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Trump Bursting with Anger after Personal Attorney was Raided; U.S. Prepares for a Response in Syria's Chemical Attack; President Trump Calls FBI Raid on His Attorney Disgraceful and an Attack on our Country; Report: E-mail Contradicts Pruitt's Claim He Didn't Know about Controversial Pay Raises. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired April 9, 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)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
I can't -- the magnitude of this day it is unbelievable. It is historic. It is a moment when our country is on the brink. On the brink of what could turn into a constitutional crisis and potentially on the brink of military acts in Syria.
A furious president Trump surrounded by grim-faced military leaders in what was planned as a meeting about Syria, his arms folded as he gave the talk, blasting the FBI raid today on his personal attorney Michael Cohen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man, and it's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch hunt. I've been saying it for a long time. I've wanted to keep it down. We've given, I believe, over a million pages' worth of documents to the special counsel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So let me be absolutely clear about this. The president is absolutely wrong. Nobody broke into Michael Cohen's office. And nobody, not even the president, is above the law.
A dozen FBI agents armed with search warrants legally seized documents from Cohen's office, his hotel room, and reportedly his home. A source telling CNN those documents are related to Stormy Daniels. Another source telling CNN the search warrant was very broad and included bank records.
But ominously, President Trump views this as an attack on him and on the country. Sources telling CNN tonight that the Cohen raid -- that Cohen raid sent the president over the edge, because his attorney is like a surrogate family member.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: It's a disgrace. It's frankly a real disgrace. It's an attack on our country and it's an attack on what we all stand for. So when I saw this and when I heard it, I heard it like you did. I said, that is really now on a whole new level of unfairness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So he believes it's unfair and it's an attack on him. And he believes it's politically motivated. Never mind that these are the facts. It's his own hand-picked deputy attorney general overseeing the Mueller investigation. And today's raid was authorized by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan who was hand-picked by guess who? President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They found no collusion whatsoever with Russia. The reason they found it is there was no collusion at all. No collusion. This is the most biased group of people. These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I've ever seen. Democrats all, just about all, the Democrats are a couple Republicans that worked for President Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Do you see the body language there? The Mueller investigation is not over. So the president is wrong, wrong when he claims they found no collusion. And the fact is, Robert Mueller is a Republican. But sources warn the president's anger could lead to him firing Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Why don't I just fire Mueller?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, fire the guy.
TRUMP: Well, I think it's a disgrace what's going on. We'll see what happens, but I think it's a really a sad situation when you look at what happened. Many people have said, you should fire him. Again, they found nothing. And in finding nothing, that's a big statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Remember the investigation is not over yet. They haven't found nothing. And it's not just Mueller who could be on the president's sights tonight, in the president's sights tonight. A source says he may be even more angry at Rod Rosenstein and at Jeff Sessions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself, or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself, and we would have put a different attorney general in. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake to the country. But you'll figure that out. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So these pictures say it all. The president outraged over the FBI raid on his attorney, while his favorite New York tabloid weighs in with the headline strip search. There it is on your screen. New York Post. Strip search. There it is on your screen the New York Post. Strip search.
For the latest on the breaking news now, I want to bring in CNN Legal and National Security Analyst, Asha Rangappa, Legal Analyst, Laura Coates, and Legal Analyst, Michael Zeldin, who was Robert Mueller's special assistant at the Justice Department.
Good evening to all of you. Again, I can't overstate the significance of this day, and really how unprecedented it is. Asha, you heard the president. He is angry. CNN is reporting the raids on Michael Cohen's hotel room, his office. The Wall Street Journal is reporting a raid on one of his homes as well. At least a dozen FBI agents involved. This is aggressive.
[22:05:07] ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's aggressive, but I think we need to be clear about what was going on here. This would have been executed pursuant to a search warrant, which means that the FBI obtained permission from a judge to enter these facilities. They would have had to show probable cause that in these locations and in specified places, documents, devices, they were going to find evidence of a crime. And a judge would have had to agree to that in order for them to do it.
So this was -- I think calling it a break-in is really characterizing this as something that it's not. And the crimes here apparently are related to bank fraud, which is obtaining money through illegal means from a financial institution, and potentially campaign finance violations, likely contributions that would have been disclosed as required by law.
LEMON: Let's talk a little more about that, Laura, because our Gloria Borger is reporting tonight that the search warrant was mostly related to Stormy Daniels, and the source with the matter said that that search warrant was very broad in terms of items sought and another source said that the search included bank records.
Why do -- why do a raid like this, you know, instead of calling up Michael Cohen's attorney and saying, we need you to turn everything over?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there is a false assumption that everything is handled, when you're talking about courts of law and search warrant the gentleman's agreements about, why don't you feel like bringing me documents and I feel like reading them.
You can actually compel to do so and you can also recognize that sometimes as cooperatively as somebody may appear to be they may not be comprehensively giving you everything that you need, and so you have every right to execute a search warrant, particularly if they may be fleeting or evidence that they go away. For example, electronics documents that could be destroyed in some point in time or anything else. And let's be very clear. Don't confuse the two investigations.
COATES: This was a referral by special counsel Mueller handed over to an independent U.S. attorney who is of Manhattan, somebody who was chosen by the president. The president had a hand in actually of interviewing, much to the chagrin of many, many people, who replaced the persons he fired just last year Preet Bharara.
And the reason that is significant here is because there is an illusion here that somehow Mueller has been orchestrating this entire thing. What happened is a referral meaning, I may have seen something. This may interest you. It is not within my particular mandate. If you would like to, or you feel so desired to do so, please investigate it.
It was not a mandate for the SDNY U.S. attorney to do anything about it. It showed their own exercise of prosecutorial discretion, and as Asha talked about backed up by more than just Mueller. A magistrate and the SDNY U.S. attorney. So the president has conflated the term of being a witch hunt to include these two things that are quite distinct.
LEMON: OK. So let me -- quick question before I go to Michael. The attorney-client privilege, does it apply here or does it not apply here, Laura?
COATES: We have to see, because every single communication that Michael Cohen has had with Donald Trump does not necessarily fall under the purview of privilege. It would have to be counsel sought with a purpose of legal advice at a session on a business per se would not qualify. If somebody else was in the room on a communication, or C.C. in some way, it wouldn't qualify.
And most importantly, there's a crime fraud exception that says, if the communication between the attorney and the client was somehow in furtherance of a crime, then poof, it goes away, it would not be honored.
COATES: But this is not up to Mueller, up to a court of law to decide.
LEMON: OK. Michael, you've worked with Mueller, correct?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.
LEMON: OK. So I've got a couple questions for you here.
LEMON: The first one is why would the southern district of New York be investigating or looking into possible election crimes? ZELDIN: Because it's a crime to willfully violate the federal
election laws. And they were given a referral, it appears, from Mueller to say that this may be ongoing and worth your inquiry.
We don't know also, though, whether or not this pre exists Mueller's investigation. It could well be that the Stormy Daniels aspect of this is one aspect. There may be other women similarly situated or other people similarly situated that the investigation was ongoing, just like we had in Flynn, where it was ongoing when Mueller stepped into it. He found something additional. It was related. He passed it on. The rule of law was upheld and the process was adhered to.
And so that's what prosecutors do. They look at crime and make prosecutorial decisions about whether it's worth prosecuting.
LEMON: And Mueller can't -- you know, if he finds something that looks like a crime or something unusual, he just can't ignore it, right?
ZELDIN: Well, that's right. And if the reporting is accurate and it's early and we have to be very careful--
LEMON: Right. 2 ZELDIN: -- to not be, you know, too far ahead of ourselves.
[22:10:01] ZELDIN: , but if Mueller came across something which he thinks is a criminal investigation and worthy of inquiry and it's outside of his mandate, then the regulation say he is to go to Rosenstein. Rosenstein is then to make a decision whether he should leave it with Mueller and expand the mandate, or take other action as appropriate.
It appears from the reporting that he felt other action is appropriate, was the appropriate step to take--
ZELDIN -- and he gave it to New York.
LEMON: OK. So then what Laura said, because she said don't conflate or confuse the two. These are different investigations. This raid was actually referred, as we said, by Mueller to the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. And then on top of that was authorized by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, it was Geoffrey or Geoff Berman, who is the President Trump's own pick for that office.
So, any idea, Michael, that this is a witch hunt just seems ridiculous.
ZELDIN: Right. If you look at the deciding officials that would be involved in a case like this, and when you -- you have to remember, Don, that when you go into an attorney's office, it really requires permissions at the highest level. So you probably had Christopher Wray, the head of the FBI, Rod
Rosenstein, the acting attorney general. The interim U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Berman, and the head of the criminal division in the main Justice Department, all of whom are seasoned lawyers, all of them happen to be Republicans, which I think is irrelevant, but the notion that that crew would somehow conspire to engage in a witch hunt against the president's lawyer for allegations of campaign finance violations just doesn't hold true to me.
LEMON: I agree with you that it's relevant, but the only reason that we're saying and I think it's important to point out is because the president keeps saying this is a witch hunt, he believe it's the Democrats, why aren't you looking at Hillary Clinton and looking at Barack Obama, when all these things when these are his own hand-picked people.
I've got to ask, I don't know who is better to answer this, if it's Asha or if it's Laura. The reason why I ask Michael why is the Southern District of New York investigating something that is possibly as election, would that be the FEC, who that be the Federal Election Commission. Is that Laura, right?
ZELDIN: Well, can I -- I can -- I can answer--
COATES: Well, that's true. Government investigate this, would that be the FEC?
COATES: I'll jump in, Mike.
ZELDIN: OK. OK.
COATES: It's true that it is the FEC. I know that Asha will jump in as well in this issue.
COATES: I know she sees on this as well. But the notion that the FEC has been a bit of a toothless dog when it comes to a lot of these cases, because you have to have the -- not majority rule but actually it has to be unanimous decisions about these very issues, about campaign finance, et cetera.
And even when they had the opportunity, for example, on the John Edwards case to look at these examples of what may be campaign contributions, this future White House counsel Don McGahn was on the FEC at the time and he said, this doesn't sound like a campaign contribution, let's not go ahead and prosecute or pursue this in the same way, although it ended up having an ultimately acquittal and overall hung jury for John Edwards.
The notion that you have in this case with this investigation being wrestled or wrangled by the SDNY as supposed to perhaps the FEC maybe because they have been a notable toothless dog in a variety of ways.
ZELDIN: May I add, can I just add one thing for that--
LEMON: Quickly because I want to get Asha in.
ZELDIN: OK. I'm sorry. She can speak all of next segment.
ZELDIN: The Justice Department and the FEC have concurrent jurisdiction in matters such as this.
LEMON: Got it.
ZELDIN: So the FEC does the civil side of it, the U.S. attorneys do the criminal side of it when there's a willful violations. So Laura is exactly right about the FEC, but they both have concurrent jurisdictions, one criminal, one civil.
LEMON: So this was, let me get Asha. This was, he keeps saying this was a break-in. These were anything but unlawful. These were lawful raids, it was a not a break-in raid, correct?
RANGAPPA: This was executed pursuant to a search warrant. And I think that, Don, one thing that going off of what Laura said that the president needs to understand is this is happening. And the fact that this has now been referred to or this particular threat of an investigation has been referred to by Southern District of New York means that there are parts of this investigation that are beyond Mueller.
And a lot of these talks about firing Mueller is not going to stop the investigation. It's definitely not going to stop investigations that end up 2coming out of other offices across the country. And even for if Mueller goes himself, the same thing will happen as what happened when he fired Comey.
These are now in the criminal justice system. Judges have seen the evidence. Search warrants have been issued. Grand juries have seen on it, indictments have been done. This investigation is not about one man leading it, and I think he will be sorely mistaken if he thinks that getting rid of Mueller will stop anything that has already been started rolling in our justice system.
LEMON: She has spoken. Thank you very much. Don't go anywhere. We have a lot more to talk about when we continue with two guys. We've got much more to come on our breaking news.
[22:14:58] The raid on Trump attorney Michael Cohen couldn't come at a worse time for a president whose legal team is running on empty. Is team Trump up to this challenge?
LEMON: President Trump making absolutely no attempt to hide his anger tonight over the FBI raid on his attorney Michael Cohen. Anger, that sources fear, could push him over the edge.
Back with me, Asha Rangappa, Laura Coates, and Michael Zeldin. OK, everyone. So, Asha, let me ask you, Maggie Haberman is reporting tonight in "The New York Times" and she tweeted. She said, "Trump is angrier than he has been at any point and in the many fuming news cycles according to two people close to him. What that ultimately translates to is unclear, but both Trump and Cohen believe this is really Mueller and that farming it out to SDNY was a fig leaf. Both sources say that this was crossed that he has crossed the red line that Trump laid out for Mueller going outside his purview."
So, you know, he said don't of you can investigate, you know, his finances and all of that, that was his red line. Has Trump crossed, as he crossed the line? Mueller.
RANGAPPA: Don, I think we need to understand that when Mueller has an appointment by Rosenstein, as Michael Zeldin mentioned in the last segment, he has a subject kind of scoped. If he encounters something that is beyond the scope, he doesn't just shrug his shoulders and walk away. I mean, what if he discovers a human trafficking ring or child pornography? Does he say, that's not in my scope, go, you know, carry on! No.
[22:19:59] He has -- he is -- the Department of Justice is by law required to investigate any evidence of criminal activity. So it will be passed on, as it was in this case.
What this tells me is that Rosenstein is actually taking his oversight responsibilities very seriously. He's not allowing Mueller to continue something that might be very far outside his scope, not letting him cross that red line. Instead he is allowing the regular prosecutors in the appropriate offices of the Department of Justice go along with this.
And again, these are, in this case it's a U.S. attorney that was interviewed by Trump himself. So, again, as I mentioned before, he will be disappointed if he believes that getting rid of Mueller or Rosenstein or Sessions is in any way going to stop this ball from rolling.
LEMON: Yes. This is coming at a time when the president's legal team is really diminished, and some say frankly they are outgunned by Mueller's team. Is that the way you see it, Laura?
COATES: Well, I see the time being is very curious given the fact that just last week the president and his team were talking about possibly sitting down with Mueller and his investigative team.
So it seems very convenient that now, yet again you have somebody who is conflating two issues, two separate and distinct likely investigations, namely one of fig leaf with the hope that if you undermine the credibility of the investigation, it will give the president of the United States political cover to possibly say either he won't voluntarily sit down with that team per advice of counsel, or he'll be subpoenaed by Mueller and his team and will be able to plead the fifth and say, it's not political suicide here. What I'm doing is not going to answer questions in a witch hunt
because we know that Mueller is farming things out for fig leaf purposes as well.
COATES: I think that the fact that he had his diminishing legal team is only going to, you know, exacerbate the notion that the president's narrative must be for him to feel as though he has cover that Mueller is running a witch hunt and he's trying to hoodwink the entire American public. None of which has actually played out in the facts.
LEMON: Yes. Michael, so tonight, just tonight Joe diGenova, remember him he told Lou Dobbs that he wants Congress should impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the FBI Director Christopher Wray. It's a kind of thing that you're hearing on Fox tonight from at least one lawyer the president consider hiring.
ZELDIN: And the grounds for impeachment are following the law? I mean, it's not really a sensible position. What Rod Rosenstein did was what he swore under oath to do, which is to uphold the law, as did Christopher Wray.
So what the basis of it, is it appears, is that they don't like how they're exercising their constitutional obligations because it is pillaring someone that they like politically. That's not what impeachment is about. That doesn't meet any one standard of definition of a high-crime misdemeanor style abuse of office, and so I just think it's rhetorically, you know, sort of convenient but not practically doable.
LEMON: What kind -- what kind of charges can come from all of this?
RANGAPPA: Hey Don, can I--
LEMON: Yes, go on. Go on, go on, Asha.
RANGAPPA: yes. I was just going to point out that, you know, increasingly, the deep state is consisting almost entirely of Republicans, which is very odd. And I think that should be a clue that the only deep state that exists right now is the deep state of denial in the White House and among his lawyers that this is getting very bad for them.
RANGAPPA: And he needs to get better legal advice on how to handle it--
RANGAPPA -- including not talking about potentially obstruction of justice on national television like he did today.
LEMON: Go ahead, Michael, what did you want to say?
ZELDIN: I was just going to say I'm agreeing with Asha for sure. I think the whole criminal justice system works best when each side is well represented. And I think it behooves the president so take a step back, find a competent team so they can address the issues that are raised in a prudent, lawful and sober way, and I think we'll all be advantaged by that.
There is no good in having a president without representation adequate to those who are looking into allegations of wrongdoing. So I just hope he steps back, finds good counsel, let them build a team for him, let them meet with Mueller and make a forward path so that we can get this resolved and behind us, whatever that is.
LEMON: Hey, Laura, two things if you can answer quickly. What kind of charges might stem from this?
COATES: Well, from Michael Cohen, you're looking at possibly perhaps bank fraud or perhaps tax-related issues, perhaps campaign finance issues. The president doesn't seem to have an exact link to this yet so I can't which state what charges will be brought against him or anyone else.
LEMON: OK. Well, let me ask you then because you talked about you said in certain cases, this attorney-client privilege, it can be waived, right, depending on what's going on. So if the president talks to Michael Cohen now, is that an issue as he -- I don't know, does this has ever come up before?
COATES: Well, the notion of a waiver is different. That would actually belong to the client to say that I do not my attorney to have to be held to that standard of silence.
[22:24:59] What I'm talking about of the attorney-client privilege is that it will not protect communications. If they're made in order to further crime or to hide criminal activity. And also the notion of attorney-client privilege it can only exist if it was just between the attorney and the client.
Not outside entourages, not third parties who are around, not e-mail communications with somebody who was CC'd or BCC'd on it. So if the president is able to maintain the type of attorney-client relationship that actually values and honors the privilege which means just one on one, no one else around in furtherance of legal advice, they'll be protected. If it's not if it's about business or anything else about the crime--
LEMON: Can he do it now?
LEMON: Can he talk to Michael Cohen now and it would be privileged?
COATES: He could talk about some issues, but I suspect there is a cone of silence they'll want to put between him and Michael Cohen at this point in time, because he had a great degree of legal exposure, and I suspect the president although he had lunch or dinner last week in Mar-a-Lago wants to have a 10-foot pole between him and who he calls a good man.
LEMON: All right. Laura, thank you. Michael and Asha, as well. I appreciate it.
When we come back, it's beginning to sound a lot like 1998 all over again. Remember Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky? Are we seeing another sex scandal turning into a much bigger scandal that will rock this White House?
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
2LEMON: President Trump furious tonight slamming the FBI raids on his attorney Michael Cohen.
I want to bring in now three CNN political commentators, Charles Blow, op-ed columnist for "The New York Times," Ana Navarro, Republican strategist, and Steve Cortes, a former Trump campaign adviser.
Good evening to one and all. So, Steve, President Trump called a raid on Cohen, an attack on our country, and an attack on what we all stand for. Is that appropriate?
STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's totally appropriate, Don. Look, this is -- this is an outrage. What were we promised by the Mueller probe? We were promised Russia. And what do we end up with here? Sex and a tawdry tale from 12 years ago, far before Donald Trump ever even thought of being in office.
LEMON: Hey, Steve can I just stop you right there? There are two separate investigations. This is not Mueller's investigation. The stuff about that...
CORTES: That's disingenuous, Don, let's be honest. Your show, and this network for months, and months have screamed Russia, Russia, Russia. Guess what? There's nothing there that connects to President Trump.
LEMON: How do you know? Are you part of the investigation?
CORTES: There are some...
LEMON: How do you know that? No, no, no, no, no. How do you know that?
CORTES: How do I know, I have been...
LEMON: Are you part of this investigation?
CORTES: No, because if you take 20 lawyers -- biased lawyers who hate the president, tens of millions of dollars, the full investigatory power of the United States government, and you can't find anything after a year and a half of investigating...
LEMON: ... the people who are running this investigation were hand- picked by the President of the United States, and many of the people who are running this investigation, or part of this investigation are also Republicans.
LEMON: How did -- how did all of a sudden Robert Mueller...
LEMON: No, no, no, hold on. How did all of a sudden Robert Mueller who is beloved by the right-wing, and by Donald Trump, and by everyone, all of a sudden become a pariah because he's maybe doing his job?
CORTES: I think this is important, being a Republican hardly means -- and you know better than this, Don. Being a Republican hardly means that you're in favor of President Trump.
LEMON: The only reason I say that is because he said it's a witch hunt by the Democrats.
CORTES: Hold on.
LEMON: And he says most of the people on the team are either Democrats or have -- or have donated to democratic entities.
CORTES: They're Republicans who can't stand the President. And by the way, I think the Republicans sadly are as complicit in what's going on right now in terms of these swamp tactics as the Democrats are.
And let me just be very blunt. The President needs to fire Jeff Sessions. He needs to fire Rosenstein. He needs to fire Mueller. This is a sham investigation.
This is his own Justice Department trying to usurp the power of the presidency. If the Congress wants to investigate this, they're a co- equal branch, go at it. Please, go at it.
LEMON: Well, if he's innocent, then why would he fire all those people?
CORTES: But his own Justice Department...
LEMON: If he's innocent, why would he fire all those people?
CORTES: Because -- no, it's not about innocence. It's because they're creating a witch hunt atmosphere that is really, in many ways, I think reminiscent of what we see in dictatorships. When you raid the President of the United States' private attorneys,
residents and offices, and when you say that we're going to pierce attorney-client privilege, what you're admitting here is we have nothing on Russia, nothing significant, nothing we can hang our hat on.
But we are going to find a way, or make a way to impeach the President of the United States. Let's just be honest. That is the end goal here.
That is the goal of the Washington swamp. It's the goal of the media, is to impeach the President. And the President has to say enough. We have business in this country to attend to.
LEMON: That's quite a tale you have weave there, but go on.
CORTES: It's quite a tale and it happens to be the truth. It's why the President needs to take action.
LEMON: Let somebody else talk. Go ahead, Ana. Go ahead.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Are we done now?
CORTES: We're hardly done.
NAVARRO: Listen, I'm one of those true Republicans that can't stand this President because he has hijacked the Republican party, and he has hijacked democracy.
That being said, frankly, Don, the Trump apologist on the panel has pivoted and distracted so much, I kind of forgot what your original question was. So, could you kindly refresh my memory?
LEMON: I said the President called the raid of Cohen, and attack on our country, and an attack on what we all stand for. Is that appropriate?
NAVARRO: OK. Yes, it's appropriate, and I'm going to tell you why. One of the things that differentiates the United States of America from many other countries, including dictatorships, is that in this country nobody...
LEMON: Do you think it's appropriate for him to call it...
NAVARRO: ... nobody, not the President...
LEMON: Do you think it's appropriate for him to call it an attack on our country?
NAVARRO: No, I think it's appropriate -- no, I think it's appropriate for Michael Cohen to be investigated, and to be raided.
Because in the United States of America, one of the things that distinguish us from many other countries is that in this country, nobody, not the President of the United States, or his minions, or his personal lawyer, or whomever, is above the law. They are all subject to the law.
[22:35:00] And they all need to behave legally. And so I do think that it is appropriate for him to have been raided. Look, follow the trail. Follow the money trail.
I mean -- you know, I actually marvel at the fact that Donald Trump has gotten as far as he has gotten with his limited intellectual curiosity, vocabulary of about a 4-year-old, and the worst damn lawyer that any of us have ever seen.
CORTES: You know what, Ana...
NAVARRO: This guy couldn't even get an MBA executed.
CORTES: Any by the way -- Ana, you have been demeaning the President in this manner for so long. You know what, he went to an Ivy League University, and he's a self-made billionaire.
I wish I were that dumb, I don't know about you. I think he is pretty smart man. But more importantly, let's get to point about that -- you know, that matters to our democracy...
NAVARRO: Are you going to let Charles talk, or are going to continue to pivoting, and discuss. Because it takes up a lot of time, and we only have one segment. Can you let Charles on?
LEMON: ... so we can bring Charles in.
NAVARRO: Steve, you're entitled to...
CORTES: I'm trying to. I'm trying to. Robert Mueller is not...
NAVARRO: So at this point there are three of us in this panel.
CORTES: Ana, I'm trying to say...
NAVARRO: You spoke all you wanted to without any of us interrupting. I now spoke and now it's Charles Blow's turn.
CORTES: Robert Mueller is not above the law, and he answers to no one, which is why he needs...
NAVARRO: Of course, he is not above the law.
LEMON: Charles, go ahead.
LEMON: Charles here is what -- here is what everyone.
LEMON: A lot of people try to downplay the whole Stormy Daniels story. They're saying, oh, this is about an affair. But we know it wasn't about an affair that he had years ago. This is about possible -- breaking the law, campaign finance, breaking election laws, and that's what it appears that this may have come down to.
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Wouldn't that be incredibly ironic if that -- if this piece of it, you know, becomes the thing that becomes the biggest thorn in his side? But around that story has always been just an incredible amount of smoke.
What did -- what did Cohen tell his bank when he was getting the loan? He said he got a loan, I guess, a second mortgagor something.
BLOW: What do you tell them? You can't lie to them, and say it's for one thing if it's for another. Why did the bank -- the detectors are basically, and they reported it, did the President know about the agreement which he says now he did not know about it.
Did he know about the payment? Did the President pay him back? Would Cohen ever ask the President to pay him back? I mean, there's a lot of smoke around this, and the easiest way not to get in trouble is to tell the truth, right?
And I don't know yet if they have told that truth, but something about their activities around this caught the eye of Mueller and his investigators.
They referred it to another group of FBI investigators, some of the attorneys of New York. They went to a judge. A judge evaluated what they -- what they brought to them, and he said, it looks like this warrant is a search warrant, right? So something there is tripping a lot of triggers.
LEMON: And there are six major things that you have to attain in order to get -- before obtaining a search warrant, investigators had to obtain the evidence.
In another way, such as by subpoena, the authorization for the warrant had to come from either the U.S. attorney or an assistant attorney general, which is Rod Rosenstein, which is above that.
The prosecutor had to confer with the criminal division department before seeking the warrant. The team conducting the search had to employ adequate precautions to ensure that they we're improperly viewed.
Privileged communications between Cohen and his clients, the search team will have included privilege team or some people call it a clean team, including lawyers, and agents not working on the case, which work to ensure that the investigators conducting the search didn't see privilege communication. And the investigators had to develop a review process for the seized
material. That's a lot of hoops to jump to say that this is a witch hunt.
BLOW: Absolutely. And a lot of hoops -- I'm sorry.
CORTES: It's a lot of hoops, but Don, I want to know, what happened to Russia? Where did Russia go.
LEMON: Again, as I've said...
BLOW: What did you took? Like seriously. You have been talk...
LEMON: I know we're crumpled for time, but this is an important conversation. As I said from the very beginning when you started to talk, these are two separate investigations. One is a southern district in New York, the other is Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Both of then...
BLOW: Tell Mr. Trump not to meet up with porn stars when he's married, and drop his trousers, and let her spank him with...
LEMON: OK, guys. I got to go. I got to go.
BLOW: If you don't want that to come out, don't say it.
LEMON: All right, I have to go. Thanks, everyone. Thanks, Ana.
NAVARRO: Again, Don, remind me of the question.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: An angry President Trump during a meeting to talk about Syria going off on the FBI raids on his attorney Michael Cohen, two huge stories that could get much bigger -- much, much bigger.
I'm talking now about both of them with Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for "The New York Times."
Nicholas, thank you for joining us this evening. Good evening to you. What's your reaction to the news about Michael Cohen and the President's response?
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I mean, it's just extraordinary to look right now. We have two separate federal and criminal investigations into the -- into the behavior and the conduct relating to the president. It's unbelievable. And I guess I do worry that the President's reaction -- clearly he's
so viscerally angry. That it does increase the risk that he will, one way or another, in the Mueller investigation, whether by replacing Sessions or (Inaudible) -- I mean, he's clearly really angry about this.
[22:45:00] LEMON: And as you can see, Steve Cortes, and many of the Trump supporters, and his spokespeople are conflating the two investigations into one, making this about Robert Mueller. This is not Robert Mueller's investigation.
KRISTOF: No. I mean, there is a referral, but this is a separate investigation, and it's also important to note that even if Mueller is ousted that the southern district of New York investigation will continue.
KRISTOF: And so these are -- you know, this is an incredible moment when we have two separate federal investigations of criminal behavior.
LEMON: And again, they've called this -- he called this an attack on our country, an attack for all that we stand for. But even while all of this is going on, I want to talk about what's happening now. I want to talk about the possible -- what's going to happen with Syria.
KRISTOF: And it may be more likely to happen in Syria because of the events today.
LEMON: Do you think it's a wag the dog situation, which...
KRISTOF: I don't know, but I do -- I mean I think that it was likely this was going to happen, anyway. I think it's almost 100 percent certain that it's going to happen now after this.
LEMON: So, you heard the President say today that -- talk about the timing, he recently said U.S. would be withdrawing from Syria soon, remember? John McCain is basically -- you know, he's blaming those words at least for the chemical attack.
And here's what he said in a statement. He said, President Trump last week signaled to the world that the United States would prematurely withdraw from Syria.
Bashar al-Assad, and his Russian, and Iranian backers have heard him, and emboldened by American inaction, Assad has reportedly launched another chemical attack against innocent men, women, and children, this time in Douma. So, is he right? Was Assad emboldened by President Trump's words?
KRISTOF: I mean, it's a little harsh, and I don't think it's fair to blame President Trump for the use of chemical weapons. I mean that is on President Assad, that's on Iran, and that's on Russia.
But it is true that Assad has repeatedly used chemical weapons back since 2012, because the international community, in part represented first by President Obama, more recently by President Trump, has tolerated it, exactly estimate (ph).
And, you know, a year ago President Trump fired 59 cruise missiles, about a $1 million each into the ground. That was a one-off event that didn't change the calculations of Assad.
And from that point of view, you know, McCain is right that Trump did not stand up to it, that when he talks about pulling troops out of Syria that, I think, does make Assad a little more likely to think that, yes, he can do whatever it takes to win in that area of eastern Ghouta.
LEMON: This is the first anniversary of last year when he launched those 59 Tomahawk missiles that you're talking about -- the missiles that Syrian airbase, and after a chemical weapons attack on 80 people, and 49 people died Saturday in Douma.
In his tweet, the President called out Putin by name for backing, quote, animal Assad. Why do you think the President is finally calling Putin out now?
KRISTOF: You know, I can't -- I don't find President Trump comprehensible when he doesn't call out President Trump. I was glad that he finally did call him.
LEMON: President Putin.
KRISTOF: That he called out President Putin. I was glad he called him out now, you know. But it sure does look like he is going to fire missiles at Syria, but the problem is, you know, does he have any -- military force works is important when it's harnessed to some kind of a broader vision, when it's harnessed to a strategy.
I don't see what that strategy is in the case of Syria. I don't see what that gives us leverage to do. And this is a really dangerous moment in Syria with the Israeli strikes having apparently killed four Iranians, with some risk of Iranian response, with a lot of concern whether there will be Israel-Lebanon war.
And I don't have confidence in President Trump using his military toolbox in ways that will avoid problems with Russia, and with Iran, and in ways that will actually advance Syrian interests, and our interests, and global interests on the ground there.
LEMON: We'll know what's going to happen soon. The President indicated today as well that something they will -- we will know.
KRISTOF: I think it's coming.
LEMON: Yes, thank you, Nicholas. Appreciate it.
KRISTOF: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, new reports suggest the embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt lied about controversial raises given to friends working for him. The reporter who broke the story is here next with all the details. [22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: With the White House in turmoil over the FBI raid on Trump attorney Michael Cohen, another member of the Trump cabinet may be in hot water tonight. Embattled EPA Chief Scott Pruitt denies knowing about controversial pay raises for a top aid at the agency.
But is he telling the truth? I want to bring in now Elaina Plott. She is a staff writer for "The Atlantic."
Elaina, thank you so much for joining us this evening. We appreciate it. You have new reporting tonight on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and controversial pay raises. What can you tell us? What do you know?
ELAINA PLOTT, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: So, as you mentioned, Don, last week, I reported that Scott Pruitt had signed off on two really hefty pay raises for two of his staffers back from Oklahoma.
What was controversial, though, was not so much the raises themselves which, yes, were quite large, but the White House refused to sign off on these. And when that happened, Pruitt ordered his aides to, in a way, circumvent the process, and use an obscure measure under the Safe Drinking Water Act to get this through.
And then, of course, Ed Henry interviewed Pruitt on Fox News, and Pruitt denied any knowledge of these raises. He said this is first time hearing about them, I had no prior knowledge.
What I can report today though is that an e-mail is currently circulating the agency in which Sarah Greenwalt, one of the aids who received one of the raises said in no uncertain terms that Pruitt was in fact the one to sign off on these.
And so I have two administration officials who have seen the e-mail confirming that to me. And what's happening right now, Don, is EPA officials know that there's an I.G. investigation into these raises. So they're trying to corral all the relevant materials that may appear to contradict what Pruitt said in his Fox News interview.
[22:55:00] This one is troubling them the most, though, because it's not really something they can explain away.
LEMON: OK. Let me ask you this, because you're saying there's an e- mail floating around this. It's not from Pruitt. The EPA spokesman said that there's no evidence in the e-mail that Pruitt knew about the pay raises or that he has even -- that he even saw the e-mails. Is that correct?
PLOTT: So what the e-mail says, it's Sarah Greenwalt telling H.R. -- she is potentially asking them to confirm that her raises have been processed, and then she says the administrator approved these raises.
LEMON: Got it.
PLOTT: My -- the statement that I got from Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson, in my professional opinion, seemed to indicate that they were confirming in essence that fact, but not that it was correct necessarily. So now it's almost like they're throwing the onus on her to explain that she was in fact wrong for saying that.
LEMON: All right, Elaina Plott, thank you. Great reporting. I appreciate your time.
PLOTT: Thank you so much.
LEMON: When we come back, the President is angry about the FBI raids on Michael Cohen. So, is he going to do anything about it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why don't I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it's a disgrace what's going on. We'll see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: We'll see what happens. Wonder what he means by that.
LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. It is 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast live with breaking news tonight.