswoman that turned out to be completely erroneous. To the unsavory comments that he made about DACA recipients. To this most recent incident where there is a truth that General Kelly knows he has not shared with us. It's gotten to a point where I think it's in the best interests of not only the country, but of John Kelly and the Marine Corps for him to go ahead and step aside.
LEMON: What do you think happened here? I mean is there something about working in this White House that you think changed him?
TURNER: You know, I have heard a lot of people say that he has change. I talked to a lot of people who worked with him. It's interesting, because you hear the same thing about Mike Flynn. You know, when General Kelly was announced as the new Chief of Staff there was an expectation that as opposed to seeking to meet the bar that our political discourse our political environment had sunk to, that he would raise that bar to the standards that marines are accustomed to holding to. I think he got in the environment and to the best I can tell as opposed to him influencing the environment, the environment influenced him. I think it's important, Don, to say, look -- we don't always get it right. As marines we obviously don't always get it right. We make mistakes. We screw up. I think that the difference here what's really bothering all of us is the fact that he clearly has screwed up and done things that are not in keeping with our values. But when we do that, what sets us apart is that we always know the right thing to do is to step forward and to speak up and say I screwed up. And that is the first step to, you know, getting on the road to redeeming yourself. And so far what he has done instead is every time he made -- had one of the missteps he doubled down on it. That behavior is the kind of thing that just isn't consistent with our values.
LEMON: Well I mean that is exactly what Donald Trump does as well. And you know, you mentioned, you said he never really takes responsibility for his own mistakes or even says I'm sorry, or I got that wrong, my apologies. You mentioned the time that Kelly attack Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, tried to discredit her saying that she took credit for getting money for the federal building. That was a lie. Even after the video revealed the truth Kelly refused to apologize. What do you think his motivation was for that?
TURNER: You know, I understand he had some history with her from one of his previous assignments where he was a head of a south com. I think, you know in terms of his motivation, I think that he had some existing animus toward her. And when he made the decision, really unusual to come to the White House press briefing room and to basically try to discredit her, I think that what he was doing -- I mentioned in in the article -- is he was leveraging that credibility that the American people bestow on him, because he is a marine general. It's just -- it's unconscionable that he and his team wouldn't have taken time to look and to see if his recollection of that event was accurate. So, you know, I think that, you know, he is a four-star marine general. And for him that means that people should believe him. That is something the American people give to military officers. But I think we have to be very careful about how we use that capital.
LEMON: I think anyone who has done their research doesn't believe him because it's there. The video speaks for itself. Shawn Turner, I appreciate it thank you so much.
TURNER: Thanks Don.
LEMON: When we come back, the president donating his fourth quarter salary to the Department of Transportation budget, but with all the money his budget is taking away from programs for Americans is his donation just a drop in the bucket?
[23:48:53] LEMON: The President's budget plan calls for billions of dollars in new funds for the military, also for the nation's deteriorating infrastructure. But big cuts to entitlement programs. Let's discuss now. CNN political commentators Tara Setmayer and Symone Sanders here. Also with me, Shermichael Singleton a Republican political consultant. Hello, all.
TARA SETMAYER FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR CONGRESSMAN DANA ROHRABACHER: Good evening.
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hello. Happy Mardi Gras and Happy (inaudible).
LEMON: Happy Valentine's Day. The White House is engulf on scandal. The President is promoting the infrastructure plan. And donating his fourth quarter salary to the Department of Transportation. Is this a deflection from all the chaos, Tara you first.
SETMAYER: Well it is infrastructure week, we didn't say happy infrastructure week again. Didn't they try this already once before?
SETMAYER: I forgot what blew up that week. It was out the window. Look, we all know that Trump likes to do things with some pomp and circumstance. And so I couldn't help but think today when they presenting the check and you had Elaine Ciao show up during the press conference.
[23:50:00] They seem to have special guests whenever Sarah Sanders want to take the heat and she knows he is coming. And with a little check there and the whole thing, reminding me of a game show. It was like, I don't know, it's just all very (inaudible) in a way. That is great that he is donating his salary. I think that is wonderful. That couple hundred thousand dollars that he is donating isn't going to make a damn bit of difference in the billions of trillions they are spending on infrastructure.
LEMON: Are you saying money doesn't buy you class?
SETMAYER: No, it doesn't. Especially with this White House. So, yeah. I mean --
SETMAYER: I just think, but what is interesting is that the budget and the budget process, people have to understand, that is just a document. Congress writes that legislation. The chance of that budget actually passing in its current form is absolutely zero. So, it's just their proposals. The fact that they're cutting Medicare and Medicaid is interesting since the President promised he wouldn't do it.
LEMON: I got him to answer Shermichael and Symone, go ahead Shermichael.
SHERMICHAEL SINGELTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think Tara is right. You know what's so funny, this is the only thing Donald Trump has been consistent with. Giving his salary away. When you think about all the different things he is talked about when he ran for President, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that, most of those things he is fallen short on. Giving his salary to change the narrative, that is not going to be enough. There's so much scandal riddled at this White House. It would take far more than $400,000 to change the topic on this.
SETMAYER: He is and still giving away other people's money. Right, that is not even his money it is taxpayers. LEMON: We don't know if he really gives it away. We don't --
SANDERS: Because we don't see his tax returns.
LEMON: That is right. That is true.
SETMAYER: We don't have the receipts.
SANDERS: We don't have the receipts. Look, I think the interesting about, and, you know, yes, I think it's a good thing that the President is being consistent on at least something. I know folks think I don't have anything nice to say about Donald Trump, there you go. But when it comes to the President's budget, yes, Tara's right, you know, it's congress that really decides the budget, but our colleague Van Jones said last night that this budget is going to take the value from the president, this budget balloon the deficit by $7 trillion. What does this say when it was Republicans that railed against Obama for ballooning the deficit, who, Republicans who were supposed to be the Party of, you know, fiscal conservative, and you had your Republican President introducing this budget that is everything but that.
LEMON: What would have happened if Barack Obama had introduced this budget?
SINGELTON: Don, if President Obama --
SINGELTON: Republicans would have gone berserk. They would have say, this is outrageous, he is wasting taxpayer dollars, he is going to bankrupt the economy.
SANDERS: Mortgaging our kids' futures.
SINGELTON: Rand Paul made a lot of good points when he was in the senate, last week he was talking about all the different inconsistencies with Republicans from statements we made years ago during the Obama administration, we have now forgotten about. We are no longer the Party of fiscal conservative --
SANDERS: Rand Paul also voted for this Republican budget.
SIDNER: Well, again, I agree, it is a bit hypocritical of Rand Paul, but at least he made a point of saying, look guys, it is either we're going to be the part of fiscal responsibility or are we going to be the party of waste. You can have it both ways I think right now we are the party of waste. We are doing what we blame Democrats for doing 8 years during the Obama time.
SETMAYER: That started even under George W. Bush with Medicare part B when that was passed, and that was where, like, you saw the beginning of the fiscal conservative Republicans really saying, what are we doing here, it was a consistent problem. And then after what happened under Obama, where our deficit, and our debts and everything were exploding, you know, the tea Party was born. Now, if anybody has any question if the tea Party is officially dead, it's dead now. If you are a Republicans that are supportive of this kind of spending at these levels, talk about infrastructure projects which often become boondoggles, you can't kill the tea Party off any more than this. So, it's going to be very interesting to see how the freedom caucus and the budget hawks, are they really going to go along with this? If so, I mean, what does the Republican Party stand for?
SINGELTON: Absolutely not. This is a midterm election cycle. There's no way a chance the Republicans are going to go back to their congressional districts or back to those states where those Senators are going to have to face governors, those state legislators and tell them why they are supporting this outrageous budget that came from the White House. I don't expect this to go anywhere.
SANDERS: We got earmarks back.
LEMON: Hold on Symone, the President wants to drastically scale back food stamps, replace them with a food box delivery program, called America's harvest. Ok, there's that. Then, in fiscal 2019, President Trump will propose cutting entitlement programs, $1.7 trillion, including Medicare and Medicaid. And then the budget also calls for a whopping $18 billion to construct a southern border wall. People, please do your homework as it comes to a wall.
[23:55:00] Border security and wall are not the same things. They're not interchangeable. You can have border security without spending $18 billion for a wall. And it's much more efficient, actually, border security. More border agents, than just building a wall that people are going to climb over or dig under. Symone, go.
SANDERS: Exactly, Don. And so, what I think folks, Americans watching tonight should understand is that this budget that the Trump administration, the Trump White House has put forward is just a continuation of what, this GOP tax scam. This is literally a budget that robs, I said it last night and say it again, Peter, Paul, Sara, Maria, to pay for the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. At the end of the day --
LEMON: I have to go.
SANDERS: The GOP has purported they are the Party of everyday people, they are fighting for middle class folks, the little guy and they're not. This budget is a statement of their values and I hope people are paying attention.
LEMON: All right facts. I don't want people to think, like, they have before, and that I'm ending early and walking off the show. I just have to -- it's time to go. I've never ended early, never walked off the show. Come on now. Put Symone back up there. Symone stay with me. Facts.
SANDERS: Come on now. I'm with you. Happy black history month.
LEMON: Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. Hope you have a sweetheart. And to you at home, as well. Good night. See you tomorrow.