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Shulkin is Out, the Doctor is In; Trump's Deafening Silence Leaves Questions Hanging; No Shortage of Lawsuits for the POTUS; Judge Rules Illegal Gifts Lawsuit Against President Trump Can Proceed; Trump White House In A State Of Chaos; Will President Trump Try To Fire Robert Mueller? Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 28, 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: Thanks for watching 360. Time to hand it off to Don Lemon. "CNN TONIGHT" starts now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
The president for the fifth day staying out of the spotlight today, saying nothing about all the challenges facing his White House. But listen to what Sarah Sanders told reporters today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he too busy to take questions from the press?
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, we take questions from you guys every day, in a number of different formats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Sanders insisting the White House takes questions from every - from reporters every day which is an interesting response. Taking questions is one thing, actually answering those questions is another. And Sarah Sanders either can't or won't provide answers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Nope. We have addressed this once again extensively, and we have nothing new to add. And for any new questions, I would refer you to the president's personal counsel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the subpoena--
SANDERS: I can't comment on ongoing litigation. I have you to keep posted on that. We've spoken about this issue extensively and I don't have anything else to add beyond that. Anything beyond that I would refer you to outside council.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So there are multiple stories today that deserve answers from this White House. Answers that, so far, we're not getting. President Trump's former lawyer John Dowd reportedly floated the idea that the president might be willing to pardon Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. That's according to the New York Times, which reports the conservations came last year as the special counsel was building cases against Manafort and Flynn.
And that of course, raises questions about whether Dowd who resigned last week was trying to influence their decisions about whether to cooperate with Mueller, Dowd denied the whole thing, telling the Times, quote, "There were no discussions, period."
And there's more coming out of the Mueller investigation to tell you about. The special counsel revealing that Trump campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates knowingly talked with a former Russian intelligence officer just weeks before the election.
That allegation coming in the report prosecutors filed about the upcoming sentencing of a Dutch attorney who previously worked with Gates and Manafort, and interestingly enough is himself the son in law of a Russian billionaire.
And if you think you've heard the last of President Trump's nemesis Stormy Daniels, think again. Her attorney Michael Avenatti wants to depose the president and his so-called fixer Michael Cohen, to ask who knew what and when about that $130,000 hush money payment to the porn star.
But wait, there is more. More potential legal hot water for the president. A federal judge allowing a lawsuit to proceed that alleges Trump took illegal foreign gifts. The lawsuit accuses the president of accepting illegal payments from foreign governments through his family's Trump international hotel in D.C.
And in the middle of all of this we've got another cabinet shake up to report to you. The president is firing Veteran Affairs Secretary David 2Shulkin and replacing him with a White House physician Ronny Jackson. The White House official telling CNN Shulkin is quote, "distractions were getting in the way of carrying out the president's agenda."
Again, a very busy news night. I want to bring in now CNN senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown, CNN political analyst, Ryan Lizza, and CNN counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd.
Good evening. Thank you, all, for joining.
Pamela, David Shulkin is out.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
LEMON: And White House physician Ronny Jackson is in, as the Veterans Affairs secretary. It's the latest shake-up, just the latest one, what's the inside scoop, how did this all come about?
BROWN: Well, essentially this was a long time coming, Don, but at the same time it's a pretty remarkable reversal of fortunes for David Shulkin who had been praised by the president repeatedly even in public. The president had joked at one time that Shulkin would never hear the phrase you're fired.
Clearly that has changed as of today with the chief of staff John Kelly calling him and telling him, that he was indeed fired.
I'm told by a senior White House official that this started even before Shulkin went on that trip overseas that landed him on hot water with the I.G. that he had been warned by several administration officials not to go on that trip, that it could be inappropriate, seen as inappropriate for the V.A. secretary to go given the optics around it, at a time when other cabinet members were in hot water for potential abuse of taxpayer funds.
As we know, he went on that trip anyway, and then the I.G. report came out, and the White House official I spoke to said, that, you know, instead of Shulkin staying quiet, accepting the I.G. report for what it was, the fact that he sort of became combative with those around the president about the issue and did his own P.R. talking to reporters, trying to defend himself, that essentially only made matters worse.
And all of this is really the beginning of the end of his demise, essentially, and you know, the president himself has told people around him recently, he wanted to fire Shulkin.
And I think there was a lot of surprise in the White House that Shulkin himself didn't just sort of leave on his own accord, quit, essentially, given the reporting, the publican reporting for weeks now, Don. Especially in recent days that the president was going to fire him. I don't think anyone is really surprised by this.
[22:05:11] LEMON: And how he felt isolated within the department. So Ryan, Dr. Ronny Jackson made a name for himself earlier this year, remember when he gave the president that growing bill of health? Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONNY JACKSON, WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: He had great findings across the board, the one that stands out more than anything to me is his cardiac health. He is in the excellent range and from a cardiac standpoint. And that's not me speaking. That's objective data.
He has a lot of energy, a lot of energy and a lot of stamina, it's called genetics, I don't know. Some people have, you know, just great genes, the president, you know, he's very sharp and he's very articulate when he speaks to me, just my day to day interactions with the president. You know, the president is mentally very intact, very sharp, very intact.
I think he remain fit for duty for the remainder of this term and even for the remainder of another term if he's elected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He just missed the Olympics, my goodness. So, and just last month, Ryan, President Trump talked about Dr. Jackson as being from central casting like a Hollywood star. Was that stellar review of Dr. Jackson's golden ticket to becoming V.A. secretary. I mean, what are his qualifications to run the second largest agency in government?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, this was just a case study in how Trump chooses personnel to run the governments. We've now seen it with four different people, right? If you look at Bolton, if you look at DiGenova who didn't work out in the end as a lawyer. If you look at Larry Kudlow, and now with the White House physician here getting a big promotion, what do they all have in common?
They all have excelled at going on TV and defending Trump in the most over the top way and flattering his ego, I mean, there's just a tried and true formula if you want to work at the top levels in this government.
And as you pointed out, Don, the V.A. has enormous challenges, it's almost 400,000 employees. It's in the middle of a very fierce policy debate about privatizing some of the V.A. services, and has some real chaotic management issues, and frankly, it doesn't seem like Donald Trump went out as a sort of head hunter, recruiter might, and look for someone to fit the -- you know, to match the institution and the problems that it has.
This gentleman by -- you know, if you look at some of the Twitter feeds of Obama officials who worked in the White House, enormous amount of positive reactions about this person personally, but if you look at the people who know about the V.A. and challenges, I haven't seen anyone tonight who says that this is the sort of top qualified person to run that organization.
LEMON: Just last month, Phil, there was the Axios report that Trump was considering his personal pilot to run the FAA. Remember that? I mean, is the selection of Dr. Jackson a living embodiment of Trump's number one priority, which is loyalty or maybe working for, you know, Fox News?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes. I think it is. Let me give you an example. The president has repeatedly talked about his interest in having subordinates who would fight in front of them, he says he likes conflict, he likes chaos. But look at the people who have differed with him.
The attorney general who recuses himself from the Russia investigation. The president didn't like that one. The deputy attorney general who appoints the special counsel, the president didn't like that one. The secretary of state who says something different about North Korea, the president gets fired while he's on the John.
I mean, you get the chief of staff, who's obviously noted in the Republican Party. I guess he wasn't liked by the president because he brought in bad news.
The point I'm making is, these appointments I think reflect the president's priority on loyalty. Regardless of your qualifications. Look at Ben Carson, I mean, what the heck is he doing in Housing and Urban Development, he's a neurosurgeon. Loyalty is above your qualifications for the job in most circumstances. A few exceptions the secretary of defense, but by and large, I think loyalty Trumps.
2LEMON: Yes. No pun intended, Pamela, you used to have a good poker face but even that one caught you off guard right there.
But let's talk about this New York Times report, Pamela, that John Dowd, the former lead personal attorney for President Trump floating the idea of pardoning former aides Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort possibly over concerns about them cutting a deal with the special counsel. How is the White House responding to that, Pamela?
BROWN: Well, the White House so far basically has said that it's unaware of this, Ty Cobb, the special counsel in the White House has said that he wasn't privy to any of these discussions. The only pardon discussions he's been privy to is with the press. Jay Sekulow, the president's attorney who worked with Dowd said he wasn't part of this and Dowd himself has denied it.
But we know, Don, that the president actually has sort of talked about this internally, the idea of potentially pardoning Michael Flynn. And what the range of his pardoning powers is as president, which as we know is very broad.
[22:15:03] And so, the reporting from the New York Times is that John Dowd actually reached out to the attorneys for Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort two former senior advisers to Trump to bring up the idea of Trump pardoning them. Now of course, this raises the question of whether he brought this up reportedly to influence their decisions before they struck any sort of deal with Mueller's team or cooperated with them.
There's no indication or no reporting to support that Dowd actually discussed this with the president before he made these calls. But there are divided opinions in the legal community about whether this could constitute potential obstruction of justice trying to influence them.
Some say, look, argue that look, the president has broad pardoning authorities, that this would not constitute. And others say well, it very well could. Those authorities aren't unlimited and you can't use it to impede an investigation. But again, John Dowd denies that he ever had these discussions.
LEMON: Yes. So, Ryan, she mentioned it, and without getting into the specifics about obstruction of justice--
LEMON: -- let's just keep it simple. Why would there be conversations of pardons if there was no wrongdoing. Shouldn't the president at least want to find that out first?
LIZZA: Look, that is the interesting question here, I think everyone is getting hung up on his pardon authority, which all legal scholars agree is vast and unchallenged. Congress can't touch it, the Supreme Court can't touch it, he can pardon whomever he wants to. The question -- the obstruction question hinges on whether dangling a
pardon. In other words, throwing out the idea that you may pardon these guys because there's been any -- at this point, before there were any indictments, or trial or anything, whether the act of dangling it could amount to obstruction.
So I think that's a very different issue. The pardon dangles versus the actual pardon.
LIZZA: And look, there's -- you know, and I think Mueller will -- who seems to be obviously we know that he's looking into obstruction of justice more generally, and he has -- it seems like he has from the questions that we know he's asked other witnesses, he views a lot. He views several of the president's previous actions as potential obstruction.
And if this, you know, fits a pattern, then he could, you know, he could throw this into the mix. But for legal experts I think that's the question, is whether the dangle itself has some kind of corrupt intent. Not whether he's allowed to pardon Flynn or Manafort, which everyone agrees he can.
LEMON: Yes. OK.
BROWN: But also, just really quickly, you can -- the thing about pardoning is, even if the president did that, Mueller could still talk to Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. So even if, you know, had pathetically that did happen, that wouldn't preclude the special counsel from talking with them as part of the investigation.
LIZZA: Yes. That's right.
LEMON: So another story that we need to talk about, Phil, there's also the reporting tonight the Trump campaign aide Rick Gates had repeated contacts in the final weeks before the 2016 election, with a person with ties to the Russian intelligence, the Russian intelligence service and Gates knew about those ties. How big of a problem is that for the president?
MUDD: If you're the special counsel, especially as a former intel guy who advised him, this is like a bone for a dog. I mean, on the surface it looks simple. Gates has flipped obviously, so he's going to be talking to Mueller about his contacts with his Russian -- what he knew.
I don't think that's the most significant series of questions Mueller would have. Let me give you a few, Don, that would be really interesting especially for somebody like Gates, a cooperating witness. Who in the campaign knew about this beforehand? Who knew about it after? Did someone ask you to do this beforehand? Who did you speak to on the Russian side?
Let me get technical with you. I want all their contact information. And I want to see if anybody that I'm investigation -- investigating in the Trump camp used that confirmation or that contact information, for example, that Russian's e-mail, phone, text. There's a series of avenues you can take here, Don, that are going to be fascinating, beyond just the meeting itself. I want to know if there's anything beyond the meeting and if anybody else met with this Russian in the campaign.
LEMON: The show is just starting and we have three stories that could have been the lead story, that we could have covered the entire few hours here. The V.A. secretary out. The president's physician in as V.A. secretary. Then we have people talking about pardons floating the possibility of pardons and then a Trump campaign aide speaking to Russian intelligence services -- person that have ties to Russian intelligence services. Only the A block and we've got more.
LIZZA: What a news day.
LEMON: Yes. What a news day. Thank you.
LIZZA: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: When we come back, much more on the Trump campaign's Russia connection. The bombshell that deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates knowingly talked with a former Russian intelligence officer just weeks before the election. What this says about where the Mueller investigation is headed.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Before the break, we were talking to Philip Mudd about the bombshell allegation that Trump campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates knowingly talked to a person with ties to the Russian intelligence service while Gates was working for the campaign.
So pay close attention to this that revelation comes from a court filing from Robert Mueller's team. And it tells us a lot about what connections there might have been between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The person Rick Gates talked to unnamed but known as person A had lived in Kiev and Moscow and worked for one of Paul Manafort's companies. Mueller's team saying the FBI believes that person A had active links to Russian spy services at the time of the conversations with Gates.
"The New York Times" is reporting person A may be Konstantin Kilimnik who worked for Manafort for years on behalf of numerous Russia linked oligarch's and political parties. The conversations between Gates and person A coming in September and October of 2016. That's just weeks before the election.
A fact that Mueller's team says was, quote, "pertinent to the investigation." That allegation coming in a recent report from prosecutors about upcoming sentencing of attorney Alex Van Der Zwaan. He worked with both Gates and Manafort previously and pleaded guilty last month to lying to Mueller's team about his own interactions with Gates and person A. And interestingly enough, his father-in-law is a Russian billionaire,
his name is German Khan who was recently named in the Treasury Department's list of Russian oligarch's. So what does all this tell us about where the Mueller investigation is headed?
[22:20:01] I want to bring in CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, CNN legal commentator Ken Cuccinelli, and former White House ethics lawyer, Richard painter. Did you guys keep up with that? That's a lot.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.
LEMON: That is a lot, Laura. I mean, this was a shocker from Robert Mueller, from a legal perspective, as he builds his case. How significant do you think is his new connection?
COATES: Well, it's quite significant. And what it really tells you is the beauty of cooperation agreements, it's very unlikely they would have had access to this information of the breadth and scope of it. But for the cooperation's agreement already solidified between Rick Gates who has already plead guilty and Van Der Zwaan who was probably hoping for leniency in his sentencing.
And so you have access to this information, that's the reason why you have cooperator agreements, and also that could have been decided not to name person A. And it talked about how it's pertinent to the investigation without detailing the specifics, tells you that there's an ongoing investigation going on, they do not want to show their hand, they likely have other information and other webs that they want to explore. And they don't want the public to know about that. It may compromise their ability to prosecute effectively. It's really the beauty of cooperation agreements.
LEMON: So, Mr. Cuccinelli, the question remains, of course, what did Rick Gates and person A discuss and did the president know about it.
KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Right.
LEMON: Because he's repeatedly denied his campaign had anything to do with the Russians. Can they really keep saying that do you think?
CUCCINELLI: Well, certainly he can. I mean, you'll recall -- I forget the name of the individual, but it was more related to Manafot where some Russian contacted the campaign and wanted to get a briefing on what was going and Manafort sort of gladly said, sure, we'll talk to him. And nothing more. We haven't seen anything more on that.
So this isn't the first time we've seen some sort of contact especially between Manafort and Gates. And someone who they had worked with in there particularly Ukrainian work with pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. They both have that long history before they ever came to the campaign. So, is this the same person, is it a different person. And as you said, Don, what did they actually talk about.
LEMON: Well, this happened during the campaign.
CUCCINELLI: And that really gets to the heart of it. LEMON: This happened during the campaign.
CUCCINELLI: Yes, well, that wasn't the first one, I was using the other one as an example.
LEMON: As an example, yes.
CUCCINELLI: That was during the summer.
LEMON: So, Richard, Rick Gates is cooperating with the special counsel. Is it likely that this came directly from him? And if so, Mueller must know what they talked about? He has to know, right.
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: It probably came from him. Well, we know as there are a lot of Trump associates who have had contacts with a lot of Russians including Russian spies. People have lied about it. Some people who have now plead guilty to various crimes who are cooperating with the special counsel Robert Mueller, and of course, this is exactly why President Trump and his lawyers may have been contemplating using pardons to try to get people not to talk.
But that in itself is going to get the president in deeper trouble for obstruction of justice. So this is a very bad situation for the president, as people are starting to talk to Robert Mueller about what they know. And as I say there are a lot of Russians running around, making contacts with an awful lot of people who are close to the president and his campaign.
LEMON: There certainly are a lot of dots, whether there are connections, we don't know. But listen, and that's what they're investigating. Laura, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about the New York Times report, the president's former lawyer John Dowd floated the idea of pardoning Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah, are pardons on the table for anyone involved in the Russia probe?
SANDERS: Look, I would refer you back to the statement from Ty Cobb in the report that you're asking about, in which he said, I've only been asked about pardons by the press, and have routinely responded on the record that no pardons are under discussion or under consideration at the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you say unequivocally that no one here has discussed pardons in this case?
SANDERS: I can say that Ty Cobb is the person that would be most directly involved in this, and he has a statement on the record saying that there's no discussion, and there's no consideration of those at this time at the White House. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Laura, she wants no part in this, but why would the president's lawyers be floating a deal for a pardon?
COATES: Well, you saw a lesson in deflection. She went back to kind of a nuance argument of I didn't say we didn't have an active discussion, it wasn't being currently discussed about the issue.
The reason that they would be floating the idea frankly it should not be surprising to anybody. You have the President of the United States say it's pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio who is not at all instrumentally in the Russia investigation of any kind. He's been exercising and touting his ability to do so and the complete pardoning power of the president.
It should surprise no one that two people who are very close to the Trump inner circle. In fact, one of his earliest ardent supporters, Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort would have been right man pen man and the chairman of this campaign, chief of campaign would have had that option to pardon them.
[22:25:05] And I suspect if Trump knew about that conversation, and if it existed it would have been prudent to mention it to defense counsel for either these people that it was always a possibility. I'm sure they already realize that.
However, what it tells you in a more sinister fashion is perhaps the President of the United States or his team was hoping to influence the witness's testimony or their ability or willingness to be very open and forthcoming with Robert Mueller. If that's the case they're trying to influence the witness in a way that obstructs justice, you open another can of worms.
LEMON: Yes. OK. Everyone, hold your thoughts because we're going to continue that and we're going to talk more.
When we come back, I want to talk about that. I want to talk about two other court cases the president is facing tonight. Stormy Daniels attorney wants to question President Trump under oath. And the federal judge allows a lawsuit about whether President Trump has violated the Constitution by receiving illegal gifts to proceed.
LEMON: President Trump facing a massive and expanding Russia investigation while two other legal battles heat up. Adult film actress Stormy Daniels and her attorney, well, they want to see President Trump deposed under oath.
[22:30:01] The federal judge allows a lawsuit about the president violating the Constitution with the way he's conducting his business empire to move forward.
Back now with Laura Coates, Ken Cuccinelli, and Richard Painter. Well, Laura, you know, in this motion, is it a stunt by Stormy Daniels' attorney, or will he actually get to depose the President you think?
COATES: I don't think it's a stunt. I think what he's trying to capitalize on is the notion of being between a rock and a hard place. Meaning, he is trying to say listen, I want to show that this contract is not valid.
And I have every right under the Clinton v. Jones President that says, that a sitting president can and have to answer to civil actions that happened before he was president in federal court. They are the ones who move to federal court, and now he has that right to do so.
But he's trying to say, if you're going to deny the actual contract exists, then we have to litigate that issue before we go to arbitration, before we hit through next step.
I think the court is likely to look at this and say, we're probably going to go to arbitration, it will be behind closed doors, it will be a private hearing, it won't be for the public, and court of public opinion. But I think any request he is making right now to deposed, sort of that issue being resolved is premature.
LEMON: So, Ken, the President wants this to go away.
LEMON: But it isn't. This story has been in the news for months. What do you think is the most damaging about this case?
CUCCINELLI: Just the drag on. I mean, it's just one more thing on the scale. I mean as we saw recently, I mean, the President's favorability numbers have gotten better or less bad, depending on how you want to phrase it.
And the economy -- the economy has gotten better. And so I think all of this is just piling together, it's the national enquirer category of presidential news. And I'm not sure it does anything new.
But the fact that it drags on, and I assume that's part of the Stormy Daniels strategy as, you know, from her perspective, notoriety is a big deal here, she gets a benefit from that. And this whole discussion is part of that, though I do think it will end up ultimately in arbitration.
COATES: And the one thing -- just to be clear, the notoriety aside, and certainly there are room for making an argument about her being an opportunist, but there is the federal campaign finance law that was now added to the amended complaint against the President of the United States, and of course against Michael Cohen.
That does have more weight than the more salacious aspects of it. But I do agree that ultimately, the court is going to resolve the issue of arbitration, before it ever let's the President of the United States testify in the deposition.
LEMON: And what's interesting, everyone keeps talking again -- I have to say this every night that this is something that happened years ago. It's an affair. I don't think people really care about the affair, again, that's between him and his wife. They care about the payment.
LEMON: Eleven days before the election, that's what this story is about, and whether they broke laws here, the legal of this case.
So, Richard, a federal judge ruled today that an illegal guess lawsuit against President Trump will be allowed to proceed. This case was brought by the Maryland and D.C. attorneys general, and as soon around the corner in state governments, saying that staying at hosting events, at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., explain why this is a big deal?
RICHARD PAINTER, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA LAW SCHOOL: Well, this is one of three lawsuits, and I've been involved in all three, that have been brought against the President in his official capacity, asking a court to look at foreign government money that's coming into the Trump organization.
One of those suits was ours in New York for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The judge dismissed that, saying that we do not have standing. We've appealed that.
But this judge in Maryland has said that the Attorney General in Maryland and the District of Colombia, but they do have standing to bring this suit with respect to the hotel, and foreign government patronage of the hotel.
And what's going to be critically important is getting the judge to decide what the emoluments clause means. What are prohibits? Because President Trump has taken the position that the emoluments close only prohibits payments in connection with an office.
And that's not what it says. It prohibits any profits and benefits, and that's what an emolument is from foreign governments or entities controlled by foreign governments.
It's going to be important how the federal judge interprets the constitution, explain it to the President, so he can understand what the rules are here, because at this point, he's refusing to comply with the constitution.
And not just with respect to this hotel, with respect to the entire Trump business empire which is taking money from foreign governments.
LEMON: Ken, what do you want to say because...
CUCCINELLI: Yes, Don. Yes, you know, when I was attorney general, judges wouldn't let us bring cases if we didn't actually have juries. And I would note the judge in this case -- the Maryland case said that maybe Maryland's convention center and D.C.'s convention center might be losing some business.
The word might is what I zeroed in on, that would have never passed muster when President Obama was the president. It would have passed muster, and it didn't.
[22:35:01] We had to show actual injury that we can prove today. And I wonder if this standing is going to hold up, like any other constitutional lawyer, I'd love to see this defined. I don't think that's a bad thing, I think that's a good thing. But you still need to show injury, and you've got another...
CUCCINELLI: It's going easy on these folks.
LEMON: Even as if it...
CUCCINELLI: No, no, I just said, I'd like to see this defined. I think the point made about setting the ground rules for this president and every president makes perfectly good sense. And -- but it needs to be done the right way. And I just take exception with how easy this has become to do relative to how it was in the last administration.
LEMON: Listen, I appreciate your point. But you have to remember, the last president did not own businesses, didn't own hotels or...
CUCCINELLI: Yes, but you're just talking about the emoluments clause, Don. I'm talking about the whole constitution.
CUCCINELLI: I think the whole constitution is important not just this one clause.
COATES: Well, I agree. But the whole constitution hasn't been implicated by what just happened with the hotel issue. And remember, the court didn't actually give a final judgment on all the things you're talking about, it simply said it can continue to proceed at this point because unlike what happened in the New York case that (Inaudible) just talking about.
It's a notion that there are businesses who are claiming, and they have sufficient injury they're able to show right now at this point in time, to show that people are booking hotel reservations or space in particular areas, and then transferring to the quote, unquote, President's hotel, hoping to have some benefit derived from that.
Now the court has been very clear in Washington, D.C., they're not going to extend this notion of standing or emoluments outside of places like Mar-a-Lago. They are going to focus right now in what's happening in D.C. Now it's going to have an interesting impact on the rest of the nation, but for right now, even the criticism of the judge is premature.
LEMON: OK, listen, I need to get this. This is the Trump organization in response today's decision. They are saying, while the Trump organization is not a party to the lawsuit, the court's decision today does significantly narrow the scope of the case.
And the court has yet to rule on several additional arguments, which we believe should result in a complete dismissal. So obviously, Trump would love if this case were dismissed, but what kind of legal trouble could the President be in here, if this case doesn't go his way, Richard?
PAINTER: Well, I think the judge would first interpret the emoluments clause, and explain to the President what it means, which means profits and benefits from foreign government are prohibited for United States government official.
And then enjoin him from receiving those profits and benefits in connection with that hotel, it might be up to other courts to enjoin profits and benefits from foreign governments in connection with other parts of the Trump business empire.
And also there's Congress. Congress has an obligation to enforce the constitution with respect to the executive branch. If the President wants to violate the constitution, he needs to be removed.
And Congress needs to get off its behind and investigate these emoluments throughout the Trump business empire, and all I'm hearing from members of Congress is they don't want to deal with it, or that they could screw the emoluments close they way the Justice Department does, which is exceedingly narrow, incorrect interpretation of the constitution.
So I think the judge has a very critical role here in explaining what the rules are, and then we're going to go about enforcing the rules.
LEMON: We will see as this move on. Thank you. That' going to be lesser. When we come back, the ever revolving door in the White House, today it is the VA Secretary, tomorrow, who knows. How can the Trump administration govern in the midst of one staff shake-up after another, after another? Dan Rather is here to discuss that.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump firing yet another member of his cabinet late today. As the Mueller investigation thickens, and Stormy Daniels clouds gather.
I want to bring in now a man who has seen plenty of White House turmoil, a legendary journalist, Dan Rather, host of AXS TV's "The Big Interview," and the Author of "What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism." You laughed when I said legendary.
DAN RATHER, HOST, AXS T.V.'S THE BIG INTERVIEW: Nobody in this business is legendary.
LEMON: Yes, you are.
RATHER: Possible (Inaudible). LEMON: Yes, thank you, sir. A mutual admiration club. Listen, we're covering -- you know, as we are covering this White House, it feels like we're all just trying to keep up. What does this say about the state of the Trump presidency?
RATHER: Well, some people would call it chaos, I just call it Wednesday, another Wednesday in the Trump administration. I do think it's important for younger people, and people who have lived a long time to understand that this is unprecedented in our history.
We've never had anything like this in the White House. We're talking just about I recall in the chaos factor, but you stand aside, and try to put it into some context.
And you would say, Donald Trump and his administration could not organize to a motorcade (ph), but Trump and his people come around, and say listen, this is the way I have always done business, chaotic, I like tension one way or another, that may be a good way for him to run -- how to run his business. The question is, is this a good way to run a country.
LEMON: To run a country, yes. And they saying it's a well oiled machine. So if that's where we are right now, then where are we going? Because we've got court cases for example that we have been discussing, and we've got the VA secretary today replaced by his personal doctor -- the doctor of the president.
We have, you know, some of the spokesman's -- his former lawyer talking pardons possibly. And we've got the campaign aids speaking to someone with ties to Russian intelligence before the election.
LEMON: Where are we going?
RATHER: Well, I learned a long time ago, if you try to read the tea leaves before the cup is brewed, you could get burned. I try not to talk about what's going to happen ahead.
But I do think, from a historical perspective, it's increasingly clear that the defining hallmark of a Trump administration, it's who really defining characteristic of his administration is going to be all of this stuff involving Russia. It may indeed be a defining characteristic of this whole era.
[22:45:00] But for Trump -- and we're seeing all this stuff come through, you say, where is it going, what does it mean? I think, if you focus on folks, it's the Russian thing.
Did he really collude, did anyone in his campaign conspire, some today further indications that might be the case, that's the way to kind of put a flame around this.
The second way is to look at the corruption. When you say alleged corruption, such things as the overlapping of his business dealings with the presidency, which is part of what one of those court cases is about today.
LEMON: Well, you hit the nail on the head. I think it was -- we don't know, collusion or no collusion? No one knows what Robert Mueller is doing. But this is a lesson in divesting oneself, if you're going to be the President of the United States from ones business, because he may have had ties with Russia. Well, then if that interferes with the presidency, that's a problem.
RATHER: That's the problem, and I think what would be an increasing problem for him as his presidency goes on, for example, all of the new republic magazine has an excellent article that show, I have no financial interest in this magazine.
But they have a long article about what's been happening since Trump's been president with some of the business dealings with the family in India. And it's a very revealing article in what it alleges.
But the point here is, two things to keep your eye on. The whole context that everything has happened vis-a-vis Russia, and the other, the increasing indications that there are serious questions about corruption in the overlapping business with the business of the U.S. government.
LEMON: Is this why you recently tweeted. You said, with Mueller looking at everything from his finances to obstruction of justice, the legal team in crisis, multiple lawsuits, revealing a sordid personal life. Donald Trump has no shortage of categories of legal jeopardy. I'll take Russian mob real estate dealings for 400, Alex. Is that why you tweet?
RATHER: Yes, exactly.
LEMON: Maybe if he had divested, he may not be in some of this mess.
RATHER: Well, we'll never know because he didn't. And it's important to know that, you know, there have been presidencies before, and what's his type or a diamond (ph) type with corruption, the hard to get (ph) administrations, the Grant administration to some degree, but this is rare in American politics for a President to come in, and not divest in itself.
RATHER: (Inaudible) active in trying to his business while he is president.
LEMON: Yes. And I want you to stick around because I'm going to ask you. Do you think he's going to try to get rid of Mueller? Don't answer that right now.
The President isn't usually very good at staying quiet when people attack him. But so far, he's been silent when it comes to Stormy Daniels. I want to know if Dan Rather thinks he's going to stay that way. We will be right back. [22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Back again with Dan Rather. So, you know, Steve Bannon has been saying that the President is going to go to war with Mueller. Some people think he is going to try to fire Mueller. What do you think? Is he going to try to get rid of Mueller?
RATHER: The answer is yes, I think he will. He may not do it directly. He may try to have someone else do it. For example, bring in a new attorney general who won't have to recuse himself.
And the attorney general will reach a decision, quote unquote. But it's pretty hard to imagine a scenario going forward where he doesn't at least try to get rid of Mueller.
I don't know whether he succeeds or not. But, you know, that echoes the Nixon administration and Watergate, the famous Saturday Night Massacre when the President tried to fire the special prosecutor.
And this is what I call, a fire storm that resulted in many ways in Nixon losing the presidency. So somebody has to be telling Trump that. I am saying I know what your instinct is, you want to get rid of this guy. But be careful because in the Nixon case, it led to his end.
LEMON: That's what Lindsey Graham is saying. Lindsey Graham has said this would be the beginning of the end of his presidency if he -- if he did that.
RATHER: Lindsey Graham, note a Republican from a strongly Republican Southern State, South Carolina. That will be the message. But part of the answer to whether President Trump fires Mueller or not, will be his judgment of how many people in Congress would back it, or how many would take the Lindsey Graham position.
LEMON: And what about the public's response?
LEMON: Is that a factor?
RATHER: It's a factor. And there has to be somebody telling President Trump that the longer you wait, the greater the public reaction against it might be.
LEMON: Yes. Let's talk about Stormy Daniels. This is the fifth straight day that the President is keeping a low profile with no public events on the schedule. A source is telling CNN, the current plan is for him to continue avoiding the Stormy Daniels at topic because the controversy is not hurting his poll numbers. Do you think he can continue to stay disciplined?
RATHER: Yes. Because -- if he stays disciplined, he can have a great effect on it like for one month (ph). My personal opinion is that this Stormy Daniels story has legs. That is going to be around for quite a while. One, because her attorney is I suppose is doing a very good job for her.
But the idea that President Trump one way or the other might have to go under oath on the Stormy Daniels case will keep that story alive.
Also there is this, what if anything that Stormy Daniels and her attorney have that they have not yet revealed? If you remember in the Monica Lewinsky case with President Clinton, she had the famous dress. Do Stormy Daniels and her attorney have something comparable with that?
LEMON: He has said that he doesn't have, you know, a blue dress. But who knows what else they have. It could be a bluff. But who knows.
My question is the longer this goes on, though, just the -- you know, the back and forth, the bombardment in the media, you have covered and studied a number of administrations. How long can someone keep quiet about this issue? Is it going to come to a point where he's going to have to talk?
RATHER: When you are president, you can stay quiet forever unless the courts force you to do otherwise, which was of course was the case with President Clinton.
So until and unless some court somewhere moves on it, the president by -- if he remains silent, he can stay silent for a long, long time.
[22:55:02] My guess is that it will not turn out to be the situation, and that I think down the road, you will hear more from this story. But we will see.
LEMON: You know, you said the attorney is doing a good job. He wants to depose the President. He wants to hear from President Trump himself. Do you think we will see that? And can you imagine a United States President being, you know, deposed about a case involving an adult film star?
RATHER: Hard to imagine but remember, President Clinton eventually had to answer questions. And I can't imagine it. I'm not predicting it will happen. But it could happen, and if it does happen, that will fit very large into the story of the Trump presidency.
LEMON: Dan Rather, always a pleasure.
RATHER: Always a pleasure, thank you for having me.
LEMON: Say hello to your lovely wife.
RATHER: Thank you very much, Don.
LEMON: When we back, why President Trump is reportedly obsessed with Amazon, and wants to go after the company. Does he have a vendetta against them? And is this any way to govern?