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James Comey Is Going To War With Donald Trump; President Trump Is Expected To Grant A Pardon To Scooter Libby; Tabloid Paid Trump Tower Doorman, Buried Trump Love Child Rumor; White House Is Prepping An Effort To Undermine Rosenstein; DOJ Gives Nunes Access To Document That Launched FBI's Russia Probe; Excerpts From Comey Book Make Waves Ahead Of Next Week's Release; Time Magazine's 'Stormy' Cover; FBI May Have Seized Recorded Conversations From Trump's Lawyer. Aired 11-12a ET
Aired April 12, 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. Thanks for watching. It is a little past 11:00. Well, it is 11:00 p.m. and 11:01 now. We are live at the breaking news here tonight on the East Coast.
News that has a Trump White House under siege as James Come -- James Comey goes onto really to war with the President. We have explosive details from the fired FBI Director's new memoire, 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 here's the quote, "He brought up what he called the Golden Showers thing, adding that it bothered him if there was even a 1 percent chance his wife Melania thought it was true."
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, quote, "This president is unethical and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership and transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty."
A lot to get to tonight, but I want to bring in CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny with more. Jeff?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Don. Silence so far here at the White House on the release of James Comey's new memoir. Of course this advance look five days before it actually is coming out. The White House I am told did not actually have a copy of the book, but they are simply sticking by their strategy of not commenting for now, except to say that they believe James Comey is a quote, "liar and a leaker." We do know the Republican National Committee is taking the lead on
pushing back on this memoir, but really there's not a lot they can say substantively to the matters. The fact of the matter is the former FBI director, before he was fired last May, and the President had several one on one conversations, that is one of the most explosive parts of the book are about.
So, the President, of course, is the only one who can actually comment on that. So far he has not said anything. Aides are a bit on pins and needles here wondering when he is going to weigh in. Not if he is going to weigh in, but when he is going to weigh in, potentially in the morning as he often does on social media.
But so far no official response from the White House on these separate allegations simply to say that James Comey has no credibly, he is simply out for himself. But, Don, the substance of these allegations certainly will hangover this White House and the point is, what effect will it have if any on the Mueller investigation? Don?
LEMON: Jeff Zeleny, thank you, I appreciate that.
I want to bring in now CNN's National Security Analyst, James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence.
Director, thank you so much for coming on. And I've been wanting to talk to you about this book. You have some knowledge of information what happened behind the scenes, because you were there.
So, listen, in this new book according to the Associated Press, James Comey writes about his first meeting with Trump after the election in January, and you were at that meeting. Comey says after you briefed the Trump team on the Russia -- Russian election interference, he was taken aback by what the Trump team didn't ask.
And here's what he writes before I get your response. "They were about to lead a country that had been attacked by a foreign adversary, yet they had no questions about what the future Russian threat might be. Instead he writes they launched into a strategy session about how to spin what we just told them for the public." Is that your recollection?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, it is, Don. And that is accurate. In fact, Reince Priebus, who was then the chief of staff designate, this was on the 6th of January, during our briefing in Trump tower, even before we left the room he is starting to draft a public release on the briefing. And wanted to make the point that what we said was that the Russian interference had no impact on the outcome of the election, which was just not true. And we had to remind him of that a couple of times, and we really couldn't say that.
[23:05:13] What we did say in our report was that we saw no evidence of meddling with voter tallies, which is quite different. And that is not to say there wasn't meddling. We just didn't have any evidence of it. But it was beyond -- way beyond the charter, capabilities and the authority of the Intelligence Community to gauge what impact Russian meddling had an the electorate. But they were concerned about this, and the President-Elect, and boy,
he is been consistent about this ever since. It's all about casting doubt on the legitimacy of his election, and that is the way he took our report. And dwelling on what a threat the Russians are, that may as well have been on another planet.
LEMON: Wow. OK, so I'm going to give another excerpt. This one, the director's obtained by CNN. Comey writes, Trump brought up the dossier complied by a former British Intelligence officer that dossier alleged that Russians had so-called, I can't believe I'm saying this, a Golden Showers tape -- a Golden Showers tape involving prostitutes, and then Comey writes as he said, he brought up what he called the Golden Showers thing, adding that it bothered him if there was even a 1 percent chance his wife Melania thought it was true.
And then according to the paper, according to "The Washington Post" Comey goes onto write this. He says in an apparent play for my sympathy Trump said that he has a beautiful wife, and the whole thing has been very painful for her. He asked what we could do to lift the cloud. Is that an appropriate request to an FBI Director?
CLAPPER: Well, no, it isn't. I mean this is -- let's use the FBI to get me out of trouble, out of the doghouse with my wife, which is, you know, improper use of a -- by any measure of a capability like the FBI.
I will tell you, though, that I didn't have that kind of detailed conversation with then President-Elect Trump about the infamous dossier. But I do know he is preoccupied with it, because when I called him on the 11th of January, five days after our briefing, to complain about referring to the Intelligence Community as Nazis, since he blamed us for I guess having released the dossier.
And once again his major interest was seeking -- asking me to put out a public statement saying that the dossier was, you know, all phony and all that. And I couldn't do that and wouldn't do it.
LEMON: And there have been aspects of the dossier, not the salacious parts that have been corroborated, right?
CLAPPER: Absolutely. In fact, there were some parts of it that were actually corroborated in our Intelligence Community assessment. But to be clear, we did not draw on the dossier at all for what went into our Intelligence Community assessment, which we had, you know, very high confidence level.
LEMON: Which is also another -- which is a talking point of the Trump White House and conservative media that the entire -- the genesis of the Russia investigation was a dossier, and you say no.
CLAPPER: No. And again, not all of it -- bear in mind what the dossier is. You know, it's a collection of 17 separate memos, which I would equate to what we would do as first instance reporting. And some of it was corroborated. Some of it isn't. Some of it has been corroborated since our intelligence community -- LEMON: Let me ask you this, it is also -- why does he, because he
seems fixated on this and again Comey brings it up, on this -- the salacious parts of the dossier. And I don't want to say that term again. Why does he want to say that something that he believes is not true, that he wants to keep talking about it and he wants Comey to help him with that?
CLAPPER: Well, I don't know. But, you know, it does conjure up, you know -- it does protest too loudly. You know, you wonder, why --
LEMON: He denied the tape ever existed, but he keeps bringing it up.
CLAPPER: Exactly. So why is that? I won't profess to speculate, but it's very curious. And again what comes to my mind is thou does protest too loudly.
LEMON: So, another excerpt Director, from "The Washington Post," discussed in February 2017 in an Oval Office meeting, that is where Trump asked Attorney General, Jeff Sessions to clear the room so he could bring up the FBI investigation, the former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, directly and Comey and then Comey recalls later confronting Sessions whom he describes as both overwhelmed and overmatched by the job. And according to the book it says, you can't be kicked out of a room, so he can talk to me alone.
[23:10:00] It says, you can't be kicked out of a room so he can talk to me alone. You can't be kicked out of the room so you can talk to me alone. Comey told Sessions, you have to be between me and the President. But this was -- this was a key event in Mueller's investigation into obstruction of justice. What's your thought on this?
CLAPPER: Well, it's crucial and, you know, one of -- I mean the FBI is a pretty autonomous organization, but it is in the Department of Justice. And there are times when the Attorney General must give top cover to the Director of the FBI or any of the other law enforcement components that are in the Department of Justice.
And I think for lots of reasons the Attorney General didn't want to touch that with a 10 foot pole. And I think he probably was relieved that he could skate out of the oval and not be involved in that conversation.
And by the way, I can personally attest, you know, the number of one- on-one conversations I had with President Obama I can count on one hand and not use all my fingers. And believe me you remember every word that goes on. And I have every confidence that Jim Comey accurately copied, collected or recounted what exactly went on during those discussions.
LEMON: Is this the Director that you guys have in prompt, did you want to ask him this now?
CLAPPER: I'm sorry? I can hear you. I'm sorry, Don --
LEMON: I just, I wasn't sure, it was about Scooter Libby. I wasn't sure if they wanted me to ask you about Scooter Libby, but -- we'll save it for the next block. Director, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.
CLAPPER: Don, if I could just one quick comment.
LEMON: Absolutely, go on.
CLAPPER: I completely agree with something you said in the last segment among all the shouting there. It is indeed a privilege to be on this platform, and that is the way I regard it.
LEMON: Thank you very much. It's -- listen, for the last two and a half years or however long it's been, you know people are not telling the truth, you know they're being disingenuous, and they're using, they're feeding this to the American people. And I just don't -- I don't think that is right. I think the American people deserve better, and I do I spend -- instead of informing people about the truth and what's happening, I spend most of my time on the people who have deflected, trying to get them back on track or trying to debunk something that they have either flat out lied about or there's a half truth. So, I don't know, it's tough. And Director, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Thank you. When we come back another bombshell tonight. "The New Yorker" is reporting that the "National Enquirer" parent company allegedly paid $30,000 in hush money to a doorman in a Trump building in effort to keep him from speaking out about a rumor that Trump had fathered a love child. The reporter who broke that story Ronan Farrow, is here next.
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We have another piece of breaking news tonight to tell you about. President Trump expected to grant a pardon to Scooter Libby. Libby was the chief of staff to then Vice President Dick Cheney. That is according to a White House official. Libby had been -- convicted of perjury in an investigation into who leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame, the person who named the Special Counsel in that case, then deputy Attorney General, James Comey that is who it was.
President George W. Bush had commuted the sentence, but would not grant a pardon. And James Comey is not the only headache for the Trump White House tonight. A former senior editor at American Media Inc., is telling CNN's, Athena Jones, that American Media chief, David Pecker, is buying stories to protect Trump's reputation, racking up what he called a favor bank of killed stories, including one report that the New Yorker uncovered, 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.
Now I want to bring in Investigative Reporter, Ronan Farrow, who broke the story for "The New Yorker." Ronan, thank you so much. RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "THE NEW YORKER": As pleasure.
LEMON: I was looking in the information that you have here, so break it down for us. How exactly did the secret payment between AMI and President Trump's doorman happen?
FARROW: So he had this information allegedly from high level Trump sources including Matthew Calamari, who is the head of security at the Trump organization. And there was a transaction where he received $30,000, and we received some of the documentation related to that, as well as multiple, multiple sources involved. And they also added a $1 million damages clause if he ever breached a word about this. And look, this is significant Don, because at this point, this appears to be a pattern of this kinds of payments to various stories.
LEMON: OK, I am glad you said, you talked about it. This is about the pattern. It's not really about whether, you know, there was some sort of relationship and the salacious details, but a pattern of trying to silence people.
FARROW: That is really important to note. It's a particularly salacious claim, but a claimed of an affair, but also potentially a child resulted from this doorman, Dino Sajudin, has double down on that plane. He said publicly today, you know, I was telling the truth. He did pass a lie detector test, saying that he had received the information, not necessarily that the information was true, but that he had heard it from these high level sources.
But we are very clear on this story about saying we're not reporting that the underlying claim is true. We're not reporting the names of individuals. This is about the money and the pattern and that is dead right. The AMI, the company has conceded. They made this payment.
LEMON: OK, so, this is what the doorman is saying, he is saying, "I can confirm that while working at Trump World Tower, I was instructed not to criticize President Trump's former housekeeper due to a prior relationship she had with President Trump which produced a child." And again as you said, you found no evidence. CNN has not found any evidence. No news organizations showing the evidence that this is true that there is a love child. Do you think he is telling the truth?
FARROW: You know, look, what we say is that we haven't found any evidence, and I'll leave it at that. But what is absolutely incontrovertible now is that there is a third payment that is receiving demands for legal scrutiny from a lot of different corners. There's the Stormy Daniels payment, which is a direct deal between Michael Cohen and an individual who had a story.
LEMON: Karen McDougal.
FARROW: There is the Karen McDougal story, which she spoke to me first and then to Anderson in the first TV interview, and you know, she says that her story was suppressed, and I've seen some of those contracts and that appears to be the case. And now there is this instance where like in the Karen McDougal case, it was a catch and kill, burying of the story through the media.
[23:20:05] LEMON: Right. But the interesting thing is AMI is saying, you know, they don't believe him, it's not true, then why on earth would they pay $30,000 and then have this extra clause as you said on top it for -- how much was it?
FARROW: A million dollars.
LEMON: A million dollars, so then --
FARROW: All I can say is that the AMI sources who spoke to us in this story were very consistent in saying that million dollar addition to the contract, that he would suffer this extraordinary penalty if he spoke was unusual. That was not part for the course for this kinds of sources.
LEMON: OK. Here's what AMI is saying. They released a statement today saying in part, AMI categorically denies that Donald Trump or Michael Cohen had anything to do with its decision not to pursue a story about a love child that it determine was not credible. They are suggesting that David Pecker has ever used company funds to shut down the story or any investigation is not true. What's your response to that?
FARROW: Well, we have from multiple sources that claimed that Michael Cohen was directly involved and had conversations about this. Michael Cohen did not respond or take kindly when we called him. But, you know, we will see, I think over time just how much evidence there is behind him being directly involved including because as you know, the FBI raids of his office and his hotel room earlier this week were specifically looking for communications related to these kind of transactions to kill stories.
LEMON: They were -- as I understand there are two former AMI employees who told you they believe that Michael Cohen was connected to this payment and in close contacts with executives at the publisher. Talk to me about this important connection and what did Cohen say. Has he -- has he responded?
FARROW: You know, we narrated our efforts to get a comment from him in the piece. He has not responded to that claim.
LEMON: What do you -- this so-called hush payments, do you think that we're going to see more of these coming out connected to the President?
FARROW: You know, I'm not going to speculate beyond what we've reported, but we certainly now have seen three instances of what appears to be and legal experts say, in fact, is now a pattern of efforts to bury stories. And certainly it is consistent with other matters. I've reported on where you see a certain echelon of powerful and influential person who is able to kill dialogue about them. I think that, you know, what the sources who informed us and that has allowed us to report this say that has national security implications when it is the President at the heart of it.
LEMON: Ronan, thank you.
FARROW: Always a pleasure.
LEMON: Always a pleasure.
FARROW: Yes, thank you.
LEMON: Now I want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst, Areva Martin, the author of "Make It Rain" and former U.S. Attorney, Michael Moore.
Good evening to both of you. Thank you so much for joining us.
Areva, I am going to start with you. What do you think of this new report? Does this appear to be part of a larger pattern to catch and kill, that federal investigators are looking into?
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, Don, if something happens once, you can say it's an isolated incident. If it happens twice you can say it's a coincidence. But if it happens three times that is enough for lawyers to start arguing that there's a pattern. And I think what we're seeing here is very troubling. These efforts not by Donald Trump himself, but perhaps by these people we can call his operatives working to prevent negative stories from coming out about him.
And not during the time when he was a private citizen, but during the time that he was either considering running for President, was a candidate or was getting very close to being the President of the United States. And that is what I think we have to focus on, is that these payments were made during the time that Donald Trump, now we know with this doorman story, 2015 at the time that he was either running or considering running for President, and we know with Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, just 11 days before the Presidential election.
I think that is what's so troubling is the timing of these payments and the timing of these nondisclosure agreements which I think could be of interest to Federal prosecutors.
LEMON: So, Michael, as I just said, to Ronan Farrow, no one including CNN or any other media outlet has been able to verify these claims by the former Trump doorman. So, but why would AMI pay for his silence?
MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR GEORGIA: You know, I really don't know at this point if it's a question or whether or not the client are true or not. I think it's a question that we're left with is despite the allegations, did the President have anything to do with the payment or trying to quiet these things down? You know, this is a guy who thinks he is the smartest man in the room. He believes his so confident, he needs no staff, he needs no chief of staff, he is a micromanager, and he can run his own thing. He is used to doing that as a CEO.
I think at this point to argue that he didn't know about the payments that is sort of strange credulity. I suppose we can all sit back and say there, you know that there are two little guardian angels, one name Cohen and one name Pecker, that are flying around and taking care and cleaning Trump's messes, but that is ridiculous. And nobody believes this. How long would they keep it quiet, you know, I think he probably directed his people to cover up his problems.
LEMON: Listen, what about the timing, Michael of these payments, it's awfully close to the election. Do you think that -- before that, when you say directing these people, here's the one thing I think that he -- that may help him, meaning the President. He doesn't e-mail, right? I don't think he has a computer. So there would be no paper trail.
[23:25:13] MOORE: Well, that may be true, but realize you've got people now who have become ensnared in this federal reinvestigation, and at this point we're left to believe there's some cooperators there, people talking about what is going on. We know that the search of Cohen's offices and home don't just happen at random. I mean I can tell you to have a decision about searching a lawyer's office that is a big deal.
It doesn't just happen. And so, my guess is they had some information and they were able to convince a Judge that there was some pretty solid evidence that there was something going on and a pretty clear indication of what they were going to find and where they were going to find it. So all of that information is already out there. My guess is that Mueller has already had this stuff, he knows about it. You talk about the e-mails and I will say this, you know.
One thing of interest to me is his use of the phone. We know there have been people caught up on wires in this investigation. We don't know what's out there and what people have heard and what's already been documented from the things he is said.
MARTIN: And to that point, I just want to say to that point, Don, CNN is even reporting that Cohen had a habit of recording his phone calls and that -- plus the FBI then raided his office and his home, it's pretty certain that they also were able to collect perhaps recordings that he made of conversations. And we don't know if those conversations were the conversations he was having with Donald Trump. So though he didn't e-mail we do know that he used the telephone.
LEMON: OK. So, but Areva, you said that David Pecker, AMI CEO is becoming the next Michael Cohen. Talk to me about that.
MARTIN: Yes. You know, we know that the Federal Prosecutors are looking at Michael Cohen to find out what role he played in suppressing stories. All this goes to the Federal Election Campaign Laws that prohibit you from, you know, making these kinds of payments and disguising them when they should be reported as campaign contributions.
So David Pecker is doing the same, catching and killing stories. He puts himself in the same position as Michael Cohen. He puts himself in the position of being a target of investigation by the federal prosecutors. Whether it's the Southern District Prosecutors or its Robert Mueller.
And this is the second story now we're hearing, and we heard the guests on before us talk about there being conflicting evidence about Michael Cohen being in, you know, communications with Pecker about these stories. So I think it's perhaps just a matter of time before federal prosecutors want to know what's in the office of AMI, what kind of evidence may be there to support that these stories are being killed not because they're not credible stories, but because it's done to protect the reputation of the President?
LEMON: And then also, Michael, listen, what I just -- before I introduced you guys I talked about Athena Jones reporting saying that there are dozens of, you know, stories that were I guess caught and killed or suppressed, you know, using the same tactics. And that is from a former senior editor there.
MOORE: Right. Well, I think that is true and I think the points well-taken. We don't know what they have. We don't know how much information they have, but we do have a pretty clear indication that they've used finances and used money to benefit a candidate in an election, in a federal election. And the question will that be deemed at some point as a FEC violation.
But I -- my belief is this, you know, we'll see, I've been saying talking about following the money for a long time in this case. I don't think you saw the FBI go out and do these raids, do these searches on the lawyer's office and home and hotel, because they think they may have something there about a payment to a porn star.
My guess there's some other evidence there. It may be taped, it may be videotapes. We don't know what it is. But there was something there that convinced a federal Judge to sign a search warrant that allowed this time to go forward. And it wasn't trivial, I can tell you that and wasn't a witch hunt. Let's start from there.
LEMON: I got -- I got to go.
LEMON: Thank you both.
MOORE: All right, Don.
LEMON: I love your accent. I do declare. I do. It makes me miss home every time I hear it.
MOORE: Had come down and see us.
LEMON: Thank you guys. See you next time. When we come back as the hits keep coming at the Trump White House they're working to discredit Rod Rosenstein and the Russia investigation. Will that strategy work? I'm going to ask a member of the House Intelligence Committee, that's next.
[23:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump may have Rod Rosenstein in his sights. Sources telling CNN the White House is preparing talking points to undermine the deputy attorney general. I want to bring in now Congressman Denny Heck. He's a Democrat from Washington and member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, good evening.
REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: Good evening, Don.
LEMON: As a person who ultimately signs off on what Mueller -- the Mueller investigation is authorized to pursue, it seems the deputy attorney general is in the president's crosshairs. The White House is even working on a plan to discredit Rod Rosenstein.
He is a registered Republican. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. And now it feels at though he is living through a scene out of "Mean Girls." They won't let him sit at the cool kids' table and when he goes up to the playground at recess, the GOP sees him as a punching bag.
The seriousness of this I don't think can be exaggerated. And firing Rod Rosenstein is akin to firing Bob Mueller, as a matter of fact, whether or not that transpires or not. And if the predicate of firing Rosenstein is to curtail Bob Mueller or to fire Bob Mueller, then frankly I think prima facie this is obstruction of justice, Don.
LEMON: Do you think that Republicans will -- you know, at least in the House and Senate, do you think that they will speak out against this if that indeed does happen? Rosenstein or Mueller, you said, because it would be akin to firing Mueller.
HECK: I think some will. I hope more will than thus far but really oftentimes this conversation quickly gets to the "I" word, impeachment. But the reality is that's not ever going to happen unless it's done jointly and together because of the two-thirds voting requirement, according to the constitution in the Senate.
So I think before that happens, what is necessary is that both members of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party have serious somber -- sober adult-like conversations with themselves and with one another about their constitutional responsibility to provide a check and balance.
[23:35:10] LEMON: So as he had requested, House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes has received access to the documents that led to the investigation of Russia and President Trump's team. Nunes had threatened, Congressman, to impeach the deputy AG FBI Director Chris Wray. Didn't Republicans already shutdown the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation?
HECK: They did. They voted to shut it down with the issuance of their report, which is now going through declassification process.
LEMON: So why do they need this document then?
HECK: Well, Don, let's go back to March 21st of last year where Devin Nunes the day after that March 20th hearing that was such a disaster for them went down to the White House to collaborate on how it is they could shut it down.
That's been going on for over a year, although I must say that Chairman Nunes seems to have calmed down a little bit since the FBI provided them with those reports, which I will view, by the way, withing the next 48 hours.
LEMON: Why didn't they request this report when the investigation was happening?
HECK: You have to ask them. I really have no idea.
LEMON: Yes. So Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on your committee, says Republicans are laying the groundwork to fire Rosenstein, undermine the Mueller investigation. Is that what this is about, you think?
HECK: I fear that that is what this is about and indeed but we are continuing to (INAUDIBLE) the constitutional crisis. Don, it gives me absolutely no joy, no psychic gratification whatsoever to say this. I think Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be president of the United States. He had much higher approval ratings as a host on "The Apprentice" than he does as president of the United States.
He's not well suited for this job, and I wish he'd have a conversation with his God and with himself and with his family about whether or not we would all be better served, frankly, if he would just resign. Because this isn't going anywhere good. This has been going on 15 months.
The truth of the matter is with the raid on the Cohen offices, the fact of the matter is, that this is going to accumulate. It's rapidly becoming a question of whether or not a crime was committed but how many crimes were committed.
LEMON: Are you calling on the president to resign?
HECK: I think he should consider that for the best interest of the country.
LEMON: Do you think that that is a real possibility?
HECK: No, not at all, Don.
LEMON: Yes. So, listen. I want to (INAUDIBLE) to you because I want to talk about this Comey book quickly and the time that we had left, because he addresses the decision to reopen the Clinton e-mail investigation 11 days before the election.
He says in his book, it is entirely possible that, because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president, my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in the polls. But I don't know.
Do you think he is making excuses for all the criticism he received for that decision? HECK: Well, I was one who also criticized him. I think the tradition and in fact the policy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is that they not comment or release information of an incendiary nature in the course of an election campaign.
And I would prefer that he have not done it not just because of how it seemed to have affected my choice for president of United States because I think it would have been in the best interest of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you very much, congressman. I appreciate your time.
HECK: You're more than welcome.
LEMON: When we come back, more from James Comey's new book and some revelations that have the White House under siege tonight.
[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: No reaction so far from the White House on James Comey's explosive new book about his tense relationship with President Trump. I want to talk about some of the explosive revelations with CNN political commentators Tara Setmayer and Scott Jennings.
Good to have you on. So let's get straight to the book. I have to get your reaction on this quote from the book, Tara, where Comey recalls a meeting he had with President Trump and then Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and made him think of days when he was a federal prosecutor talking to the mob or taking on the mob.
So, he says, flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us versus them worldview. 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.
What do you make of this comparison, Tara?
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sounds about right, unfortunately, all the way down to the president having his daughter and son-in-law in the White House completely inappropriately. They're unqualified for their positions, but that's part of the family mentality there of keeping a very close-knit circle.
Also it's interesting that Comey would make that comparison considering Donald Trump was fascinated with the mob and used to hang around with mobsters all the time in New York City and in Atlantic City. It was very well known. Roy Cohn who was his real fixer was a notorious mafia lawyer.
So, it's surprising to me that someone as observant as James Comey and someone who worked on mafia cases when he was in the southern district of New York would characterize it that way. I think it's troubling, but it's not inaccurate.
LEMON: OK. I have another quote. This is for you, Scott. Comey writes, this president is unethical and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego-driven, and about personal loyalty.
I mean, that is scathing. It's hard to believe that we're talking about the president of the United States, but is it fitting?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, that's Jim Comey's view. I find it, frankly, astonishing that we are talking about this tonight given the fact that Comey as FBI director is a material player in an ongoing investigation and is not just releasing a book but making allegations like this.
[23:45:04] I've seen some people tonight, former FBI agents, in fact, saying this is possibly running afoul of FBI regulations. I've seen some other people saying it's a little unseemly for an FBI director to release these kinds of books and allegations while this is going on. Not that it wouldn't be fine for him to do it when an investigation was complete.
So, I think if I were the Comey people, what I would be worried about tomorrow is three things. Number one, should he be releasing this in the middle of an investigation? Number two, is some of this little petty overly dramatic? Number three, there is a passage in the book where he talks about perhaps he was influenced by the polling late in the October campaign.
JENNINGS: I think if I were going after Comey, and I'm not -- I think he is an honorable man and a public servant, but if I were watching out for him tonight, those are the three areas running --
LEMON: You're talking about the part where he talks about making -- he was afraid he was going to make Clinton an illegitimate president or something like that? Is that what you are talking about?
LEMON: But didn't he take an oath as someone who is -- you know, as a lawman for lack of a better term, didn't he take an oath to tell the truth, and don't you have an obligation to speak out if you think something is radically wrong with the chief executive?
SETMAYER: That's what I --
JENNINGS: Well, I think --
SETMAYER: Oh, who was that to? Sorry.
LEMON: Scott and then Tara, you can go ahead.
JENNINGS: Go ahead, Tara. You go ahead. Go ahead.
SETMAYER: All right. That's kind of where I fall on this. Someone else earlier tonight used the expression that Comey was a flawed messenger, and I think that's fair. Comey had a distinguished career and the fact that both sides are mad at him for one reason or another goes to show you that at least his intention was to be as fair as possible and to do the right was the intention.
And I think we shouldn't lose sight of that. Just because he might have made a couple of mistakes along the way, at least he was reflective enough to admit to those. At least he was able to cope to it somewhat and say, you know, maybe it wasn't the right thing. That goes to show you that at least he has integrity. The problem that I have is like the very juvenile RNC attack on Comey.
LEMON: Yes. That was unfortunate.
SETMAYER: What are we doing? You know, in the 20 plus years that I was involved in the Republican Party, we didn't do things like this. We used to say we didn't want to become what we despised. That was what the other side did. And I just think that part of this is really --
LEMON: I go to take a break. I got to take a break. When we come back, guys, we'll talk more about this book and also there is some more news. I guess you can call developing, and that's this allegation about a lovechild and a hush payment for that and, you know, we'll be back.
[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: I'm back with Tara and Scott now. So, Tara, I want to ask you -- Scott, I should say, I'm sorry. I want to ask you -- let's switch gear -- let's talk about this AMI paying $30,000 to a doorman to kill a story about an alleged lovechild of President Trump.
There's no proof that the substance is true. This is now would be the third person that we know of who apparently was paid off to keep quiet about the president. The doorman is doubling down, standing by the story. A former AMI senior editor says there's a favor bank of kill stories, dozens of them. Is this a problem for the president?
JENNINGS: Well, yes, of course it is. I mean it appears to be part of what they were looking for when they raided Cohen's office. And so, yes, it's a problem, if there are more of these things, and it's a real problem if there are more salacious stories out there.
I think what you said is important to remember, there is no confirmation that a lovechild actually exists. We need more reporting on this, frankly, but yes, if you want to ask if it's a problem, sure. I mean, it's something -- it's another thing to be worried about.
And if you are looking for a response mechanism, I thin the White House is a little paralyzed in what they can say about it because it's all part of an ongoing investigation. And frankly, it has nothing to do with the operations of the government right now.
So, the White House response can be a little muted, because they don't know what to say and may not be able to say much because of the circumstances.
LEMON: Tara, I want to move on to another subject, unless you want to respond.
SETMAYER: I just wanted to say, well, I guess because Donald Trump's fixer is busy, he can't handle this one.
LEMON: That was some shade right there.
SETMAYER: It's the truth. Go ahead.
LEMON: Listen, I want to do a comparison of the two Time magazine covers. On the left is a cover from February of 2017. It says, nothing to see here. And then on the right, it is the latest Time magazine cover. It says, just "stormy," showing rising water. Has there ever been a more appropriate cover or do you think it's accurate?
SETMAYER: Well, there's all kinds of double (INAUDIBLE) there. Stormy and everything going on. Look, I think it's a -- they're trolling him somewhat because we all know how important it is to Donald Trump to be on the cover of things, especially Time magazine and he's so proud of those.
And their depiction of what's going on is, once again, accurate. It's reflective of what's happening right now. And it's -- I just think it's -- they're trolling him, for sure. I'm sure he's not happy about that cover.
LEMON: Yes. So, Scott, the Time cover story, here's what it's titled. Donald Trump Relied on Michael Cohen to Weather the Storm. Now The President is On His Own.
So Michael Cohen is under increasing pressure tonight. Reports of recordings that he made, phone conversations possibly, which could come back to haunt him. Do you think Cohen will stay loyal to the president?
JENNINGS: Well, I don't know. I mean, when you're under investigation and you're under the gun like this, I mean you really have an obligation to yourself and to your family to do what's best for you and your own people. So, I don't know. And it's complicated, of course, by the fact that he has an attorney-client relationship with the president.
[23:55:01] Regarding these magazine covers, you know what? I think they're designed to sell magazines. But I'll just say, I'd love to see a magazine cover that has a huge chart of the unemployment rate going down, the work force participation rate going up, and people being generally happy with the economy because that's the other thing that's going on in America, is that all of these things are happening, but people are generally happy with the prosperity we're feeling right now.
LEMON: So, here's the thing --
SETMAYER: If we had a normal president, you would have that. LEMON: Let me just say this. I'm going to let you finish, Tara. Scott, you answer the question and then you pivot it. I respect you for that. That is completely acceptable, but the line in all of that, you know, look at the shiny object over here, not acceptable. Tara, I'm sorry. Go ahead. What did you say?
SETMAYER: Well, the difference is that what Scott said is at least factual.
LEMON: Ten seconds.
SETMAYER: It's factual, right? There are good things going on, but it's all overshadowed by the fact that we have someone who is incompetent and unfit to be president of the United States with full -- that's full of baggage. If we elected a normal Republican that respects the office and didn't have this baggage, we wouldn't be talking about these things, we would be talking about the unemployment rate and how great the economy is.
LEMON: Thank you. Thank you both. I appreciate it. See you next time. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.
[24:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)