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Bannon Pitching Plan On What Trump Should Do About Russia Investigation; Bannon Tries To Push Plan To Stop Mueller Beginning With Firing Rosenstein; Trump Considering Firing Rosenstein; Comey Compares Trump To A Mob Boss in ABC Interview; FBI Sought Trump's Communications With Cohen Over "Access Hollywood" Tape; Constitutional Crisis If Trump Fires Mueller Or Rosenstein?; Trump Judicial Pick Won't Say If She Supports Brown Versus Board Of Education; Paul Ryan Not Running For Re-Election. Aired 11-12a ET
Aired April 11, 2018 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. It is 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. Live with all the breaking news. Reports that Steve Bannon, President Trump's fired former chief strategist is trying to pitch his own plan to steining (ph) the Mueller investigation. But will the President listen to the man he once said not only lost his job, he lost his mind?
We've also got new revelations tonight on what the FBI is looking for in that raid on Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen. Sources telling CNN, the agents were after communications that Trump had with Cohen and others about the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape. We have more on that in a moment. A lot to get to in this hour.
I want to bring in CNN's Chief White House Correspondent, Mr. Boris Sanchez.
Boris, thank you for joining us this evening. Incredible news coming from "The Washington Post," reporting tonight that Steve Bannon is talking with West Wing aides and Congressional allies trying to stop the Mueller probe. Give us highlights here.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Hey, Don, yes. This is really fascinating. According to Steve Bannon, step one in steining (ph) the Russia probe is firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, sometime that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had said, it is not only a necessary, but may trigger a constitutional crisis.
Further, Bannon also believes that the President should make his legal team rework their strategy. He does not believe that they have be effective, he thinks that they should stop cooperating all together with the Special Counsel.
He also had something interesting to say about the President's ability to invoke executive privilege, and this is really important. He believes the President should invoke executive privilege over conversations that he's had with officials at the White House that have been interviewed previously by Robert Mueller. Bannon essentially believes that by invoking executive privilege that
means that any evidence, any information that Robert Mueller may have collected from these interviews would be rendered null and void putting the Special Counsel at a disadvantage. And really the most interesting thing about all of this, is that Bannon isn't really being discreet with this plan.
He is kind of openly telling "The Washington Post" about it at a point where the President is really angry and frustrated. And if we know anything about President Trump and his admiration for some of his aides, he really enjoys it when they defend him in the press. And we are seeing Bannon do that now, you can read that as, you know, someone who worked at the White House, falling out of grace with the president, trying to regain favor.
LEMON: What's the White House reaction, Boris?
SANCHEZ: Well, we don't really have a read yet on how the President feels about this plan, if he is aware of it. One source told us that they believe that Bannon's plan is unnecessary, that the Special Counsel and the President's legal team have been working well together so far. They believe that the legal team has been firm with the Special Counsel.
We should keep in mind, though, that same source has indicated that the President is still furious about these FBI raids on his personal attorney, Michael Cohen's home, his hotel room, and his offices. So, you know, considering that sources have told us the President has already considered firing Rod Rosenstein which Bannon apparently thinks he should do, we may see the President heed that advice, ultimately.
LEMON: Boris Sanchez, White House correspondent. I gave you a promotion there.
SANCHEZ: I know. I was doing pump about it.
LEMON: I had so, congratulations. Jim Acosta is going to have something to say about that. Thank you, Boris. I appreciate it. Now I want to bring in CNN National Security Analyst, Juliette Kayyem and two former assistant U.S. attorneys, William Cowden and Renato Mariotti.
As Boris was going over this story, Juliette, you are shaking your head, the strategy about --
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's like made up, I mean the idea that you can invoke executive privilege after the fact to protect people who have already -- essentially talked under oath is like, I don't know what the legal term is, but the goby look, like, I mean, it is like, you can't do it.
And more importantly, you know, the strategy that he is talking about for President Trump, sort of brings him into essentially the conspiracy potentially for obstruction of justice. He is publicly now saying, fire number one or number two in the investigation, you know, don't cooperate, undermining the investigation and he is saying that publicly. And Bannon is saying it publicly. Which if I'm Bannon I am getting -- I would get a lawyer.
LEMON: Yes. John Dean said earlier that he should probably keep his mouth shut, Renato, because that is a conspiracy if that does happen.
[23:05:00] RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think Bannon feels pretty safe, because he is trying to urge the President of the United States to do something, and there's no one with any courage within the Republican Party to do anything to stop him. I mean, I think the nightmare scenario that I think everyone is concerned about here -- well, not everyone but I say a lot of patriotic Americans are concerned about here is that Donald Trump does fire Rod Rosenstein, does try to get rid of Bob Mueller and the Republicans just sit idly by and let it happen.
Certainly some of what Bannon is suggesting, Juliette's right, you could -- whatever the word you want to use, whether it's a goby look or ridiculous, it's a nonstarter's illegal strategy. But some of what he is saying is serious and is going to have serious consequences for this country. If Donald Trump can get away with firing the people that are investigating him, then what that means for the future, that a President can do anything he wants, commit any crime and fire the people that are investigating him. It's very, very scary.
LEMON: What do you think about this, any idea of retroactively that you can claim executive privilege?
WILLIAM COWDEN, FORMER SENIOR TRIAL ATTORNEY, DOJ ASSET FORFEITURE AND MONEY LAUNDERING SECTION: Well, I think, I think Juliette's right, retroactive is just not going to happen. I think the other issue is, I think it's a little too late. You've got now an investigation of the Southern District of New York has picked up, they're now looking at this. They are looking at campaign finance violations. It looks like Trump's attorney is saying, I paid this myself. That is hard to believe. They're going to look at that. They're going to figure out that there's been a violation of campaign finances, there has been a violation of reporting these. The payments are so close to the election. These are not just your typical payments. They're related to the campaign. This has benefitted the campaign, and this money now that is been paid is a violation of federal law.
And so if Trump didn't know that, you know, then he is not involved in it. But it's hard to believe that the attorney for Trump didn't tell Trump, and I think you've got the Southern District of New York looking at that now, so there's really two fronts here. And I don't think this is situation Trump can just say I'm going to fire Rod Rosenstein and all is done, or I'm going to fire Bob Mueller and all is done. He's got two offices now, there's 220 prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. They know what they're doing. There's a new front on this, independent and I think that this idea that things are going to go away, if Bob Mueller gets fired is just wrong.
LEMON: Yes. So, I said -- as I said earlier that Steve Bannon was talking to aides in the West Wing.
LEMON: So what does this say about the mood in the White House right now among Trump aides?
KAYYEM: I'll tell, where is John Kelly? I mean, I think we know where he is. There's no chief of staff anymore. Because if you're John Kelly your goal would be get White House people, who -- let's remind everyone who we're paying for, they are paid by tax payers to focus on policy, a potential missile, you know, attack on Syria, whatever else is going on in the agencies.
You know, the fact that Bannon has really ingratiated himself with whomever and who knows who those people are suggests that Kelly has lost all control of any semblance of order in the White House.
LEMON: The reporting tonight is that Kelly has found himself on a downward slide and according to sources familiar with the situation.
LEMON: And also he's a retired marine corps general has horrified that the highly charge display Trump made against Mueller in the search of Cohen, according to one person familiar with --
KAYYEM: In front of the general.
LEMON: In front of the general, so with that said, Renato, more on the stunning news from the fallout from the FBI raid on Michael Cohen's office and homes, why are prosecutors honing in on this "Access Hollywood" tape?
MARIOTTI: Well, we don't know the entire story, Don, but one thing that we do know is that, apparently they're looking at not just campaign finance violations, but also a bank fraud and wire fraud. At least that has been some of the published reporting.
And if that's the case, perhaps Michael Cohen, for example, obtained a loan made under, you know, false pretenses from a bank. You know, for example, you know, if you make a false declaration to a bank about, you know, the purpose of the loan or the source of the funds that you're using for, you know, as collateral or something like that, potentially, you know, he could have committed bank fraud.
And I will tell you when I first saw that there's campaign finance violations, I raised an eyebrow, because that is a more speculative charge, but something like bank fraud or wire fraud is really the bread and butter of that federal prosecutors investigating charge in a regular basis when it comes to white collar (inaudible).
LEMON: So, William, and what would -- what would the tape gave to do with that with the FBI and the Southern District of New York prosecutors had to have some evidence related to criminal wrongdoing specifically involving that tape?
COWDEN: Well, the -- so to get the warrant prosecutors had to have probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed and that there was evidence of the crime in the location that they wanted to search, which would be Cohen's offices or home. In terms of -- you know, bank fraud, as Renato points out, bank frauds, wire frauds, serious crimes. It's very easy to commit a bank fraud.
[23:10:06] You know, a false statement to a bank on a loan application or a false statement to a bank, when they're trying to do their due diligence about why you're opening an account and you're lying to the bank about what the purpose of the account is could be a federal crime. So, those are all crimes that Cohen could be investigated for. See where the evidence goes on that.
In terms of the tape itself, you know, one of the thoughts is if Cohen is saying that Trump didn't know about the Stormy Daniels payment, one of the things the prosecutors are going to want to look at is what other payments did Cohen make or possibly make, and did Trump know about any of the other ones? Because if Trump knows about other ones, and doesn't know about Stormy Daniels, it tends to undercut the idea that Trump didn't know about Stormy Daniels.
COWDEN: So, prosecutors build these cases by going piece by piece by piece. That the -- the Stormy Daniels payment comes very close to the election. The Trump -- the tape on the bus comes out very close to the time that there's a dump of documents from WikiLeaks that is a distraction.
And if the Trump folks are saying we had nothing to do with the WikiLeaks dump, well, the WikiLeaks dump looks like from press reports it came from the Russians. So, if the Russians got the stuff, gave it to WikiLeaks and then Trump campaign officials or somebody in the Trump campaign is controlling when that information is coming out, you don't have to steal the stuff to be part of a conspiracy to break the law.
LEMON: All right.
COWDEN: If the stuff is gotten in an illegal matter and then it comes out later, because Trump is controlling when is coming out, that is a problem.
LEMON: All right. That is what I was going to ask you, Juliette and I know I have to go, but this is an important question. Listen, what is criminal about wanting to prevent a tape and having your attorney do it? I mean, it may be salacious, it may be embarrassing, but is it a crime?
KAYYEM: Not necessarily. But, you know, he is running for office, so we have all sorts of other laws that may have been violated. Michael Cohen is in big trouble. I hope re recognizes that, because it's not just about Stormy Daniels. The fact that they're focusing on the "Access Hollywood" tape, just exactly what was just being said.
The "Access Hollywood" tape, for those of us in counter-terrorism and national security has always been the weirdest thing. "Access Hollywood" comes out, WikiLeaks dump. I don't believe in coincidences. I just don't. Right? And so, that correlation of that exact timing. The tape comes out and it WikiLeaks dump to sort of, you know, then focus on Hillary has long been thought of something is going on here. And I think if Michael Cohen knew something about it. That is bigger than Stormy Daniels tape, let us just say that.
LEMON: I appreciate the discussion. Thank you all. When we come back, one of the reporters who broke Watergate wide open. I am going to ask Carl Bernstein, what differences does he sees between the Trump White House and the Nixon White House, if any.
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: And a baffled president is spreading investigation. We all know how it all ended for Richard Nixon, but what about President Trump? Joining me now a man who has seen it all in Washington and beyond really, CNN Political Analyst, Carl Bernstein. Good to have you, sir. Thank you for joining me.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to be with you.
LEMON: So, given your perspective, Carl, as one of the reporters who broke the Watergate scandal, 45 years ago, is it surreal to you what's going on now at the White House?
BERNSTEIN: It's surreal that the country is in disjuncture and it's a tragedy for the country that were at this juncture. It is very clear that the President of the United States is presiding over a massive cover up. It's unclear exactly what he is covering up, but one of it differences between Watergate and this is that people in the Nixon White House largely believed up until the end that the President was not, in fact, covering up a great conspiracy. Whereas many, many people in the Trump White House and many who have left the Trump White House, it is now apparent to them that the president is presiding over a cover up and a massive attempt to keep the truth from coming out about whatever has transpired.
LEMON: But Carl, let me ask you, you say that, but I haven't really seen anyone say that publicly. And people are going to say, what is your evidence? Because the president keeps saying, his aides keep saying, his spokespeople keep saying, no -- there is no collusion, no evidence has been found. It's time for this investigation to end.
BERNSTEIN: Some people say that. Some people have left. And in fact, the whole notion that we know there is no collusion is absurd. There are many suggestions in what we've seen in court, in Mueller's filings, in the indictments that there might well be collusion, and we have only seen this tiny bit of what Mueller has. What we are seeing here especially in the last couple of days and what now looks like, perhaps a conspiracy to fire Mueller or Rosenstein, as part of a larger conspiracy.
To keep the truth from coming out, to really we're seeing for the second time assertions from a President of the United States that he is above the law. And the president in Watergate is that no one in this country is above the law including the President of the United States. But clearly Donald Trump believes that he may succeed in proving that he is above the law, and he might well. You know, we heard Grassley, a Senator say the other day that it would be suicidal for Donald Trump to fire Mueller or by, you know, by the same reasoning to fire Rosenstein.
I don't think Donald Trump looks at that as suicidal. I think there's good reason to believe, and it's been suggested to me by others, that Donald Trump thinks this might be the only way to survive, because of what the Mueller investigation is uncovering. Especially now that the prosecutors in New York have his lawyer's computer. That is a huge, huge development. And we can talk about what that means.
LEMON: Let me ask you something. Do you think, if there was -- if there was strong evidence of collusion, if Mueller had anything on Trump, do you think that that information would already be out and the President would be on his way out?
BERNSTEIN: No, I think Mueller is conducting a -- and I would hope it would not be out. I think Mueller is conducting a methodical, legal, principled investigation. Even the Republicans on the Hill, many of them, are saying this. And that it needs to go its course.
23:20:00] And if there has been any kind of witch hunt here, you can bet that there will be hell to pay, that Mueller and any others involved in any kind of witch hunt ought to pay. But I don't think there's any evidence whatsoever that there's been a witch hunt here.
LEMON: OK. Let's talk about other aspects here. What is this, since we're comparing this to Nixon, give me -- what's the difference, do you see any differences between Trump and Nixon's M.O.?
BERNSTEIN: Yes. Look, apples and oranges. I think one, Nixon had a great intellect. I don't think we'd ever accuse Donald Trump of having a great intellect, and at the same time I would never underestimate Trump's brilliance at reading the country in a demagogic way, and his political skills which are extraordinary.
But we're talking about apples and oranges. I think Nixon had a command of the presidency. He was a criminal President, but he had a command of understanding the Office of the Presidency and how it has to preside over the rest of the government --
BERNSTEIN: -- that in fact Trump lacks that. Can we go back to this question of these computers for a second?
LEMON: Well, that's -- let me ask you this, because this is -- you can answer through here, because this all started with a special prosecutor looking into Russian collusion or possibly obstruction of justice, but now you have the office of the President's personal attorney raided by the FBI with this phone and computer search. You say, you say that those computers could be the equivalent of the Watergate tapes. What do you mean that? What do you mean by that?
BERNSTEIN: They could -- they could be, because if indeed this is -- and I have any every reason to believe this was a legitimate warrant with a great case made by the prosecutors, by Mueller's office and others in the Southern District, that there was a great case made, that there is great needed to take place, because there's prima facie evidence of a conspiracy or of a crime involving Mr. Cohen, that that means, in fact, that his computers contained all kinds of information that suggest he is been in touch with the President of the United States.
I'd be amazed if that were not the case. Now, whether or not Mr. Cohen was stupid in keeping those computers and thinking that the Feds would never get them, that is another story. But there is under the rules of procedure of the Justice Department, there is a two-way street that occurs during the process of unloading those computers in the so-called take process. And if anything is uncovered that suggests a conspiracy between the President and his lawyer that has to do with the Russia investigation. That goes back to Mueller.
And I think there's good reason to believe that -- that is extremely possible, and that one of the reasons the President is so beside himself is that those computer computers are in the hands of competent investigators --
LEMON: Well, that's is what I want to ask you.
BERNSTEIN: -- who know the procedural rules, and one of the reasons he wants to shut down this investigation as he had all along --
LEMON: From your reporting, Carl, do you think the president is afraid of what they will find? From your reporting.
BERNSTEIN: Yes. Again, I want to go back to what's reportorial. Those around the president, it's not me talking, putting my opinion out there. Those around the President have described the Maggie Haberman, had describe the many of us that he is in a place now they have never seen him before. The word fear was used in fact in one of Maggie Haberman's stories today.
That he is now in a place about this investigation that he is never been before. It is very possible because he recognitions the implications of the Feds having these computers and having the legal tools, because this is a legitimate warrant that was served by a Judge, by a magistrate that now whatever this cover up has been and is in the White House, presided over by the President of the United States and by cover-up, it doesn't mean necessarily that it's a conspiracy to obstruct justice, though there are plenty of suggestions of that, but that this is now unraveling in a way that gets to the heart of matters including possible collusion.
LEMON: I've got to run. Carl, fascinating conversation. Pleasure to have you. Thank you, sir.
BERNSTEIN: Good to be with you.
LEMON: When we come back, did James Comey compare the President to a Mob boss and what did he mean by that?
[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Did a former FBI Director, James Comey compare President Trump
to a Mob boss? Well, that is suggestion in this promo clip for an interview set to air Sunday with ABC's George Stephanopoulos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, ABC: How strange is it for you to sit here and compare the President to a Mob boss?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: You know who else seemed to liken Trump to a Mob boss, his long-time personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Let's discuss with Vicky Ward, an author and investigative journalist who has written about Donald Trump and CNN contributor, Michael D'Antonio, the author of "The truth about Trump." And your book used to be called what?
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: "Never enough."
LEMON: Never enough, but now it's "The truth about Trump." Until you guys had been following for a long time, so Michael, you saw that clip, the implication that George Stephanopoulos makes that James Comey, likened the president to a Mob boss. What do you think of that characterization?
D'ANTONIO: Well, I think it's pretty accurate. And when you examine the Trump organization going all the way back, it's always been very secretive, always been -- all about playing the Hardball. And in Cohen's case, he is been a fellow who's used to threat and intimidation and tough talk from the very start with his work with Donald Trump, and he was that kind of person beforehand. So even if you examine the security of the President when he was a businessman had around him, he loved to brag about how he had guys carrying guns protecting him when no other real estate magnates did.
LEMON: Yes. Comey doesn't seem like a man to make a comparison like that likely, would it surprise you if he spoke so bluntly and critically about the president?
LEMON: No? In his interviews , Michael?
D'ANTONIO: No, not at all. Not at all. I think that this is a pretty obvious point to make when we see the warrant and the search of Michael Cohen's office and hotel room and home. This was the kind of thing that is done in cases of organized crime where they go after the attorneys. So I think his comparison to those kinds of cases is accurate.
LEMON: So Vicky, Comey in sworn testimony, so that the president ask for loyalty before firing him. He's not the first one to say that. What do you think Trump's fixation with loyalty is about?
VICKY WARD, AUTHOR AND INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, my impression in sort of getting to know Michael Cohen over the last year has been that, you know, loyalty doesn't even do the word justice. He is bafflingly loyal to Donald Trump. You know, I have always felt that when talking to him -- you know, he refers to Trump as the boss. He wants to be known as Trump's conciliary. He's really proud of that sort of language.
And when the topic of, you know, the $130,000 check to Stormy Daniels came up, he's like, well, you would do that for a family member, you would do that for your father or your sister. But of course Donald Trump is not his father or his sister. But this seems to be the badge of honor that he craves more than anyone else.
You have to slightly ask or I'd ask myself what has Donald Trump done for Michael Cohen in return? He didn't make him CEO of the campaign. He hasn't brought him to the White House. But Michael Cohen, you know, craves -- you know, he wants to be known as the number one loyal guy to Trump. What is that about?
LEMON: And to your point, he has reportedly referred to himself, as you said, as Trump's conciliary. He has described his duties, this is back in 2011, as -- it means that if somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn't like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump's benefit. If you do something wrong, I'm going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I'm not going to let you go until I'm finished.
Does that sound like something like an average attorney-client relationship to you?
WARD: No. Michael Cohen is not -- you know, he is not the general counsel.
LEMON: It's hyperbole.
WARD: It's hyperbole. You know, when I talked to him, he's not in person the rottweiler that sometimes he is described at. He is not Roy Cohn. He's kind of gentle, soft-spoken guy --
LEMON: Put the words in my mouth.
WARD: Yes. And then --
LEMON: And likable in person.
WARD: Yes, likable. Very likable. But, you know, he says to you, I like everybody, until they cross not me, not my kids, until they cross my guy. You know, it's personal with him. I think that's what's so different about it. It's so personal. It's so tribal.
LEMON: What do you think -- do you know what's behind the loyalty? He said to me, I'm really loyal to the president. He said it to everyone. He said it on air.
WARD: You know, Michael Cohen was -- you know, made money through taxing medallions. We know that's one of the things that the FBI is looking at. And, you know, Trump came along and made him the Trump personal lawyer. And I think he views that as a real badge of honor. And I think it's been very useful to Donald Trump. And I think Michael Cohen, you know, sort of can't stop repaying him.
LEMON: Yes. Michael, I've got to ask you because everyone, you know, asks about Paul Manafort and flipping this, and Flynn and everyone, you know. They are going to try to -- Papadopoulos or what have you. What are the chances, though, with someone who as loyal as Michael Cohen, prosecutors can flip him?
Because a quote today from someone he had lunch with (INAUDIBLE) said, you know, I'd rather -- I'm paraphrasing it -- I think jump off a building than turn on Trump. What are the chances of prosecutors flipping Cohen?
D'ANTONIO: I don't think we can say it's impossible. You know, there are mob guys who eventually flip and become rats, so it happens. And in this case, I think when we consider what Michael Cohen has going with Donald Trump, and, you know, what is the source of all this loyalty, it may be that they have something on each other.
This is often the case in organizations that are so secretive and where loyalty is prize. I understand what things you did wrong, and you understand what I did wrong. And so we hold each other hostage. And if Cohen can make a deal where he's satisfied at both the federal and state level, and the state level charges are something that Trump can't pardon, then maybe he will make a deal, because he's a family man.
[23:35:03] I don't know of very many people who would go to prison on behalf of a client and leave their wife and children behind. I think this is what the president is afraid of when people say that he's afraid.
LEMON: That's a good point about the family. I know he's concerned about that. He said that to me yesterday, but I don't think Michael Cohen will ever flip on this president. I really don't. He is intensely loyal to Donald Trump. My two cents. Thank you, both. I appreciate it.
When we come back, will the president actually listen to Steve Bannon's plan to end Robert Mueller's investigation? And if so, how will the rest of Washington and whole country for that matter react?
LEMON: Well, would President Trump spark a constitutional crisis if he fires Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein? I want to talk about this with CNN presidential historian Timothy Naftali and CNN contributor Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics.
Good evening, gentlemen. So after the FBI's raid on Michael Cohen's home and office, it has never looked more likely that the president will try to fire Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein.
[23:40:03] Do you think history -- Timothy, this is for you -- history is going to repeat itself heading in Nixon and Watergate territory?
TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, you know, history doesn't often repeat itself directly, it sort of rhymes.
LEMON: It rhymes, yes.
NAFTALI: What's really important here is that if Trump tries to stop the investigation, he is walking down Nixon's road. Nobody was talking about impeachment in 1973. No Democrat, no major Democrat was talking about impeachment until Richard Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox.
That's the kind of road Trump doesn't want to tread. Because what will happen at that point is these good government Republicans who have been in a very quiet way saying don't do it, are going to have to face the fact that the rule of law is being challenged by the executive branch. And our whole system of government is a system that depends on separation of power.
LEMON: And coequal branches.
NAFTALI: And coequal branches. So it's a constitutional crisis if Trump fires or through somebody in DOJ fires Mueller.
LEMON: Walter, you have said that if this president fires Mueller, that will be a direct attack on the rule of law. And the only proper place for every patriot who cares about democracy (INAUDIBLE). What are you proposing here?
WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, there are a number of groups who have planned marches that happens including MoveOn.org, and there's going to be a very rapid response.
If it happens, I would absolutely be out there, and I would encourage absolutely every other citizen who cares about America and care about the rule of law to get themselves out there within minutes if they can of either Mueller or Rosenstein being fired because at this point, it really is a direct attack on the rule of law.
Donald Trump will be saying he is above the rule of law and he cannot be investigated. Let's not forget that Donald Trump admitted to the world that the real reason he fired James Comey was because he didn't like being investigated. So he's already been through one investigator in this actual same investigation, and now he would be going through another investigator. At what point does it stop?
LEMON: Yes. Walter mentioned MoveOn.org. This is what they put on their website. Our response in the hours following a potential power grab will dictate what happens next, whether Congress will stand up to Trump or allow him to move our democracy toward authoritarianism. That's why we are preparing to hold emergency "Nobody Is Above The Law" rallies around the country, in the event they are needed, 800 plus of them and counting, in every state, with 300,000 RSVP's to date.
Is there a historical parallel for this?
NAFTALI: One of the things we don't want to have happened is this has become partisan. Look at the newsreels in 1973. President Nixon wanted to stop the investigation. It wasn't just enough for him to fire Cox. And he failed. He had to backtrack.
There was so much public outrage. And it wasn't left-wing outrage, it was complete national outrage at this. That he actually stepped back and appointed a new special prosecutor. So, the opposition to what Trump does, if he does this, has to be national and it has to be bipartisan.
LEMON: But you say there's a big difference between the way the Congress is reacting now as opposed to the way it acted during Nixon.
NAFTALI: One of the problems right now is that Congress is not investigating the evidence that is there. There haven't been the public hearings that really shaped public understanding of the Nixon administration in 1973.
In 1973, while the special prosecutor was doing things in secret, the public was running a lot about abuse of power by the Nixon administration because Congress in a bipartisan fashion was allowing people to hear evidence on their own.
Right now, a lot of what we know about Mueller's finding we're either getting through the indictments, which are very short, or through leaks.
NAFTALI: So the public need to know more.
LEMON: The press secretary, Walter, Sarah Sanders said that President Trump believes that he has the power to fire Robert Mueller. But CNN is reporting that lawmakers have told the president that would be disastrous for the mid-term elections. Do you think he will do it anyway no matter of the consequences and what are the consequences?
SHAUB: You know, every attorney in Washington has their own theory on whether or not it will be legal for Trump to do it. The real problem is he just shouldn't do it, and I think that's what the majority members of in Congress who are trying to stop him are saying to him. The problem is the lack of congressional oversight as we've watched departure after departure from the norms of our government has been completely lacking.
[23:44:59] And so I think there's a lack of conviction on the part of people in the White House that the majority in Congress would actually act. I think part of the reason we haven't had public hearings is precisely because they did learn the lesson of Watergate, that if you start having public hearings and people find out what's going on, maybe it'll start building some momentum that you'd have trouble controlling.
And so it's been completely stamped down and this president has so far with impunity just broken norm and tradition after norm and tradition. And so who could blame Donald Trump for doubting that they would act. Now, I'd like to hope they'd act, and I think there's some good people there like Chuck Grassley and others who have started coming around. There's talk now that maybe they will pass some legislation in the next month, but, you know, a month may be too late from now. And really is that too little too late?
LEMON: Passing legislation, though. Nobody is going to hold their breath there, right?
NAFTALI: If Trump fires Mueller --
NAFTALI: There will be hearings.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, both. I appreciate it. When we come back, one of President Trump's judicial nominees won't say if she supports Brown versus the Board of Education, the Supreme Court case that struck down segregation in schools.
[23:50:05] A Trump nominee for the federal has been dodging a question at her confirmation hearing about a landmark Supreme Court case. Let's discuss now. CNN political commentators Keith Boykin, Peter Beinart, and Matt Lewis.
OK. So, I just want to play -- this is some sound. It is a Trump judicial nominee answering a question about whether she believes Brown versus the Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruling that struck down school segregation, was correctly decided.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Do you believe that Brown versus Board of Education was correctly decided?
WENDY VITTER, FEDERAL JUDICIAL NOMINEE: Senator, I don't mean to be coy, but I think I get into a difficult -- difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions, which are correctly decided, and which I may disagree with.
Again, my personal, political or religious views, I would set aside. That is Supreme Court precedent. It is binding. If I were honored to be confirmed, I would be bound by it and of course I would uphold it.
BLUMENTHAL: Do you believe it was correctly decided?
VITTER: And again, I will respectfully not comment on what could be my boss's ruling, the Supreme Court. I would be bound by it. And if I start commenting on, I agree with this case or don't agree with this case, I think we get into a slippery slope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So, she was asked at least one more time if Brown versus Board of Education is one of our country's -- if it was correctly decided. It is one of our country's landmark racial equality rulings. How can you be a federal judge and not answer that question, Keith?
KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You shouldn't. She's, in my judgment, disqualified from serving as a federal judge on federal bench because of that answer alone. Brown versus Board of Education was a paramount decision in American legal history, decided on May 17th, 1954 by unanimous Supreme Court.
We're in 2018 now. We have a Trump judicial appointee who doesn't know whether she can say if it was correctly decided or not. The idea is preposterous, but it's consistent with Donald Trump, who can't say whether the people in Charlottesville were right or wrong on either side.
It's consistent with John Kelly, who thinks that the civil war was something that could have been resolved if people just compromise more. It's consistent with people in the Republican Party who supported Roy Moore, who said he --
LEMON: We don't have enough time for all the examples that you could probably put out there, fine people on both sides and all that. Matt, do you expect someone to have a better answer than that?
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, look, I don't know why she did that. Maybe she's not as familiar with the case. I doubt that.
PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Matt, she's a federal judge!
LEWIS: But we have seen examples where people, where that happens. My guess is that she was actually -- that this was a strategy that she went in there. And essentially it was like, look, I'm not going to get into, if they ask me about Roe versus Wade, I'm not going to comment on that.
My personal feelings about that or whether, you know, the Supreme Court decided that. If they ask me about Plessy versus Ferguson, I'm not going to go down that rabbit trail. The problem is, I don't think you can -- I don't think you can do that when it comes to this case. I think you have to sort of weigh in on it.
LEMON: OK. Peter?
BEINART: Yes, I mean, theoretically, she could have been trying to say, I'm not going to comment on any cases that have been decided before. And, you know, but this is -- I just don't understand, even if you were going to take that general view, why you wouldn't be able to make an exception for Brown versus Board of Education.
And I do think, there's a larger context here. When Donald Trump talks about making America great again, right? There's polls that show this, a lot of his supporters think America was better in the 1950s than it is today. There is a lot of nostalgia for the racial order that existed in America in the pre-Brown versus Board of Education age in the Republican Party today. LEMON: Well, that ain't going to happen.
LEMON: Never again. I want to talk about Paul Ryan, Matt. He's not going to run for re-election. What do you think this means for the House, what does it mean for the president?
LEWIS: Well, I think the House was already gone. I mean, it doesn't help. I think that this -- this just expedites what was already likely to happen, that Republicans will lose the House. I mean, look, it becomes -- if you're an incumbent on the fence as to whether or not to run for re-election and Paul Ryan bails, why would you stick it out?
[23:55:02] The one thing I don't like is, I think -- I've seen some people who have written about how symbolic this is. This is now Donald Trump's party --
LEMON: Quick. I got to go.
LEWIS: -- and Paul Ryan -- Ryanism has been defeated. He wanted to retire. He never wanted this gig anyway.
LEMON: I believe he wanted to be with his family, but I also think there is something else as well. The two can coexist. What do you guys think of this, quickly, because I got to run?
BEINART: He was humiliated by Donald Trump. The sad thing is, he could have actually gone out with courage earlier and say, I'm going to oppose Donald Trump, I'm not going to stand for this. Now he does it after having lost his reputation.
BOYKIN: I think he's a canary in the coal mine, the indication of the wave of change happening in November --
LEMON: He did get his tax cut.
BOYKIN: He got one thing.
BEINART: That makes its all worth it.
LEMON: Huge deficit increase which is --
BOYKIN: Trillion dollar deficit.
LEMON: Interesting for Paul Ryan.
LEMON: Thank you, all. I appreciate it. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.
[24:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)