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Growing Chaos in the Trump White House; Bob Mueller Tightening the Screws on Trump and Associates; CNN Sources: President Trump Is Ready To Replace H.R. McMaster As National Security Adviser; Trump Administration Announces Russia Sanctions To Punish Moscow For Election Interference; Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe May Be Fired; Pedestrian Bridge Collapses In Miami, At Least Four Dead. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 15, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hey, thanks for watching. Time to hand it over to Don Lemon. CNN TONIGHT starts right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
A night of major breaking news. Sources telling CNN that President Trump is ready to remove H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser. One source saying the move is only being delayed so McMaster can nail down his next move.
It was just two weeks ago that the White House called reports of McMaster's in an exit fake news. Well, there is nothing fake about this. And it comes on the day the special counsel revealed he has subpoenaed the Trump organization, demanding business documents.
So much for the president's red line. Robert Mueller, President Trump, look to be closer than ever tonight to an epic showdown. Now we don't know exactly what Mueller is after in those documents, but we do know that the president warned back in July that if Mueller looked into his personal finances unrelated to Russia, he would consider that crossing a red line.
(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mueller was looking at your finances, your family's finances, unrelated to Russia, is that a red line?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would that be a breach of what his actual --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I would say yes. I would say yes. By the way, I would say -- I don't -- I don't -- I mean, it's possible it's a condo or something, so I have to sell a lot of condo units, somebody from Russia buys a condo. Who knows? I don't make money from Russia. (END VOICE CLIP)
LEMON: So Mueller's demand for documents from the Trump's family business points to an investigation that includes a whole lot more than just Russia's attempts to interfere in the presidential election.
We don't know what's in those documents. We don't know why Mueller had to resort to a subpoena rather than just asking. But none of that is likely to matter to the president who made it crystal clear he wants this investigation to wrap up. Something his attorneys have been promising him was just around the corner.
Well tonight, it looks like that is not true. And the White House turmoil is growing in the wake of McMaster's imminent exit. We have known for a long time that the president wants Mueller out just as he wants Jeff Sessions out. Are they next?
All this coming on the day the Trump administration finally slaps sanctions on Russia for its attempts to interfere in the 2016 election. A tacit admission that this investigation is no witch hunt. No matter how many times the president says so.
But sanctions or no sanctions, this White House is still not willing to admit that Vladimir Putin is the enemy. Asked today whether the Russian president was a friend or a foe, Sarah Sanders dodged.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Russia is going to have to make that determination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: There are lots of unanswered questions about Russia tonight. But one thing is very clear, Vladimir Putin is no friend to this country.
I want to bring in now CNN contributor Walter Shaub who quit as head of the Office of Government Ethics last summer. Also, CNN political commentator Jack Kingston, a former congressman and senior adviser to the Trump campaign, and CNN political analyst April Ryan, the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks. Good evening to all of you. Thank you for coming on.
So, April, let's go behind all of this what's going on at the White House. Sources telling CNN that President Trump is ready to replace H.R. McMaster as national security adviser. We heard for a long while that the president hasn't been happy with him. There's been tension.
APRIL RYAN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
LEMON: This is no surprise, is it?
RYAN: No, it's not. And it's interesting, someone asked today about General McMaster and his positioning in the White House. And Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, the White House press secretary, said that you know, he and the president continue to press and pressure issues as it relates to Russia.
Now, what is key is that she didn't say anything about North Korea as we have that meeting in the next two months. And when you think about the national security adviser, the national security advisor is someone who helps the president with policy options, so I look at that as key as well.
You know, this president is also, Don, looking at not just McMaster, but other people in this administration. Top-ranking people. People in the cabinet.
So one of my sources is telling me that a source that's very close to this White House and the president is saying that this president is hearing from friends that he should make swift moves all at one time almost with those that he needs to get rid of and he's looking at people, he's already got a list of people to fill many of these positions. So this is not a surprise but just a surprise it's happening now and tomorrow is Friday. So we'll find out who else may get the ax.
[22:05:00] LEMON: Yes. Fired Friday.
LEMON: It's becoming known as. So, Jack, listen, McMaster is on his way out. There's tensions with John Kelly. The president was enamored with his generals. What happened?
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think this is part of moving so quickly at a breakneck speed where the president does go through staff and does want to change staff around as he moves through an agenda.
And I know you've heard it before, but from a conservative standpoint, he has implemented his agenda faster than Ronald Reagan did and accomplished more in the first year, and so for his base, we think that's a very good thing in terms of the economy, the taxes, rebuilding our national security.
LEMON: But my question was, was the president was enamored with his generals. What happened? That's the question.
KINGSTON: Well, but I think that he will have staff for a particular phase of his agenda and then he's going to change the staff and I think that we've all seen that this is a man who does not mind making personnel changes and he sees --
LEMON: Jack, that's a good spin. Come on, Jack. Come on.
KINGSTON: No --
LEMON: Come on. Jack. Don't come on here --
KINGSTON: There's -- Don -- LEMON: You are -- if you have a staff that's good, and everything is
working, you don't change them. You keep them as long as possible because your agenda is working and they're helping you with it.
So why are you spinning that way? What happened with why is there so much chaos, so much turnover? It's not that he's going through his agenda so fast. If these people were qualified as he said from the beginning, they should be able to roll with it. They are the best. Come on.
KINGSTON: Well, Don, let me say this. I was in the U.S. Congress for 22 years, the most chaotic period of time without question during the 22 years, it wasn't 9/11, it wasn't President Clinton's impeachment period, it wasn't the transition from Bush to Obama. It was without question during the contract with America. And I'm telling you, it was chaotic. Every three days we would have -- we'd be on the brink of total disaster.
LEMON: Bur Jack --
KINGSTON: And yet, it was also the most productive.
LEMON: -- when it comes to staff changes, this is unprecedented.
KINGSTON: But what I'm saying is --
LEMON: Washington can be chaotic, there can be chaotic periods. But when it comes to staff changes in this White House, which is actually what I'm asking you about, I'm not asking you about getting the agenda across, I'm asking you about the staff changes. Why so much turmoil?
He was in love with the generals. I love the generals. He put so many of them in his cabinet. And now he's getting rid of them. I'm asking you a very simple question.
LEMON: Why does he fall -- he seemed to have fallen out of love with the generals?
KINGSTON: In my experience, a by-product of productivity is staff burnout and staff changes. That's the only explanation I can give you.
KINGSTON: They've been tremendously productive but there is staff burnout.
LEMON: Walter, what do you say to this?
RYAN: It shakes confidence.
WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, one thing we didn't see during the kind --
LEMON: Hold on, Walter. A very good point that I want to make here, it's not that they quit because they couldn't handle it, he fired them, which was the essence of my question. Wasn't why that they quit because they couldn't handle it, I was burnout, I got to get home to my kids, I'm not getting enough sleep. He fired them.
KINGSTON: Well, there's some quit. There's been resignations as well.
LEMON: Yes, go ahead, Walter.
RYAN: Forced resignations.
SHAUB: Yes, you know, we didn't see congressmen leaving office every few months during that contract for America.
KINGSTON: Yes, you did. Absolutely. A lot of them did because of personal behavior because of the stress of the 70-hour workweeks. There was a lot of chaos on all levels.
LEMON: Let him finish. Go ahead, Walter.
SHAUB: You know, I spent a lot of years in the government working with presidential nominees and White House staff. We'd work with them through the arduous process of reviewing their financial disclosure reports, helping them perfect those, removing conflicts of interest.
There is so much involved in getting into government and then we're you're not familiar with government, getting up to speed in this unfamiliar terrain that you've gone to.
One of the things that really surprised me was after going through that entire difficult slow-moving process of getting John Kelly confirmed to be the head of an agency, you then throw away a Senate- confirmed appointment by bringing him into the White House.
Similarly, we've got people coming and going from the White House. It takes a lot to get people into government, get them up to speed, get them trained, get them to get their sea legs and then have them leave or be fired or forced out. It's -- it's just utter chaos, and it's not a recipe for moving forward in any kind of measured, calculated way. It's just seat of the pants.
And the problem is, they say personnel is policy, and they're right about that. You get good or you get bad personnel. You get different outcomes. You also have them have different views and, you know, the government is not a speedboat. It's not a tiny little thing. It's a gigantic aircraft carrier. You don't turn that around on a dime and you don't shift directions every few miles.
So, to have all these people come and go in addition to personnel being policy, the transaction cost of shifting personnel affects policy as well.
[22:09:58] LEMON: OK. Listen, I want to get to this. There's a lot of subject that I want to get to tonight. Because again, as I said, there's so much turmoil here. I want to turn now to the other breaking news story. That's the Mueller subpoena of the Trump organization.
The Trump organization put out a statement saying this. It says, "Since July of 2017, we have advised the public that the Trump organization is fully cooperative with all investigations including the special counsel and is reporting to their -- responding to their requests. This is old news. And our associates and cooperation -- our assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today."
Walter, the New York Times reports that Mueller wants documents related to Russia. The question is what will they get back as a result of this subpoena? By the way, they have not responded to this. This is new to the media, these subpoenas. It may be -- may be new to the people who are there because they know what's going on. But the reporting of this is new. Go on, what's your answer?
SHAUB: Well, I certainly hope that they do what they say and continue cooperating with the Mueller investigation. One thing to remember, though, that's interesting about this, he have said that this would be a red line.
Let's remember that this is the president who decided to break with the tradition of all modern presidents and since the enactment of the Ethics and Government Act and retain his conflicting financial interests.
Well, I feel like that puts on the table a lot of legitimate questions about those financial interests because if there are problems with them, we're not just talking about an issue from the past. We're talking about an ongoing present, current situation, which we don't fully understand because there isn't a great deal of transparency about these privately held companies.
And, sorry, I just lost my earpiece. And as a result, there's such a potential for conflicts of interest that in some cases they may rise to national security concerns. And that's separate from the Mueller investigation, but I guess I'm just not surprised that if you have these kind of conflicting financial interests that there might be information that would lead investigators to come and take a harder look at some of these things.
SHAUB: So I certainly hope they do keep their word and cooperate.
LEMON: April, the White House wants to turn the page on this Russia investigation. But instead, we see Mueller tightening the screws.
LEMON: What are you hearing from the White House about today's news? RYAN: Well, what I understand is they're not happy, but they are
trying to have a face of, you know, we're going to do what we have to do and they're still trying to keep this winning picture, we're OK with it. But they're not.
What we understand, and what I understand from sources, is that some Trump organization personnel will already talk to like the president's assistant, Rona. We understand that some information may have been obtained from her as well.
So this is not something new. The Trump organization has been touched already. But this is a little bit deeper, so this revelation is not necessary revelation. It was basically about when would it happen, what more would they want? So they already touched some people in the Trump administration or the Trump organization, I would say.
LEMON: Jack, I mean, you're a great tap dancer. Thanks a lot. I appreciate it. Thanks to all of you.
RYAN: He danced in Harlem once.
LEMON: Yes, with you.
KINGSTON: And recently without you.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, all.
When we come back, another rocky night in the Trump White House. H.R. McMaster on the way out just days after the administration denied it.
And the Russia investigation is heating up as Robert Mueller subpoenas documents from the Trump family business.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Robert Mueller's investigation expanding into what a whole lot more than just Russia's election interference and digging deeper into the Trump family business.
I want to bring in now Jack Quinn who was a Clinton White House counsel, and Robert Bennett, a former federal prosecutor who was President Clinton's personal lawyer in the Paula Jones case. Gentlemen, good evening. Go good to have both of you on.
JACK QUINN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: Good evening.
LEMON: Robert, what is the subpoena of the Trump organization tells you about Mueller's investigation?
ROBERT BENNETT, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think it's very significant because he's now looking for motive. It seems, to me, as to why the Russians have been so helpful to him in the election and why he has been so reluctant to criticize them.
Also, I think it gets Mr. Mueller into the business transactions of the Trump organization where which could lead, could, I'm not saying it will, to money laundering issues and things of that kind.
LEMON: OK. Jack, the Trump organization says they have been cooperating with investigators.
LEMON: CNN previously reported that the Trump organization was voluntarily providing thousands of documents to investigators. So why subpoena? Does that mean that they think the Trump organization wasn't providing everything?
QUINN: Well, that's one possibility. Another possibility, and by the way, they did the same thing with the campaign. They voluntarily submitted documents and then after that process, they received a subpoena.
It's entirely possible that the special counsel didn't get all of the documents they expected. It's possible that they want to put everybody inside the organization on notice that there's to be no destruction of any of the documents they're in possession of.
So any of those things is possible, but, look, the bottom line here is that it would be indefensible for the special counsel to have come this far and not taking the, you know, necessary steps to ensure that he gets to the bottom of whether there was any linkage between the campaign and the Russian interference in the election.
What you have in the Trump organization is a virtual identity of the campaign and the profit-making organization given the identity, identical people being at the top of both organizations. So it would have been reckless, I think, if Mr. Mueller failed to take steps like this to make sure that he got all the information he needed to answer the question about possible interference with the campaign that might have involved the campaign.
[22:20:03] LEMON: Jack, I just want to be clear here, just to be clear, Mueller could have simply asked for documents but they chose the more aggressive route. That's significant, correct?
QUINN: Well, yes, it's very significant because when you get a simple document request, your compliance is voluntary. When you get a subpoena, you have to obey it, and you have to obey it completely. Not partially. If you leave things out, you are obstructing justice. So there's a severe criminal penalty involved in noncompliance.
So, you know, the message here is you better follow the subpoena, you better comply with it, you better cross all the Ts and dot all the Is and give us what we've asked for, or you're in danger of going to jail.
LEMON: He's saying we're not playing around here. So, Robert --
QUINN: We are not fooling around. LEMON: Yes. Robert, is Mueller worried the Trump folks might be
sitting on material or could he already have an idea of what they have from other sources?
BENNETT: Well, of course, we don't know, but my educated guess is he knows where he's going and he's probably looking for confirmation of a lot of things. He probably has a lot of suspicions and he's been told by various witnesses about things and now he wants to get those documents to see what's in there, to see -- to confirm what his -- what his suspicions are.
QUINN: Yes. I agree with that totally. I think he knows exactly what to expect in response to the document request that he's served on the campaign in terms of the categories. I mean, he has a general idea of what to expect.
LEMON: Robert, President Trump likes to say it loud and he says it very often that there's no collusion, but certainly today shows that there's still -- that's still on the table. Following the money is on the table. There are several avenues to this Mueller investigation.
BENNETT: Right. I mean, you know, as a former federal prosecutor, you -- I can tell you, you always want to follow -- follow the money. And the money, the evidence, following the money, is going to be found in documents that relate to the business transactions of the Trump organization.
Don't forget, for many, many years, the president wanted to have a hotel in Moscow, and so you can be sure that there are all sorts of documents, letters, e-mails, whatever, that would be relevant to that. And I think it's a high risk for President Trump if Mr. Mueller pursues that, which he clearly is doing.
LEMON: Yes. Jack, I wonder would an investigation broaden out like this if Mueller wasn't finding bread crumbs?
QUINN: Well, as I said earlier, Don, I really believe that Bob Mueller is the consummate professional here, and he is not going to finish this investigation and leave any stone unturned.
So I think in the simple interest of being complete and comprehensive, he's going to go down this road. But like Bob, I think he's got a really good idea of what kind of documents and evidence will turn up in response to these subpoenas. That's not to say that he expects to get the goods, if you will. But he knows an awful lot more than I think we can imagine he knows.
LEMON: Robert, there were reports that Trump's lawyers were looking to make a deal with Mueller to try to speed up this probe. Do you see that happening given what we learned about the subpoena today?
BENNETT: No. I can't see Bob Mueller making a deal with Trump's lawyers. He might out of courtesy to the president bend a little on timing or scheduling, but he's not going to make any kind of deal on substantive, substantive things.
BENNETT: I think it's wishful thinking on the part of the president's lawyers if they think he's going to make a deal. Mueller has the leverage and the power right now. He's not going to make -- he's not going to make a deal.
LEMON: And Jack -- go on, quickly, because I want to ask you something else. Go on.
QUINN: Yes, the red line here is not the red line that anyone's drawn other than the people who put together Mr. Mueller's mandate.
LEMON: Got it.
[22:24:57] QUINN: It is very specific as to what he is to look at, what he's authorized to look at, and those are the things that make up the red line.
LEMON: If you can answer this for me quickly in the time that we have left.
LEMON: Do you think Mueller will ultimately subpoena the president's tax returns if he hasn't gotten a hold of them already?
QUINN: I don't know that he will subpoena his tax returns but I am certain beyond belief that the president will provide evidence to him in the form of testimony and I think -- it's inconceivable to me that if the president's lawyers succeed in persuading him to resist testifying that the president won't be served with a subpoena and be compelled to testify and give evidence.
BENNETT: Don, I would be very surprised if Mueller doesn't already have those tax returns. It's not very difficult for a federal investigator, I know as a former federal prosecutor, to subpoena the IRS. And if you're in the middle of an investigation like this, you're going to get them. I bet he already has them.
LEMON: Can I ask you something real quick, do you think that, you know, the other story is Stormy Daniels, can Stormy Daniels somehow end up as part of this Mueller investigation, Robert?
BENNETT: Yes. But here's where Stormy Daniels matter is a risk to the president. If they schedule her deposition -- his deposition, and remember, I argued the case in the Supreme Court, where the Supreme Court said you can take Paula -- the president's deposition in connection with the Paula Jones case.
So the president could find himself under oath asked -- being asked questions from A to Z about not only Stormy Daniels but other women and other payoffs or other agreements to keep silent. And now it may be controlled by the judge, but that is a very high-risk thing for the president.
LEMON: Robert Bennett and Jack Quinn, thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
QUINN: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, it took a few months but the Trump administration finally announcing that they will enact Russia sanctions passed by the House. I'm going to ask a member of the House intelligence committee what he thinks about the timing.
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, sources telling CNN late tonight that President Trump is ready to replace National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
Let's bring in now Congressman Denny Heck, a Washington Democrat, who sits on the Intelligence Committee.
Never a dull moment, Representative. Thanks for joining us.
First, let me get your reaction to this breaking news tonight. CNN is reporting that President Trump has decided to oust his National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster. That's another top staffer. What are your thoughts?
REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: Revolving door, musical chairs, over at the White House that's gripped by chaos. It's trouble some, especially in the national security front.
Mind you that when he replaces General McMaster, assuming that that trigger is pulled, the new one will be the third one within a 14th- month or 15th-month period of time.
So I'm from Washington State, Don, and I literally pray that General Mattis -- Secretary of Defense Mattis hangs on as a frankly, kind of bastion of stability in this sea of chaos.
LEMON: How is this going to affect an administration already plagued by chaos, and staff turnovers, and on, and on?
HECK: It's just very, very hard to get a sense of where we're going with respect to national security thing. We've had these institutions evolve, and develop over time for a good reason. They sustain us. They provide us with stability.
And, again, this kind of revolving door approach to some of these most sensitive of all positions isn't healthy at all for us, especially when we're dealing with an emotional issue of China, when we are dealing with the threat of North Korea, and the nuclear arming themselves.
And we're dealing with the ongoing existential threat of Russia engaging in a war of disinformation against us, and actually even attacking and murdering individuals on England's soil. LEMON: Yes. Now let's get to the news, another big news story now,
that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump organization for business documents. How do you read that? What is Mueller after?
HECK: So I thought Bob Bennett earlier on the program said it well, the -- there are two laws of investigations. The first of which is it's not usually the underlying crime that gets you, it's the cover- up, and the second law is follow the money.
And obviously Bob Mueller is following the money now. It is inconceivable to me, and I'm not a lawyer, Don, but it's inconceivable to me that he has taken this step without some very specific purpose in mind, without having some information that is a predicate for that which he is after.
LEMON: Yes. Over the past few months, you had been very vocal about the fact that Congress hasn't done enough to enforce sanctions on Russia for interfering in the 2016 elections.
But today, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on a series of Russian individuals and organizations. Finally -- finally meeting the Congressional mandate issued in July. Are you satisfied with this step?
HECK: He didn't meet the Congressional mandate whatsoever, Don. I'd use the oldest of cliches, it was a day late and a $1 short. It was late and that Congress adopted those sanctions last August, and he substantially delayed in implementing them.
And it was, frankly, a pretty puny list of sanctions that he did levy today. Of the people that he sanctioned, most of them are, frankly, 23-year-old hackers who are sitting in some windowless room engaging in this activity, trolling American Facebook sites and Web sites.
The fact of the matter is, we're going to continue to get this behavior from Putin until he's made to pay a price. And you're not going to get him to pay a price going through 23-year-old hackers.
What you have to do, what my disarm bill that we talked about last week does, is get at the oligarchs. Get the oligarchs around him to tell him, this is putting the squeeze on us, and we need to stop this behavior. And we're not yet --
LEMON: Are you saying --
HECK: -- putting the squeeze on Putin.
LEMON: Are you saying he's doing the least that he can do as putting a shiny object over here to take the headlines off the Russia investigation, or off of Stormy Daniels, or what have you?
[22:35:08] HECK: Exactly. He indicted one oligarch, the chef, and then a general who had already been -- he sanctioned one oligarch, the chef, and another oligarch who is one of the senior intelligence officers who is already sanctioned. And all the rest of those were two-bit players. I don't give a hoot
and a holler about them. What I care about is getting at the people that can put the squeeze on Putin. And he didn't do that whatsoever.
LEMON: Today at the White House at the press briefing, the Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked if Russian President Vladimir Putin was a friend or foe of the United States. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Putin a friend or a foe of the United States?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that's something that Russia is going to have to make that determination. They're going to have to decide whether or not they want to be a good actor, or a bad actor.
I think you can see from the actions that we've taken up until this point. We're going to be tough on Russia until they decide to change their behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Russia will decide if they are a friend or a foe?
HECK: No, we decided. We decided last summer when, again, Don, we voted 517-5 to levy sanctions against Russia because they had been acting in a highly adversarial fashion.
They not only hacked our election, they not only interfered with our democracy, and other western democracies, but they now resorted to actual murdering people on western Democratic soil.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, Representative Denny Heck, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
HECK: You're welcome.
LEMON: When we come back, will the departing FBI deputy director get fired just before his announcement retirement? That's what the president wants. Will Jeff Sessions make it -- make it happen?
[22:40:08] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Attorney General Jeff Sessions expected to make a decision by tomorrow whether he'll fire Andrew McCabe, the former FBI Deputy Director, or allow him to retire with a pension.
CNN has learned the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility has recommended he'd be fired. This follows an internal Justice Department report that claims McCabe misled investigators about his decision to authorize FBI officials to speak to the media about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
Let's discuss now. CNN Political Commentator Tara Setmayer is here. CNN Legal Commentator Ken Cuccinelli joins us, and Political Commentator, Jen Psaki in the house as well.
Good evening to all of you.
Jen, we're going to start with you because sources tell CNN the outgoing Deputy Director Andrew McCabe at the Justice Department today making a case about why he shouldn't be fired just before his Sunday retirement date if he makes it that long, so he gets his pension, $60,000 a year.
If Sessions fire him -- fires him before that, McCabe will likely loses out on collecting the pension for about 10 years. The Inspector General's recommendation is to Fire McCabe. What do you think Sessions should do, Jen?
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What should he do? You know, this is a guy who's been serving in the FBI. He's been a public servant for more than two decades. He investigated the Boston bombing. He went and found the people who were responsible for Benghazi, you know.
And he's somebody who if you compare with who this administration has been defending, which includes, unfortunately, pedophiles and domestic abusers, this seems pretty harsh.
What Sessions I think will do is probably fire him because he's also under fire, himself, and worried about his own job, and that's clearly what Trump and the White House want.
LEMON: The I.G. did suggest, though, that he be fired, Jen.
PSAKI: I know. I saw that, but, you know, a lot of what's happening right now in the administration is not entirely on the level, and I think we've seen that time and time again.
And there's an uncomfortable line that doesn't typically exist between the Department of Justice, and all elements of that, and the White House management of it. And I think we should take that, this all with a grain of salt in terms of the recommendations.
LEMON: Sarah Sanders, here she is with the White House's position on McCabe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: That's a determination that we would leave up to Attorney General Sessions, but we do think that it is a well documented that he's had some very troubling behavior, and by most accounts a bad actor, and should have some calls for concern. But that would be a determination that DOJ would have to make.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He should not receive his full pension as a result of...
SANDERS: As I just said, that would be a decision that Department of Justice would have is to make.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Ken Cuccinelli, the President has publicly called out his Attorney General a number of times. If Sessions doesn't do this, will he suffer fallout?
KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: He may get called out again, but, you know, the awkward -- the most awkward part of this is that you do have an Inspector General who's made this recommendation, and despite the earlier comments about the nature of some behavior in this administration, and the public presumption about some of it, the I.G.s have not really been in on any of that.
And, you know, you'll recall back in the '70s when the Inspector Generals were established, every single Cabinet Secretary came in and testified against establishing I.G.s, and they have served America very well.
So I wouldn't be surprised if McCabe was let go and, thus, didn't -- wasn't allowed to start collecting his pension for about a decade or so, instead of starting to collect it immediately.
But if you asked me to bet on it, I would bet that he isn't fired. I think that despite the president's public comments, I think the Attorney General is likely to determine that taking that step is more trouble than it's worth. And I think that's what it it's going to come down to.
CUCCINELLI: That's my guess, but that's how I --
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not so sure about that.
LEMON: You're not so sure. You were -- were you in the meeting in my office? Because I kind of thought the same thing, Ken, but who knows.
SETMAYER: Well, you know, I think if this -- if the President of the United States hadn't come out and tweeted against Andrew McCabe the way he has, then I think he probably could have gotten -- Sessions could have gotten away with not firing him.
But if you turn and watch another channel, Andrew McCabe is one of the main figures that they go after constantly as an example of what's going on at the FBI.
[22:45:02] LEMON: He's the foil.
SETMAYER: Well, there is some merit to it, though. Yes, Andrew McCabe has a long history, and he's done a lot of good, but he's also gotten himself caught up in some political decisions, and what he's being accused of, and what the fireable offense is, is something that I think is warranted.
I mean, you can't authorize leaks to try to, you know, it was about leaks -- authorizing leaks to the Wall Street Journal about the investigation into the Clinton foundation. And it was at a time where it was actually a negative story about the
Clintons, and it was to kind of save McCabe's behind because he was part of that investigation, and they let things go, and Hillary Clinton was exonerated for the most part with the e-mail servers, and things.
And his wife, there was some -- there was some conflict of interest there with his wife taking money from pro-Clinton folks, you know, Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, and their PAC, and he didn't recuse himself from the Clinton investigation-- the server investigation, until a week before the election.
So you can't mislead investigators about -- which is what he did about his role in those leaks to the Wall Street Journal. That undermines your credibility as an agent. And that's a problem for the agency especially if we're looking at maintaining the integrity of the FBI.
LEMON: If Sessions fires McCabe before Sunday, leave him with, it think, down a total of more than half a million bucks --
LEMON: -- in early retirement benefits, how do you think that would look?
SETMAYER: Well, I mean, I think you could make a case for the fact that despite the fact that he might have served honorably for a long time, he made considerable mistakes, civilian, you or I, could not get away with not being truthful to prosecutors. We would end up --
LEMON: We could retire.
SETMAYER: Yes, but when you're a public servant -- but when you're a public servant there's a lot of responsibility --
SETMAYER: ... with the role that you're in, especially when you're at that level in the FBI. But there's -- there's a couple of things. Even if he does get fired -- and I think that Jeff Sessions is under tremendous pressure to have to do this.
I think if he doesn't do it then Trump is going to fire him. I mean, there's no question about that in my mind. So I think that's why he's going to end up getting fired. What McCabe has -- he has ways that he can fight this, and he can go through a process. There's a due process where he could try to make his case.
LEMON: This is how the president responded to the Washington Post report about possible staffing changes he's considering. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITES STATES: Well, the story was very false. I mean, they wrote a story about staff changes today that was very false. There will always be change, but very little. It was a very false story. It was very -- a very exaggerated --
TRUMP: -- a very exaggerated and false story. But there will always be change and I think you want to see change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: There will always be change, Jen, but very little. I mean just in the last hour sources say the president is ready to replace H.R. McMaster. It's not imminent, but when he decides -- what McMaster decides he's going to do next?
PSAKI: Well, I mean, first of all to say...
PSAKI: I mean having the Secretary of State fired and McMaster, the National Security Adviser leaving in the same week or same month would be probably historic in terms of the chaos it would create, and uncertainty about the national Security team, and who's in charge.
So I don't know what he's gauging in terms of exaggerated, but that would be quite significant. There have been all sorts of reports about what McMaster is going to do next, his desire to have a fourth star, his prospects of going to a think tank. So a lot of things are aligning to seem like he's on his way out pretty soon.
LEMON: Why do you want to take us to church, Ken? Why did you say hallelujah?
CUCCINELLI: Because when you see Tillerson go and, look, I have nothing against Rex Tillerson, but it's very clear that on things like the Iran deal, he differed with the president, and at a certain point, that became too much.
Well, McMaster's in the same place, and McMaster's been bringing in a lot of people who do not hold the positions Trump advocated for in foreign policy, and national security during the campaign, and there are an awful lot of us in the conservative movement who are not neocons who would love to see him go. Think he is -- was a bad choice in the first place.
And the fact that he's going near the Secretary of State is quite secondary to removing people who do not have a good foreign policy perspective and program in mind, whether that causes consternation, and discussion of turmoil or not, it's still better to remove people who don't share...
LEMON: I want to ask you another question, Tara.
LEMON: Quick answer, please, because I'm out of time. We have seen this before, reports of people who are supposedly leaving. The president denies, and then they do leave. He has now lost around half of his senior staff in the first 14 months of his presidency. Why not just own it?
SETMAYER: Because he doesn't own anything. He doesn't take responsibility for anything. But I don't understand how someone who bragged about I hire only the best people can't seem to keep people. I mean, he can't seem to make a decision. He can't surround --
LEMON: Did you hear what Jack Kingston said?
SETMAYER: I didn't. But I --
LEMON: They're getting so much accomplished that --
LEMON: So much winning, it's burning --
SETMAYER: That's the spin.
SETMAYER: Look, every day, I call it the chaos chronicles in the White House.
[22:50:02] And I'm sorry there's nothing normal about this. There's nothing normal about a third -- we're going to be on our third National Security Adviser, the Secretary of State is gone. He can't keep a Communications Director.
You know, the staff turnover -- you're looking at a bunch of cabinet members that are on the rocks that don't deserve to be there actually. I mean, it's -- this is not normal. And I'm sorry you can't govern this way with this constant turnover. It's just spin. There is nothing normal about this.
LEMON: We got to go. When come back, a bridge collapsing to a busy highway in Miami today killing at least four people. We're live at the scene with an update on what went wrong, that's next.
LEMON: Breaking news tonight in Miami. Search and rescue teams digging through the rubble of a collapsed pedestrian bridge, at least four people were killed. CNN National Correspondent Dianne Gallagher is there for us. Diane, hello to you. Fill us in on the latest. What are you learning?
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Don, it is still a search and rescue mission. There are about 100 different crews going through the rubble of the bridge behind me here.
They said they're going to work around the clock until they can make sure that they have found any survivors who still may be in there. They're using K-9, using radar, they want to make sure. [22:55:02] And they said that it's not going to be a quick process,
because these are very heavy pieces of concrete. And they have to be careful about how quickly to move things because if there are still survivors in there, the slightest move could cause some of these to collapse again. And they want to be as sure as they can at this point that if there is some survivor in there that they're able to save them.
LEMON: OK. They are just terrific. The NTSB is sending a team to investigate, Dianne, this collapse. What are you hearing just about how quickly this all happened?
GALLAGHER: Don, they are using words like earthquake, and that it looked like an explosion, it sounded like a bomb. They say it just happened in an instant.
The bridge was there, and then it wasn't. It was flattened on the road. This wasn't a gradual fall. This was something that happened instantly. And that's what the NTSB, and state, and university officials are going to be looking at. What caused this $15 million, 950-ton bridge to fall like that.
LEMON: Dianne Gallagher in Miami. Dianne, thank you so much. I appreciate your reporting. When we come back, President Trump facing not one but two legal cases that are causing turmoil in his White House.
My question is, how is the President getting anything done with a lawsuit by Stormy Daniels, and the Mueller investigation hanging over his head?