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CNN TONIGHT

Mueller's Team Prepares for Trump's Interview; Trump Defends Call to Putin; CNN Source: Trump Fuming Over Leak Of "Do Not Congratulate" Warning; Stormy Daniels Tweets About Alleged Affair with Trump, Trump Has Yet to Respond; Trump Attorney Will Appeal Judge's Decision In Summer Zervos' Defamation Case. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 21, 2018 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00] (JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That's it for us. That's all the time we have. Time to hand it over to Don Lemon. "CNN TONIGHT" starts now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you so much for joining us.

And we have breaking news on the Russia investigation to tell you about. We're learning more tonight about what Robert Mueller's team is focusing on. Here's what sources are telling CNN.

Now the special counsel wants to question President Trump about four main topics so far anyway. Four main topics. The source also says the president's legal team is creating a list of dozens of potential questions Mueller's team could ask.

And with Trump already angry about the Mueller investigation and blasting it as a witch hunt. CNN has learned the president was fuming last night when news leaked

that his national security advisers had warned him, in all caps, not to congratulate Vladimir Putin on his re-election.

The president reportedly quizzed his allies and outside advisers asking them to tell him who they thought was the leaker. One source says the latest leak contributes to an atmosphere of paranoia in the West Wing.

But this is a president who doesn't hesitate to throw his own people right under the bus. Just ask Jeff Sessions, he doesn't hesitate to fire them as long as he doesn't have to do it face-to-face, just ask Rex Tillerson, not to mention James Comey, or Michael Flynn and a host of other people. So what's behind these leaks? Is it about fighting back or is it for the good of the country?

Then there is this. This is from the former director of the CIA, John Brennan telling MSNBC he thinks President Trump is afraid of Vladimir Putin, and going on to say, quote, "The Russians could have something on him personally, that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult." There's no public evidence of that, but it's a pretty stunning statement by an intelligence professional, right? I'm going to ask another former CIA Director Michael Hayden about

that. Plus, we have new developments in the lawsuit filed by a former apprentice contestant against the president. Trump's attorney plans to appeal a judge's decision to allow the defamation lawsuit to go forward.

Her name is Summer Zervos who says Trump groped her in 2006. And she says he defamed her by calling her a liar. More on that later on in the show.

A lot to get to, but I want to bring in CNN senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown.

Pamela, good evening to you. So we can see now she's live at the White House this evening. I hope you're warm out there in the middle of this snowstorm we're having here on the East Coast.

You know, you're getting new details about what Mueller's team has discussed with the president's attorneys. What are you learning?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Don. The special counsel investigators have indicated four main areas that they would like to discuss with the president during a potential sit down interview. They include the president's role in crafting that statement aboard air force one to miscast the meeting that his son had at Trump Tower with Russians in June of 2016.

They also want to know more about that meeting at Trump tower that Don Jr. had with Russians and what the president knew about it. As you know, the president has said he didn't know anything until much later. But clearly, Robert Mueller's team is interested in that according to sources.

They also want to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the firing of FBI Director James Comey and former national security advisor Michael Flynn and the president's actions there.

Now, a source familiar, Don, says a bulk of what Robert Mueller's team is looking to speak with the president about has to do with those firings. And from all of this information the president's legal team has basically put together a memo of dozens of potential questions that the president could be asked.

Now whether there will be an interview it remains to be seen, Don. In fact, I'm told by a source that the president's legal team is looking to add to its ranks more lawyers as it enters this next phase to decide what will happen. One thing is for sure, though, Don, the president is growing increasingly agitated as we see here. Robert Mueller wants to talk to him about his own behavior. This is about the president himself, that is something that has been frustrating to him.

Sarah Sanders at the podium yesterday I was asking her about Robert Mueller, the Russia probe, it was clear she's frustrated saying that the president has been mercilessly attacked. So we'll have to wait and see how this plays out from here, Don.

LEMON: So given that, any sense of a time line on how soon could the president potentially sit down with Mueller's team, Pamela?

BROWN: Well, I'm told, Don, that there could be a decision made just within the next couple of weeks, so that is why one source said we're entering a new phase here, we need more people, more lawyers to try to make this decision how to handle this from here.

The president himself has vacillated, I'm told that he initially wanted to come out and sit down with Robert Mueller, he said it on the record in January that he would love to do it under oath.

But now as it's becoming increasingly clear what Robert Mueller wants to focus on, the fact that this probe is not slowing down the president is sort of is getting different advice from lawyers.

[22:05:00] So, we will have to wait and see, but a decision on whether or not it will happen whether or not his lawyers will allow it to happen is expected to be made within the next couple of weeks, Don.

LEMON: Pamela Brown, much appreciate it. Thank you so much.

I want to bring in now CNN politics editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, CNN political analyst, Ryan Lizza, CNN contributor John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel. I got to get my Cillizzas and Lizzas right.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well done.

LEMON: It can be confusing sometimes. So that said, I'm going to start with John. Good evening to all of you, by the way.

John, CNN is learning about these four main focuses, the focus area that Mueller is interested in talking to the president about. With particular interest in the president's actions related to Comey and the Flynn firings, what type of case does this sound like to you? Is it an obstruction of justice case given what you know?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there certainly are some questions there that would directly relate to an obstruction case. But Don, I don't think we really know what he's going to ask and he's not going to be bound by any agreement as to what he'll ask. He's going to go where he thinks he needs to go, he's going to go within the four corners of the general charge he's got from the deputy attorney general as to what he's to investigate, and he's not going to be restrained.

So, I don't think we can really figure out what's going to happen in that session.

LEMON: And the backdrop of the new details we're learning about today is the president's Twitter tirade against Mueller and the investigation. That's the backdrop here.

CILLIZZA: Yes. And I think it's important to remember, Don, this is a pressure cooker. Last night we were talking about Summer Zervos, Karen McDougal, and Stormy Daniels, now this, the Putin phone call. Donald Trump says he likes to operate in chaos, he believes that's that the way in which he works best, he thinks his best ideas come out of that.

But I think what you see, his Twitter has always been his pressure release valve, it's the thing that no one can ever take from him. Despite people trying to many times over. And I think you'll see that increasingly. Some of it this afternoon. We've seen some of it over the last few days. I think you'll continue to see that.

Because I think he's getting increasingly pressure -- pressure on, on, on less staff he can rely on. Remember, Hope Hicks on her way out. Less people he trusts around him. Who don't have other conflicts they need to deal with that their minds are focused on.

So, I think you're going to see him turn even more to Twitter to express himself which probably is against the advice of his lawyers. But when does he ever listen to them.

LEMON: Well, you mentioned Stormy Daniels he's not turning to Twitter for that.

CILLIZZA: No, that's all--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: That's a whole another show.

CILLIZZA: That's a whole another panel.

LEMON: And that's later on in this show. So let's stick with Russia now and Mueller, and I'm going to ask you about the four areas. But let me just read them quickly before I ask you, Ryan. I must call you, Chris, Ryan.

The president's role in crafting the statement aboard air force one, right, that miscast Donald Trump, Jr.'s campaign at the 2016 meeting. The circumstances surrounding the Trump tower meeting as well as that, the firing of the FBI director James Comey and the firing of national security advisor Michael Flynn. So those are the ones that -- so those are what they're talking about now.

So his interests go beyond those four topics, though. Don't you think it goes beyond that? So and -- it goes beyond just simple collusion I would think that appoints to and that's why I ask John is this an obstruction case. So this is not ending any time soon.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's sprawling, just think of all the buckets here. Number one, it gets to the basic issue of collusion. Two and three on your list get to more of the obstruction of justice. Four, I think is one that's gotten a little bit forgotten in the recent months of a lot of news is this Flynn case and whether Mueller is looking into a Logan Act violation. Remember the Logan Act?

LEMON: Right, right, right.

LIZZA: We were talking about that. And you go back and you read the filings in the Flynn case, remember, he admitted to lying to the FBI. There's some interesting clues in there. He talks about a very senior official in the transition who knew about what -- the conversations he was having with the Russian ambassador.

Mueller has been focused on those conversations, and he wants to know who told Flynn to say what to the Russian ambassador. We don' know who that very senior official is. Is it Jared Kushner, is it Pence, is it Trump? So I think that's something that we haven't talked about in a long time.

And remember, this Logan Act that's been on the books for centuries but has not been actually been enforced much. But it's basically are you conducting a foreign policy independently that tries to thwart the current American government's foreign policy. That's what Flynn was on his way to being charged when he admitted to the lie.

Anyway, so that's one bucket. And then the stuff outside of that list, we have this recent issue of the subpoena to the Trump organization, right. Is Mueller now looking at something that the Trump organization did completely outside of Russia or, you know, related to Russia. And so, that's a lot of issues.

And then we still don't have any indictments. I think the most obvious indictment from what we know publicly is going to be something related to Russians who were involved with the hacking and dumping campaign of the DNC and Podesta e-mails.

[22:10:06] LEMON: Yes.

LIZZA: So this investigation is going off a long time.

CILLIZZA: Can I just highlight one thing? Because I think, Ryan, we lose sight because so much happens, right?

LIZZA: Yes.

CILLIZZA: We talk about this all the time, so much happens every day, you lose sight of it. But the Flynn plea deal and cooperation I think is of huge importance. You know, it's not the most recent thing that happened.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Well, one of those -- I reported the Flynn -- Flynn was fired or whatever.

CILLIZZA: That's a huge deal, because of all of them whatever you think of George Papadopoulos, whatever you think of Rick Gates there is no question that Michael Flynn was there at the beginning roughly, he was there in the central part of the campaign, he was in the leadership team. And then he was the national security advisor in the White House.

So that plea deal in cooperation pledge.

LEMON: Yes. CILLIZZA: The belief by Mueller that Flynn knows enough that a plea deal is worthwhile. And then Flynn's cooperation do not underestimate that. I think that may be a key --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Well let's go to the man who knows about that.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

LEMON: I mean, come on, John, he is sitting right here.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: -- has ever handled that.

LEMON: I know. So--

LIZZA: We're in a Woody Allen movie we've actually got the person--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: John, seriously, and if you agree with that, John, that's a lot of legal land mines for the president. No wonder the president is like, my gosh, can this just be over with?

DEAN: For sure. One of the things also, if you take all of this and put it together, what you're really looking at is a grand conspiracy. And those are the counts that he's raising, for example, in the 13 Russians he charge with conspiracy with the Manafort case and the Gates case. Those were conspiracy Case.

So he's actually building a defraud the United States case that could be both domestic and foreign. And it's what would be known as collusion in another term.

LEMON: So given collusion in another term, but is it -- is it surprising to you that he is focusing on things, John, that happened after the administration was in place, instead of before the election, when there was some sort of collusion? Because, I mean, that would -- I mean, it does fall under the scope, but it appears that he's focusing on actions after the presidency?

DEAN: If you recall the way that he picked up the investigation, the investigation was in progress when Mueller was appointed. So there was an ongoing investigation. He was asked to complete. The thing that prompted his appointment was the firing of Comey.

So it's not surprising that's one of the things he's looking at. And it's one of the things that certainly suggests both his dealings with Comey, and his firing of Comey, obstruction of justice, that's one of the reasons I think that's been one of the later focuses of his attention.

LEMON: So John, again, having been there, right, for Nixon, So take us behind the scenes at this White House, and with the -- you know, the advice that the president is being given, you know, is he on an island by himself? What is going on now in his head?

DEAN: He's very frustrated by leaks. That's apparent. And every president to a degree has had that problem, Nixon had that problem. Long before Watergate, many people think that's one of the things that led to Watergate, he put wire taps, for example, on White House staffers, national security staffers, newsmen, he couldn't determine and find the leakers, however.

So I'm sure Trump is thinking about all those things, but hopefully somebody has told him it really doesn't work very well.

LEMON: Chris, you said that the real story here, though, I mean, we've been talking about the leaks and he said about the leaks or whatever.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

LEMON: But you say this that -- I'm sorry, Ryan, not Chris, Ryan -- the dysfunction is -- the story is dysfunction in the White House, that's the story?

LIZZA: Well, I think that is. I don't know if I said that or--

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: That was probably me. We get mistaken for one another in parking lots everywhere.

LEMON: You both said. You both said.

LIZZA: I would have said that.

CILLIZZA: Yes. We're basically interchangeable.

LIZZA: What did you mean by that?

CILLIZZA: And so, it was me, although I take credit for all the good stuff that Ryan writes in the New Yorker, I take credit for all the time. People are like, the Anthony Scaramucci stuff, I'm like, yes, no, sure, that was me. Anyway.

LEMON: Too soon.

CILLIZZA: That was me.

LIZZA: Exactly. That was too soon.

LEMON: Yes, too soon.

CILLIZZA: The point I was making about the dysfunction is, that -- the -- someone in what is a relatively small circle of people theoretically who knew the contents of the call between Putin and Trump, and who knew the briefing papers and what they said that they do not congratulate, it's not that big of a world.

LIZZA: Yes. CILLIZZA: That within a couple hours of the phone call happening, "The Washington Post" had that he had not -- he had number one had congratulated him, and number two had not brought up the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy suggest that there are people who are not some junior subordinates. Someone relatively close to this president or relatively high level who believes that is the only way that you can effectively communicate with him. To sort of publicly embarrass him--

LEMON: Well, that was my point.

CILLIZZA: -- because he won't pay attention otherwise.

[22:15:01] LEMON: That was my point last night with Scott Jennings, is that he keeps saying this some sort of deep state because that was Scott's point last night, there was this deep state and that someone who, you know, people who are not necessarily close to the president who had been there for a long time. This is someone who's close to him, probably he appointed who's--

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: Deep state is another word for, you know, often career professionals--

CILLIZZA: Yes.

LIZZA: -- who are really scared about where this president is taking us. And when I saw that report, it is shocking, it is amazing to see something so close to an event in such a private closely held documents.

It seemed like, frankly, a whistle blower. Someone was saying we think Russia policy is crazy right now, this guy just poisoned someone in the U.K., he won a fraudulent election, he's paid no price for meddling in our democracy, and the president just gives him a call like they're buddies. It feels like someone who is saying this has to stop and wanted to go public with. Not everyone over here agrees with him.

LEMON: I got -- I got to run. The calls are coming from, John, as we always said the calls are coming from inside the house, right?

Thank you. Thank you, Ryan, Chris, and John. I appreciate it. When we come back, does Vladimir Putin have professional dirt on President Trump? Former CIA Director John Brennan says he might. I'm going to ask another former CIA boss, Michael Hayden what he thinks.

And a bit later, we're going to hear from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, speaking exclusively to CNN.

[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump is defending his phone call with Vladimir Putin. A call in which he congratulated the Russian president on his re-election, but apparently didn't mention accusations that Russia used a nerve agent to poison a former Russian spy in the U.K. He also apparently failed to mention Russia's election interference. But we're learning tonight that one of the things the president did mention reportedly blind-sided his senior advisers.

Joining me now, CNN national security advisor, General Michael Hayden, CIA Director under President George W. Bush. Thank you, sir.

MICHAEL HAYDEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Thank you.

LEMON: Good to have you on. I appreciate it.

There's new reporting tonight from "The Washington Post" that Trump's senior advisers were thrown when he told Putin that he expected to meet with Putin soon. And several officials are telling the Post that there is no plan for a meeting. That wasn't in the briefing material, does it sound like the president has his own Russia agenda here?

HAYDEN: I think the president is spontaneous, unstructured, doesn't take to coaching very well. I think that just came out, Son, and now like many things, you get this statement from the chief executive, and now the staff either has to walk him back from it or implement it. And we'll see which of those two dynamics apply in this particular case.

You know, meeting with Putin, isn't quite as bad as meeting with Kim Jong-un without preconditions, but it does seem to give Putin credit he doesn't deserve, particularly after some recent things that we know Putin did.

LEMON: Yes. General Hayden, the former CIA Director John Brennan says Russia may have something on Trump. I want you to take a look at this.

HAYDEN: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER UNITED STATES CIA DIRECTOR: I think he's afraid of the president of Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?

BRENNAN: Well, I think one can speculate as to why, that the Russians may have something on him personally, that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult. The Russians I think have had long experience with Mr. Trump and may have things that they could expose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone personal perhaps?

BRENNAN: Perhaps.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Do you think that's a real possibility, general, that Putin has something on Trump?

HAYDEN: Look, anything is possible, Don, but John, admitted quite candidly that he was speculating here. So let me -- let me just try to parse out some potential explanations for why the president doesn't to have it within him to criticize Russia or Vladimir Putin.

You know, when I got to a communist country in the mid-1980s, communist Bulgaria my predecessor warned me my first day there, he said, you know, you'll be a lot better off here if you do not attribute to malice that which can equally be explained by incompetence.

And you know, there could be a fair amount of incompetence when it comes to the president making it up in terms of his relationship with Putin and with Russia. There are a lot of things he doesn't know, Don. And more frighteningly, it appears that he doesn't know that he doesn't know.

I'll say, this may just simply be bad performance. Now if you go over here and talk about what John was talking about. How are the Russians attempting to influence him. We got this little pneumonic that we use, MICE, m-i-c-e, money, ideology, compromise and ego.

And if I'm looking at those four approaches. If I'm the Russians looking at Donald Trump, I don't know that I would instinctively go to compromise. You know, it's awfully hard to embarrass the president. He blew right through that Access Hollywood tape, hardly without blinking.

If I was going to try to work to influence our president. If I were a Russian, I'd think I'd go to ego.

LEMON: Ego. Yes.

HAYDEN: And we have seen, we have seen Putin go out of his way to praise President Trump.

LEMON: Were you surprised by the former director -- former Director Brennan's comments, general?

HAYDEN: I was a bit, but look, John is a very straightforward guy, he speaks -- he speaks his mind. I've had -- John is a good friend, but he and I have had some sharp conversations, because he's very candid.

LEMON: Yes. So General Hayden, we pull just a sampling of the president's tweets, and we all know that there are many, many, many more -- many more, but he attacks Democrats, Republicans, he attacks, Mexico, China, Iran, he's dissed our allies like the U.K. He's attacked Nordstrom, he's attacked me and others in the media but there's never criticism of Putin or Russia, what explains the president's pro-Russian views?

HAYDEN: Don, you go back to that little pneumonic m-i-c-e.

LEMON: M-i-c-e.

HAYDEN: Let's go to I, ideology. And here I'm not talking about post- Marxism or anything. I'm talking about a kindred spirit between the president of the United States and the president of Russia when it comes toward a trend towards autocracy. The strong man that kind of approach to governance, I really do think there's a convergence in terms of how President Trump would like to govern. And how president Putin does govern.

[22:25:07] And so because of what's the right word here, Don, respect, admiration, the president doesn't seem to want to go out and attack someone who he seems to actually have a great deal of respect for.

LEMON: I just want to read some of the president's tweets from this morning, OK, defending his congratulating of Putin and get your take on it.

"I called president Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory. In past, Obama called him also, the fake news media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him. They are wrong. Getting along with Russia and others is a good thing, not a bad thing. They can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran, and even the coming arms race. Bush tried to get along, but didn't have the smarts. Obama and Clinton tried, but didn't have the energy or chemistry. Remember reset, peace through strength."

General, there's a lot to pull apart in that tweet.

HAYDEN: There really is.

LEMON: I mean, but, you know, I'll let -- what stands out to you.

HAYDEN: Well, a couple of things. Number one, he blames a list of people for bad Russian American relations. None of them are Vladimir Putin which is really, really quite striking.

LEMON: Yes.

HAYDEN: And then he blames you and your colleagues, Don, for making war on him for trying to make nice with the Russian. You guys didn't write in capital letters don't congratulate him, that came from his own intimate personal staff, the staff that he hired.

LEMON: Yes. And we didn't congratulate Vladimir Putin on a phone call. But it's just interesting to me, when you have, you know, highly respected people -- and you know, I respect all of our former -- our presidents -- President Clinton, President Obama. President Bush, who I'm sure when they were in office, worked their damndest to try to figure out a way to negotiate with Russia.

He's attacking them rather than attacking someone who is supposed to have just killed someone with a chemical weapon in the U.K.

HAYDEN: Yes. It's amazing you talk about the tweet. I think fact of call was the first mistake, it's too soon after the attempted murders in London, and then making the call without bringing those up at all, I think is another unforced error on our part, Don.

LEMON: General, I always appreciate it. Thank you so much.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

LEMON: When we come back, the presidents -- the president is furious over leaks coming from inside the White House. He's renewed his demand for loyalty from his own staff. But can he expect loyalty when he publicly berates staffers and cabinet members and outright ignores their advice?

[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: New developments tonight in the Russia investigation, sources telling CNN, the Special Counsel's Office has told the White House legal team, four main areas they are looking to question the President about. Let's bring in now CNN Senior Political Commentator David Axelrod. Good to have you on.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to be here.

LEMON: We'll talk about where the -- where Robert Mueller wants to go. But let's talk about the President is -- you know, phone call he had with Putin, he is upset because someone he believes close to him is leaking information.

AXELROD: Yes, someone clearly is.

LEMON: Is he furious over the right things?

AXELROD: Well, I think he has a right to be angry about these leaks. I honestly can't imagine in another administration, the President's briefing materials leaking almost in real-time. The question he ought to be thinking about is, why are these people leaking?

Why am I the subject of these, and you have to -- you know, when you think about it, here's a guy, the President who's been leaking constantly through conversations to his own friends, maybe to reporters about his lack of confidence in his national security team, his lack of confidence in his National Security Adviser who may be on his way out.

So when you think about the likely suspects of leaks, they're either from the National Security Council or from the State Department where he just fired the Secretary of State.

It goes to the broader issue, Don, about these nondisclosure agreements that he is requiring at White House people. We didn't need nondisclosure agreements in the Obama White House, they didn't need them in the Bush White House.

I don't think they needed them in any White House that I can think of, because it was loyalty that bound people to the President, and a shared belief. But the lack of that is what creates this environment that the President doesn't like.

LEMON: Isn't it interesting because he wants people to take loyalty oaths and pledges. But then somehow they -- you know, they leak things, or they are not honest (ph) at him. It's more than just wanting people to do it. You have to...

AXELROD: You have to earn it.

LEMON: You have to earn it. AXELROD: You have to earn it. And he has created an environment there that is toxic for the people that work there. And so, it's not surprising to me that these leaks are happening. And I am not sure they are going to stop any time soon, because I don't think he's not going to change any time soon.

LEMON: So if someone is saying, don't congratulate, and you do -- and you're an adviser -- a trusted adviser --

AXELROD: Yes.

LEMON: -- and you don't do it, then why would you be loyal to someone who doesn't follow your advice.

AXELROD: Well, because I don't think your job as an adviser to the President is to insist that in each and every instance your advice is followed.

You're there, you offer the President your advice, if he either follows or he doesn't follow it. But if you don't like the direction he is taking, then leave.

LEMON: Yes. He has a right to be upset about that.

AXELROD: I think he has a right to be upset about it, but I think at the end of the day, he's the one who is responsible for creating the environment in which these leaks are flourishing.

LEMON: The buck stops with him.

AXELROD: Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: ... reflect at the -- we reflect our leader. I want to ask you, there are some conservatives who are using your example that you mentioned. You mentioned at CNN that in 2012, President Obama thanked Putin...

AXELROD: Yes.

LEMON: ... on his -- the sham election in 2012. You said that was very different circumstances.

AXELROD: Well, it's different circumstances, and that our relationship with Russia was a little bit different at that time. We had this period with Medvedev who was president before Putin -- in between Putin's terms, that was productive.

[22:35:01] But it also was different because we hadn't had this assault on our electoral system. We hadn't had the poisoning just in the last few days with a nerve toxin of a former Soviet spy in London.

There were so many -- so my objection isn't that he called and congratulated Putin, although it was clearly a sham election, and they have violated human rights by not allowing people have the choice they wanted, and so on.

But my objection is to what he didn't say, the fact that he didn't bring up -- that he didn't bring up what happened in London, that he didn't particularly bring up what they were doing here.

What he should have said was, we can have a productive relationship if you stop doing the things that you're doing. And what he said instead was, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to engage with all -- on all of this, and it was weak, and Putin responds to nothing like weakness.

LEMON: Let me ask you this. We were supposed to be talking about it, and we got carried away on our own thing here.

AXELROD: Yes.

LEMON: CNN is reporting a special documentary...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Robert Mueller wants to ask the President about the infamous Trump Tower meeting, the firings of the FBI Director James Comey, and NSA's Michael Flynn. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn I should say. Does it seem like the walls could be closing in on this President? And is that why he's...

AXELROD: Well, I mean, he knows -- he knows more about what they want than we know, and Mueller knows more about what he's after than he knows, so it's hard to say. The one thing that I think is interesting is, you know, people -- I saw Alan Dershowitz earlier on Anderson's show saying that, you know, he thinks the Special Counsel is overstepping his bounds and so on.

It seems to me that Mueller is being careful, and he's examining those areas that relate to Russia. And that I find very interesting, and of course he's going to look at the firing of Comey, and the departure of Flynn.

And I'm sure Flynn now having turned witness is telling him exactly what Trump knew about Flynn's activities. So, nothing that is on that list I find particularly surprising.

LEMON: Yes, thank you, always a pleasure.

AXELROD: Thank you.

LEMON: David Axelrod, I can't wait to see "THE AXE FILES." By the way, are you going to talk to Charles Barkley?

AXELROD: Yes, Charles Barkley a week from Thursday.

LEMON: That's going to be awesome. Thank you. When we comeback, White House insiders aren't the only ones who keep showing up in the news. Stormy Daniels continues to make headlines, and what she is tweeting now about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Does Stormy Daniels have the President's number? It sure seems that way. The Adult Film Star is tweeting up a storm about her relationship with President Trump.

Yet the President who routinely vents on Twitter has yet to mention her name. Sara Sidner is covering this story for us this evening.

Sara, good evening to you. Stormy Daniels is on a tear on social media, what is she saying?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She is. It's like a grudge match watching her go after the trolls that come after her. Recently -- and it's kind of the first time, Don, that we've seen her talk in detail, at least a few about her relationship with the President.

Here's a tweet that she put out. Just yesterday, she says that technically, I didn't sleep with POTUS 12 years ago, there was no sleeping, and he was just a goofy reality T.V. star. But I digress, people do care that he lied about it, had me bullied, broke laws to cover it up, et cetera. And P.S., I am not going anywhere.

So that is the first time since her lawsuit was filed that we heard her make those accusations herself. And then when people come after her, and they do a lot, she goes right back at them, someone accusing her of taking money for the 60 MINUTES interview that she's going to be doing, or that's going to air, that she has already done.

Here's what she said about that, she said, look, I did not take any money for the 60 MINUTES interview, not a dime. So she's responding as she always does.

But she feels like she feels freer to say something about it. And those are just a few of her tweets. I mean, she goes on, and on, and on, battling people back and fourth who are calling her all sorts of names.

And you know, basically coming after her for being a porn star, she's also a director, and she's not having it. So she is quite a fighter if you will, if you look just going by her Twitter, and from what some of her friends have said.

LEMON: And a smart lady. Again, I hate to say it, but she grew up in my hometown, she went to a Magnet High School. So she ain't no dummy. Thank you...

SIDNER: She's not.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Yes. Thank you very much. Sara Sidner, I appreciate that. I want to bring in now CNN Legal Commentator Ken Cuccinelli, CNN Legal Analyst Areva Martin, the Author of "Make It Rain," and CNN Political Commentator Ana Navarro.

Hello, everyone. Good evening. Good to have you on. Ken, you are up first. So, Stormy in her own words isn't going anywhere. What do you make of the fact that she's not backing down, if anything, she's ramping up the attack.

KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, you know, I find that -- that is interesting, that there's more detail, and more direct comments coming from her now.

And this is all behind -- on the other side, the side we see of a legal dispute over a contract that we really don't know how it's going. And -- so she's either feeling more confident, or getting released to some degree or another, it's not really clear.

And it -- you know, it doesn't matter substantively for politics, but it certainly dominates discussion, and it's not a favorable topic, so...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let me ask you then. Dominating discussions, I mean, Stormy Daniels and her attorney Michael Cohen, they are playing by Donald Trump's playbook, don't you think? I mean, he's the ultimate reality star.

CUCCINELLI: In some ways, they are.

LEMON: They've maintained a constant presence in the media.

CUCCINELLI: Yes, that is interesting, you know -- well, on Twitter, which has been like a forum he has owned for the last two years, three years, and yet he's not responding.

[22:45:00] So I think he's presumably just trying to protect himself legally, and maybe actually taking lawyer's advice in terms of not picking up the Twitter sword there, but it's unusual for him. I mean normally, it's down the torpedoes.

LEMON: Yes. He has seen that territory, Ana Navarro. I mean, don't you think that's -- and the media territory, he's never been one to shy away from confrontation, but it seems he's awfully quiet when it comes to Stormy Daniels, and his other female accusers. What's going on?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because if he talks it's even worse for him. He's going to, you know, show just how much under his skin this is. She is not going away. She is not going to be silent.

It is unpresidential, it is unseemly, it is surreal, you know, I kind of feel like we are watching this endless loop of -- as the world, day, turns. You know, as the Trump world turns, this is a telenovela night after night that we're all watching.

And the reason he can't engage with Stormy Daniels is because she has got his number. She has got texts. She has got other stuff. He can't beat her at his own game.

This woman -- girlfriend knows how to manipulate Twitter, she knows how to tease. She knows how to give it to us drop by drop, and keep us entertained, and keep us engaged. She knows how to communicate directly with people using social media. And nothing makes a dent in her, nothing nicks her.

LEMON: Yes.

NAVARRO: She's used to it her entire life, or you know, because of her career, being stereotype of being called names, and being insulted, or being possibly not -- she doesn't care. She's not afraid of him.

LEMON: I wonder if -- the President's lawyers are...

NAVARRO: A beautiful thing to watch.

LEMON: The President's lawyers obviously advising him of what to do, and do you think they're telling him not to do it because, Areva, he doesn't often follow that advice as well. But what are they telling you?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, as good of what they say, Don. I don't think this is about the president's lawyers telling him not to engage, because he never follows the advice of his attorneys. He gets involves in all kinds of disputes, including legal disputes where he should not be involved.

And we have to look at what happened here. Michael Cohen had file this session, kept saying that Trump knew nothing about it, he knew nothing about the settlement. He knew nothing about, you know, this entire action.

Trump voluntarily jumped into this matter. He made himself a part to this action to remove this matter from state court to federal court. He didn't have to do that. He could have remained on the sidelines.

He could have let the Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels' attorneys fight this out as they were, and remain on the sidelines, he jumped into this, he now doesn't have the ability to say he doesn't know about this lawsuit, he doesn't know about the settlement, he doesn't know about -- you know, the negotiations over this $130,000.

I don't think he's taking the advice of council, I think he's afraid to go after Stormy Daniels, because she has too much damaging evidence on him.

LEMON: Well, we're going to hear from Stormy Daniels, and some of the other accusers of President Trump, or when he wasn't President Donald Trump, right after this break.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're back. We are talking about more developments in another -- legal cases against President Trump. And let's get back to the group here. So, listen, Stormy Daniels sat down with an interview with Anderson for 60 Minutes, and it's supposed to air Sunday night. A short teaser, here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to see you. Have a seat. I guess I'm not 100 percent sure on why you are doing this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Now that's a teaser, Ken. What do you think she is going to say?

CUCCINELLI: Well, it depends whether she gives a square answer. I think it was commented, you know, she is basically a business woman in this context. And if she gives that sort of an answer, hey this is promotion, man.

She is doing it thoroughly, and effectively, and sort of steadily. Ana said, you know, we're getting the drip, drip, drip. And I think that is true.

And from that perspective, she has kept herself in a spotlight, and at the center of news. And if it continues on a mere drip, drip, drip phase, it's going to be for a while.

LEMON: Yes.

CUCCINELLI: And you know, some short version of that answer, I think, would be the full and accurate answer.

LEMON: OK. I got a quick -- I want to get this stuff in. So, Areva, today President Trump -- his attorney Marc Kasowitz announcing that he plans to appeal a New York Supreme Court Judge's decision to allow the defamation lawsuit against the President to go forward.

The defamation case was filed by The Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos who claims that Trump sexually assaulted her in 2007. This is what Kasowitz said to CNN today.

He said we disagree with the decision which is wrong as a matter of constitutional law. We intend to immediately appeal, and we'll seek a stay of the case until the issue is finally determined. Will Trump be able to avoid this deposition, or will he have to face her in court?

MARTIN: I don't think ultimately, he is going to be able to avoid participating in discovery, and having to answer questions under oath, Don. But clearly, this gives his lawyer another bite at the apple, gives him another opportunity to delay this lawsuit.

One thing that judge in New York said was he had to answer that complaint within 10 days. So there was a short window of time in which Donald Trump had to, for the record, state what his response to that complaint, that defamation action was.

Now, presumably this appeal gives him an opportunity to delay this matter. And that's what he has been trying to do. He asked the court to dismiss the action. He said look, your honor, he is a sitting president.

This is going to be disruptive to the President. And the Judge rejected that argument, but now he gets an opportunity to make that argument again to an appellate court. And he may be able to dodge a bullet temporarily. I don't think

permanently. But for the moment, he is in a position where he won't have to answer that complaint.

LEMON: Ana, listen, I think you've been talking about this, about how your party, the Republican Party really sort of turning a blind eye to this. I mean, if this case does go to trial, how damaging could this potentially be for the President and for the party?

NAVARRO: Look, I think the party has done itself so much damage over and over again when it comes to Donald Trump because they continuously look the other way, whether it's the Russia stuff, whether it's the call to Putin, whether it's you know, hush payments to a -- you know, to Stormy Daniels, or whether it's non-disclosure agreements.

[22:55:08] Do you think that if this had happened under Barack Obama, this wouldn't be investigated right now by a Republican Congress? We all know what the answer to that is. The answer onto that is yes.

Do you think that if it had been Barack Obama who had called Putin, Republicans wouldn't be screaming from every hill top today? The answer is yes.

So I think the Republican Party has revealed itself with some very honorable exceptions like John McCain to be hypocrites, to be inconsistent, to have no memory, to all be suffering from severe amnesia.

And you know, as to your question, why he doesn't engage, Trump, Stormy Daniels. He engaged Michael Wolff. He tried to stop Michael Wolff, he tried to get in to a Twitter fight with Michael Wolff.

And you know what happened, Michael Wolff sold over 2 million copies of a book that is based on nothing, but innuendo and gossip. If he engaged to Stormy Daniels -- I mean, we are all going to get over withdrawal symptoms we know from the last season of scandal.

Because we're all going to be tuning in with a big bag of popcorn, and big glass of wine to watch the picture show on Sunday when Anderson interviews her. And I think Ken is absolutely right. I think she is a business woman. I think she is a smart woman, and a business woman.

But here is the thing. Look, if you got no issue with Donald Trump promoting his properties using the presidency to promote his properties, and jacking up the prices of Mar-a-Lago as a result of being president, if you have got no issue with Jared Kushner trying to negotiate financing from people who have all sorts of conflicts of interest --

LEMON: Got to run, Ana.

NAVARRO: -- if you've got no issue with Ivanka trying to hack bracelets during interviews, then certainly you can't have issues with Stormy Daniels trying to make a little money off this presidency, too. It shouldn't be a right solely reserve for Trump's and Kushners. LEMON: Sunday night, don't know why there is no sunup in the sky,

Stormy Daniels. Thank you guys, appreciate it. When we come back, why the President tweets about anything and everything except Stormy Daniels.