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Trump's former Aide Opens a Can of Worms; Nunberg Could Get Himself in Trouble for Being Talkative. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 5, 2018 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us.

Breaking news tonight on the Russia investigation and this is exactly what the White House did not want to hear.

While Sarah Sanders was briefing reporters and trying to turn the page to trade or peace in the Middle East or anything really, a former Trump campaign Sam Nunberg was on the phone with CNN's Gloria Borger saying he refuses to talk to the grand jury, refuses to turnover e- mails, even though he has been subpoenaed in the Russia investigation.

But for a man who doesn't want to talk, he sure got a lot to say. He's doing a lot of interviews. In fact, Sam Nunberg has been talking and talking and talking.


SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE. They wanted it by 3 p.m. today. They want me over -- they want me over at the grand jury. Screw that. Why do I have to go? Why? For what?


LEMON: Could go to jail. Well, actually the answer to that is pretty simple. You have to go to the grand jury because you have been subpoenaed, and if you don't go, as I said, you could end up in jail. But that's not all Sam Nunberg has to say and a lot of it is pretty explosive.


NUNBERG: You know what? Trump may very well have done something during the election with the Russians.


LEMON: And then there's this. Minutes later to Jake Tapper.


NUNBERG: They know, they know something on him and, Jake, I don't know what it is. JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: They know something on him?

NUNBERG: Perhaps I'm wrong, but he did something.


LEMON: And Nunberg was not finished just yet. Not by a long shot. Listen to this. Just a little while ago, this is what CNN's Erin Burnett. Nunberg says he thinks Donald Trump knew in advance about that infamous Trump tower meeting between his son Don Junior and Russians.


NUNBERG: I think he probably knew in advance...


NUNBERG: Yes. I think -- if I had to guess, Don informed him about it.


LEMON: Nunberg offering absolutely no proof of any of this, but his all-day marathon of interviews, you have to admit it was pretty incredible. We're kind of in the twilight zone right now. That's how it feels.

It's hard to believe someone who is refusing to talk to a grand jury would spend all day talking on TV. And you know who else could hardly believe all of this? The White House.

Sources telling CNN multiple Trump administration officials were glued to their televisions during Nunberg's interviews all day, calling them, quote, "bizarre and nuts." But remember, Sam Nunberg is a man who has been hired, fired, rehired, re-fired and finally sued by Donald Trump.

As I said, twilight zone, it's the truth. A lawsuit that was settled reportedly amicably in August of 2016. This is a man who has a long history with Donald Trump and his campaign.

So, you have to wonder, what is Sam Nunberg really know and what will he tell Robert Mueller? Maybe he'll cooperate, maybe he won't.

Let's discuss now. I want to bring in CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston, political analyst Kirsten Powers of USA Today, and CNN contributor Frank Bruni of the New York Times.

Frank, I mean, stunning. Welcome, everyone, by the way. But this is stunning. I don't think I'm far field by saying this is the twilight zone. This is bizarre and out of the ordinary.

FRANK BRUNI, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: It's a kind of spectacle that I can't recall in recent politics, certainly in recent presidential administrations. I mean, you said you were talking about the talk-a- thon today. You string those together, you have something longer than the godfather saga but not nearly as coherent, you know.

And that's te problem. I mean, he said some things. You played them, that are extremely intriguing and you think what's behind them. But he also contradicted himself. He said several times today there was no collusion, there could be no collusion, this campaign was incapable of collusion because he was suggesting it's too incompetent.

Then returned around and say I think clearly Mueller has something. He would say at one moment that he was thinking about giving his password so they could have all of his e-mails.

LEMON: Right.

BRUNI: And they would complain the next moment, how dare they ask me for communications with all these people. He is seeming to be so unreliable and so erratic that I'm not sure how useful any testimony he could give would be if there wasn't some concrete evidence attached to it because he has established himself over the course of this extraordinary day as someone who will contradict himself from one sentence to the next and who is just not steady.

LEMON: Well, maybe the evidence would be in what he doesn't want to turnover to Mueller, maybe. He says maybe I'll give them my password, maybe I won't turnover my text messages, maybe I will turnover my text messages.

Mark Preston, Donald Trump definitely knew about the meeting according to him. He believes he knew about the meeting but then there's no collusion. So, I mean, he believes that Mueller has something on Trump. Let's watch this from Erin Burnett and I'll get you to respond.


BURNETT: Specifically, I know that you have said that you do think that they have something on Donald Trump.

[22:05:00] NUNBERG: Yes.

BURNETT: And that's -- from the interview...

NUMBERG: I don't know what it is.

BURNETT: But you're confident in that. So what made you feel that way?

NUMBERG: I can't explain it unless you were in there. That's the answer. You're not going to like the answer. I can't explain it, but they have something.

Now, remember, we learned about Trump tower Moscow, OK, right. And then Trump signed the letter of intent to do business with Trump tower, you know, with Russia. And Michael sent the thing to the...


BURNETT: That tower of course which never went ahead, but yes. NUMBERG: You're right.


NUMBERG: I had never known about that obviously. We never -- until I read about it. I just get a feeling he did something.


LEMON: OK. So, he thinks Mueller has something on Trump and the president's business dealings. Do you think they're part of that equation?

MARK PRESTON, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, let's take a step back. I mean, the way he explains himself, it doesn't necessarily mean he exactly knows if they actually do have anything, you know. At the end of that he said I have a feeling they did. And then he said in the follow-up answer to the question, I can't explain it, you had to be in the room.

Meaning, did you have to be in the room to hear what was being questioned, or was the body language of what was being asked, did that give him the idea that, in fact, they were looking into business dealings and what have you.

And certainly did Trump know about the meeting. So, at this point I have to tell you, I talked to a lot of people tonight about this, Don. A couple observations that came out of this. One, we can't say he's not credible.

In fact, as we have noted and certainly in the later hours, he did settle a lawsuit with Donald Trump when he was sued for violating a nondisclosure agreement.

So, that in fact acknowledges that he does know something about the company that they didn't want him to talk about.

The second thing is just because he was out of the campaign doesn't necessarily mean he was out of the campaign as we've seen with the likes of Corey Lewandowski and just about everyone else that gets fired by Donald Trump. They always seem to have a line back in to him.

LEMON: Yes. Kirsten, how are you? You know, Erin Burnett, he told Erin Burnett to, you know, to save time, maybe he'd just give the special counsel his e-mail password as I said. You know, he's also saying that he feels like republicans are being treated differently than how Hillary Clinton was treated, Hillary Clinton always comes back into the equation.


LEMON: Do you get the sense that he may ultimately comply? What do you think of this?

POWERS: I don't know. I mean honestly, he doesn't seem very stable, you know, if we're being totally honest about this. He was, as Frank said, contradicting himself a lot. We have to also remember that he said quite clearly he hates Donald Trump. We know Donald Trump did fire him multiple times and he was very, very upset when he was fired.

So, this isn't somebody without an axe to grind. So I think all that has to be considered as part of this. But ultimately, I think he seems unstable and I think that there's clearly something in the e-mails that he doesn't want to be seen.

The question is, is it because there is something about Donald Trump or is it because there is something about him? Because I spoke to somebody today who saw some of the e-mails that he was sending to high-ranking members of the Trump campaign during the campaign that were very unhinged, that were very threatening, making all sorts of threats and saying really outlandish things about various people on the campaign that would be very, very embarrassing to him if they got out. This person saw these e-mails. So, we don't really know what it is that he's hiding.

LEMON: Listen, I want to play this. This is Sam but you talked about that he hates Donald Trump. This is him talking about it. Let's watch this.


NUNBERG: I was told I was not going to get fired when those Facebook posts were released. Now, at that point I thought that Corey Lewandowski and Hope Hicks had released them. I was not going to get fired. I was then -- I was then called that morning when Donald Trump did Sunday interviews with the Sunday shows -- and you can see this -- he did those interviews.

And then Trump called me afterwards to tell me I was being fired, and that they were issuing a press release. And he called me a low-level part-time consultant. I was being laughed at for years. I supported him, like he was like -- he was like -- shouldn't have been, but he was like a father to me. And he treated me like that when he fired me.


LEMON: He's thrown under the bus he feels like. He feels like he sounds like a child who has been hurt by his father. You loved him better, you loved Cory better than me.

BRUNI: Yes. He kept on talking about Hope and Corey, and they got better treatment. And I was the one who came up with the wall, he said that, I came up with the wall.

I mean, he came across as someone throwing a sort of tantrum. He was speaking in the language that is probably the primary language of Trump world which is the language of attention. You know, what he did today with all of these media appearances with that interview with Erin is he claimed the spotlight and he became the center of attention in a way that daddy, Donald Trump, would appreciate.

[22:10:03] I think that's one of the main components here. But there is something really disturbing about this that we're not talking about. He is an emblem and an example of the kind of people that this campaign and operation has attracted from the start, has churned through.

This is the caliber of person that ends up at the center of Trump land and ends up at the center of the Trump administration if you look at some of his successors. And I think we need to be really concerned about the caliber of people around Donald Trump both during the campaign and now and the administration.

LEMON: Are you reading my e-mails?


LEMON: Because that's the exact e-mail that I sent someone about this story. This is an example of...


BRUNI: Don, I have your private password.

LEMON: OK. That's fine. This is an example of the caliber of person who is running the country and who put this campaign together.

BRUNI: I was watching him. And I don't mean to minimize whatever psychological problems he's going through. But I was watching and I was thinking it scares me that this person was ever close to this operation and close to Donald Trump, which he was.

LEMON: Yes. I want to hear -- I want to hear more from him. And this when he talks about Putin, he says, Mark, Putin was too smart, I think he said, to collude with Donald Trump. Watch this.


NUNBERG: Once again, Donald Trump did not collude with the -- Vladimir Putin is too smart to collude with Donald Trump.


LEMON: What do you think of that, Mark?

PRESTON: You know what, Donald -- President Putin was smart not to collude with Donald Trump. He had others do it on his behalf, right? He sent out his emissaries. They tried to chip away and certainly worked their way into the campaign in a very professional manner, right.

You know, the idea of going to the sons who they felt were weak and that they could secure meetings and in fact, that was correct.

But let me just throw out something here that we haven't discussed and it's farfetched, but it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility. We heard over and over and over again him talking about his mentor Roger Stone.

Well, Roger Stone, for our viewers out there that don't know him, he's the most Machiavellian republican strategist, perhaps political strategist of our political time. And he would do things that would perhaps hurt him personally if it would help his candidate.

Now, I did hear from a couple people today that suggested perhaps Sam Nunberg was going out there and doing something on behalf of Roger Stone in a very Machiavellian way, meaning I'm going to jump on the grenade right now for this, send a message out that I'm not going to testify and it's for the greater good. And that perhaps could be what we saw happen today.

LEMON: Kirsten, to add to the strangeness about this, a lot of people are concerned about Sam Nunberg and his behavior. Erin asked him straight out some of the accusations from people. Watch this.


BURNETT: Talking to you, I have smelled alcohol on your breath.

NUNBERG: Well, I have not had a drink.

BURNETT: You haven't had a drink?


BURNETT: Anything else?



NUNBERG: No. Besides my meds.


NUNBERG: Antidepressants. Is that OK?


LEMON: Erin? Sorry. Kirsten?

POWERS: Kirsten.

LEMON: Sorry about that. That's the second time I've done that to you. Go ahead, Kirsten. Sorry.

POWERS: Yes. U don't know, not feeling loved here. Yes, look, this is one of the first things I thought of because he's been very open in the past about the fact, you know, with reporters about the fact that he struggled with alcohol and he's acting like somebody who is, you know, not well or on something.

So, I'm not sure how much of a factor that is. But I do -- I do feel like he's been very erratic and I just don't know how much we can know which things he's saying are true or if any of them are true. You know, maybe some are true and some aren't, or maybe none of them are. LEMON: Yes. I just wonder, you know, what that does for his

credibility at all when you have -- when people are saying that, if it's, you know, if they are trying to undermine his credibility, what have you, because if he is having an issue, then by all means he should take care of it and people, you know, there be no stigma to that.

But he should also not be on television probably if he is having those issues, making, you know, all these accusation and saying something that can land him, you know, in jail.

The top democrat on the House intel committee Adam Schiff wants Sam Nunberg to testify before the committee, answer questions about his claim that Trump may have known about that Trump tower meeting, Kirsten. What do you think of that?

POWERS: Well, yes. Again, but I say like, people are going to have to decide how much credibility they can give to the things he's saying. But you know, if you can get him testifying under oath, you could, you know, really drill down on these things and maybe try to find out, you know, more specifically what he might know and make a better assessment, you know, if these -- if these are credible accusations because he was very close to Donald Trump. There's no question about that.

And he probably does know some things. It's just how do you get to -- how do you determine which of those things that he's saying are actually true.

LEMON: Nunberg was fired in February of 2014 by Trump even after offering his resignation. Nunberg was rehired by Trump as a communications advisor in February of 2015. That's according to Washington Post.

[22:14:59] Then he was fired again, this time for the campaign, it was in August of 2015. In July of 2016 Nunberg sued -- Trump sued Nunberg for $10 million alleging that he breached a confidentiality agreement. Nunberg amicably settled the $10 million lawsuit with Trump in August of 2016. You're like, how are you supposed to respond to that?

BRUNI: Well, I mean, I'm thinking something that Mark said earlier, which is the kind of now he's here, now he's gone, now he's back, now he's gone. That's what makes it so hard to know what he does know or doesn't know now.

I mean, he was -- he's been out officially for a while, but who knows what sort of communications he's had to people inside Trump world because no one is ever really out.

LEMON: What's in those personal communications. Thank you all, I appreciate it. When we come back, so many headlines with the multiple Sam Nunberg interviews today. More on the legal problems he may just have created for himself and his former boss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Sources telling CNN that White House officials were stunned by the Sam Nunberg interviews today and they can't have been happy to hear Nunberg say this to CNN's Erin Burnett. Watch this.


NUNBERG: I don't know why he couldn't just admit that he knew about this meeting if indeed -- I believe he did, if he did. I don't think that -- now, remember, you're talking to somebody who doesn't think there is anything wrong with that meeting. So you're sitting here talking to somebody...


BURNETT: So you're saying he knew. You don't personally think that's collusion, because you've said you don't think he colluded, but you believe that he knew about that meeting?

NUNBERG: I think he knew it. Look, I think he probably knew in advance.

BURNETT: In advance?

[22:19:59] NUNBERG: Yes, I think, if I had to guess Don informed him about it.


LEMON: OK. So let's bring in now CNN contributor John Dean, a former Nixon White House counsel, CNN legal national security analyst Asha Rangappa as well, a former FBI special agent.

So, John, if he knew about it the meeting at the Trump tower, it was Jared Kushner, it was Don Junior, Steve Bannon and Paul Manafort with all those Russians. If he knew, I mean, isn't that sort of collusion?

JOHN DEAN, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: Well, it would be, but it's pure speculation when you listen carefully to his answers. And he's on both sides of so many of them that I don't think you can take him as a reliable witness. But yet, Don, I think there is something in what he's saying and has said, that the special counsel is interested in. Otherwise there wouldn't be a subpoena.

LEMON: Well, I mean, he certainly is a colorful guy as is Roger Stone, who he is friends with, another colorful guy there. But you know, what about this world -- how this is playing, what do you think of this, the world in what he's playing?

He's had by my count he's done seven interviews in a few short hours. And look -- I mean, look at all these interviews. We don't have up on the screen, the interviews he did by telephone, some of them, maybe some by radio. I mean, why would his lawyer let him do this?

DEAN: I can't imagine why -- what lawyer did. I think he said in one of the interviews he tried to call his lawyer and the lawyer wouldn't answer the telephone call. So, I think in the end, Don, his lawyer will persuade him that it's not worth going to jail over stiffing a grand jury and he'll realize that this is serious and that he's got to go in and answer some questions.

Maybe his lawyer will get the subpoena narrowed somewhat, but not a lot. Mueller is going to get what he wants.

LEMON: The Trump allies have called our reporter saying -- talking about the alcohol question, Asha, that Erin asked him saying, I smell alcohol on your breath. What's your reaction to all these appearances and that possibly, how, you know, the folks in the Trump world are reacting to his interviews?

ASHA RANGAPPA, LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: My question, Don, is who are the people that the Trump campaign was hiring? I mean, this is like casting for a Kohn brother's movie. It's really -- you have to question the competence of the people that were just on this campaign to begin with.

But as John said, I think that a lot of what you've heard today in the interviews are just all over the place and you have to take it with a grain of salt.

But the bottom line is this. This subpoena is not optional. I don't want to rat out my friend is not an excuse to not comply with the grand jury subpoena. If it's too broad, he needs to go to his lawyers, his lawyers can negotiate narrowing the scope of the subpoena. But ultimately he will have to comply. And if not, he is going to go to jail for the length...


LEMON: So how much -- let me ask you that. So earlier, today a CNN contributor, Asha, to Nunberg's statements, come and get me, copper, you know, that attitude. How much trouble is he in if he doesn't comply?

RANGAPPA: He's in a lot of trouble. I mean, listen, this is about the rule of law. Do I think that Mueller's case is going to fall apart without Nunberg's testimony? No. He can get those documents with a search warrant.

But really, this is setting the stage, Don, and this is what bothers me and what I find very troubling. This is setting the stage for potentially people higher in the campaign, people more important potentially even the president himself to then try this same maneuver and then kind of have people already sensitized to or desensitized to this happening and feeling like it's OK.

It's not OK. This is the court's mechanism to compel people to come in. And if he does not, then he'll be held in civil contempt and go to jail.

LEMON: More of Nunberg on Erin Burnett. Watch this.


BURNETT: Do you have immunity, were you offered immunity by Bob Mueller's team?

NUNBERG: They say to you you're not a subject or target. Now, when you go in there, what they say is as long as you tell the truth, anything else you tell them, you're not going to get charged for. And I told them all the truth. I mean, that was -- and once again, they were very, very good when I went in there.

BURNETT: So everything you've told them they said they will not charge you for?



LEMON: So, John, as we discussed many times on this show, Mueller wouldn't just offer immunity for nothing. What does Mueller want to hear from him?

DEAN: Well, he wants to hear the truth. That wasn't a formal grant of immunity. That was an informal what they call equitable immunity where the prosecutors agree. We won't prosecute you based on anything you tell us so long as you tell us the truth. And that's the key.

Whatever he was asked, and obviously something he was asked they'd now like to take to the grand jury. So there was something that came out in that conversation, the informal conversation that has got some value to the prosecutors.

[22:25:05] LEMON: You know, John, the subpoena is asking for Nunberg's communications from November 1 of 2015. The litany of important people in the administration -- from the litany of important people in the administration. What does that tell you about Mueller's direction here?

DEAN: Well, he's still got a very wide net out and it still shows he's pretty early in the investigation, that he's just accumulating information as he goes along.

You know, we can't draw too many conclusions from the names because some of those may be debatable and some he may have no information on as he says. But theoretically, that list is based on the informal conversation they had and that they want to follow-up on that.

LEMON: Yes. Asha, I want to read. This is from former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara tweeted this earlier. He says, "I'm prepared to bet special counsel Mueller's team already has Sam Nunberg's e-mails. Even if you have someone's e-mails from other parties to them or from the service provider you ask for them anyway. Among other things, you learn a lot when people selectively disclose."

So, wouldn't Mueller have access to those e-mails by other means? So, what is he after here?

RANGAPPA: Right. Well, he has other means. So, in issuing the subpoena, he's actually, like Preet Bharara said, he can get some signals on what this person is willing to turnover. Remember with Manafort he originally issued a subpoena, and then he executed a search warrant because it was clear that what Manafort was turning over was not everything that he asked for.

So, Mueller always has the option of getting a search warrant if he hasn't already to get these communications. The communications are important, Don, because they are in writing. And so to the extent that he is interviewing Nunberg or other people, there is a certain amount of written verification that can catch them if they are not telling the truth about the kinds of communications that were going on.

So, they can serve multiple purposes. He can get them through other means. He gets information based on what this person turns over. And right now Nunberg is very reluctant to turn this information over, which tells me that he's probably hiding something or afraid of what these communications will reveal.

LEMON: Asha Rangappa and John Dean, thank you very much. When we come back, the surprising person who may have been completely in the dark about the Christopher Steele's infamous Trump dossier. We're going to dig into that with Mike Rogers, the former chairman of the House intelligence committee and former FBI special agent. That's next.


[22:30:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Breaking news, former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg in a series of defiant interviews here on CNN and elsewhere saying he won't comply with the grand jury subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller. And there are other big developments in the Russia investigation to discuss.

I want to bring in now CNN national security commentator Mike Rogers, former chairman of the House intelligence committee, and a former FBI special agent. Good to see you, Mike. Thank you for coming in.


LEMON: Republicans are signaling the house intelligence investigation into Russia could be wrapping up soon. Their democratic colleagues think that could be a bit premature here.

One congressman said we're being shut off. What is your assessment of where this stands?

ROGERS: I'm not sure I believe anything that came out of the House intelligence committee these days anyway. The democrats are going to hate it, the republicans are going to love it or vice versa depending on what they come out with.

I think it would be pretty hard to say that whatever document comes out from either party is accurate. So, a lot of the investigations been kicked over both to the special counselor the DOJ inspector general. I think we're going to get a better picture out of those investigations than we will in the committee.

And candidly, they haven't turned into investigations. They've turned into campaigns from both parties and they really I think made a mess of the House intelligence committee that has very important responsibilities.

Maybe they should close it down. Let these investigations happen and then at least when they're announced we'll have some credibility as to the conclusion of those investigations.

LEMON: I've got to ask you about this Nunberg thing, all the interviews that he's doing, been doing today because Adam Schiff is saying now that the House intel -- the panel needs to interview Nunberg. Do you think he's a difference here, could he possibly cause this investigation to go on a bit longer than what republicans may have wanted it to?

ROGERS: He may have certainly caused that, but I saw something a little different as a former FBI guy. If Erin Burnett is right and I'm sure she was, that he smelled of alcohol, he was also taking medication, he talked about -- I think to me, this guy was having a really bad day and got out and just got ahead of himself.

And so, I think he's very impeachable now as a witness for whoever disagrees with what his position is, and I think it's not going to be easy for them even to go to the grand jury. I mean, all of that becomes an issue about his performance today and he did a lot of those interviews. And so, candidly I'm worried about how he's doing. I hope somebody is taking care of that guy and watching out for him.

LEMON: I said as much earlier.

ROGERS: I just looked at that whole thing and I got a little worried about where he was at and why he was doing this. If you watch some of his body language as well, I thought this is a guy that may be crying for help a little bit.

LEMON: I was going to ask what do you think of the sheer spectacle of it all but I think you pretty much answered it right there.

Let's talk about, move on and talk about other aspects of this Russia investigation. Because the New Yorker, Mike, published a lengthy profile of Christopher Steele, the man behind this dossier. It gets into how President Obama was out of the loop on the dossier for some time.

And it say, "On January 5, 2017, it became clear that at least two Washingtonians remained in the dark about the dossier, the president and the vice-president. As one person present later told me no one understands that at the White House, we weren't briefed about the FBI's investigations. We had no information on collusion. All we saw was what the Russians were doing. The FBI puts anything about Americans in a lockbox."

[22:35:02] So, someone who has worked at the FBI, does this seem plausible to you?

ROGERS: It does. You know, there would have been conversations, I imagine, in the intelligence channels either through the DNI or the FBI director themselves with the National Security Council that likely would have gotten to the Oval Office that included what the Russians were doing in a whole bunch of places.

Remember, the collusion piece is one thing. What the Russians were doing is using old tactics that they had been participating in since the 1970s and '80s and '90s, even the '60s and the race riots they were trying to sow chaos in the United States, but they didn't have the internet to do it.

This time they're getting better. In about 2014 we saw this real change in them where they could actually talk to people in their homes in the United States and cause a lot more problems.

That piece to me would have been briefed to the White House or should have been briefed to the White House. The investigation that did involve Americans including going through the FISA court, you know, should not have been I think probably briefed to the White House.

At least they should have been lots of restrictions on who got to see that information. And it could have included, somebody made the decision let's not brief the president and vice-president yet. We don't even know where that investigation goes. Maybe they did nothing.

And so, it's plausible but there's two things that we have to separate in the investigation. This notion of collusion and candidly, I think the Trump campaign couldn't collude with the RNC. I don't know how they are going to collude with the Russians and then you have what the Russians were actually doing in the election to cause chaos.

And candidly, to pit Americans against Americans -- and we should all be pretty angry about what they were trying to do. They were trying to get white on black, they were trying to get different geographical areas against other geographical areas.

They were trying to get anti-Muslim group with a pro-Muslim group so they could get some chaos and some conflict. All of that was happening because the Russians wanted us not to like each other and worse than they tried to get chaos.

That's as serious as they can get. And we know that the Russians were doing it. That why all of this other things it's important, but I'll tell you if we don't get to the bottom of that and get to the bottom of that in a hurry, I worry about really the openness and fairness of the elections coming up in 2018.

LEMON: So, Mike, so all of this is going on. You know, you've got the House, you got the Senate and you got Robert Mueller. What is the intel committee doing right now to make sure that our elections aren't infringed in any way? Are they at a standstill?

ROGERS: Well, they're not at a standstill, but there are some things. And I thought it was really telling when Admiral Mike Rogers -- as you know, Don, you can't have enough Mike Rogers in the security space really.

When Admiral Mike Rogers came out, he's the director of the National Security Agency, I thought this was a pretty powerful statement from him saying, I have not been told that I needed to move out smartly on this Russian issue.

Now, there's lots of things that he can do to try to defend and push back, but they do need -- he needs, the NSA needs special authority if they're going to go out and engage the Russians in other places in cyberspace. That's a very special kind of authority that he would need to do that.

The fact that that hasn't happened yet, tells me that we don't have this whole of government approach to push back against the Russians doing it again.

I'm not exactly sure why that's happening. All the intel chiefs came out and said, yes, the Russians have done it, are doing it and will do it again. We need to kind of get our act together.

We, the United States, if we're going to push back on the Russians going into 2018. And, by the way, they paid no penalty for this. So, there's no cost, no foul for them. They're going to go ahead and do it again because they haven't paid a penalty or a price for it. That's what Admiral Mike Rogers was talking about. I thought that was really shocking to me.

LEMON: Yes. We thank you, too, Mike Rogers for your service to the country and all the Mike Rogers around America who have served this country. Thank you. I appreciate t.

ROGERS: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, what's harder, brain surgery or running HUD? We'll tell you what Dr. Ben Carson said about that next.


LEMON: Back to Ben Carson, the acclaimed neurosurgeon who is now the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, says running the department may be difficult than running his previous job as a brain surgeon.

Joining me now, CNN political commentators Ana Navarro, Jason Miller, and Symone Sanders.

Good evening, everyone. Good to see you. Jason, I have to ask you first before we get to, you know, the Ben Carson thing, the startling interviews by Sam Nunberg, what do you think of this?

JASON MILLER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, Don, I'm very concerned when you see this type of self-destructive behavior. I think it's really a cry for help. And you could see through the number of different interviews and the progression throughout the day. It seemed like this was really Sam just wanting somebody to help him.

And I hope that -- I don't know him very well, but I hope his family is with him tonight and that they're giving him some kind of support. And obviously, social media is really kind of a cruel place.

I think once he realizes what is going to be written about him tomorrow and some of the ramifications whether it be from director Mueller or from Congressman Schiff, he's going to realize just how damaging today was.

LEMON: What do you think, Ana, do you read it that way?

ANA NAVARRO, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: What do I think? I don't know where to start with this Sam Nunberg thing. I mean, really, who needs house of cards when we are watching this kind of thing come out of this administration and this campaign and this political environment daily?

It is, you know, high drama. Look, part of me as a news consumer, as a news junky, as a spectator, I can't stop watching because it was a hell of a spectacle. Greatest show on earth.

Part of me as a human being thinks there's something wrong with this guy and this guy is inflicting so much damage to his argument and to his legal peril that you've got to think that he can't be, you know, in all his bearings.

That being said, look, I don't know, you may be drunk. You may be high. That doesn't mean you're not telling the truth. In fact, a lot of times drunk people are the ones who do tell the truth.

LEMON: Tell the truth, yes.

[22:44:57] NAVARRO: They might say it incoherently, but very rarely that a drunk person lie.


NAVARRO: And then third of all, as an American I think to myself, my God, the kind of people that this man has surrounded himself by. This week we have seen in the last seven days, we've seen Scaramucci come out and say horrible things about John Kelly. Today what's his name, Lewandowski was on our air in the morning all pointing fingers about Rob Porter.


LEMON: That was just this morning?

NAVARRO: I mean, it's just, you know, it is the best people.


NAVARRO: He hires, hash tag the best people.

LEMON: Best people. Symone, you agree with Ana, I'm sure. Can we turn this because I want to talk about Ben Carson. This is another of the best...

SYMONE SANDERS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Turn it, it's cray-cray. That's all I have to say, it was cray-cray.

LEMON: Yes, go on. SANDERS: In the words of the Harvard law professors, I was just with moments ago, this is cray-cray.

LEMON: Let me read this and let you respond.


NAVARRO: Look, imagine what kind of day it was, though.


NAVARRO: That the cray-cray stuff that Ben Carson is saying is not the most cray-cray stuff of the day.

LEMON: It's not the most -- there are more...


MILLER: Hey, the market was up. Market was up.

LEMON: ... complexities -- there are more complexities here than in a brain surgery. He added this. This is in the New York Times. "Doing this job is going to be a very intricate process." That is quite a comment. What do you think this an intricate process means, what does it means, Symone?

SANDERS: First, I know you all don't expect me to say anything nice about these comments, but I do think that Housing and Urban Development works with the housing authorities, delivers all different kinds of grants. This is a very complicated process and there are a number of housing authorities in this country that need help.

They need an overhaul. Like the system is just not working in many places, and so this is complicated. I don't know if it's more complicated than brain surgery, but the state of housing in this country and the work that HUD does is really complicated, very important work. It's tedious.

And I am not surprised that Secretary Carson whom, again, probably was more suited for HHS, is having a difficult time, maybe, if you will, wrapping his brain around all the stuff that goes on over at HUD.

LEMON: Is he over his head, do you think, Jason?

MILLER: No, not at all. I think Symone really hit the nail on the head on that point. We're talking about just the level of intricacy that goes into HUD and the complexity of the problems. But I think also when you talk about someone who is a brain surgeon, one person can go in and save another person's life.

I mean, this is Dr. Carson has literally a storied background. I mean, they made a movie about him, wrote a book. But when you talk about HUD, that problem -- that is so complex that one person can't go in and solve it all by themselves and it's tough. I mean, there's a reason why HUD is usually not a desired place to go as far as the pick of the... (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So you're confirming that he is in over his head, is that what you're saying, yes, he is in over his head?

MILLER: No, not at all. I'm saying that when you get there it is tough. I mean, it is tough to go and try to reform something as complex as HUD.


LEMON: I think that's what you're saying he's in over his head.

MILLER: No, no. Literally when you have someone -- when you have someone who is literally a brain surgeon -- I mean, think about that, a brain surgeon. That level of smart and they're having a challenge in trying to do this that just tells you that the agency, how tough it is.


LEMON: That doesn't mean -- that doesn't mean that he is suited for this particular job. Listen, Sanjay Gupta is a brain surgeon. I love him to death. I wouldn't want him to be my accountant. I mean...


MILLER: But Don, tell me who run the marvelous side.

LEMON: If he were smart it doesn't mean...

NAVARRO: And Sanjay Gupta is so smart, he wouldn't accept being your accountant.

MILLER: Who's run a marvelous HUD? Nobody has run -- no one is ever finished up their time as HUD...


LEMON: We've got some pretty good HUD secretary.

NAVARRO: Well, let me tell you I'm friends with Mel Martinez who was HUD secretary under Bush. This is not about running HUD.

LEMON: Right.

NAVARRO: This is about the fact that he can't stand the glare of public scrutiny and his behaving in a way and he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, spending $31,000 on furniture when a lot of the people he helps at HUD making less than $31,000.

So, it's not -- I'm so old I remember when being a brain surgeon used to be the standard for brilliance.

LEMON: Right.

NAVARRO: The problem is not that he can't run HUD. There are all sorts of professionals there for him to rely on.


NAVARRO: The problem is his set of skills are not suited to run a bureaucracy the size and complexity of HUD.

LEMON: And that's the answer -- that was the answer to the question. OK. Stay with me, everyone. When we come back, Donald Trump, president for life. I want to tell you what he said about that.


LEMON: President Trump making an eye opening remarks to a group of republican donors over the weekend as he was praising China President Xi Jinping for his recent power grabs. Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't forget, China is great and Xi is a great gentleman. He's now president for life.


President for life. No, he's great. Hey, look, he's able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give it a shot some day.


LEMON: Back with me, Ana, Jason, and Symone. Does he know what he means of president for life as China have, China's president got the job as president for life?

NAVARRO: Look, what does he know about China? I don't know. Do I think this was a joke him playing to the choir, him you know, playing to his base and his supporters? I do think it was a joke. That being said, had Barack Obama made the same joke, you know, many republicans would be up in arms in defense of the republic.

So, you know, with Donald Trump I think some -- you know, we got to be -- I think we got to be realistic and kind of rationale of what's a joke and what's not a joke. This was obviously in a context of it.

LEMON: A bad joke.

NAVARRO: His gridiron were a little better I think. The self- deprecating ones are a little better than I want to be a lifetime dictator ones.

LEMON: Symone, you sound pain, what, what's going on?

SANDERS: I do sound pain because you know, I think that a lot of people, for instance, Donald Trump is joking about the wall and he clearly was not. There are a number of things that have come out of this president's mouth that they seemed in jest but he is in fact serious or at least giving his some type of thought that has thought of the idea. So, well, I guess the good iron dinner, Donald Trump made a number of joke that you might think were actually kind of funny, they were -- you had to laugh to keep from crying because they were so true about what is happening in his administration.

[22:55:05] Jared Kushner were late because Jared Kushner can't those get those security, not out of the realm of something that could actually happen.

But in terms of joking about being president for life, this is possibly one of the scariest things that Donald Trump has ever said. So I am not laughing because I don't give him any inches or any little bit of wiggle room. I don't -- I'm just not comfortable, Don. Very uncomfortable. Me and a lot of the American people are uncomfortable here.

LEMON: Jason, check this out. Our correspondent in China who is Will Ripley was reporting on the president's joke and midway through his live report, the Chinese shuts him down on the air. Doesn't seem like they found it funny at all, did they?

MILLER: Well, I certainly was not there with Will and I hope everything is OK. But going back to the president's joke, I mean, Don, you could hear people laughing in the background.

And my understanding from people in the room is that the president was making faces and clearly having fun with this. But Ana is exactly right.


NAVARRO: No, he makes faces. Haven't you seen Alec Baldwin?

MILLER: The president -- the president completely killed it at the gridiron dinner this weekend and had a good time. Look, here's the thing. I mean, the fact that I see my liberal friends gets so triggered over a couple of jokes from the president, good, I hope you tell more jokes more often.


SANDERS: We are under attack, Jason.

MILELR: All the liberals starts squirming. I mean, it's good. He's got a good sense of humor and he's having fun and I wish he do it more often.

LEMON: I thought this is funny at the gridiron. "Before I get started, I wanted to apologize for arriving a little bit late, you know, we are late tonight because Jared Kushner could not get through security."

NAVARRO: What can I say? You have country club...


SANDERS: Again, you got a lot of people cry because we know that's so true.

LEMON: Thank you, all. When we come back, the president his advisers and the Republican Party all are odds. What they are fighting about and who's going to win?


LEMON: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. It is 11 p.m. here on the East Coast, live with new developments tonight.

[22:59:57] The president is shaking up his own party and standing by his out of the blue announcement of tariffs of steel and aluminum. Sparking fears of a trade war that could tip the global economy into turmoil.