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Michael Cohen Mystery Client Revealed, It's Sean Hannity; Comey: Trump Is Morally Unfit To Be President; American Justice In Black And White. Aired 11-12a ET
Aired April 16, 2018 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. It is 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast live with a day of big headlines. The biggest one that pretty much nobody saw coming, Michael Cohen's attorney forced to reveal the name of his mystery third client. And boy, was it a bombshell. It's Hannity. Sean Hannity. Sean Hannity, who had asked to remain anonymous. And he said this on his radio show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Michael never represented me in any matter. I never retained him in the traditional sense as retaining a lawyer, but I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective. And I assume that those conversations were attorney client confidential.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Hannity also says his dealings with Cohen were quote almost exclusively about real estate. But that doesn't explain why he never saw fit to mention his Cohen connection before today. And there's more. The return of Stormy Daniels. There she is right there. The porn star didn't just attend the hearing today. She stepped up to the microphones on the Courthouse steps to say this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STORMY DANIELS, PORNSTAR: So, for years, Mr. Cohen has acted like he is above the law. He has considered himself and openly referred to himself as Mr. Trump's fixer. He has played by a different set of rules or shall we say no rules at all. He has never thought that the little man, or especially women, and even more, women like me matters. That ends now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So you saw him standing there behind her on the Courthouse steps. That is Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, joins me now. Thank you for joining us Michael.
So, it was an extraordinary day. Shocking headlines and revelations. When they -- when Sean Hannity -- when they revealed Sean Hannity as the client, you were there, right? In the courtroom?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIEL'S ATTORNEY: I was.
LEMON: What was that like?
AVENATTI: Well, you had to understand, Don, that there was about 20 minutes of lead up to the disclosure of who this was. So, there was a consistent back and forth between the Judge and Michael Cohen's lawyer who was fighting vehemently to keep from disclosing this information which had been ordered disclosed last Friday. The judge, Judge Kimba Wood, had ordered this information disclosed. And they disclosed two of the three names. They refused to disclose the third name.
So there was a lot of -- there was a lot of foreplay, if you will, for about 20 minutes in the courtroom as to whether this name was going to be disclosed. At one point in time, Michael Cohen's attorney suggested that the name would be disclosed in camera, or privately, to the Judge, would be written on a piece of paper and handed to the Judge. And Judge Wood was having none of that.
So, ultimately she said, I want you to disclose the name publicly now and gave the attorney the option of doing it either orally or in writing. And I thought for sure that he was going to scribble it on a piece of paper and hand it to the Judge. The reason, as an experienced trial attorney, you do something like that is -- it's like a Hail Mary, because you hope that you hand it to the Judge.
LEMON: And the Judge says, OK, I'm not going the read this name.
AVENATTI: Right. The Judge will go, well, you know, maybe -- but that is not what happened. He announced it in open court and it was like a bomb went off.
LEMON: So let me ask you a couple of things. What does this mean? Because, you know, he -- is, as has been reported, he only had real estate dealings. Does that matter? Should that matter that if it wasn't about things that had to do with the President or, you know, Stormy Daniels or Russia? Does that matter?
AVENATTI: Well, look, I don't know that it matters one way or the other. I mean, I am not a journalist, I don't operate on the highest level like you and others do here at CNN. I mean, ultimately you and others will judge from a journalistic stand point.
LEMON: Right, I am in legally, but journalistically, yes, Sean Hannity probably should have revealed to the audience and his employer that he had this relationship with Michael Cohen. That goes without saying. But legally does that make a difference if it's about real estate?
AVENATTI: No, I don't think it matters at all. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Cohen was ordered to disclose his client. But that -- look, I am going to go out on a limb and this is speculations, I want to be really clear about this.
There is a reason why his name was disclosed. And it's not because there is no documents with his name on them. I can assure you. As an 18-year trial lawyer who has operated in connection with a lot of the big cases around the country, the reason why his name was disclosed is because there are documents in what was obtained by the FBI with his name on them.
LEMON: Yes. You didn't know that Sean Hannity was one of his clients, right?
[23:05:00] AVENATTI: No, I didn't know, I had no idea.
LEMON: She said -- I think Stormy Daniels said, he got away with it, or women like me, is she saying that Michael Cohen is sexist? Or what did she mean by that?
AVENATTI: No, I think, -- no, I think what she is saying is that Michael Cohen has ruled through thuggery and intimidation for many, many years. And that is well documented. With members of the press, with women, with a whole host of people. And you can only do that, Don, for so long until the chickens come home to roost and they are coming home to roost.
LEMON: Do you think -- you said, didn't you say Sean Hannity got thrown under the bus today?
AVENATTI: I did.
LEMON: Why did you say that?
AVENATTI: Well, because Michael Cohen attorneys were there to represent Michael Cohen and also, I guess to represent Sean Hannity. And you know, he waxed poetically about trying to keep Sean Hannity's name confidential and keep that information from the court.
At the end of the day, you know, I feel like he threw Sean Hannity under the bus. I think, Sean Hannity should have had separate counsel there. I don't think that Michael Cohen's attorney operated in a professional manner as it related to Sean Hannity. He should not have just given up his name in open court. And all I could think about Don, as I was sitting there when this bombshell went off and all the air was sucked out of the room. I mean, people gasped for this name.
LEMON: And before they started running out to go reported on?
AVENATTI: Right. I mean, either 10 reporters stood up and immediately left the courtroom, because you are not allowed to have your cell phones in there, so everybody got to get their cellphones, but all I could think of at that moment was, I wonder where Sean Hannity is right now, because --
LEMON: Yes. He was on the radio live.
AVENATTI: Because, you know, I mean, his life changed in a very significant way in that moment.
LEMON: Listen, I think Sean honestly is probably having a little fun with this, at least, you know, it's probably going to help his show's ratings. Obviously the network doesn't have an issue with it, because he is on the air tonight. I don't know if it's going to make a difference? Do you think it will make a difference to Sean Hannity?
AVENATTI: You know, again, I don't know, I mean, I practice in the law. I'm not a journalist. I leave that to you and others.
LEMON: So, what about the documents. The Judge ruled on that today, how is that going to be handled?
AVENATTI: Well, most importantly from our perspective, the integrity of the documents is being maintained. Meaning the documents are not being turned back over to Michael Cohen or to the Trump organization without the government retaining a copy, which was our principle concern Don, because we have a case that we are trying out in California and we wanted to ensure that nothing happened to those documents that were seized.
Meaning there was no spoliation or destruction documents all of the sudden did not disappear. So, we are confident and we are happy with the result as it relates to the integrity of the documents being maintained. But, you know, make no mistake about it, I mean, this was a very remarkable day for the following reason. You have the President of the United States who oversees the Justice Department. I mean, that is his department. It is part of the executive branch arguing against --
LEMON: Against his own Justice Department.
AVENATTI: -- arguing against that same Justice Department, arguing that they are biased, that they can't be trusted, that they can't ensure justice. I mean, it is remarkable as I sat there and thought about it. I don't think it has ever happened in the history of the nation.
LEMON: How do you think this is going play out for Michael Cohen? Do you think that this is going to -- you think we will see him flipping on the President?
AVENATTI: No doubt. There is no question. If I had to place a bet right now on the sun coming up tomorrow or Michael Cohen ultimately flipping on the President, I would bet on Michael Cohen flipping on the President.
LEMON: Why is that?
AVENATTI: Because, the handwriting is on the wall, Don. I mean, this is no different than any other white collar prosecution. I think, he is going to face significant substantial criminal liability and at the end of the day, he is going to make a rational decision. He is going to have to get smart and he is going to realize that this President, when he went to Washington left him behind in New York, didn't fulfill his promises, didn't do what he said he was going to do. And Michael Cohen is going the consult with his family and he is going to realize you know what, I am not going to continue to protect Donald Trump, because Donald Trump take care of me.
LEMON: What he will say is innocent until proven guilty?
AVENATTI: I agree with that, by the way.
LEMON: Their relationship does goes back a long way, I mean he is a longtime adviser. It goes back a long way.
AVENATTI: It strikes me as a rather one way relationship.
LEMON: Yes. Why was Stormy Daniels there today?
AVENATTI: Because it was an important moment for her, it was important for her to lend her support to the effort of the U.S. Attorney's Office and to be heard relating to Michael Cohen and what he did to her.
LEMON: Where do you see this ultimately going, Michael?
AVENATTI: I think this is going to end very, very badly for Michael Cohen. But I think it's going the end even worse for Donald Trump. I mean, that is my position. I think that -- I think this has taken on a momentum that cannot be stopped. You know, we pushed this boulder down the hill five or six weeks ago. A lot of people doubt this at the time. There is no stopping it now.
LEMON: Badly, how for the President?
AVENATTI: I think very badly. I think it could ultimately result in either his impeachment or resignation from the White House.
LEMON: Michael Avenatti thank you, I appreciate it.
AVENATTI: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, why all the secrecy about Sean Hannity? And just how dangerous is the Michael Cohen investigation for President Trump?
[23:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: A courtroom full of seasoned reporters erupted in shock today when Sean Hannity was revealed to be Michael Cohen's mystery client. I want to bring in now, CNN legal analyst, Areva Martin, the author of --
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: "Make it rain."
LEMON: "Make It Rain," and CNN Legal Analyst, Page Pate, the author of --
PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Nothing yet.
LEMON: Nothing yet. That is an amazing title. Nothing yet. I have to pick that up. So, let me start with you, since I joked Page. Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti just told me in no uncertain terms that he is convinced that Michael Cohen will flip on the President. What do you make of that?
PATE: I don't agree with that at all, Don. I mean, a couple of things we know about Michael Cohen, is number one, he is extremely loyal to the President. I mean the President is his livelihood. He has really no other client, as we found out today in court. So I don't see him turning on Trump, especially as long as this investigation stays in Federal Court.
In fact, what I really expect will happen is if Michael Cohen is indicted, he is going to be pardoned almost immediately by the President. Now, things could be different if the state folks get involved. But right now there is not really a lot of pressure on Michael Cohen to cooperate against the President.
MARTIN: Yes, I tend to agree, with the caveat that we do know he has a family. And when family gets involved, we saw that with Gates. You know, you start off with all of this rebuttal and you know, I'm going to fight this and you have all these defenses and he has talked about how loyal he is to the President, but when the wife starts talking about what this does to the family not just your reputation and not just to your business. But the prospect of you going to jail -- I think we may start to see him have second thoughts about this loyalty oath that he has taken did --
[23:15:03] LEMON: But with that, aren't we are working on the assumption that there was something to hide. I mean, right, so, maybe -- maybe there is nothing.
MARTIN: Well, if there wasn't anything to hide, we wouldn't have seen, you know, what we saw in the courtroom today.
MARTIN: And with respect to Sean Hannity, I do agree with Michael, there was a big effort made to make him a client. And the reason that you want someone to be a client is again to be able to argue that the attorney/client privilege protects some of the information that is in that off.
LEMON: Got it. So, after it came out that Sean Hannity was Michael Cohen's third client, he defended his conversations with Cohen as informal, he said. Here he is earlier today. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Let me set the record straight. Here's the truth. Michael Cohen never represented me in any legal matter. I never retained his services. I never received an invoice. I never paid Michael Cohen for legal fees. I did have occasional brief conversations with Michael Cohen. He is a great attorney. About legal questions I had or I was looking for input and perspective. My discussions with Michael Cohen never rose to any level that I needed to tell anyone that I was asking him questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Does that hurt his ability to claim attorney/client privilege?
MARTIN: Don, what is so funny here is that you have the lawyer saying this is one of three clients that we now know Michael Cohen had. But you have Sean Hannity going out of his way saying, I never retained this guy, never receive an invoice, basically saying we never had an attorney-client relationship. So, he is undermining the very argument that Cohen's lawyer was in court making today. So, now the judge has to make sense of this, are you a client or are you not. And I don't think those statements help in this argument to try to keep this information protected.
LEMON: Page, what do you think, because Michael Avenatti also told me, that Hannity got thrown under the bus today.
PATE: I supposed that is true, Don. I think it was obvious to Cohen's lawyers were trying the come up with as many clients as possible to convince the judge that there are really had to be some attorney/client communication and all the documents of the government seized, because if they can't show the judge that there is privilege information to protect, then the judge has no reason to protect it.
So, I really think Cohen's lawyers were grasping at straws. Did you ever talk to anybody about any legal issue whatsoever, a cocktail party, a phone conversation, and they came up with Sean Hannity simply because there was no one else. So, I don't think there are really any documents to protect. I think it was just the argument by the lawyers to try to say look, there is privileged stuff here Judge, trust us on that and let us see it first before the government folks get to rifle through it all.
LEMON: So, in his radio show earlier today, Sean Hannity said that he thought the conversations was and this is a quote, "Attorney/ client confidential." Is that different from attorney/client privilege. Areva?
PATE: Not the way that I understand it.
MARTIN: It is not different, but after he made all those statements, basically saying, he is not my lawyer then he kind of throws in, but I expected it to be some confidentiality with respect to the statements. That is not going to be enough and this judges are very sophisticated, very seasoned. So she is going to see-through any argument --
LEMON: Kimba Wood?
MARTIN: Kimba Wood, Judge Wood is going to see through any arguments that doesn't really rise to the level of attorney/client privilege. And that is what is so shocking about this whole hearing. They went into court, and I agree with Page trying to make Michael Cohen a lawyer. And we know the reality is, Michael Cohen is not a traditional lawyer. Most of the work he did for Donald Trump and any of these so-called clients probably falls so far outside the attorney/client privilege as to not even rise to a credible claimed that could be made in court. LEMON: How dangerous, Page, do you think the criminal investigation
into Michael Cohen is for the President? I mean, Michael Avenatti said earlier that he thinks the chickens are about to come home to roost. Do you agree with that?
PATE: Well, Don, we don't know what information the government has. And right now the government doesn't even know what information they have, because Judge Wood has said I can't let you look at it yet until I determine whether or not, I am going to have a special master review this, if there is really any privileged material. So, we really don't know what's in that information. But I do agree that this is not like some law school examination, can the President obstruct justice? You know, is the President involved with some illegal conspiracy with the Russians? Those are a lot more difficult questions to answer than was the President engaged 2in money laundering? Did he make a false statement? And the one thing I'm certain of is that neither Michael Cohen nor Donald Trump had any expectation that one day prosecutors from the Southern District of New York would be looking through their files for evidence of a crime. They were not thinking he would be President at that time. So, sloppiness, negligence, there is no telling what we are going to see in those documents.
LEMON: What do you think? Because, you know, Page says, he thought he was trying to come up with other clients, because, I mean, the President is not his only client he had the one, you know, the donor.
MARTIN: That is three people, Don.
LEMON: That we know of.
MARTIN: Yes -- that we know of. And he said at first it may had been as many as ten. Even for a small practitioner that is a very small client roster, even a small practitioner you would expect to have, perhaps a 100 or more clients.
[23:20:00] LEMON: What about the criminal investigation of that it is dangerous to the president, he said, the chicken are about to come home to roost, do you agree with that?
MARTIN: Well, if there is something that the government has now seized that implicates Donald Trump. And then it was a big blow to the Trump team today. The Judge would not issue that restraining order preventing the government from looking at those documents.
Although, you know, the decision has not been finally made as to what happens with those documents, but it was clear the government was not going to allow the raid that happened, the seizure of the documents, to, you know, allow the Trump team to have it their way, which is to say Donald Trump should be allowed to review these documents and make the determination about what is attorney/client privilege or not.
LEMON: I thought that was one --
MARTIN: I said no to that.
LEMON: I thought that Trump and what you just said, I thought that was the biggest revelation of the day. Besides from the Sean Hannity the other big revelation. And I don't think people realize the significance of it.
MARTIN: It is very significance.
MARTIN: I mean, that was an unusual request by the Trump team.
MARTIN: And the Judge said absolutely not.
LEMON: Thank you Areva. Thanks Page. I appreciate it.
MARTIN: Thanks Don.
PATE: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: When we come back, James Comey versus President Trump. Did Comey declare war on the President? And is it appropriate for a former FBI Director to do that?
[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Former FBI Director James Comey dropping a bomb on national TV. He believes the President is morally unfit to hold the office. And that is not all he is saying.
I want to bring in now CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, Josh Campbell, a former FBI supervisory special agent. Lanny Davis, a former White House special counsel under President Clinton, who is the author of "The Unmaking of the President 2016: How FBI Director James Comey Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency." I wonder how he feels about this. And John Brabender, a Republican strategist.
Hey, so good to have you all on, Lanny, why don't you tell us how you really feel? Joking though, but listen, Josh, and since you worked with James Comey, based on what you saw in last night's interview, is this a revenge tour for him?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, I wouldn't say it is a revenge tour at all. I think it's finally time for him to tell his story. I mean if you look back, ever since June of 2017 during that famous hearing where he was asked some very tough questions and really provided some, you know, enlightening details on what it happens over last year, we really haven't heard from him since then.
So, I think, now it's time for him to come out. Obviously he has written a very thoughtful piece that has taken some time, that is going to tell his story and I think, again, now it's time for someone who has been in the public spotlight for so long and has had opinion formal about him to, you know go out there and let us hear directly from him.
LEMON: You were with Comey, Josh, the day he was fired and you took a picture of that paper coffee cup of red wine he talked about drinking on the plane ride home. What was Comey like that day?
CAMPBELL: So, it was a very tough day. As you mentioned we were in Los Angeles at a field office. He was conducting a regular visit, he was constantly out on the road visiting the troops, getting out and you know, taking part in events that would strength the FBI.
You know, we got word from CNN that he had been fired while he was in the midst of addressing employees. Which set in motion a chain of, you know, chaotic events trying to determine, OK what do we do now? Can he get home? There was a debate on whether he was even allowed by the Department of Justice and the White House to fly on a government aircraft and return. Which is kind of laughable? Because my point was, when we have all this FBI employees that are stuck out there, this airplane got to get home. He is baggage right now. So that is the case that we were trying to make that, you know, obviously joking, but it made sense to protect the Director even though he is no longer the Director and get him home.
When we were flying, you know, it was somber, there was a little bit of the gallows humor and he really had time to reflect on his career in public service and obviously a man that was at the pinnacle in the job that he, you know, said was the -- the greatest job that he ever had. He didn't want to do anything else, he dint want to be anything else. To your point quickly about the wine, you know he realizes that at some point that he had this bottle of wine with him. He was always on the road.
And to tell you a leadership (INAUDIBLE) about Jim Comey, when he was in a particular city, rather than go out and you know, take him to city and you know, go to dinner, he would sit in the hotel and take in room service, which allow his security detail to go out and enjoy and experience the city.
CAMPBELL: That is the kind of person he was, so, on this occasion he had brought along his own bottle of wine realizing that, you know, it would cost more to order one glass or one bottle. And he was able to break it out and really sit back and reflect on his career on our flight back.
LEMON: Yes. So, listen, I want to get John and Lanny. John, Comey was asked if Donald Trump was unfit to be President. And here is how he answered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they are pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it? That President is not fit to be President of the United States on moral grounds. Our President must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country, the most important being truth. This President is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, John I'm not sure if you feel the way Josh feels about James Comey, but what is your reaction to the former FBI Director saying the President is morally unfit?
JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, I think he is coming across extremely vindictive. I mean, and also here is somebody that we know also leaked information. And he is somebody trying to hoc a book. I mean, that is how he is coming across. If anything, I think it just validates that Donald Trump probably should have fired him. But he also did one other thing. He also played political god by deciding that he thought Hillary was going to win and also how to go after her. So, I think it is unfair to Donald Trump and I would argue he has been terrible unfair to Hillary Clinton.
The ironic twist is, Hillary is going to sit there the rest of her life and think the reason that she lost is because Comey thought she was going to win. And so I just think that this is somebody trying to sell books, I think he is petty in a lot of his criticisms of the President. And actually it almost looked like a political ad. I was surprised at the very end, he didn't just say and I'm James Comey and I approve this message.
CAMPBELL: But he not running for anything, that is an important thing to remember, and even on this panelist realize that we have two very different views here, obviously with Lanny and yourself, John. I mean, it just goes to show that over the course of the last year and a half, you know, James Comey was in a position where he wasn't in a political standpoint he was working as the Chief Executive at a law enforcement agency. And he had to make tough decision regardless of who is political (inaudible) and as evidence by that he had people on both sides hating him.
LEMON: I got to get Lanny, got to say something, but let me just say in terms of a leak he was a private citizen, when he handed it off to a journalist. He is not in a position he can't leak it, because he is a private citizen --
LANNY DAVIS, FORMER PRES. CLINTON SPECIAL COUNSEL: Character question at that point too.
LEMON: He is a private citizen, but Lanny, here is what Comey said about his decision to announce the FBI was reopening the Clinton e- mail investigation. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. And so I'm sure that it was a factor. Like I said, I don't remember selling spelling it out, but it had to have been, that she's going to be elected president. And if I hide this from the American people, she will be illegitimate the moment she's elected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What did you think of that? What do you think of his explanation?
LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL UNDER PRESIDENT CLINTON: First of all, I have respect for Mr. Comey standing up to President Trump. I think an impeachable offense is when the president said to him, I want your personal loyalty. And I appreciated his refusal to do that.
But there is very little else that I appreciate about somebody who is the FBI director who gets to use the word I, I, I rather than being accountable to his boss and to the rules of law. He had no right to, for example, there is no prosecutor that I have met anywhere, left, middle or right, who says that an investigator, the head of the FBI or anyone else, has a right to shame and not charge.
That's what he did on July 5. He criticized Hillary Clinton as being extremely careless. But then didn't bring an indictment or recommend an indictment. That's a violation. He should have been fired for that alone.
Secondly, he doesn't get to decide because Hillary Clinton is going to win, to violate a policy of the Justice Department for 50 years under Republicans and Democrats. Not one leader of the Justice Department going back six administrations supported Comey's right to decide 11 days from an election to make a political judgment.
And that narcissism, that all about Jim Comey comes through in the Stephanopoulos interview. It's all about I. And it's not about you are accountable and you failed to follow the rules. You don't get to decide what rules to follow, Mr. Comey. You are the FBI director. And you violated those rules. And you should have been fired on July 5th for shaming and not charging as one senior Justice Department official told me.
CAMPBELL: Obviously, Don, I would say there is a lot there that I disagree with. I don't know if we have time --
DAVIS: Like what?
CAMPBELL: -- to go line by line. Well, for example, if you look --
DAVIS: Do you think shaming and charging is consistent with due process?
LEMON: Well, Josh, listen, he did say -- he did say that he had politics on his mind. He thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. But then he -- how can he be apolitical when he admits that politics played a role in it?
DAVIS: I would like to know what I said that you disagreed with about the policies of the justice --
CAMPBELL: I'm getting there, Lanny, if you will give me a second to answer. The second part I was going to say is that I'm thankful and I'm grateful to finally got a panel where we are talking about the decisions he made, vices, the character assassinations that we have seen on other networks. So I'm thankful for that. When we look at the decisions point by point and what you just said, if you look at the extraordinary circumstances that we were under where you are in a time period where the FBI and the credibility of the institution of justice is under threat and you have a questionable Department of Justice leadership structure that themselves may be conflicted with the meeting on the airplane.
DAVIS: Excuse me, Sally Yates is the deputy attorney general. Don't falsify the facts.
CAMPBELL: Can I finish?
DAVIS: Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general, was in charge and Comey didn't call her.
LEMON: Lanny, let him finish.
DAVIS: But don't distort the truth. You just distorted the truth by saying Loretta Lynch recused --
CAMPBELL: What an accusation. Wow! This has gone off the rules. Let me just answer your question.
DAVIS: You just distorted the truth.
CAMPBELL: Under extraordinary circumstances --
LEMON: let him answer. Lanny, let him answer.
CAMPBELL: It was up to the FBI director. If you remember the Department of Justice punted to him and said, you make the tough call.
DAVIS: Excuse me, Sally Yates was his supervisor, and he didn't call Sally Yates. Did he call Sally Yates or not?
LEMON: John -- John, you better jump in now. You won't get it.
JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I'm just going to say --
DAVIS: I am not going to let you get away with that.
BRABENDER: He did more than just shame Hillary Clinton on July 5th. He actually laid out a pretty strong case and then decided not the prosecute. So, I don't know if I'm agreeing with Lanny or not, but I think something different happened on July 5th.
CAMPBELL: You don't have to agree. You both obviously had to decide --
LEMON: I got to go, guys.
DAVIS: I want to hear one time, did he call Sally Yates on October 27th --
LEMON: Thank you.
DAVIS: -- when you are all debating --
LEMON: Lanny, I'm out of time.
DAVIS: -- did he or did he not. The answer is no, he did not.
LEMON: We'll have more time to continue this conversation at another time.
CAMPBELL: Read the book.
LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. When we come back, a story that says a lot about American justice in black and white. My conversation with Meek Mill. He speaks the me from prison and says his punishment does not fit the crime.
[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: In the middle of all this bombshell news out of Washington and around the world, there are important stories that are not making headlines, stories that matter to all Americans, like the way our justice system deals with Americans of color.
The statistics are shocking. Two reports set in 2016, blacks represented 12 percent of the U.S. adult population, but 33 percent of the sentenced prison population. Whites accounted for 64 percent of adults, but just 30 percent of prisoners.
But the numbers are just part of the story. This is about the impact on people's lives, people like platinum selling rapper, Meek Mill. I talked with him just a while ago in a jailhouse interview. You will hear that conversation in a moment. But first, CNN's Stephanie Elam has his story.
MEEK MILL, RAPPER: In the back of the paddy wagon --
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Dreams and nightmares. It's Meek Mill's debut album.
MILL: See my dreams unfold, nightmares control --
ELAM (voice over): It also describes Mill's life.
MILL: I started off with a rough life. I'm at a point where I can provide for my family. I'm going to continue to do so.
ELAM (voice over): But Mill, who is currently in jail for probation violations, has battled legal trouble since he was 18. It was 2008 when Mill was found guilty by Judge Genece Brinkley of illegally carrying a gun as well as drug charges related to that same arrest.
Mill spent eight months in prison and got five years probation. When Mills was released, he returned to music, dropping the platinum selling "Dreams and Nightmares" in 2012. [23:40:04] His career was taking off. But in 2014, Mill violated his probation when he traveled out of state for a performance. Judge Brinkley sent him back to prison for nearly five months. She also reinstated his probation conditions. Then in March 2017, Mill was arrested for a scuffle at the St. Louis Airport, and then again in August.
This time in New York, for popping wheelies on a dirt bike. The video posted to social media. Judge Brinkley cited a failed drug test and travel violations when she sent Mill back to jail for two to four years. The move went against the recommendations of the district attorney's office and Mill's probation officer and was called excessive by Mill supporters.
SHAWN "JAY-Z" CARTER, MEEK MILL SUPPORTER: He was on probation for 11 years.
ELAM (voice over): Mill is managed by Jay-Z's Roc Nation. The mogul telling CNN's Van Jones, the whole penal system needs to be reworked.
CARTER: This is not the first this happened. This is unfortunately in America. This happens with black and brown people way too often.
ELAM (voice over): But some argue the judge could have been harder on Mill earlier on.
BRYAN LENTZ, ATTORNEY: He could have very easily spent the past 10 years incarcerated, but he didn't. This is a person who was convicted of a serious offense and given every opportunity to succeed.
MILL: This is not fair.
ELAM (voice over): Yet celebrities continue to rally around Mill. Their collective thing (ph), keeping the legal system in the spotlight.
Stephanie Elam, CNN.
LEMON: Thanks, Stephanie. Joining me now on the phone from the state correctional institution in Chester, Pennsylvania is rapper Meek Mill. Meek, thank you so much. How are you doing?
MILL (via telephone): Hi, Don, what's up? How are you?
LEMON: Hey, I'm OK.
MILL: (INAUDIBLE) to be in jail.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, so I visited you in jail on Friday, last week, to talk to you about the case. Today the district attorney told the Philadelphia court that he supports a new trial for you because of
serious issues regarding the credibility of your arresting officer.
He also said that he supported bail for you, but you are still being denied bail, and you are now appealing to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court. What are you feeling tonight?
MILL (via telephone): I try the keep my spirits high. I'm not trying to get my hopes up from that courtroom right there. But I feel like I will be free one day because the D.A. making that statement basically says they know something is wrong here.
I don't think they are just saying that just to say it. They are saying it for a reason. And I think I will be able the get my chance pretty soon. My time will come.
LEMON: Do you think she should decide today because she put it off for 60 days, whether or not, she said she would reconsider the whole thing in 60 days? We are talking about Judge Genice Brinkley here.
MILL (via telephone): I thought that was a little crazy. I try not to do too much negative speaking on her because my life is in her hands. But I think people could see that was a little crazy. If the D.A. is offering that I could get a new trial, I think 60 days is a little outrageous. Eighty cases going in front of her on Friday and mine will be the only one that's going to be held in June.
LEMON: Do you think that since they have a new information and a new evidence, do you think that she is going to rule in your favor?
MILL (via telephone): I don't know. I don't think she is going to do anything in my favor personally. Haven't had anything done in my favor in that courtroom. My hopes are always down when it came to that courtroom. I was found guilty of pointing a gun at two cops at one time. I thought she would rule in my favor when she saw my face on the mugshot. My face was beaten.
LEMON: You are serving time for probation violations. You had a few of those going back to 2012. And while you told me you said you are not perfect, you don't think this punishment fits the crime, right?
MILL (via telephone): Hell, no, I'm not perfect. I didn't commit the crime. I didn't point a gun at two officers. (INAUDIBLE) black male point a gun at two officers in the middle full-blown (INAUDIBLE) like 98 percent. No. I think everybody knows that. All these young men getting killed for reaching for their cellphones.
(INAUDIBLE) I will be on the road to success. That was lucky enough. Do you think I'm lucky enough to point a gun at two or three officers at one time without being shot -- without a shot being fired at me? That's like almost impossible.
LEMON: Let's talk about what you have become the symbol for, really cause celeb because many celebrities and activists say that your situation highlights the problems with the criminal justice system and why it needs to be reformed in this country. Do you believe your case is representative of a bigger problem here?
MILL (via telephone): Yes, definitely. It's like even if I wasn't innocent of this case, this being on probation, 11 years so far. If I was (INAUDIBLE) they are talking about Starbucks, the black kids that got locked up. If I would have gotten locked up in Starbucks just for sitting in Starbucks by mistake and got a technical violation, legally a judge would be able to sentence me to two to four years, three to six years, five to 10 years just for having police contact.
[23:45:02] I don't think nobody should lose their freedom for not even committing crimes. I ain't -- I was locked up, I was found guilty of a crime I didn't commit in 2008 or '09. I'm in the state penitentiary right now still because of that case. And I have never been in trouble since 2009. And I'm going to face sentence (ph) right now.
A lot of people get locked up for technical violations and stuff like that and they lose their jobs and they lose their family. They lose months, years at a time over small mistakes not committing crimes. I don't think --
LEMON: Do you -- do you understand how big this cause has become, you know, just around the country and around the world? Do you understand that, being there in the penitentiary?
MILL (via telephone): Yes, I fully understand that. I can't get the full effect of it because I'm in prison. We only see the daylight when we walk outside. We don't get information when we talk on the phone or if we look at the news. I'm like in the middle of the war zone where you can't get the full effect.
LEMON: So what do you want people to know, Meek, especially young black men who may come into contact with the system? What do you want people to know about you and about how they should conduct themselves and what they should do? Anything you want to know.
MILL (via telephone): I want people to be careful. I want people to be careful especially young minorities. I call it a target practice. When you are already the target and you are in a high risk neighbor where people go to jail a lot, be careful how you move because you could be caught up in a situation like this where you could be 18 years old and you could suffer for it when you are 30 years old.
Luckily I am strong enough to overcome everything. I have been to jail three or four times over the same probation that I had been on for 11 years.
MILL (via telephone): I was strong enough to lose (INAUDIBLE) and get them back, strong enough to lose fans and get them back and keep them believing in me and stay on top of my game. So I would say be careful. And the most important thing I want to say is vote.
When it's time to vote for a governor, when it's time to vote for judges, D.A.s, vote. Let's vote for people that are into justice reform and helping the urban community because we are affected by it but we are not voting. We are not holding any political presence (ph).
LEMON: Meek Mill. Meek, thank you very much. I really appreciate your time, OK?
MILL (via telephone): All right. Thanks. I appreciate it.
LEMON: When we come back, Meek Mill's attorney weighs in. Joe Tacopina is next.
[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Big development in the case of rapper Meek Mill who is serving time in Pennsylvania in a Pennsylvania prison for parole violations. You just heard my conversation with him from prison. Now, I want to bring in his defense attorney and that's Joe Tacopina.
Joe, appreciate you joining us. In hearing this morning, the D.A. supported a new trial. The judge is declining to listen to the argument about releasing Meek Mill on bail and set the next hearing for June. What do you think of that? What's his next step?
JOE TACOPINA, ATTORNEY FOR MEEK MILL: It is the most outrageous ruling in this entire case. And there have been some outrageous rulings since day one by this judge. Today takes the cake. I mean what happens was a watershed moment in Meek Mill's litigation.
The district attorney in unbelievable statement today said that they agree that Meek Mill's original conviction is constitutionally infirm and will be overturned. They agreed that it should be overturned and thrown out completely.
Meaning, all this probation, all the time he did in jail was for nothing, OK? Since 2005, the district attorney, the former district attorney who is now in federal prison, had information that this corrupt police, Officer Graham, was corrupt and was jury (ph) when he testified. And therefore, wasn't someone that could rely and wasn't trustworthy. That was never revealed to the defense.
And also, there are 80 other cases where this cop has caused convictions to be called into questioned. All of those cases are going before the chief judge on Friday, Don, all of them. And the district attorney will make the same motions. That's happening in three days.
TACOPINA: Meek's case got put over by this judge until June 14th or June 18th, 60 more days. That is one thing. First of all, understand this, there is no need for a hearing on June 18th. A hearing is required when two sides disagreed and the court needs to settle the dispute. In this case, there was no disagreement between the parties.
LEMON: OK, Joe.
TACOPINA: They both agree. OK, they both agree. Here is what's the most outrageous part of it. She wouldn't hear us on bail.
LEMON: I got to get this -- I got to get this in for the sake of time. By the way, we read those statements about the police. We contacted police. There was no comment. And you claim that the judge is taking a personal interest in the case. She nor the court (ph) are commenting on this. I spoke with her lawyer though last week about the allegations that she treats Meek Mill differently. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): What is your response to people who say she unfairly targets him because he is a famous rapper?
CHUCK PERUTO, ATTORNEY FOR JUDGE GENICE BRINKLEY: Well, then she unfairly targets everyone because she is consistent across the board with all of her probationers. I'm not saying she's easy, she's tough. But some judges are tough. That doesn't mean she's doing anything improper.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What do you think of that? This also rests on her shoulder but on her.
LEMON: What do you think of that, what he said?
TACOPINA: It is ridiculous. The conduct (ph) in this case by this judge, the condition she put on him, the fact that she extended his probation to 10 years.
She showed up at a homeless shelter where he was doing community service to monitor his community service personally. No judge in history of America has ever gone to a homeless shelter to watch probationer do community service. She did it.
There are many instances and requests she made that were inappropriate. Things that have happened in the courtroom. The record (INAUDIBLE) with instances over the years where she has acted inappropriately. But today was the one that you don't need to look any further in today's transcript to understand what she did and how outrageous it was.
Every other case before one judge, she won't let this case go. She's holding on to this case. And she would not even consider bail when the inevitable is happening. He's going to have his conviction overturned. He will be unconvicted of everything. But she still wants him to stay in jail for 60 more days --
LEMON: Joe --
TACOPINA: -- on top of the five months she already has him in jail for.
LEMON: I got 20 seconds left. I want you --
TACOPINA: Life is on the line, Don.
[23:55:00] LEMON: Yes. I think this is important. What happens if people who are not famous, who may not be rappers, I mean he's getting -- he's got a go of it, a high-profile lawyer like yourself -- with high-profile lawyer representing him. What happens to them, quickly if you will?
TACOPINA: Well, they get chewed up by the system, quite frankly. That's something that's very important to Meek and something he said again today to me is that, Joe, if I did this time to make a flashlight be turned onto this system and all its corruption, all the problems inside of it, and the need for reform, then my time was well worth it. That's what he hopes for.
LEMON: Joe Tacopina, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much, sir.
TACOPINA: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.
[24:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)