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CNN TONIGHT

Mueller Indicts 13 Russians For Election Interference; President Trump Responds To Indictments, No Collusion; Vigils Begin As Student Demands Action On Guns; Florida Students Speaking Out And Demanding Change; Group Chat Message Shows Shooter Obsessed With Race, Violence And Guns; White House Statement, POTUS Says He Never Had A Relationship With Former Playboy Model Karen McDougal. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired February 16, 2018 - 23:00   ET

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


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[23:00:35] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: This is CNN tonight. I'm Don Lemon. It's 11:00 p.m. here on the east coast. Live with all the new developments right now in the Russian investigation. 13 Russians indicted charged with attempting to interfere with the 2016 Presidential election. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says the Russians conducted what they called information warfare against the United States. Yes they used those words. Information warfare. What does is the President do about this threat to American democracy? He puts mouth a statement saying we must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and elections. But you have to wonder whether the President really wants to do anything since his own intelligence chiefs testified just this week that he has not specifically directed them to take action against Russia.

We'll also go live to Florida, where two days after 17 of their classmates and teachers were gunned down, and as vigils are held for the victims. Students in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are making a passionate plea, demanding that this country do something about America's gun epidemic before the next shooting. And we're learning more exclusively about the shooter. Group chat messages show he was obsessed with race, violence and guns. More on that in just a moment.

But I want to get to the latest on the Russia investigation first. CNN global affairs analyst David Rohde is here, political analyst Carl Bernstein here and legal analyst Laura Coates. But here in Washington everyone else is in New York. Thank you all for joining us. David I'm starting with you. I want to play what A.G. Rod Rosenstein said today when announcing the indictments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The defendants conducted what they called information warfare against the United States. With the stated goal of spreading distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Information warfare. Distrust in the candidates and the political system in general. What do you think?

DAVID ROHDE, GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, CNN: I'm amazed at the brazenness of the campaign at the intensity and sophistication. And I think Vladimir Putin was definitely personally involved and he wanted to get Hillary Clinton -- I've had former CIA officials tell me before all of this came out how they felt U.S. intelligence activities were increasing cautious and the Russians were taking more risks. Again this was far more risk involved and much more aggressive than I actually expected we'd learn.

LEMON: Carl, I want to bring you in do you read anything else in the special counsel where he may be going with this? Is this all of it?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well no. It's a step. And I think the language of the indictments is very interesting on that count. Because it refers specifically to this series of indictments and leaves room for additional indictments. It's quite careful about that in laying the groundwork for possibly further indictments. But more important than that we saw Rod Rosenstein up there as the fact he delivered this news. If you would have talked to somebody in the White House four days ago, they would have told you that the President is determined to replace Rod Rosenstein in the next few weeks.

He wants this investigation buried and the way to do that is through getting rid of Rosenstein. It's going to be very difficult after today if not impossible for the President of the United States to get rid of Rod Rosenstein who became today the spokesman for this investigation and its integrity. And also was saying, I believe, in a way, the President of the United States is not above the law. That is part of the message of him getting up there today. I think -- this was a seismic event.

LEMON: As (inaudible) use to say things are making you go hmm. Because when I turned on the television, first I got a note saying are you watching the news. I turned it on. I said what is Rod Rosenstein doing on my television set? That was a pretty good assessment. I thought the same thing. It was interesting to see him up there. Laura this is referred to as a conspiracy carried out with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign. I mean, the President and his team say this means that there is no collusion. Does it mean that?

LAURA COATES, CNN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL ANALYST: No, it doesn't. I know they're hanging every thread to show maybe there is exoneration and to preempt any condemnation of themselves or members of the inner circle. But the actual indictment speaks little to the issue of collusion, not because there is absence of it. But in fact what they're trying to do is to find in otherwise nebulous term.

[23:05:05] One of the complains that he had is, what is collusion, how is it define and what is that mean, what are the legal elements in the criteria needed to actually to establish you have collusion? Well what Mueller has done is given different categories of information that he believes are unlawful behavior that are linked to specific types of laws. For example campaign finance. The ideas of having people identified themselves before they actually make either investments or try to influence an election, or they try to nefariously hide identity for a variety of reasons. Foreign administration act involvement there. You have the issue of money laundering. All different categories of information that quite frankly resonate with Manafort, Gates, Donald Jr. accusations against him, all this categories of information are more about Mueller's investigation team and their strategy about trying to figure out what collusion would look like and what you would hang your hat on for a legal hook of each of the things.

LEMON: Yes, it is interesting David, because the President has been calling the Russian interference, a hoax, a witch hunt. Now his own Justice Department is coming out alleging that this happened all along with his own intelligence officials. Does the President stand along with, you know, maybe his Republican allies in congress here.

ROHDE: I think he is increasingly isolated. I agree with Carl it was powerful that Rod Rosenstein made the statement. He has personally associated himself with the investigation and it makes it harder for Trump to fire him.

LEMON: And Mueller.

ROHDE: Mueller, definitely, I mean this is a huge I think statement publicly by Rod Rosenstein that he supports Mueller, that this investigation is about the integrity of American democracy and there is nothing more important than that. In terms of the isolation, again all of our top intelligence chiefs in a polite way rebuking the President earlier this week at this hearing. And then Paul Ryan today, making a strong statement far stronger than the President. He is very isolated on the Russia investigation. I said it before. That doesn't mean he will not fire Robert Mueller. I still think there is a chance he will do that. Losing his temper. It would be incredibly foolish to do it. But I still think there is a chance.

LEMON: I have a question that is about Bannon. Because Adam Schiff said that Steve Bannon will likely be held in contempt of congress after for refusing to answer questions before the House Intelligence Committee. But he answered all the questions posed by Mueller's team. Mueller's counsel team over the course of two days this week. Why would he not cooperate with congress, but cooperating with the special counsel? What's the difference?

BERNSTEIN: I could only speculate. But one supposedly he is claiming that the White House is asserting an executive privilege and keeping him from testifying before the committees on the hill. Now, whether that is true or not or the extent to which the White House is doing that, I don't know. I think his options are much more limited with the special prosecutor, that he doesn't have much protection there. And that he has to answer legitimate questions. And that is what's going on.

LEMON: Yes. COATES: And you know also.

LEMON: Go ahead, Laura.

COATES: To that point, think about it. Mueller's power could lead him to incarceration.

LEMON: Right.

COATES: Congressional power could lead him to getting perhaps a slap on the wrist or being scorned in the public square. But there is not a whole lot of things that congress can do if they hold him in contempt. They have still have to rely on the Department of Justice and a federal Judge to be able to actually make the contempt stick and have a penalty attached. And so I'm sure he is far more cooperative with Mueller's team, because there is a criminal penalty attached to that. And frankly the alternative is much more pleasing to him if not entirely benign.

LEMON: All right Laura, I have to ask this, remember the reporting that saying Flynn was somehow making a deal with the special counsel and would plea to cop to something and was cooperating and everybody said it was fake news and turns out to be real. Now you have Rick Gates doing the same thing. What's going on here?

COATES: Well Rick Gates of course, you know he was charged in tandem with Paul Manafort, his long-time associate. His right-hand man for years. And of course remember when he was famously indicted -- had the arraigned he didn't have an attorney present. He was worrying about who was representing him. There was a delay having the charges read against him for a variety of reason. Now we found out he has been speaking with Robert Mueller team and had a queen for a day toward investigative meeting. That interview essentially is where you are able to give all the information and answer question about your actual charges that are against you right now in that 12-page indictment without additional penalties attached.

Essentially tell us everything that may help us in the investigation and possibly a flip against Manafort. But you got to remember, before any prosecutor, any reasonable prosecutor who has most of the chips in their favor, before they would entertain that conversation, the information they're hoping to receive has got to be credible, has to be helpful and can't be gotten from anywhere else in the world. And so if he is having these sort of meetings, having these discussions, if he is talking about being a cooperator, it's really bad news for Paul Manafort.

[23:10:11] LEMON: Yes.

BERNSTEIN: It could go farther than that because Rick Gates traveled with the President through the campaign. They spoke frequently during the transition. He was also elemental to the transition, spoke with the President then. And also if indeed Donald Trump is truthful in saying there is no there, and I have not, quote, colluded in any way, its possible Rick Gates could be the person who would exonerate him.

ROHDE: Exonerate the president.

LEMON: I got to ask this question

BERNSTEIN: He is a crucial witness.

LEMON: I got to ask the question quickly because today the White House chief of staff ordered overhaul of security clearances saying certain people with temporary won't have access to certain information. Are you surprised by the changes, David?

ROHDE: It's about time.

LEMON: About time.

ROHDE: They've had a systemic problem with in.

LEMON: This that includes Jared Kushner. How do you solve Middle East peace without getting certain security clearances? Thank you when we come back we'll go live to Florida, to talk to grieving students who are demanding action on guns as they mourn their lost classmates and teachers that as we are learning more about the shooter tonight. Including group chat messages stating his intention of becoming a professional school shooter.

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[23:15:00] LEMON: Two days since the latest school shooting rampage in this country. 17 students and teachers killed by an ex-student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school. Tonight there was a vigil for the victim at a park near the school. 17 angels on a stage with candles flowers and signs demanding action on guns. Joining me now three students who are at that vigil, Jack Haimowitz, Joy Mondelli and Vincent Frettoloso or Vinnie as he likes to be called. Thank you all for joining us. You guys are so strong. And tell me about the hair you guys all ended up dying hair the same color. Tell me why.

JOEY MONDELLI, STUDENT AT MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: Yeah, our great friend Juaquin Oliver he passed in the shooting. And he was a huge fan of the musical artist Frank Ocean. And Frank Ocean released an album titled blond where on the album cover he had blond hair. Our friend Joaquin dyed his hair blond to commemorate that album.

JACK HAIMOWITZ, STUDENT AT MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: It's just whenever we see ourselves in the mirror with the blond hair it's even more greater semblance that Juaquin is always with us because that is what matters.

VINCENT FRETTOLOSO, STUDENT AT MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: It's a piece of him with us.

LEMON: You guys are so amazing. I can't really explain. That is great that you did that. And I'm so happy that you're here. And I want you to talk about -- we have been hearing a lot from politicians in the wake of in tragedy. And I'd like your perspective on what you think politicians need to know about what you experienced.

HAIMOWITZ: Well, there is nothing to really be said other than -- other than the fact that the first step when dealing with a situation like this is to address love, reconciliation, comfort and just support for the peers and the people who have been directly involved and impacted by this situation. And then you proceed to address the political agenda regarding gun violence and gun control. Because the only way for us to move forward with this issue is for us to be able to come to terms with it and become a family at first. And as far as what we felt in that moment and at the vigil, I've never experienced a greater feeling of unity, family and support by my people.

LEMON: You guys are -- you know, you talked about your friend Juaquin how he liked Frank Ocean. And it appears that great diversity at the school. You're young open-minded kids. CNN learned that in a private Instagram message the shooter espoused racist homophobic anti-Semitic views in addition to obsessed with guns and violence and race. Were you guys aware of that? Were your friends aware of any of this?

MONDELLI: Nobodies was aware that he was anything like that. We always knew he was kind of a secluded. Didn't talk to anybody. But nobody saw that in him, you know.

HAIMOWITZ: No one could predict this.

LEMON: Go on, say again.

HAIMOWITZ: No one can really predict this. This is- this is something you watch on TV, not something you experience inside of a classroom, not something that you experience texting your friends to see if you're still going to be able to talk to them tomorrow morning.

FRETTOLOSO: Yeah, it is -- he went off the charts, like we -- you know him in middle school used to be the crazy kid always doing something like stupid and all for the humor of other students. And at that time we were all immature. We didn't -- we laughed at it. And once we went to high school I saw him periodically. And for the past, like, year I don't think I saw him. And I think I saw him like last year. And I haven't seen him since.

LEMON: Yeah. I want to read this. And Joey perhaps you can respond. It's a part of an open letter that was written by another student at your high school. It says this tragedy is about a gun. My best friend texted me as the tragedy began and his text read second fire drill today. I hear gunshots. We're about to die. His text did not read, I hear a mental illness we're about to die. I hear a sick minded person, we're about to die. The text read, I hear gunshots and we're about to die. Can you relate to this, Joey?

MONDELLI: Yes, I mean, I walked out of my classroom when the fire alarm went off. And we just thought it was another fire drill, you know. We didn't think anything of it. We have fire drills all the time. We're used to walking out getting in our specific areas for fire drills. And then I hear gunshots. And everyone kind of realized like it was a real thing. And we all ran back to classrooms. [23:20:00] LEMON: Vincent, instead you said you don't have a

particularly strong opinion on guns, but you do on security. What are your thoughts on that?

FRETTOLOSO: Well, I really think security should be armed. And I think we should have more security at our schools. We really only have one officer at our school at all times. And he is not -- I don't want to say he is incapable of protecting us, because he is not incapable. But it's impossible to kind of save us in that situation, you know.

LEMON: With so many students.

FRETTOLOSO: Like I think if we had more people -- yeah. If we had people in every building who are armed this could have easily been prevented.

LEMON: Jack, something that has stood out to about the students of your high school is how outspoken and how knowledgeable you all are about the issues surrounding this horrible event. Are you optimistic speaking out about this can really bring real change?

HAIMOWITZ: The only thing that is keeping me happy right now is knowing that this is it. This is the end. Because with these words, with every single student speaking out, this is it. Because people don't listen to politicians. People want to hear from those experiencing it. And this is the first time on any sort of scale on any platform anywhere in the country where people of my age are able to speak out right about something that is so quintessential to the safety of the lives of so many people. And having the ability to speak and voice your opinion and demand that you will be heard is something that marks ever single Douglas student. And I'm proud to wear the letters because I know every single one of my family members in that school will be representing us and will be speaking because we know that change is coming.

LEMON: Um-hum. So let's talk more about this then. Let's -- because you know, I read the letter from the student of -- or the text from the student, and it said you know, he -- no one said I hear mental illness. They said I hear gunshots. The President blamed the shooting on mental health. And he said nothing about a gun issue. I'm just wondering if you guys had the opportunity, because the President was there. If you had the opportunity to meet with him what would you say to him?

HAIMOWITZ: If I were to be able to meet with the President, I would just let's him know that you can -- you never take the bullets out of the gun. In this situation, the shooter is going to do anything they can to carry out their goals. And we can't take the bullets out of his gun. We can just put on the vest. That vest has to be metal detectors in schools. If it has to be that, if it has to be giving guns to security officers, just -- we can't stop the people from thinking. But we can make it harder for them to act and we can make it impossible for them to touch us.

LEMON: What do say Joey? HAIMOWITZ: That is the only thing I'd be willing to say.

MONDELLI: I think I would tell him it's not about mental illness. Obviously that is a big factor, because no person in their right mind can go and shoot up a school like this. But I think that we really need to have better background checks. This kid was diagnosed with autism, I believe at age 11. This kid really should not have been able to acquire a gun legally or at all. So I just think I would tell him, yeah, it is somewhat about mental illness, I guess, but in reality, it really is more about the guns.

LEMON: You know mentally ill people are less prone to violence than the general population and usually violence is usually thrown upon the person mentally ill. I don't want to speak about mentally ill people and further stigmatize them. It's that this person should not have been able to do it you guys understand that, right.

MONDELLI: Yes.

HAIMOWITZ: Yeah.

FRETTOLOSO: Yes.

HAIMOWITZ: He wanted to hurt people.

MONDELLI: We have known him since sixth grade. He has loved to hurt. We can't do anything about that.

LEMON: Yeah. So listen, I understand you guys wanted time to speak to the folks. So you've got the floor. What do you want to say?

HAIMOWITZ: If there is anything that the people of America need to know, it's that it's one thing to remember, it's another thing to never forget. And Stoneman Douglas is a name that must live on in your heads, in your hearts and in your actions every single day. None of what I'm saying right now is premeditated none of this is spoken, written to me by anybody. Everything that I'm saying right now comes from the heart. Because I know for a fact the only way that we are going to move forward as a country is if we come together as a family. And the only thing that is going to keep us together as a family is love and support. Juaquin.

[23:25:00] MONDELLI: I think you have to go and tell everybody you know that you love them because you don't know when the last time you will see them is. I woke up, went to school. Didn't know if I would come home. I don't remember if I told my parents I loved them that day, you know. You could literally be taken from this earth and you would never be able to tell your family that you loved them, you know. I don't know when the last time I told Juaquin that I appreciated his jokes, that I loved him, that I liked being around him, you know, like the one thing everyone needs to know is go and tell everybody you know that you love them.

FRETTOLOSO: I think that no child and no kid, no one should ever have to go to school and feel like they're going to die that day. It is just -- it's just terrible. And I think that if anyone is going to stop this from happening, it's going to be everyone in Parkland, because.

MONDELLI: Yes.

FRETTOLOSO: We came together as a community. And we have -- it's been spreading so much love. And without that, I really don't know where I'd be right now. And I know we're going to make change, because change is well overdo.

MONDELLI: The one thing you can say is remember the faces because we're not done. You'll know when we're done.

LEMON: You guys are fantastic. Thank you so much.

MONDELLI: Thank you.

LEMON: Best of luck if we do anything there let us know.

HAIMOWITZ: Thank you.

LEMON: We'll be right back.

FRETTOLOSO: Never stop saying Stoneman Douglas.

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[23:31:13] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: Breaking news tonight, confessed Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz wants to plead guilty to murdering the 17 victims as a way to avoid the death penalty. That word from the Broward county public defender office. But there no word from prosecutors who need to agree not to ask for capital punishment and instead agree to life without parole.

Also breaking tonight new images including a photo of him hold ago gun at a window, showing him wearing a flak jacket, one where he is also wearing an orange cap and a photo of him wearing a uniform. We're learning exclusively tonight that group chat messages show the shooter was obsessed with race, violence and guns. Let's bring in James Allan Fox a professor of criminology at Northeastern University. Pardon me extreme killing.

JAMES ALLEN FOX, PROFESSOR OF CRIMINOLOGY NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: That is ok.

LEMON: Understanding serial and mass murder. Yes, I know there is a big difference there. Thank you for correcting me.

ALLEN FOX: Sure.

LEMON: Welcome to the program. Good evening to you. Some of the things he wrote -- he says I hate Jews, n word immigrants, after one group member said he hated gay people, Cruz wrote shoot them in the back of the head. On payday Cruz let the group know that he planned on spending the money on body armor. He then asked the group if it was legal to wear body armor to school. Someone asked him why he wanted to know and he wrote I think I'm going to kill people. We are way, way behind on red flags aren't we? My goodness. ALLEN FOX: He also told them he was joking when they called him on

it. Yeah, the red flags are obvious in the aftermath. That is the thing about it. There are a lot of yellow flags for lots of people out there. He is not the only one who hates Jews and blacks and gays and not the only one who has written awful things on the internet or made videos that are disgusting and crude and violent. The issue here is how predictable that behavior is. With hindsight, well that is 20/20. Now, I know that we can bemoan the tips that were not passed down to the ranks. But think about how many tips there are every year about people who are all talk, who want to be big shots, but never actually take a shot. That is the problem. We'd like to be able to predict the behavior, but we really can't.

LEMON: Yeah. James is it common for people who commit these crimes or these kinds of crimes to have such extremist views?

ALLEN FOX: Sure. Look at Dylan Ruth in South Carolina. There are a number of mass killers who are filled with hate, anger and often times they go after certain groups of people that they despise. See, they're often individuals who themselves are failures, but they blame other people for their problems. And they want to get even. This man certainly does fit the profile of a mass killer. Someone who is a failure, a failure at school, someone who has suffered loss, the loss of his adoptive mother. And someone who is fascinated with violence and hence full of hate. But, you know that description is not unique. It fits lots of people out there. Fortunately most of whom will only dream and fantasize about killing but never turn the anger into action.

LEMON: Have you seen, James, other cases where this many warning signs were missed.

ALLEN FOX: Yeah, there are. And the good news is that we are so aware now of the possibility of school shootings that we have seen many averted cases.

[23:35:00] In fact just one the other day in Washington State. Individuals who talk big, who talk about wanting to shoot, maybe even have guns, and they're turn in by relatives, by friends. Now, whether they actually would have carried out their -- their fantasies is questionable. But the good news is that people have taken it seriously. You know, the problem here is that is not a perfect system. There never is. It's difficult to predict behavior. If we try to lock up every single Nikolas Cruz who talked like he did, yet didn't have a criminal record, I'm not sure what we do with all those people.

LEMON: Interesting. From what we have learned so far. What are the most significant characteristics of this gunman, do you think?

ALLEN FOX: Well, of course only guns. And the kinds of guns. And a 19-year-old really has no business with guns like this. I think there's been lots of talk about that too. I do want to say something about the mental health angle. I'm glad you said something to the courageous kids a moment ago about this confusion between mental illness and mass murder. The fact is that most mass killers are not mentally ill in a severe way. Sure they may be depressed and angry and maladjusted. But they don't hear voices, they are not people who would be committed. The problem is we're always talking about mental health and access to mental treatment in the aftermath of a shooting. Why don't we talk about that three weeks from now? Why are we so concerned about mentally ill is it because we want -- we care about the wellbeing of the mentally ill? No because we care about the wellbeing of the people that they may shoot. Which only adds to the stigma as you indicated.

LEMON: Also we want to place the blame on something else other than the obvious, as you said, the most significant characteristic of this man was the guns and that is it.

ALLEN FOX: And the blame is on Cruz. And I know -- the governor wants to blame folks in law enforcement. And it's unfortunate that the word didn't get through. But the real culprit here is the person who pulled the trigger.

LEMON: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. James Allen Fox.

ALLEN FOX: Any time.

LEMON: When we come back allegations that a former playboy play mate had an affair with Donald Trump early in his marriage to Melania and the national enquirer helped keep it secret. Ronan Farrow joins me next with more on his bombshell new report.

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[23:40:15] LEMON: A new blockbuster report in the New Yorker details allegations of an affair between Donald Trump and a playboy playmate and highlights what may have been systematic efforts to cover up stories that could be damaging to Trump. The affair allegedly began 2016 a year and a half after Donald married Melania Trump and just months after their son Baron was born. Joining me now is the man who broke the story. Ronan Farrow. Ronan good to see you, you are breaking the stories left and right really.

RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR THE NEW YORKER: Thank you.

LEMON: You detailed this alleged affair between businessmen, Donald Trump before he was president, a playboy playmate, her name is Karen McDougal. The White House is denying this. The bigger part of the story to me is about how Donald Trump and his allies tried to keep it out of the press.

FARROW: All right this is a system of clandestine meetings and intermediaries in the tabloid media and legal packs that kept stories quiet. In this case there is a woman at the heart of it that signed up for the silence but also says that is been onerous that she didn't fully understand the implications and that now she regrets that.

LEMON: Apparently they paid her $150,000 at the national enquirer, paid for the story so they wouldn't have to run it. It's called catch and kill, right? FARROW: Catch and kill is a term commonly referred in the tabloid

media that refers to inquiring a story with the intention of burying it. And the interesting Don is that I talked to numerous former employees of AMI where the media company for this story. And they talk about the leverage, in influence that provides over the person whose dirt is being acquired.

LEMON: They promised to do certain things for her and that never came to fruition.

FARROW: That is a matter of dispute between McDougal and the company. McDougal feels that there were unfulfilled promises there. We talk a little bit about the number of columns she was promise in so far, but one thing that seems apparent from the voluminous communications that we obtained for the story is they contacted her intermittently over the past year after initially being very keen on locking this down leading up to the election. They buried the story for the election it would seem. That was the effect of this. And then after the Stormy Daniels story broke more recently there was a resumption of interest. You know what had been sporadic contact became much more intensive. And there were overt efforts to get new contracts.

LEMON: Did they amend her contract?

FARROW: More recently they have not.

LEMON: Let's talk about the pattern of catch and kill, because you include a quote in your piece, it is from Jerry George a former senior and editor publisher of the Enquirer. Says we never printed a word about Trump without his approval. How does Donald Trump have that kind of influence at the Enquirer?

FARROW: I don't know how literally he means that Trump given him approval. We don't report in this piece that Donald Trump ordered this operation. However, David Pecker, the head of AMI has on the record publicly said that he is a loyal friend of Donald Trump's. And here again, you know we talked to six former employees who said that this is a publication that was doing work on behalf of the President in their view.

LEMON: No direct indication he had anything to do with burying it.

FARROW: That is not what we're reporting.

LEMON: In terms of the actual affair when was it and what did Karen say happened.

FARROW: Karen McDougal met Donald Trump at a Party at the playboy mansion in 2006. And this initiated an affair of many months. This was bear in mind several months after the birth of Barron Trump.

LEMON: It was during the Apprentice.

FARROW: It was actually a taping of the episode of the apprentice at that mansion, you can look up the footage where she appears in this group shots. She talks about him treating her well and her being impress and finding him polite and smart. This was a consensual affair. However it illustrates a set of commonalities between many allegations of consensual affairs and also other women claimed that they were non-consensual advances and also this machine that you describe.

LEMON: Very similar recently to the allegations by Stormy Daniels.

FARROW: Many commonalities.

LEMON: Many commonalities.

FARROW: Offering money for sex shows up in a number of claims by different women. Offering purchases of real estate shows in a number of them and McDougal's story.

LEMON: She alleges she wrote down her account that he offered her money after sex and she said what.

FARROW: She said I'm not that kind of girl. And was hurt by this.

LEMON: You also wrote that Karen McDougal met members of the president's family and gave a tour of the Trump properties. In Trump tower McDougal wrote Trump pointed out Melania separate bedroom. She likes her space, McDougal wrote to read or to be alone. What do readers supposed to make of that?

FARROW: You know I think in many ways there was an elaborate system design to conceal the affair. She talks about Donald Trump flying her to various properties around the country and various events. But then secretly reimbursing her for instance. She did meet the family according to her account of events.

[23:45:12] LEMON: 15 women had come forward accusing the President either of non-consensual touching or of consensual affairs. And again, just because this corroborates some of the methods and mechanism used or allegedly used by Donald Trump and his organization around affairs and around the allegations. That he completely denies.

FARROW: That is right. I think one of the important things here is that we now have a proliferation of different stories about that he now President Trump -- and they corroborate each other.

LEMON: Let's talk more about the extent of the sourcing and reporting, because the enquirer said we didn't print it because we didn't find it credible.

FARROW: That is right. Obviously as is always the case we gave the enquirer and the parent company and the AMI and White House for ample opportunity to input on this and those comments are in the story. The White House says never a relationship and this is fake news. The AMI says it wasn't credible.

LEMON: Why did she go public now?

FARROW: She talked about over the past year -- this is present day on the record, she did feel she had to say even as frightened as she was, seeing women come forward, even though she acknowledged it's different since it was consensual she talked about the me too movement and made her braver and made her recognize the costs of silence and the importance of speaking out about the silencing of women by powerful men. She said she hopes her speaking inspire other women to do the same.

LEMON: I don't know if you can answer this question, but I will ask any way. Do you think this will make a difference with the President with the supporters?

FARROW: You know, Don it's not for me to say whether a story moves the needle or not. But I think that actually her message there, that women's voices can be powerful and that there are acute costs to the silencing of women is one that needs to be heard. And is true for a lot of different women and a lot of different situations.

LEMON: Always a pleasure. Thank you Ronan.

FARROW: Thank you Don, feeling is mutual. Good to be here.

LEMON: When with he come back, much more on the pattern that seems to be emerging about President Trump's behavior when it comes to women. Plus, why Melania Trump drove to air force one today without her husband.

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[23:51:94] LEMON: Here we go again. Another potentially embarrassing story for Donald Trump about an alleged affair and a major hint that the first lady is not happy about it. I want to bring in now CNN political commentator Tara Setmayer and Alice Stewart. So, listen, I don't mean to be cheeky about this but it's true. Here we go again. I'm sure you heard this Ronan Farrow explosive story alleging President Trump had an affair with a former playmate while married to Melania. The White House didn't explicitly deny it. They just called it more fake news. What do you think?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's not fake news. It's consistent with Donald Trump's pattern of behavior his entire adult life. Let's not forget this was a guy who carried out a very public affair on the front pages of the New York tabloids when he was married to his first wife Ivana. This is clear that he hasn't changed at all. So what did Melania think, he was going to be a different person, all of the sudden, you know to transform into a decent guy? No, that is why they have the second bedroom and he was a busy guy. Apparently this playboy model and then Stormy Daniels, it was going on at the same time. And they used the same lawyer by the way to have these pay offs going on. I mean this is who Donald Trump is, and I think it is despicable. A lot of people warned about this. It was all evident on his Howard Stern appearance.

LEMON: But that didn't matter. He was still elected. So I'm sure it won't matter now to supporters. It may matter to I don't know independents or --

SETMAYER: Right, it will. Because you're seeing a shift in women right now. His polling numbers are terrible.

LEMON: Alice, what do you say about this?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: My heart goes out to Melania. It's bad enough to have a husband facing all these incredible allegations of infidelity, but to have it displayed publicly and my heart goes out to her. And I don't blame her from exhibiting some independence from him, not wanting to take the walk of shame across the south lawn today. I don't blame her.

LEMON: Let me tell what happen now Alice and I will let you weigh back in because she broke with tradition, drove by herself to marine one instead of the traditional south lawn walk with the President. What kind of statement with that?

STEWART: It says I don't want to sit there and pretend like everything's ok when it's clearly not, and I don't blame her. And in a lot of these opportunities where it's protocol or standard operating procedure to show your support, she just can't do it, and I don't blame her. If I can touch on one thing you talked with Ronan about, the influence of friends of this President that have been able to hide and exploit certain stories, you talked about the catch and the kill with this certain story, where they capture this playmate's story and killed it. If you recall back when Ted Cruz was running for President, we had Donald Trump's friend, Roger Stone, create some story and pitch it to David Pecker who was more than happy to display on the national inquirer. So it was hatch and fill. So they hatched a phony story and filled the pages of the national inquiry about some bogus story about Ted Cruz having five affairs to discredit him and to help boost Donald Trump. So this is just another example of using friends in the media for your own personal benefit.

SETMAYER: And yet they are the ones that yells, that scream fake news and they're the purveyors of it.

LEMON: It was surprising to me, and again you mentioned she did it for the state of the union because that was when the Stormy Daniels story was coming out, and then she pulled out of the trip to Davos at the last minute. I'm sure she'll probably continue exert independence as Alice said. Why don't you feel sorry for her?

[23:55:08] SETMAYER: Yeah, I don't feel sorry for her. I mean, she chose to marry Donald Trump. She knew who he was. He was a disgusting womanizer when she married him. I think the only part maybe the only part with a little bit of sympathy she didn't expect it to be at full display like this. And now she has to be publicly put up with him and embarrassed and ashamed in public. But, again, she is got a choice to stay or leave.

LEMON: Alice, I'll give you the last ten seconds because I really got to go.

STEWART: She knew who she married, but at the same time she never envisioned she'd be first lady of the United States and have dirty laundry aired out. In that regard I feel for her.

LEMON: Thank you, have a great weekend. Thank you both. That is it for us tonight. Thanks for watching.

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