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CNN TONIGHT

Ousted FBI Director Versus POTUS; James Comey's Book is Out; CNN Sources: President's Allies Have Already Begun Putting Together Extensive Campaign to Fight Back Against Comey; President's Allies Mount Coordinated Campaign To Discredit Rosenstein And Mueller. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 12, 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: See you tomorrow.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

You may have a hard time keeping up tonight. There's a lot of news. Bombshell breaking news, news that has the Trump White House under siege tonight as James Comey goes up to war with the president, with President Trump.

We have explosive details from the fired FBI director's new memoir including this quote from Comey, describing what happened during a private dinner when the president brought up the most salacious detail from that infamous Russia dossier.

And this is a quote. "He brought up what he called the golden shower things, adding that it bothered him if there was even a 1 percent chance his wife, Melania, thought it was true." Comey goes on to say the president told him he was thinking of asking the FBI to investigate the allegation to prove it was a lie. And there's more.

"The Washington Post" reporting that Comey writes, quote, "It is also wrong to stand idly by or worse to stay silent when you know better. While a president bracingly seeks to undermine public confidence in law enforcement institutions that were established to keep our leaders in check."

But in what may be the most explosive of all, Comey writes, "This president is unethical and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven, and about personal loyalty."

White House officials say there are no plans at this point to respond to the book tonight. But CNN has learned exclusively that the president's allies have already begun putting together an extensive campaign to fight back against Comey, talking points including branding the nation's former top law enforcement officer as, quote, "lying Comey."

And reminding democrats of how the former FBI director treated Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. But the Comey book is not the only headache for the Trump White House tonight. "The New Yorker" is reporting that the "National Enquirer's" parent company allegedly paid $30,000 in hush money to a doorman at a Trump building in an effort to keep him from speaking out about a rumor that Trump had fathered a love child.

The Enquirer's parent company and The Trump Organization both deny the allegation. Though, the doorman stands by his story.

And we have more breaking news to tell you about tonight. Allies of the president are worried that the feds may have seized tape conversations in their raid on Michael Cohen this week, sources telling CNN those recordings were even played back at times to candidate Trump and included discussions about the campaign and interactions with the media.

CNN has also learned tonight that as the president is debating whether to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the White House is working on an effort to undermine his credibility. Rosenstein interestingly enough met with the president today at the White House reportedly regarding routine business.

A lot to discuss, as I said at the top of the show. You have to pay attention or you might get lost. I want to bring in now CNN Senior White House Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, CNN Political Analyst, Mark Preston, CNN Legal Analyst, Laura Coates and CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, Josh Campbell.

Good evening to one and all. Jeff, let's start with you. You're standing there in front of the White House. President Trump's allies were all set to go on the offense against Comey. It is -- is that blown out of the water now that the bombshell after bombshell after bombshell has already been leaked from Comey's book? Is the White House in panic mode now?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Don, good evening. Certainly it's complicated by these new details coming out about the book and you can expect that it's going to continue to keep happening over the next several days before the book's official release next week.

But, look, the White House and Republican National Committee which is sort of overseeing the response to this always knew this was go ing to be a heavy lift, if you will, so their one strategy is to try and go after James Comey. They're trying to undermine his credibility. They're trying to assail his character.

Interestingly, using the words of Democrats to remind all Americans about the full picture of James Comey, but Don, the reality here is I think most people probably on both sides have made up their minds about James Comey. They want to hear what he has too sto say, obviously.

So the specific details certainly overshadow any blanket suggestion he's a liar or leaker. But of course, his memoir is called a higher loyalty. Tonight, the Republican National Committee with not much else to say has put out a mock book cover saying a higher loyal to me, myself, and I, James Comey.

So, again, Don, this is really a last straw. One of the only things they can talk about is James Comey's credibility because the president's also very much on the line and there's utter silence here about that.

LEMON: The former director of the FBI. Writing a book like this. I can't -- I mean, who would have think? So let's get to the bookmark.

[22:05:00] This is an exert -- excerpt. It's obtained by the Associated Press. Comey writes about his first meeting with Trump after the election and was surprised by the president-elect that he didn't ask -- Trump was -- what he didn't ask. Trump was just briefed about the Russia interference.

And here's what he said. "They were about to lead a country that had been attacked by a foreign adversary, yet they had no question about what the future Russian threat might be."

So, Mark, Comey then says that they -- they want to figure out a way to spin that, what they just learned. What do you make of the president's early indifference to Russia's interference?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We're certainly not shocked. And I think that anybody who was hearing what James Comey is saying about President Trump tonight shouldn't be shocked, either. A lot of the things that James Comey says has come out as fact in some ways when he talks about the president not necessarily being so truthful. Although he's not as kind in saying those words.

But to your point, and to this question right now, not surprising that we saw this small team of Trump's allies after they get a briefing. We should note this briefing was by James Clapper at the time. He was the Director of National Intelligence. He had just told them about the interference efforts on behalf of Russian -- what they did in 2016.

Just think about it. This meeting occurred right after the election, Don. They knew, at least some of them knew, about a meeting that occurred in June in Trump tower, June 2016, with the a Russian operative who was supposed to be acting as an intermediary between the Russian government.

We do know Michael Flynn had relationship, existing relationships with Russia. He was also at that meeting. So, this is no surprise and no surprise that Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer who were also at that meeting didn't actually speak up and say something. Because at that time you have to understand when you're working for Donald Trump you can never say anything that's going to anger him. You do not want to be in his presence. To talk about this would anger him.

LEMON: Yes. And by the way, James Clapper is going to be on this program later on. And we will certainly ask him about that and much, much more, mark. But Josh, as I was reading especially what the Republican National Committee has put out, you were shaking your head. Why is that? JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, because we have

the, quote/unquote, party of law enforcement that is turning their sights and using their precious resources to settle a score and go after the former chief law enforcement officer at America's premier law enforcement agency.

I mean, just let that sink in for a second and you'll see the kind of times that we're in. You know, it's very interesting, as we've seen some of these excerpts that have been coming out, specifically the focus on, you know, referring to the White House as untethered and, you know, the president untethered from the truth.

Let me tell you about James Comey. I had the honor of serving as his special assistant in the FBI. I was a career agent who served as his special assistant. And there were two things about him that you knew. His professional life and his personal life were closely tethered to the truth. And that was his story. That was his hallmark.

So for him to claim that someone else is untethered to the truth, it's a big deal. Because all of those that were in his orbit knew two things. Everyone on his staff knew two things. First of all, you better give it to him straight. If he asks you a question, and even if the answer is critical of him, better give it to him straight.

The second thing being, you better be tethered to the truth. And every answer that you give better be in line with the facts and nothing else. And that's what he's used to. And today in Washington, unfortunately, in this post-truth world, people choose facts whenever they're convenient. And so a lot of people look to him and say well, this is s someone who's sanctimonious when in fact that's the kind of person we would want--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Josh--

CAMPBELL: -- someone who is tethered to the truth.

LEMON: Josh, he also said he's unethical as well. What's your reaction to that?

CAMPBELL: Correct. You know, and that's the interesting thing, Don. I mean, as you look at this book, and I haven't read the book, I'll read it along with everyone else. But there are two things you have to focus on here. The first being is we can look at the actions over the course of the 2016 election and the decisions that he made at every single turn. And good people, good honest people can disagree with what he did. That's fair. Read the book and make up your own mind.

But the thing that's most troubling here, is that we're seeing a character assassination by the RNC, by the White House, by you know, this phony fake book cover that you showed which is kind of childish going after a person not because of the decisions he made but they're trying to discredit him because of the investigation and where it led. It's just troubling. I mean, we're kind of the situation that we're in now and the direction we're headed. It's sad. LEMON: Laura, I want to get you in but I want to read a quote before

you respond, OK? Because there's also this Comey excerpt where he recalls a meeting he had with President Trump and then chief of staff Reince Priebus and in it, he made him think of the days when he was the federal prosecutor talking to the mob.

And here's what he says in the book. "The silent circle of ascent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us versus them world view. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth."

Laura, what do you make of that description particularly when you put it in context that this administration wants to fight the Russia investigation tooth and nail?

[22:09:58] LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it's not surprising that James Comey would have made that statement. Because the idea of loyalty, and a family-driven organization, where everything is kept close to the vest or within the family. And you had to continually kiss the ring in order to feel as though you're validated, or have the good graces of the person who's in charge.

All this comparison seems to be what we've seen playing out in different cabinet meetings that have been televised and other things.

But it's a very fair criticism of James Comey to call him a flawed messenger in this capacity. A lot of the critiques that he's received over time have been based on his own actions and a lot about his decisions to try to make sure that his own personal legacy was intact, perhaps above maybe usurping the power of the attorney general, et cetera.

Having said that, even as a flawed messenger, there could be statements that he's making in the book and I, like any of you have not read all of them, and are titillated a little bit by what you're seeing already.

But the fact that he's a flawed messenger doesn't mean that what he's saying is untruthful or completely off the rails. There could be a vendetta that he has, and there could also be a lot of vindication for those who have questioned whether or not the way in which the president of the United States has ruled this administration in something to be of cause of concern.

LEMON: Yes, absolutely. Jeff, I want Jeff to weigh in on this because you guys are going to come back. But Jeff, then you have the details about Trump apparently was concerned about some of these allegations made in the Steele dossier.

And this is according to Comey. He says, Trump brought up, quote, and I'm quoting here, "golden, the golden showers thing." It's salacious allegation, but it's something the president has pushed back on before.

ZELENY: He has, Don. This is something the president pushed back on in a news conference shortly after he was elected before he came here to the White House at Trump Tower. And he, you know, a journalist asked him that question, you know, an odd question, uncomfortable question, awkward question to ask a president of the United States. A newly elected one.

But he answered in a very unusual way. He said, one, that everywhere he went, he had security guards. There were video cameras so he couldn't have done something like this. And he said, two, he's a germophobe. He held up his hands and said he's a germophobe. So that's why something like this couldn't be accurate.

But the reality here is that, you know, the accounts here are so personal between James Comey and the president. So the most -- I think the thing that will get under the president's skin the most is that James Comey is having the final word here or at least the final word since he was fired almost a year ago and the president, I believe, will want to respond to this.

The White House officials that we talked to are not giving any predictions of when the president is going to weigh in.

LEMON: OK.

ZELENY: Don, the reason this matters, is it going to affect the Mueller investigation, is this going to set him off?

LEMON: Yes.

ZELENY: We'll find out.

LEMON: All right. Stick around, everybody. We have much more to talk about. I want to bring in now CNN political correspondent Sara Murray. Sara, I want to bring you in, because I understand you have new details in tapes federal investigators may have obtained in the Michael Cohen raids. What do you know?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. We've learned from sources familiar with the matter that Michael Cohen had a habit of recording his conversations during the presidential campaign as well as before it, and these are tapes that they could have easily been scooped up in the raid that the FBI conducted of Michael Cohen's office, his home and of his hotel room.

In fact, one source familiar with Michael Cohen's behavior said there were times when he'd actually play these tapes back to then-candidate Trump or his associates. So it's certainly possible that some of these recordings were either on the phones or on the computers that were scooped up as part of this FBI raid.

And I also spoke to a number of former campaign officials who said this was sort of the constant lore around Michael Cohen, as soon as you would join the Trump orbit, that it was known among campaign officials, as well as among officials at the Trump organization that Cohen had this habit of recording conversations, and so newcomers to the orbit would get this warning. You know, don't have a conversation with Michael Cohen in his office

unless you want it recorded, you should beware of that. Now obviously the concern is much broader. The notion that it's possible that investigators now have recordings of some Michael Cohen's private conversations.

LEMON: Sara murray with the new details on that. Sara, thank you very much. Everybody else stick around.

When we come back, much more on James Comey's war on President Trump including reports that Comey claims John Kelly called Trump dishonorable. Josh Campbell was sitting next to the former FBI director. I'm going to ask him about that call.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. So we're back, everyone. And we've got more revelations tonight from the former FBI Director James Comey's incendiary book.

Back with me, Jeff Zeleny, Mark Preston, Laura Coates, and Josh Campbell.

So, listen, according to Comey, he is insinuating that the president seems to be obsessed with the salacious details in the dossier and concerned that his wife might believe some of it.

And in January of last year, a reporter asked him about possibly being vulnerable to blackmail because of the allegations, because of what is alleged in those tapes. The president spoke about that. Let's take a listen and we'll talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say that you are potentially vulnerable to blackmail by Russia, or by its intelligence agencies?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me just say what I do. When I leave our country, I'm a very high-profile person, would you say? I am extremely careful. I'm surrounded by bodyguards. I'm surrounded by people. And I always tell them, anywhere, but I always tell them, if I'm leaving this country, be very careful because in your hotel rooms, and no matter where you go, you're going to probably have cameras.

I'm not referring just to Russia, but I would certainly put them in that category. And number one, I hope you're going to be good, anyway. But in those rooms, you have cameras in the strangest places. Cameras that are so small with modern technology, you can't see them and you won't know. You better be careful or you'll be watching yourself on nightly television.

I tell this to people all the time. I was in Russia years ago with Miss Universe contest, which did very well, Moscow, the Moscow area. Did very, very well. And I told many people, be careful because you don't want to see yourself on television. Cameras all over the place. And, again, not just Russia, all over. Does anyone really believe that story? I'm also very much of a germophobe, by the way. Believe me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:20:02] LEMON: So, Mark, again, these allegations have not been proven at least the salacious ones have not been proven. Having to deal with the, quote, "what Comey calls golden showers." But it has been very important all along for the president to push back on this and hard. And it's also interesting just to listen to that. It's kind of eerie.

PRESTON: Kind of eerie. But I can't believe that's your takeaway. Because my takeaway was the Miss Universe pageant was in Russia. And in case anybody's wondering, it did very well. It seems like every speech the president gives, he goes back to some business deal that he did somewhere in the past.

What's interesting about his answer there is that he didn't answer the question, that he kind of just gave us this long answer. I have no reason to believe that what's in that dossier is true or false for that matter. We don't know. I mean, let the investigation move on.

But it is amazing right now, Don, that we are sitting here talking about a president under so much scrutiny engulfed in so much chaos right now, and most of America, or at least half of America, is kind of walking by and just looking at it and saying, nothing's going on here, when, in fact, something really big is going on here.

LEMON: And Jeff Zeleny at the White House, you know, while this Comey siege is taking over the White House tonight, there's also the focus on how to determine if, you know, if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is long for the job. What's the latest information on that front?

ZELENY: Don, that is something that has been really a question beneath the radar all week long here. We know the president was furious the beginning of the week of the raid of his longtime lawyer's house, his office building.

So a lot of that anger was being vented at Rod Rosenstein. Of course, the deputy attorney general, in this case, the acting attorney general who's supervising the Mueller investigation.

We do know that the White House is preparing an argument, if you will, for why Rod Rosenstein should be recused. Why he should not be in charge of this investigation. They say he is conflicted in this. He could be a witness in this.

So, a couple things are happening. One, a lot of outside voices from the president's informal advisers like Sean Hannity on Fox, like Newt Gingrich, like other people on the outside are telling the president, get rid of Rosenstein. Inside we know that they are preparing the argument for it to happen.

What we don't know is, is the president going to do it? There are many, many, many, many drawbacks. And even if he does, that does not end this investigation here and it could enrage Capitol Hill. So all this is going on as the president also is deciding what to do

in 2Syria here. So I would be surprised based on our reporting if anything happens with Rod Rosenstein this week. Don, again, the president makes the calls on all of this. Few people know what he's going to do.

LEMON: You said he wouldn't be surprised if he this week, because Laura--

(CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: I would be surprised if he did it this week.

LEMON: You would be if he did it this week.

ZELENY: There's a lot happening. Let's also keep Syria in mind and other matters. There's a lot happening here, Don.

LEMON: So, Laura, does it look like the president is making a move here to fire Rod Rosenstein? You heard Jeff, he doesn't think it will happen. There's a lot going on here. What do you think?

COATES: I think certainly from the indications we're seeing, his days are limited. You remember, they've always been limited. He serves at the pleasure of the president. And at the president's whim, he can decide to fire Rod Rosenstein.

I think many people would see this as a pre-textual reason to try to somehow undermine the ability of Mueller's investigation to go forward. And that's really the possibility here. But that's his one avenue of doing so.

Also it should not miss anybody's grasp here that the president of the United States and the administration has been so disgusted with the idea of having a smear campaign and trying to have someone discredited in the court of public opinion. And now they're preparing talking points to now have a smear campaign of sorts against somebody who oversees a court of law.

I mean, the irony is very thick here, but he always had at his discretion the ability to fire Rosenstein. Now Mueller has been very smart, though, everyone. Mueller has diversified his particular investigation. He has his own directive. He's also farmed things out to the attorney general in New York. State-level crimes the president could never, ever pardon.

And also the southern district of New York where you have the ability to have things go almost autonomously if his own investigation is derailed. So the diversification is a surefire way to know that even firing Rosenstein is not going to end the inquiry.

LEMON: Won't stop -- yes, interesting. So Josh, I've been wanting to ask you about this all day. This is about another report that then- Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called Comey after the news that he was fired and referred to Donald Trump as dishonorable. That's according to multiple reports. The White House is pushing back on this. But you were with Comey if

I'm not mistaken when that call took place. Can you talk to us about that investigation?

2CAMPBELL: That's right. And this is very troubling, Don, and I'll tell you why. Let me take your viewers back to that day. So Comey would constantly visit the field offices. The FBI is a deployed agency with most of its employees around the country so he would go to see them. We were in Los Angeles at the field office.

[22:25:00] And he was addressing employees and on the screen comes CNN, and our colleague, Jeff Zeleny announcing and notifying the FBI Director that he'd been fired.

Now, I love Jeff Zeleny, he's one of my favorites here at CNN. The FBI director should not learn from CNN that he's been fired. That's neither here nor there.

So that set, you know, obviously commotion after that, we're trying to figure out what exactly was going on. We took him into a side office and he was making some phone calls. And I was busy trying to figure out, OK, how are we going to get home, and there was this debate about whether, you know, Comey could actually fly back on a government aircraft.

There was discussions within the Department of Justice and the White House regarding whether they'd allow him. Make someday I'll tell that story. But we got word that DHS Secretary Kelly wanted to talk with him. So put him through. I'm sitting there next to him, and it's clear from the call that Comey is reassuring him that he should not quit. That especially in this, you know, administration, they need people that are good, you know, moral people to surround the president.

So when I read in the, you know, report from "The Daily Beast" today that they're saying, no, it was a quick dismissive call and that wasn't brought up, it's very troubling. Because it's either he doesn't remember or there are more sinister motives.

And the reason why it's important is because as a former FBI agent, you know, and reporters will do the same, when you go in to ask someone a question, you start with the little questions, the small things. Because someone is going to lie to you about a small issue, that means you've got a big problem when you get to the big issues. So you take something like this, something as simple as a phone call and you're not getting the truth, it's very troubling and it shows that, you know, maybe our moral compass maybe skewing here.

LEMON: You said sinister or misremembered or just a flat-out lie. It could be. Thank you, all. I appreciate it.

When we come back, the president and his allies trying to discredit Rod Rosenstein in hopes of derailing the Russia investigation. Will Republicans stand by or stand up to this president? I'll ask Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, next.

[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Sources telling CNN the White House is preparing talking points designed to undermine Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's credibility.

Will that message fly among the more moderate members of the Republican Party? Well, let's discuss that with one of them. That's Charlie Dent, a Republican from Pennsylvania.

Representative, it's good to have you on. Thank you so much.

So there's so much news to talk about. Let's start with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, sources telling CNN that the white house is working on a campaign to discredit him.

They're trying to push the narrative that he is incompetent and too conflicted to oversee the Russia investigation. Are you troubled by that, and will it work?

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, yes, I am troubled by that. Rod Rosenstein, as far as I'm concerned, seems to be a career public servant. I've never heard anything, but good things about his character.

So I think it's a terrible mistake to try to discredit that man, any attempt to fire him, or the Special Counsel, in my view would be an equivalent of an Archibald Cox moment, it would be a Saturday Night Massacre, would be a destabilizing event that would further paralyze Congress, and I think it would take us into a very bad place.

A lot of my colleagues in swing, and marginal districts would certainly be very negatively impacted by such a decision. They're already running in a very difficult environment. This could -- this might make it almost impossible for them.

LEMON: So your fellow lawmakers, your fellow Republicans, you have concerns -- is there broad support for Rod Rosenstein, and for Robert Mueller among Republicans in Congress?

DENT: Yes. I believe most Republicans who represent -- I'll say most thoughtful members, Republicans -- most thoughtful Republican members who represent swing or marginal districts believe that Director Mueller should be allowed to continue with his work uninterrupted, unimpeded.

They believe he's a man of integrity, an honorable man, and I think that's true of most of my Republican colleagues. Some may feel the same way about Rosenstein.

LEMON: So, what would happen then, if he tries to fire either Rosenstein or Mueller? Will Republicans stand up? Stand by them, or stand aside as the President, you know, tries to stop the Russia investigation?

DENT: Hard to say. There will be some members in the conference who I think would stand by the President, some in the very safe ruby red 2districts. But I think most of those members who are more thoughtful, and those

who are in more vulnerable political situations certainly would understand the gravity of the situation, and not only from a political standpoint, but from -- but from the perspective of protecting our system of justice, and the integrity of it.

LEMON: So when you say stand up, what do you mean?

DENT: I think -- I think these members will have to push back, and publicly denounce any such -- any such decision if the President were to make it. I hope he doesn't.

And I've raised this issue with the speaker, in fact, I was in a meeting with him today, I said, please, please tell the President not to do this.

LEMON: But everybody, congressman, who is standing up, pretty much, who stands up or at least criticizes the President, and obviously, rightfully so, when he deserves criticism, they're all leaving.

It seems like no sitting Republican now, someone who's up for re- election, will criticize this President, or try to rein him in. Why not?

DENT: Well, I tell you, here's the dilemma for many Republicans who are running for office this fall, if you -- if you criticize the President, many of the President's, you know, hardest supporters will say you are a traitor, you betrayed him.

And if you're a Republican, you criticize the President, those in the resistance movement, those on the far left will say you're still a sycophant, and it's never going to be enough.

So they're in this no man's land. And it's not a very comfortable place to be. And I think that's really the fundamental dilemma.

And as a Republican now, the litmus test is loyalty to the President. It's not about any set of principles or ideals. It's just about loyalty to the President.

LEMON: Well that's the thing, you're weighing what's right against what's politically expedient, or your political future? I mean, that just -- that just doesn't seem -- shouldn't as a lawmaker even if your constituents, even if they believe something that is wrong, shouldn't you be the person to say, listen, what you're thinking about this is wrong. And we must stand up to the President.

[22:35:00] The President is not above the law, and damn, you know, if you may not want to vote for me because of that, but I have to stick by my principles. Where's that?

DENT: Well, I'll tell you, my advice to anybody who's been running for office, is that you should be able to stand in front of any group of people, and say, when the President's on the right track, you'll support him. When he's on the wrong track, you'll check him. If he goes off the rails, you'll call him out. That's what you should

do. And I tell my Republican colleagues that election in southwestern Pennsylvania sent a message.

If you didn't get that message, you'll never get any message because what I learned there is that the Democrat candidate put distance between himself and his -- Nancy Pelosi, and the Democratic leadership.

The Republican candidate did a full bear hug on the President, and said he was Trump before Trump, he'd be Trump's wingman. And that's addition the President won by 20 points.

Your constituents don't expect you to be a rubber stamp for the President. They expect you to work with him, and push back when he's moving in the bad direction. They just have to do this.

LEMON: Representative, I have to go. But what do you say to the President if he's watching right now, in regards to Rosenstein and Mueller?

DENT: I would say, you know, for the good of the country, please don't fire either Rosenstein or Mueller. It would undermine many people's faith in our government. It would be a terrible mistake, politically for him, as well as for members of his own party, but bottom line is, it would be terrible for the country. So just don't to do it.

LEMON: Representative...

DENT: If you're innocent, act that way.

LEMON: Great message. Thank you, Representative Charlie Dent, I appreciate your time.

DENT: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, are the white house and Fox News working together to discredit Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, and how troubling would that be?

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: OK. I want you to sit down, and watch this segment because it says a lot about where news is going right now, some news outlets. Sources telling CNN, President Trump is weighing whether to fire Rod Rosenstein, as we've been reporting, and Robert Mueller -- maybe Robert Mueller.

But the President's allies are wasting no time mounting a coordinated campaign to discredit the Deputy Attorney General and the Special Counsel with the help with their friends at Fox News.

Here is exhibit A, this tweet from the President himself, it was last night, he said, big show tonight on Sean Hannity, 9:00 p.m. on Fox News. The President writing a promo there for Hannity's show. Once Hannity got doing last night, you could see why. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Let's look at the Mueller crime family. Of course, we're now on day 329 of the Mueller witch hunt, and there's still zero evidence of collusion. Imagine that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And then there is this. It's from former Federal Prosecutor Joseph diGenova -- yes, that very Joseph diGenova who was in the running to join the President's legal team. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH DIGENOVA, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: As a result of the tactics authorized by Mueller, and instigated by Mueller in New York with the raid of the Cohen office.

And as a result of the manner in which they raided the Paul Manafort home, it is now clear that Mueller is acting in bad faith, that he has surrounded himself with literally a bunch of legal terrorists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Yes. You heard it right, legal terrorists. And there's more. And this is from -- how about this, this is from the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich comparing FBI agents working under the Mueller investigation to the Gestapo and Stalin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: We're supposed to have the rule of law. It ain't the rule of law when they kick in your door at 3:00 in the morning, and you're faced with arm men, and you've had no reason to be told you're going to have that kind of treatment. That's a -- that's Stalin, that's the Gestapo in Germany. That shouldn't be the American FBI.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: First of all, no one kicked in the door. My source and another source, Erin Burnett's source here at CNN said he knocked on the door, Cohen opened the door, stuck his foot in the door. They immediately asked him for his phone. He gave it to them.

And then you have Cohen saying they were respectful, they were professional, they were kind, and he says he thanked them at the end. The exact opposite of what Newt Gingrich just said.

But is that the kind of smear campaign, can that actually work? I want to bring in now CNN's Senior Media Correspondent Brian Stelter, Political Commentator Jason Miller, a former Trump senior communications adviser, and Political Commentator Amanda Carpenter, a former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz. Good evening to all of you. BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

LEMON: Brian, the President told his Twitter followers to watch Fox News, you know, bashing of the Mueller investigation, calling it the Mueller crime family. Is there any doubt in your mind that this is coordinated by the White House to discredit the Special Counsel?

STELTER: Yes, it is coordinated. And we know that because Hannity and Trump speak frequently. The President also speaks with other conservative media commentators frequently.

He meets with them, talks with them, dines with them at the White House and Mar-a-Lago. It's an absolutely coordinated effort, all part of an alternative universe of information.

The President props up an alternative reality where he's winning, his enemies are losing, where Mueller's corrupt, and where this investigation needs to be disbanded.

That's the alternative universe, the part of Fox, the "National Enquirer," which has been in the news, Sinclair commentators, these are right-wing media outlets prop up this alternative universe and, look, that's fine in some ways.

I love reading fiction novels, people love watching T.V. dramas and comedies. But what they are promoting is a version of fiction, and it does a disservice to their viewers to claim that it is facts.

LEMON: I was just going to say...

STELTER: To claim it's reality.

LEMON: It do a disservice to the American people, because they're not getting the full story. You can criticize, you know, CNN all you want, or other news organizations, but at least they're telling the stories of what the President is actually doing. There's not positive coverage of any president, all positive coverage of any president.

STELTER: If Trump ends up in tremendous legal jeopardy, Hannity's viewers are going to wake up one morning, and say I didn't see this coming.

LEMON: Yes.

STELTER: That's the problem, and that is why they did the search.

LEMON: Jason, is it appropriate for the President of the United States to promote a single cable news show bashing a Special Counsel investigation into his campaign?

[22:45:04] JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The President can promote whatever he wants. I mean, that's a First Amendment right. He can definitely go out, and...

LEMON: I said is it appropriate? MILLER: But, Don -- but I think he can do it if he wants. I mean,

this is -- we're obviously in a new era here where I think the political paradigm has completely changed, but Don...

LEMON: Hang on, hang on. Not to cut you off.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: No, no, no. I just wanted -- not to cut you off, I asked you if it was appropriate. And you said he can do whatever he want. I can punch Brian Stelter in the face right now because I can do whatever I want.

The question is, is it appropriate for me to do it at all, or to do it on television? That is a different -- you're answering a different question. My question was, is it appropriate for the President to do it, not does he had the right to do it? So please answer my question.

MILLER: As long as he's not infringing on somebody else's rights, I mean, that's the First Amendment. And again, let's not compare you punching Brian, which by the way, you know, Brian's a tough guy. I mean, I wouldn't mess with him.

STELTER: Well, thank you.

MILLER: Watch out. He might sock you right back. But let's be intellectually honest here. I mean, if you flipped it over to MSNBC, you're going to tell me that their programming isn't essentially coordinating, and colluding with the Democratic Party? And so look, you're going to get a more pro-Trump viewpoint from Fox News.

LEMON: OK.

STELTER: You're going to get a more...

LEMON: Jason, you didn't answer my question. You didn't answer my question.

STELTER: I absolutely did. Let's be a...

LEMON: Amanda -- unless you're going to answer my question, I'm going to move on to Amanda. So, Amanda, these are outrageous -- these comments are outrageous. Mueller is a war hero. How can Newt Gingrich compare him to Stalin?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know, at once I thought Newt Gingrich to be a student of history. But these seem like pretty reckless comparisons. I mean, here's my question, OK, the Trump people, they don't like Sessions, they don't like Mueller, they don't like Rosenstein, so who do they like?

They apparently like lawyers like Joe diGenova, who also makes reckless statements, and I believe compared the Mueller probe to a form of regicide, which is by definition, the killing of a king. So you can see where their head is at. And so they're on this campaign to discredit pretty much anyone who

doesn't consider Donald Trump a king, because I don't know where else this goes.

And now you have this campaign even against Comey, add that to the axed list of legal people that they don't like. And so Republicans are in a weird position.

Trump is making them pick sides, which he often does, and people are being forced to choose. Do you choose to believe people like Robert Mueller and James Comey, or Donald Trump, and spokeswoman at the RNC? I think that's a pretty easy choice.

LEMON: Conservative media criticizing the Mueller investigation. We'll continue right after this break.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Back now with Brian Stelter, Jason Miller, and Amanda Carpenter. And there has been no punching here.

STELTER: No punch yet.

LEMON: That was just an example. So, listen, Brian, every night Hannity, and his Fox News colleagues slam the Special Counsel's investigation. Is it all about appeasing their main viewer in the White House? And also...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And also -- I mean, Sean will tell you that he's a host of a show. He's not a journalist.

STELTER: Right.

LEMON: And I think it's past 7:00, or past 8:00 it's opinion -- it's opinion programming, but Fox News viewers may not know the difference.

STELTER: The drip, drip, drip every night, the accumulation of the day to -- daily talking points against Mueller, against the FBI, against the idea of law and order, it does do damage to our democracy.

And I think many conservative commentators would agree with that statement if the shoe were on the other foot, and if President Obama or President Clinton were doing this every night, doing this without help of commentators in television every night, trying to teardown an investigation into Russian meddling.

It is extraordinary the daily attacks, and how they add up over time. And I think, Don, any professor of rhetoric would tell you that that's a strategy, to say the same thing over and over again, so many times in order to cause people not to trust an investigation. That's a strategy.

And I go back to the idea of an alternative universe and information, because when things get bad, when things get worse Trump's going to turn to the alternative universe for defense, and people may choose to believe that, instead of what's going on.

LEMON: Jason, there is a feedback loop here. The President seems to know what's coming. Fox News says what the President wants to hear. The President tweets what he sees on the network. He even bases policy decisions on it. Do you think that's dangerous?

MILLER: I don't think it's dangerous. I think clearly the President is rallying around someone who shares his viewpoint. Obviously, there are other channels as I mentioned in the previous segment where someone can go to if they completely disagree with that, or want to go a different direction.

But I think the sentiment that you're seeing here, Don, is that fact that Trump supporters view that this investigation is going way outside the initial scope of where it was supposed to be.

We're almost two years into this thing, and there's been zero evidence of any sort of collusion between the Trump campaign, and a foreign entity. And that is what this is supposed to be about. So I think it is only natural that you see whether, the President, or you see a network whose viewpoints are very much are in line with him punching back here.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Because there's been zero evidence...

STELTER: ... that launching document last May, doesn't even use the word collusion.

LEMON: It's the interference in the Russian election

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: It's about the attack from Russia.

MILLER: Wait, wait, wait. No, this whole thing that the campaign supposedly coordinated with a foreign entity, that there's some kind of foreign influence that went, and swung this election. And so far there's been...

STELTER: And we have seen a lot of evidence.

LEMON: They didn't say anything about...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But, Jason, there's been no evidence -- there's been no evidence because no one knows what the evidence is. You can't say there's been no evidence. I can't say that there is evidence. No one knows what Robert Mueller has, so for people to say there's no evidence that's ingenuous.

MILLER: And, Don, you're innocent until proven guilty. You're not guilty until proven innocent.

LEMON: That's absolutely true.

CARPENTER: Can we just take a quick back to real deal, about what we know?

LEMON: Go ahead, Amanda.

CARPENTER: I mean if we get -- the investigation -- the crime was that the Russians meddled in the election. That's what the investigation is about.

[22:55:00] LEMON: Thank you very much.

CARPENTER: And then there's lie after lie that Trump, and his allies, and people associated with the campaign have told about their contacts with Russian officials, and so the Mueller probe is getting to the bottom of that.

And we'll see what happens. And, you know, every time you look at another Trump connection, a Russian falls out, and that's not Mueller's fault. Perhaps it's Donald Trump's fault because they haven't been honest from the beginning. But we'll see for that though.

MILLER: But, Amada...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Jason, hold on. Don't you think you're proving the point when you say that the Trump supporters believe that this investigation is going on, you know, for longer than it should, or that it's a witch hunt -- that's what they're being fed...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: ... the talking points from Fox and the White House. That's why they believe that. Not because it's true. It's just because they say it.

MILLER: Totally disagree, and that could be further off from my viewpoint. My viewpoint is that Trump supporters believe that from the beginning, there's been no coordination, or no collusion between the Trump campaign...

LEMON: That's what I just said.

MILLER: ... or any foreign entity.

LEMON: Then why do they believe it? Why do they believe it? They heard anything...

MILLER: Because Trump...

LEMON: They heard from the intelligence agencies that there was interference in the election, but the entire time, Trump has been saying there is no collusion. Fox News, conservative media has been saying there is no collusion. They haven't been saying we need to investigate, and get to the bottom of what happened in the 2016 election, and interference. It should take....

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: They were saying that well before.

LEMON: OK. So then why is conservative media and Trump supporters so adamant about getting this investigation to end that it's gone on so long? Do you know how long the Benghazi investigation went on? Two and a half years and seven different hearings. I did not hear one conservative saying it's time to bring this to an end, it's going on too long.

MILLER: And I'll tell you why. Because President Trump is doing so many great things right now, the economy is roaring, doing great things on the international stage.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: What does that have to do with...

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: Please put me.

LEMON: Amanda, go ahead.

CARPENTER: There's been three big lies that I think are going to come back to haunt Trump and already are. One is the lie about the Trump Tower meeting, the purpose on what was discussed.

Number two, the lies that Mike Flynn told about his contacts with Russia after the election -- yes maybe that was an abusive violation, you know, that went too far, but he lied about it, and we don't know why. And then there's also the time that Donald Trump hosted the Russians in the Oval Office, and didn't tell anybody, and which he allegedly said that he fired Comey to relieve pressure.

LEMON: I got to go.

CARPENTER: Three big lies that...

MILLER: Hold on.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Jason, I got to go. I got to go, Jason. I can't -- on every night...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Jason, I can't. Please, be respectful. Every -- when you come on, and give this information, and other Trump supporters give disinformation, I spend most of my time trying to debunk falsities, and lies instead of educating the American people. It's frustrating every single night.

MILLER: Don, what can I say, that was a lie.

LEMON: You talk about no collusion. You don't even know the focus -- original focus of the Russia investigation. You're feeding talking points that aren't true to the American people.

MILLER: Don, what did I say that was incorrect?

LEMON: If you're going to -- if you're going to be on this platform, respect the American people. It is a privilege to come here. Don't come on CNN, and lie, or deflect about what's going on. Come here and be honest with the American people. It is a privilege to come on here. It is not a right. I got to go. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)