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Missouri Governor Greitens indicted On Invasion Of Privacy Charge Stemming From Affair; NRA On Forum. Aired 11-Midnight ET
Aired February 22, 2018 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:20] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: This is CNN tonight. I'm Don Lemon. It is 11:00 p.m. here on the east coast live with new developments tonight on a story of sex and politics that is making headlines across the country. Missouri's governor indicted today on a first degree felony charge of invasion of privacy. The whole thing stems from allegations that the governor used a photo of his naked mistress as a form of blackmail to keep her from talking about their affair. His name is Greitens. Greitens admits to the affair, but denies blackmailing her. Now the Republican governor has a mugshot. And his political future is hanging by a thread. His lawyer saying the statute Greitens was charged with has never been used like this in the state's history. We're breaking down the story for you. I want to get straight to the CNN national political reporter and M.J. Lee. Eric Greitens is interesting in that this whole thing about him -- what do we know about the indictment? Walk us through the scandal.
M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Don, this is a political bomb going off tonight in the state of Missouri. This is what we know. We know the governor has been indicted in St. Louis for of an incident going back to March of 2015 involving a photo that he took according to the indictment language involving full or partial nudity without the knowledge or consent of the person that he was taking the photo of. And the indictment says that he then transmitted the image in a manner that allowed access to the image via a computer. Now, this is obviously a lot of technical legal language. Let me just remind you of the back story behind this incident. Remember that last month it was revealed that the governor had an extra marital affair back in 2015. In which the ex-husband of the woman that Greitens allegedly had the affair with -- what was reported was that he had a recording of conversations that he had with his ex-wife. And the ex- wife, the woman who had the affair with the governor described an incident, a sexual encounter in which she was at his house, the governor's house. And she says in the recording that her hands were taped and she was blindfolded and that it appeared he, Greitens had taken photos of her and then essentially blackmailed her saying you better not speak of this or mention my name otherwise your photo will be everywhere. As you mentioned, Don, Greitens did acknowledge having the extra marital affair. But he was clear, he was adamant that he didn't partake in any kind of blackmail. And now we know from this indictment that at least this photo that was taken is now a part -- a big part, a central part of this indictment. And just an important reminder too that at the time when the story
broke Greitens' lawyer denied, explicitly denied -- and I remember emailing with him back then that the governor took the photo. But interestingly, as more time passed, Greitens when asked whether he took the photo, he wouldn't answer the question. I just think that is an important thing to keep in mind. And for now, Don, he is sounding pretty defiant, which is the stance he has taken the last couple of weeks. He says that he made a personal mistake, but he didn't commit a crime. And essentially calling this a politically motivated indictment. And his lawyer says he plans to file a motion to dismiss all of this.
LEMON: All right. Thank you very much, M.J. Lee, I appreciate it. I want to bring in now Albert Watkins, the attorney for the ex-husband of the woman who accuses the governor of blackmail. Also Robert Patrick a federal courts reporter for the St. Louis post dispatch, a CNN affiliate. Thank you both for coming on. Robert, I'll start with you. Greitens' campaign on fighting corruption, is this the first ethics issue he has faced?
ROBERT PATRICK, FEDERAL COURTS REPORTER, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH: No, he has had a lot of criticism over his fund raising, political fund raising because of sort of the dark money that has gone into his campaign and nobody knows the source of it. So, I mean, you know, until a month ago that was -- that was the source of a lot of his criticism. There had been rumors of this other stuff. The reason that we're here today. But it had never been confirmed.
LEMON: Yes. Albert, you represent the former husband of the woman with whom the governor admitted having an affair. What is his reaction to today's indictment?
[23:05:00] ALBERT WATKINS, ATTORNEY FOR EX-HUSBAND OF WOMAN ACCUSING GOVERNOR GREITENS OF BLACKMAIL: He doesn't care. My client has never cared about the governor. He doesn't want anything to do with the governor, doesn't care if he stays as governor, quits, gets impeached, indicted, gets convicted, gets acquitted. He wants the governor and all that the governor has brought with him in his rear view mirror. He hopes today is the beginning of a new start without the governor Dale Yans hanging over his head and the head of his children.
LEMON: let us talk a little bit more about it, because the indictment says the governor took the nude photo without consent and he is being charged with transmitting it?
WATKINS: The indictment appears to reflect that there is as transmittal of this image that has given rise to the charge, and that in large part appears to me to be the basis of the charging of the crime as a felony versus as a misdemeanor.
LEMON: Do you anticipate additional charges against the governor?
WATKINS: I don't know. I would say that given the reports that are going on about his dark money, about his utilization of an app to delete potentially state-related communique. Due to the fact that there is a pending Attorney General investigation going on in the state of Missouri, given the reports about a federal investigation going on about fund raising issues, my guess is his hands are full. And what charges may or may not in the future be brought quite frankly is anyone's guess. Nobody would have guessed this would have given rise to 50 shades of Greitens.
LEMON: What kind of contact have you had with the FBI lately about the governor?
WATKINS: I can tell you that there is an elevated degree of interest on the part of federal law enforcement authorities that have I think served as the basis for what I will call quality contact on a regular basis.
LEMON: Interesting. Robert, so the governor says he is the victim of a reckless liberal prosecutor using her office to score political points. Does the prosecutor have an axe to grind with this governor?
PATRICK: Well, she has never expressed any animus towards him. She is a Democrats he is a Republican, but there are a lot of personnel in her office that of all political persuasions. And the grand jury was the body that handed down the indictment. So, I mean, I guess you'd have to talk to the grand jury members about political affiliations.
LEMON: Albert Greitens was accused of threatening your client with the photo. Why isn't the allegations mentioned in the indictment?
WATKINS: I don't know. It's not appropriate or proper for me to assess gauge or calibrate what may or may not have gone through the minds or hearts of those on the grand jury. I can tell you that I represent the ex-husband of the woman who is the paramour of the governor. And it is really important that we all keep in mind that even though the governor is the highest seated officer in this state, he is still a criminally accused defendant. And much like any other criminally accused defendant he is entitled to the presumption of innocence until he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He is also entitled to confront his accusers. What's interesting, though is he has a duty to the people of the state of Missouri. And one of the duties that he has failed to discharge is to be open, transparent and forthcoming despite being asked very straightforward questions about, did you take a photograph?
LEMON: But your client recorded a conversation between himself and his former wife where they discussed the photo. Is that legal in Missouri? And will that factor in as evidence?
WATKINS: Answer is simple. Yes. Missouri is a one-Party consent state. All it takes is one Party to a tape recording to permit the admissibility and render it legal for that tape recording to have been made. Same with phone conversations that -- that emanate from Missouri and received in Missouri. Only one person's consent is required to have that be a legal recording.
LEMON: What was interesting to me Robert is news of the affair came out as the campaign was announced. How did that play out in the race?
PATRICK: Well, the news of the affair just came out a month ago. I mean there were rumors -- there were rumors before that. But it hadn't been public.
LEMON: It wasn't confirmed. But the people were talking about it?
WATKINS: Yes. I think the political class certainly was discussing it.
LEMON: So then did the general public didn't know about it, didn't get wind of the rumors? So it wasn't a factor for him as he was campaigning?
WATKINS: No, in fact, my client engaged our firm at the very outset of things in September of 2016, solely for the purposes of suppressing the story, because he wanted to protect the image of his children's mother in the eyes of his children.
[23:10:06] And he paid handsomely to make sure that as many people that knew about the story did not run with the story, including political operatives, National media members, including local news, newspapers. The goal and objective was not to put minors in harm's way. And it wasn't until January and this year after a very high feeding frenzy in December that my client realized that this was a story that could not be suppressed any longer. It was coming out. News outlets had been working on in story for over a year. And when that was realized the goal and objective then was no longer to suppress it but manage it and mitigate damage.
LEMON: OK. So then what about his political future? Because according to our reporting, our reporter, he appears to be wanting to hang on basically again saying it's an axe to grind. What about his political future, Robert? Any talk of impeachment?
PATRICK: Well, I think the -- I think it's a little premature for the legislature to know that at this point because this all -- this all really just happened a few hours ago. You know, I don't think it's good for someone's image to have shots of them going in and out of criminal court. But it's really up to the legislature to decide what they want to do with this, at least prior to the conclusion of the criminal case.
WATKINS: I have been advised a committee has been announced. And tomorrow will be formally disclosed as a matter of public record to move forward with the indictment -- or the impeachment process.
LEMON: Robert, Albert, thank you so much.
PATRICK: Thank you.
WATKINS: My pleasure.
LEMON: When we come back new charges against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. Is Robert Mueller putting the squeeze on the former Trump campaign officials to get more information?
[23:15:27] LEMON: Special counsel Mueller ratcheting up the pressure on President Trump's inner circle. New charges filed today allege former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates laundered $30 million and failed to pay taxes for almost a decade. Let's discuss, CNN contributor John Dean former counsel for Nixon White House. And Ken McCallion, a former federal prosecutor. These charges, John are unbelievable. The sentencing for the new charges leveled against Manafort and Gates could be as high as 30 years in prison. So it appears that Robert Mueller is launching a massive squeeze play on these two men. Is that how you see it?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well there is an interesting document filed today as well in the District of Columbia. This indictment came down in the eastern District of Virginia. But they filed a status report in the District of Columbia with that case, because there are two pending criminal cases against these guys. And that status report revealed that they filed this action in Virginia, because they didn't have venue in the District of Columbia, and the parties -- none of the defendants would agree to it so they got a separate indictment on them. It hints that they might not have gotten it if they cooperated.
LEMON: So, Ken, would Mueller consider a plea agreement if he didn't know he would get important information in return?
KEN MCCALLION, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, the -- a plea agreement was on the table at least with regard to Gates. It doesn't appear that he is going to take it at this point. But I think Mueller is really solidifying and has solidified a very solid if not air tight case against both Manafort and Gates at this particular point. I think they are prepared to prosecute. It's a strong case. And at some point it could be done the road after convictions -- Manafort and Gates will tell us and will tell Mueller's team what they know. And the information they collected as the chairman and deputy chairman of the Trump campaign.
LEMON: John, is Mueller trying to tie in the financial crimes he has charged Manafort and Gates with to the original question of collusion and Russian involvement in our election? Is he trying to tie this all together?
DEAN: That is hard to read. Because while the indictment does spell out two phases or two different schemes with the last one ending the second one was charged today in 2015 or 2016, it doesn't look like it's directly connected in any way to the campaign. So I think this is just something that they discovered in the course of the investigation. What is interesting is that it's clear that Manafort had deep financial problems at one point. But when he joins the campaign suddenly he is getting great sums of money, millions of dollars in loans that he was unable to accomplish before. And that was part of the fraud.
LEMON: Ken, these documents filed by Mueller's team are incredibly detailed and very thorough. You were involved in an early lawsuit against Manafort for financial crimes. What stands out to you about this case? And are you surprised just how deep this goes?
MCCALLION: Well, it's extremely detailed. But I think as John indicated it really ties back into the money laundering that Manafort engaged in. They got upwards of $30 million representing the pro- Russian regime of Viktor Yanukovych in the Ukraine. They also got tens of millions of dollars from Oleg Deripaska and other Russian oligarchs. And it was those connections, it appears to be clear -- and we think it's clear to Mueller as well -- that it's those connection with the Russian oligarchs, with Russian and Ukrainian money, that attracted Donald Trump and his campaign to hire Manafort and Gates as their campaign leadership. It not only had to do with the political campaign, but also the Trump organization at that time was looking to solidify and expand its financial base.
[23:20:08] The finances for the various projects. And even while the campaign was going on Mr. Trump and his team were still looking to build that illusive hotel in Moscow. And Manafort and Gates really opened up a whole new world of contacts for them. So Gates and Manafort have significant information. Eventually they will, I think even if it's after a conviction they have to cooperate. And talk about the financial dealings which they are aware of between the Trump organization, Trump and this Russian and Ukrainian money that was pouring into the Trump organization at the same time that the campaign was proceeding.
LEMON: John, President Trump had previously been dismissive of a pardon for the people close to him who have been tied up in Mueller's investigation. I want to play this. This is what he said in December about Michael Flynn. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We'll see what happens. Let's see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So is a pardon for Manafort and Gates even theoretically possible.
DEAN: Well it of course is theoretically possible. But whether it's practical or not -- you could well be charged with obstruction of justice in connection with a pardon. It depends on the timing. George Bush number one, for example, pardoned people who appeared to potentially threaten him in the Iran contra matter. But yet he disposed of that case very easily and was never charged. So, you know, this is just a very open questionable area that the President has a lot of powers that it can also be easily abused.
LEMON: John, let me ask you about this. Paul Manafort responded to the new charges via his spokesperson saying Paul Manafort is innocent of the allegations set out in the newly filed indictments. And he is confident that he will be acquitted of all charges. The new allegations against Mr. Manafort once again have nothing to do with Russia and 2016 election interference/collusion. Is he signaling here -- my previous guest says he may have been -- signaling that hey, I've got your back here, looking for a pardon from the President?
DEAN: Well, I -- you know, I can't get into Donald Trump's mind.
LEMON: That was from Mueller. That is a Mueller spokesperson.
DEAN: Right. As to whether he.
LEMON: Manafort excuse me.
DEAN: Manafort, right.
DEAN: I think Manafort would like a pardon. I think he is holding out. Maybe that is why Gates never cracked a deal, that he thinks he will get a pardon too. They're playing -- a dangerous game.
LEMON: Go ahead, Ken.
MCCALLION: One of the things that should be kept in mind is that these are tax indictments as well as bank fraud. And I think we can expect either from New York prosecutors or Virginia prosecutor's state charges as well, which will take Manafort and Gates outside of the pardon power of the President. So Manafort and Gates now have to wait and expect really a third shoe to drop on them, which may well be state charges, which will take them out side of the scope of a Presidential pardon.
LEMON: Wow! Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. When we comeback President Trump says he is considering gun control measures while at the same time praising the NRA. So will he take action or will he side with the NRA? And how will the rest of the Republican Party react?
[23:28:17] LEMON: Head of the NRA delivering an angry and uncompromising speech today to a friendly audience just a week after the Florida massacre. I want to talk about this with our political analyst John Avlon. Author of "Washington's fare well" and -CNN political commentator Margaret Hoover a former White House staffer for President George W. Bush. Good to have both of you. Let's talk about the speech. It's the CPAC, Conservative Political Action Conference under way and the CEO of the NRA. Wayne LaPierre spoke. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION'S: As usual, the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain. (Inaudible) would have been proud. The break back speed for more gun control and the breathless national media goer to smear the NRA. Think about that. In the midst of genuine grief and a very understandable passion, as millions of Americans search for meaningful solutions, what do we find? Chris Murphy, Nancy Pelosi and more, cheered on by the national media, eager to blame the NRA and call for even more government control. They hate the NRA. They hate the second amendment. They hate individual freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: They hate individual freedom.
LEMON: By the national media, is Fox News cheering on Nancy Pelosi and Chris Murphy. They are part of the national media.
DEAN: Last time I checked yes, but somehow they always get the exemption. Look. That was an extra crispy speech by Wayne LaPierre. He is basically accusing the kids of Parkland of reading from the (inaudible) playbook. The dog whistle there are being scripted.
All the opponents of the NRA are anti-American. They want to overturn for personal freedom. It's that kind of rhetoric. And, you know, he talks about millions of Americans wanting to find meaningful solutions.
Well, the NRA has got to step up, but they are not going to because they have a job, they have constituency, and the core of his speech was demonizing people who disagree with him.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Yes. Margaret, listen, what you are listening too are seeing at CPAC. Is that the Republican Party that you know -- I don't know if it's beyond that when you're considering what's going on with the country. What do you think?
MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sadly what's happened with the conservative movement and the modern American conservative movement started in the 1950s as an intellectual movement (INAUDIBLE) who really gave credence in it and an intellectual foundation to a movement that became a political movement with Ronald Reagan and has really devolved into a racket (ph), OK?
And so you see sort of a gathering of people who represent really fringe elements of what used to be, what I think was a really great political movement and moment in American history. But I just want to say, look, Wayne LaPierre has -- has spoken insensitively at -- harshly, embraced the fringe elements of some of these arguments.
But he also makes points that resonate with a lot of Americans, a lot of gun owners, and a lot of people who aren't gun owners, right? There are -- it's not just a matter -- we all know that these are nuanced issues, that it is not about just taking semiautomatic weapons away from people, that states have a role, that the FBI was at fault here. I don't know who is taking responsibility in the FBI for the major failures here.
I mean, when Wayne LaPierre says that 38 states have not populated, their registry of all of the -- with all the felonies of people who created crimes with guns and put them into a federal registry, you can't then rely on a federal registry and people -- Wayne LaPierre also points out that some 80,000 felony convictions have not been prosecuted. There are fair points that he made regardless of the fact that you find him a hyper-polarizing figure om America.
AVLON: But if he's making fair points, he always feels he need to wrap it up and fundamentally unfair rhetoric. It's not insensitive. It's intentionally divisive. The NRA wants to say, look, the problem with our laws is that they were not enforcing gun laws enough. That's a reasonable point.
So therefore, I expect if his problems is that background checks haven't been adequately populated in those 38 (ph) states, then I assume the NRA will take a leadership role in pressuring members of Congress to vote for universal background checks. But guess what? That is not going to happen.
HOOVER: What's interesting here is that you have this real shift, right? You have Donald Trump saying, OK, we're willing to give around the edges, we will do bump stocks, we will direct the attorney general to do certain things. What you really could do since we know this is such a polarized environment politically, legislation may be a non- starter, direct Sessions to put resources towards the ATF to prosecute the crimes.
LEMON: What people do is give restrictions on certain weapons. I mean, because bump stocks is easy, that should have been done -- that should have been done for Las Vegas.
HOOVER: You can't direct the attorney general to suddenly clamp down on the second amendment.
LEMON: You can certainly say to your base that we need to do this. This is something that we need to do because the Democrat -- listen, the Democrat president, you know that is other and that they claim was Muslim --
LEMON: He is not going to do it. This person has credibility with the -- the supporters of the NRA.
HOOVER: And this is not immigration. They could do it. He could.
LEMON: He could do it because --
HOOVER: Politically he could.
LEMON: Listen, I'm not going to drive a Formula One car Nascar on the street because it's not street legal. So why should I have a military grade weapon? That shouldn't be street legal. Why?
AVLON: Why do you hate the second amendment?
LEMON: No, I don't hate it at all.
AVLON: That's my point. No, look --
LEMON: Listen, let me just say this. I don't hate the second amendment.
AVLON: I know you don't.
LEMON: My father had guns. My stepfather had guns. Any of my family members especially women who live alone, who were vulnerable, I want them to be able to have gun. Do I want them to have an AR-15? No. And why? One reason is if someone comes into the house, in an AR-15, they are going to blow all the plumbing and electricity and the whole wall. It makes absolutely no sense.
AVLON: That's right. And I think that's the point. For self-defense, shotguns. You know, our laws have not kept up with the phase of technology and the issue with an AR-15 is it's a weapon of war. And that is where we need to direct the conversation more over.
LEMON: No --
HOOVER: It's not a conversation. That requires passing legislation. All of us know for dealing in a world of practicality that you're not going to get legislation because Democrats won't vote for that.
LEMON: No, but listen, you do have a point. You do have a point. But listen, why --
HOOVER: Thirteen Democrats voted against the semiautomatic weapon ban.
LEMON: Why can't --
AVLON: That was not because of Democrats.
LEMON: Why can't he start the conversation? And why can't some in the Republican Party admit that guns are the problem rather than saying, no, it's this, it's that, it's mental issues, all these other things, except for the mechanism used
[23:35:00] to kill people.
AVLON: Yes. People --
HOOVER: Do I need to to tell that guns don't kill people --
AVLON: No, but this, people with guns kill people. And the issue is of course the maximum capacity. Look, Donald Trump has made a couple of steps in the right direction. But let's see him lose his juice with the House --
AVLON: -- to see if he can get anything done. We'll take some progress over none.
LEMON: Here is the thing. This is the sad reality, is that the conservative right are the people who -- they're dug in on guns.
HOOVER: And so is the left. Democrats --
LEMON: That's where I'm going. Democrats don't want to work with this president, so what is going to change? What does it all matter? Unless there is some give.
HOOVER: Well, what we need is real leadership, frankly, because if the president will exert some serious leadership that was directed in discipline --
HOOVER: I know it's a pipe dream, but things could actually change.
LEMON: I got to go. Good to see you.
AVLON: You too.
LEMON: When we come back, how the new charges against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates may be playing out in the White House. Plus, the growing rift between the president's son-in-law and the chief of staff. What's behind it and who will ultimately win.
[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Special counsel Robert Mueller turning up the pressure on Paul Manafort and Rick Gates with dozens more charges just a few hours ago. I want to talk about this now with Chris Whipple. He is the author of "The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency." And CNN political commentators, Dan Pfeiffer and Alice Stewart.
Hello to all of you. First, how significant are these new charges against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Rick Gates? First to you, Chris.
CHRIS WHIPPLE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER AND WRITER: Well, I think it's really serious. I think that the latest tweets that you see from Trump over the last 72 hours showed that, you know, they are more and more desperate.
I think he knows that the walls are closing in. You know, I interviewed Steve Bannon for the new chapter of my book. And Bannon was typically unfiltered. And one of the things he said was that whether or not there is collusion here, you really have a murder's row of 19 prosecutors with subpoena power, money laundering experience.
And on the other side, you have two guys with yellow pads and post it. And Manafort is the capital regime. Rick Gates is the maid man. And Papadopoulos is the wise guy in the social club in Brooklyn. And if they flip, there is no telling where this could go. I think Donald Trump is beginning to realize that this -- the walls are closing in.
LEMON: Dan, the White House has said that this is all -- this all happened a long time ago, long before Trump, the Trump campaign. But does that necessarily vindicate anyone in the Trump orbit? I mean, wasn't he supposed to hire the best people, have the best team ever?
DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. No, it's raising questions of judgment about the decision to hire Manafort. People in and around Washington knew that he had been in bed with very sketchy people, dictators, people with all sort of margins of democracy. And so it was a very strange choice for Trump to pick Manafort, who had really not really been involved in the presidential politics in the United States for almost three decades, I believe.
And so I think it raises questions of judgment. And it just is another brick on the load for this White House. You have the Mueller investigation. You have the problems with Kushner and his background investigation. You have Papadopoulos. You have Carter Page. Now you have Gates and Manafort. And that all makes -- makes a very difficult job in the White House even harder.
LEMON: Alice Stewart, what message do you think the special prosecutor is sending?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First and foremost is tell the truth and nothing but the truth. But, you know, keeping in mind that all this -- Manafort and Gates charges up until this point have been as you've indicated about nefarious financial activity they did well before this campaign, and they are going to pay the price for that.
But the key with this now moving forward is that all signs are indicating that Mueller and the team are trying to get information about what they know about activities that happened when they were on the campaign. And whether or not they may cooperate and flip and provide information.
So I think that's where the concern lies with what information they're willing to give up in order to save their hide with their financial dealings. And, you know, the question remains whether or not President Trump will offer any pardons for any of these people and how that will benefit them. But that in and of itself would look damaging for the president if he were to do so.
LEMON: Chris, I also want to talk to you about this reporting about this deepening divide between the chief of staff, John Kelly, and the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, over security clearances. Right now Kushner is operating under a temporary security clearance. But the new rules put in place by Kelly, right, could limit his access to that material.
How is he going to solve the Middle East peace if he can't look at classified information? But is this ultimately a battle, though, you think Kelly could end up losing?
WHIPPLE: Well, you know, at the end of the day, I think John Kelly is smart enough to know that Jared Kushner isn't going anywhere, Ivanka isn't going anywhere, chiefs of staff have always had to deal with very delicate issues of family. I mean, James Baker had to deal with Nancy Reagan although there was never any issue of security clearance.
So, I think that Trump and Kelly will find a way to finish this. I think it's easy for the edict to simply go way or for Trump to overrule it. And I think Kelly may be in the dog house, but I don't think he is going anywhere any time soon.
LEMON: This is a new Quinnipiac poll. It says 62 percent say it is inappropriate for Jared Kushner to play a significant role in the White House. Twenty-four percent say it's appropriate. There's been questions from the beginning about Kushner's experience. Is it time for him
[23:45:00] to step back, Dan?
PFEIFFER: Well, look, I had the same job Kushner had. He actually sits in my old office. And it -- anyone who had wide (ph) on their security clearance form as many times as Kushner did would have thrown down the chute a long time ago.
But even if he were to stay, and Kelly (INAUDIBLE) by the rules that Kelly said (INAUDIBLE) implying to Kushner because he cannot pass the background check will no longer have access across information, he cannot do his job.
It is impractical to be senior adviser to the president, let alone a senior adviser to the president, tasked with two of the most sensitive national security issues, Middle East peace and the economic dialogue with China. It's simply impossible.
Think about this. Every morning the chief of staff has a senior staff meeting in their office and Kushner will have to stand up and leave every time classified information is brought up in that meeting.
He will have to leave every Oval Office meeting. It is simply impractical for him stay in the job. I suspect he probably will stay there, but he will not be doing anything worthy of a salary from the taxpayers.
LEMON: What do you think, Alice?
STEWART: I think Dan knows better than most people in the face of the earth. The ability to do that job without this kind of clearance. And look, this is the --
LEMON: Who do you think is going to win? Do you think it will be the general or Kushner?
STEWART: It will be A, the president and then turn Kushner. I think, look, I think it was important for Kelly to hand out this directive and have these rules in place. You can't have access to classified information with an interim security clearance. And in light of the Rob Porter situation, he had to impose this directive.
And the rules should apply to everyone. It doesn't matter who your father-in-law is. It should apply across the board. His attorney, Abbe Lowell -- his attorney Abbe Lowell and Sarah Sanders have said that Kelly's directive is not going to impact how he does his job, which that means reading between the lines that the president is going to override whatever Kelly says.
LEMON: Got it. Stick around, everybody. When we come back, after the president publicly called out his national security adviser, questions about where H.R. McMaster may be headed to, next.
[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Sources telling CNN that another top official may be getting ready to leave the Trump White House. Back with me now, Chris Whipple, Dan Pfeiffer, and Alice Stewart. So, I want to talk about national security adviser, H.R. McMaster. There are signs that he may be on his way out of the White House.
Sources tell CNN that Pentagon is considering potential new job for McMaster following the latest smack down by President Trump. He would have to find a third national security adviser in just over a year. The optics of that, Chris.
WHIPPLE: Well, you know, just the latest example of chaos and dysfunction and an indication, too, that Kelly has really failed at his very narrow definition of the job, which was to make the trains run on time in the White House.
My sources tell me that Kelly's departure is not imminent and that he probably wouldn't want to go back to the army for a fourth star. But having said that, it's been an awkward relationship. There has been no chemistry between them.
Trump really chafed against the power point briefings that McMaster used to try to give him. You know, he had no attention span for that. He finds him condescending. It reminds me a little bit of Gerald Ford and James Schlesinger who was his defense secretary who was professorial and used to puff on his pipe and look down at Gerald Ford. Trump hates that. So he is on thin ice.
LEMON: Now, you're just showing your age.
LEMON: James Schlesinger and Ford, my goodness. Alice, listen, President Trump publicly scolded McMaster because he said Russian interference in the election was incontrovertible. Here is what Trump tweeted.
He said, General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only collusion was between Russia and crooked H, the DNC, and the Dems. Remember the dirty dossier, uranium, speeches, e-mails, and the Podesta company.
I thought like I am reading like an opening monologue from a show on another network. Is that appropriate?
STEWART: I think the president just wanted to clarify yet again his view on that. Look, you know, McMaster was talking about Russian involvement in the election and didn't add on the fact that they did meddle in the election but it didn't affect the outcome. And the president wanted to clarify, if it wasn't clear, that he doesn't feel that there's any collusion and Russia affected the outcome of the election.
And following up on the reporter who asked Sarah Sanders, and she says that he is in good standing and the president has confidence in him, but as we've seen at this White House, you're safe until you're not safe.
STEWART: And, you know, as Chris has said, there has been some mixed feeling with regard to McMaster's style on how he goes about delivering the briefings. So, you know, it remains to be seen. I hope if he is moved on to another place, I hope for his sake that it is in a position where he can get a fourth star and really be seen as a promotion. And then we can find --
LEMON: I think that's I think behind the scenes that maybe -- you know, what they're working out. Dan, why are you laughing?
PFEIFFER: The idea that what offends Donald Trump is that H.R. McMaster briefs him with information.
PFEIFFER: That's a galling statement. Look, I will say about this, Don, H.R. McMaster is a serious person in a White House filled with wholly unserious people. So it is alarming that he may be on his way out because he is someone who is not a partisan figure. He's not someone who teleported into the White House directly from a Fox News TV set.
[23:55:00] He's someone with a real career and having done real work in a real expertise. And so if he is on his way out, I certainly hope that the next person in this incredibly important job is at least as qualified as H.R. McMaster was. And maybe he can find a way to give Trump the information he needs in a less (INAUDIBLE) way, I guess.
WHIPPLE: I totally agree with Dan. I think it would be a real loss. You know, (INAUDIBLE) used to be that the generals were going to be the grown-ups in the room who somehow protected us from the incompetence and the recklessness of Donald Trump.
And Kelly has turned out to be the opposite to that. Kelly has reinforced all of Trump's most partisan instincts. And now to lose McMaster who really does have bipartisan credibility on the Hill, I think, would be a real loss.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, all. I appreciate it.
STEWART: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: That is it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.
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