Return to Transcripts main page


Longtime Trump Lawyer Warns President That Cohen Could Flip; What The President Said About North Korea And Russia. Aired 11-12m ET

Aired April 18, 2018 - 23:00   ET



[23:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT HOST: Goldberg says he warned Trump that Cohen could flip on him, even suggesting that Cohen might be wearing a wire. We're going to have more on that in just a moment. Plus, listen to what the president says tonight about sanctions on Russia.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We'll put sanctions as soon as they very much deserve it.


LEMON: But it's hard to square that with the president's claim that he is tough on Russia.


TRUMP: There has been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump.


LEMON: I want to get right to our breaking news tonight and that's on Michael Cohen. Joining me now is reporter Michael Rothfeld, who is covering the story for the Wall Street Journal, and he joins me via Skype. Michael, thank you so much for joining us this evening.

So let's talk about your reporting, that one of the president's longtime legal advisers, Jay Goldberg, warning him about Michael Cohen, that he could flip. What else could you tell us about that warning?

MICHAEL ROTHFELD, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Basically he said that in his long experience as a criminal defense attorney and a prosecutor that essentially someone can say, you know, I'm going to stand by you, I'm never going to crack.

But when a family man like Michael Cohen and he's facing the prospect of criminal charges, time in jail, he's got kids at home, you know, that he's almost certainly, as Jay Goldberg says, is going to flip and turn on the president. So he said, you just have to be very careful. You may trust this guy but, you know, in my experience, he's going to crack. Even mob figures crack when they're under.

LEMON: Interesting. So Michael, tell our audience more about Jay Goldberg because -- I mean this is someone who has been a key figure in President Trump's personal life.

ROTHFELD: That's right. He has 50 years of legal experience both as a prosecutor on the federal level. As as a criminal defense attorney, he has defended mob figures. He did, as you said, two of Donald Trump's divorces. And, you know, basically has just a wealth of legal experience. He's in his mid-80s now.

And so Donald Trump likes to consult people in this life from the past when he's seeking advice about he should do in a situation. Right now, he's kind of gone through a number of different lawyers and he's facing some serious questions after this raid of Michael Cohen's apartment, his hotel room and his office last week.

LEMON: Yes. And Michael, he also warned the president against sitting for an interview with Robert Mueller. What was his reasoning?

ROTHFELD: Basically he said, you know, you may think you're going to be able to tell the truth and you'll be fine, but it will be a trap, so you never should give an interview because you just never know even if you tell the truth what kind of trap you're going to walk into.

He also advised the president to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein --


ROTHFELD: -- and look for someone more loyal. He said -- you know, the president was mostly quiet. The president listened. He did respond, you know, I think Michael Cohen is very strong and -- but essentially that is what Jay Goldberg told him.

LEMON: So did Jay Goldberg mention how amenable the president was to his advice? I mean, does it sound like he is taking this warning seriously?

ROTHFELD: The president didn't give a lot of response. Mr. Goldberg also spoke to Ty Cobb who's leading the president's legal team and, you know, they told us today that, you know, the president called Mr. Goldberg as a courtesy and that he had passed along Mr. Goldberg's advice to his legal team.

Mr. Goldberg also recommended another lawyer, Fred Hafetz, who is also a New York criminal defense attorney, former prosecutor to be on the legal team, but Mr. Hafetz was not interested in that and so, you know, it's unclear how seriously -- he actually reportedly called Michael Cohen the same day as he spoke to Mr. Goldberg.

So, you know, if that call happened afterward, then, you know, clearly he was not listening, you know, if Jay Goldberg told him don't talk to Michael Cohen because he might be wearing a wire.

LEMON: Interesting. Michael Rothfeld, thank you, of the Wall Street Journal, appreciate your time.


LEMON: By the way, that was a very good Skype connection, better than most. I want to bring in now CNN law enforcement analyst Jonathan Wackrow, also CNN legal analyst Page Pate, and Areva Martin, she is the author of "Make It Rain." OK, let's discuss this. Page, who typically flips? What kind of client?

PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, that's a great question, Don. I would disagree with the people who say that everybody flips. I mean I've been representing people in federal criminal cases for 24 years now, and not everybody flips.

There are a lot of people who were willing to go ahead, go to trial. If they're not guilty, great. If they're guilty, they'll go ahead and serve their time.

[23:05:02] They don't want to turn on someone else either for personal reasons or because the benefits are not that great. I mean, Michael Cohen would really have to get a sweet deal I think for him to be willing to turn on the president when the president has really been his livelihood for so many years.

So I think it's going to take more than just, you know, we'll go easy on you or we'll give you a few years off. I don't think it's that clear at all.

LEMON: You think Trump will actually pardon Cohen to avoid all this?

PATE: I absolutely do. And I think the New York attorney general is so concerned about that that he has gone to the governor to try to seek some protection. Because New York like other states, not all states but some states, will also give protection to someone who's received a federal pardon from state charges as well.

So I think that is definitely a possibility if Trump is really concerned that Cohen is going to cooperate against him. He would end it right when he's charged. He's not going to wait for a conviction, not going to wait for the opportunity for him to cooperate. Go ahead and stop it now.

And I am certain that there's some sort of message being sent to Cohen either directly or indirectly that that's going to be the deal.

LEMON: Areva, you agree with Jay Goldberg? You think Michael Cohen will flip?

AREVA MARTIN, AUTHOR, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Clearly none of us know exactly what Michael Cohen is going to do. We're not inside his head. You know, we don't know what advice he's getting from --

LEMON: And we're assuming that there's something to flip on.

MARTIN: That's the point I was about to make, Don. All of this assumes that the president has done something that he doesn't want brought out into the light, that he has done something that he believes or someone believes is criminal. And that we know to flip someone, you have to be able to give the prosecutors some information that's going to be valuable to the prosecutors.

So if it's just general information, the prosecutors aren't going to give Michael Cohen a sweet deal if he doesn't have any valuable information to provide them with. So this conversation about would Michael Cohen flip or not really needs to be about what is it that Donald Trump has done that Michael Cohen knows about that could be used as leverage to get him to disclose to the federal prosecutors?

I think that is the real issue here. Has Donald Trump engaged in criminal activity that Michael Cohen knows about that was the subject of the raids that the FBI engaged or that they conducted on his office or his home?

LEMON: I think it's interesting that this attorney is giving him advice about, you know, be careful, he's going it flip or what have you because if you're the attorney for the president, Jonathan, and from your past dealings, you know that this guy is above board and he's done things, you know, within the law, you wouldn't have to say that. You'd say, hey, you have nothing to hide. So, do it, talk to whoever you want to.

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think that the president is trying to reach out to get any bit of advice that he can in a pressure cooker situation. Look at what this Mueller investigation has done.

It's created this absolute paranoia to everybody that's involved, with the president reaching out. Now we're talking about Michael Cohen wearing a body wire to record the president --

LEMON: Would that ever get by the secret service?

WACKROW: It depends. I'll be honest with you, it depends on what type of access level that the staff is granting to Michael Cohen. But I think if I'm on the Mueller investigation, I'm an investigator on that team, what am I trying to get by listening into that conversation? Am I trying to pick up like some sort of spontaneous utterance by the president?

Listen, if there is a there there in this investigation, they're going to find it other ways. The president is not going to admit it verbally to Michael Cohen that he did something illegal or anything like that. So, I think that Mueller is running a very systematic investigation to either prove or disprove what he's supposed to be doing.

LEMON: Right.

WACKROW: But to your question, can someone walk into the White House with a wire on? No, they can't.


WACKROW: OK. The secret service has ways to protect that.

LEMON: And anyone who's been there knows you have to go through several layers of security, and you walk through metal detectors and put your stuff --

WACKROW: Exactly. So the advice that says Michael Cohen could wear it, it's speculation, but it's not pragmatic.

LEMON: So, Page, do you get the sense that there is an assumption as we have been talking that Michael Cohen has committed some crime on behalf of the president? I mean, how do you view what's happening here?

PATE: You know, Don, it seems crazy, but I cannot imagine why the president would be responding the way he is to this development if he didn't have something to hide. I mean he sends his lawyers down to court to try to prevent the government from even seeing anything that might have some connection to him in Michael Cohen's files that were seized by the government.

And he's also reaching out to long time lawyers who have represented him in the past, showing the type of concern that you would expect from someone who has something to hide.

LEMON: You think it's over past business dealings, maybe? The way he handled his real estate businesses?

PATE: I mean, that doesn't make the most sense, because I think since he's become president, it's unlikely that he has done anything with Michael Cohen to create some criminal exposure.

[23:10:04] But there was no way that Donald Trump or Michael Cohen had any idea several years ago that they would be under this type of microscope from the U.S. attorney's office. So that seems to be the most likely possibility.

LEMON: Areva, that's your red line, remember?

MARTIN: To that point that Page is making about the president taking these extraordinary efforts to try to prevent this information from becoming public, he's doing the same thing in the civil lawsuit involving Stormy Daniels. He hired counsel in that lawsuit to join into the action to prevent Stormy Daniels from telling her story.

So, again, the president is engaging in conduct that suggests that he is guilty of something. We don't know what it is. The information has not been disclosed to the public. But someone who has nothing to hide doesn't engage in the kind of conduct that he's engaging in with respect to this criminal investigation of Michael Cohen and the civil lawsuit involving Stormy Daniels.

LEMON: If Cohen, Jonathan, decides he wants to record future phone conversations, any way to protect the president against that? Yes, don't talk to him. WACKROW: Yes, that's it.


LEMON: Probably the best way.


WACKROW: It comes down to basics of communication security. I mean watch what you say, operational security. You can have a conversation with Michael Cohen as much as you want. You don't know if he has a speakerphone on his ends, whether or not he's recording it with an iPhone. So, electronic surveillance takes a lot of different means and it's very difficult to protect end point conversations.

LEMON: Let's talk, Page, a little bit more about Jay Goldberg. Did he violate attorney-client privilege by disclosing this or any ethical guidelines or not because he is no longer actively engaged as his lawyer?

PATE: Don, it goes back to the question of whether or not he thought he was giving Donald Trump legal advice on that phone call. I mean, it sounds to me like that's exactly what he was doing. But if Trump then shared that advice with another lawyer, that would still be protected. Attorney-client communication.

So he must have had the approval of the White House before he released that, because otherwise, yes, I think he would be violating attorney- client privilege.

LEMON: The key factor here is what the feds already have on Michael Cohen, because they clearly had enough evidence to get a search warrant for multiple raids. That's not an easy task, Areva.

MARTIN: No, not at all. We know an affidavit had to be submitted to a magistrate judge and they had to meet this extremely high bar to establish before that magistrate the probability, the high probability that crimes have been committed by Michael Cohen in order to cart out those 10 boxes that we know were taken from his office and to get the hard drive and electronic devices that were taken, that electronic information.

So something -- Michael Cohen is in a lot of trouble, no doubt about that. He's under federal investigation and it's not something you can take lightly. And I think the advice to Jay Goldberg to Donald Trump is sound advice.

I don't think that Donald Trump should assume that anyone is going to go to jail for perhaps 10 years or more because of crimes that he may have been involved in. I know he talked about this loyalty pledge. I know he says he will take a bullet for the president.

But this is man that has a family. And I actually know friends in New York who have seen Michael Cohen out with his kids. And they talk about how dedicated he appears to be to his children. So, as a person who has a family, I can't imagine talking to my spouse about going to jail to protect someone else and raising your child or your children as a single parent. So there are a lot of considerations that will come into play --

LEMON: Well, I know --

MARTIN: -- as Michael Cohen makes any kind of decision.

LEMON: I know for a fact that he is concerned about -- the biggest thing weighing on him is his family right now. You're agreeing with Areva when she said that, Jonathan, that he is in a lot of trouble.

WACKROW: Yes, I think he's in a lot of trouble. Here's why. The FBI, the investigators, they're not on a fishing expedition here. They're not just picking somebody at random saying, we're just going to go raid this office, raid this apartment, these offices just to see what we can see.

This is spear fishing. They know exactly what they wanted to find. They know exactly the evidence that they thought was there and they're sifting through that. What exactly is there, you know, time will tell. But again, I think he is in a lot of trouble. I mean, just think about the process here.

You know, agents of the FBI had to sit in front of a magistrate and they had to swear to certain facts that they know to get that search warrant.


WACKROW: You know, that's not a fishing expedition.

LEMON: All right. Jonathan, Areva, Page, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

When we come back, in the midst of all our breaking new about Donald Trump and Michael Cohen, the president also had a lot to say tonight about Russia, about sanctions, and about Kim Jong-un. We're going to get Fareed Zakaria to weigh in. That's next.


LEMON: President Trump insisting again tonight that he has been tougher than anyone else on Russia, but the facts don't exactly bear that out. Let's bring in Fareed Zakaria, the host of "Fareed Zakaria GPS." Good to see you. It has been a while since you've been here.

I know you don't like the glasses, so I'm going to take them off just for you. I can't see you.



LEMON: I actually can see better with them, but just for you. Listen, not much has happened since you've been here, right?

ZAKARIA: Not much has happened. It's the usual Trump circus. We've got, you know, a few (INAUDIBLE) tweets but nothing more than that.

LEMON: So the president held a joint press conference tonight with the prime minister of Japan and right at the end, he says this about Russia. Watch this.


TRUMP: There has been nobody tougher on Russia than President Donald Trump. Between building up the military, between creating tremendous vast amounts of oil, we raised billions and billions of dollars extra in NATO.

We had a very, very severe -- we were talking about it a little while -- fight in Syria recently, a month ago between our troops and Russian troops. And that's very sad. But many people died in that fight. There has been nobody tougher than me.


LEMON: Fareed, he keeps saying that, but his actions don't really bear that out because we learned just today from the administration that there won't be any additional sanctions on Russia.

ZAKARIA: You know, the odd thing about Trump is that what he really is on Russia is totally erratic. You don't have a strategy towards Russia.

[23:19:58] It would be one thing if there were a strategy that said, look, we are going to try to get on with Russia and here's the strategy and here's what we're going to do and we want these deliverables. That's not it. On Mondays, he listens to James Mattis and does a bunch of things that are anti-Russian.

On Tuesday, he decides he doesn't want to do that for God knows what reason. On Wednesday, he watches Nikki Haley talk about sanctions and decides that's not what I'm going to do. On Thursday, he decides no, I'm going to actually be tougher. So, it's totally incomprehensible.

I can tell you having traveled around the world a little bit in the last few months, that is the most difficult thing for countries around the world to understand. Countries around the world understand America is so powerful. They will accommodate themselves to any American strategy.

But what they can't understand is this kind bizarre -- it's constantly shifting. One day, Nikki Haley is speaking for Trump, the other day she's not. So, I think part of the problem is he boxed himself into a corner on Russia because he was unable to mouth the simple truth that Russia interfered with our elections.


ZAKARIA: And therefore, they need to be penalized. And so everything after that has been a kind of weird compensation because of that absence.

LEMON: He can't admit that because he thinks in some way he's admitting that they helped him and that was the reason he became president.

ZAKARIA: I think that's exactly right, that somehow -- you could write the speech, Don. It would be so easy to say this is not about me, this is what the Russians did, this is why it's bad. If I benefited, you know, it's bad. He would actually seem a statesman. He would seem larger than himself. He'd be taking on the cause of the country, not himself.

But for some reason he just can't do it, and that has boxed him in, where he doesn't -- clearly there's a part of him that wants to have some kind of (INAUDIBLE) with Russia, a very big part of him. He's always said nice things about Putin.

He can't even move in that direction because he knows everyone will think it's because Putin has something on him. But then he can't go in the other direction either. And so what we have is this bizarre schizophrenia.

LEMON: Because he talks about maximum pressure on North Korea and unbelievably powerful sanctions on North Korea, when it comes to that maximum pressure campaign that he thinks is so effective, he can't find himself, bring himself to do it with sanctions on Russia.

ZAKARIA: He's never been able to really understand that Russia is in many ways the principle kind of spoiler in the international system. The Russians are the ones who are trying to destabilize Europe and Ukraine. Trying to destabilize the Middle East through Syria. Trying to destabilize the international norms around human right. Trying to destabilize western democracy.

You know, this is not -- I think this is something we can soberly understand and do something about. But it seems as if Trump doesn't seem to understand that. There's a part of him that doesn't quite get that. And this is not just true about Russia.

He admires Putin because he's a tough guy. He admires Duterte in the Philippines because he's a tough guy. He admires Xi because he has become president for life. He doesn't seem to understand that being the tough guy and being, you know, that's not the same as having interests and values that are compatible with what the United States wants and what the west (ph) wants.

LEMON: It reminds of the book, I don't know, "Power Versus Force". You rather be powerful than forceful, right?

ZAKARIA: And particularly rather than be kind of influential and respected. I mean, there's something about him that -- James Comey has taken a lot of flack for making the reference to organized crime. I think the two elements that are true is there's enormous emphasis on loyalty and there's enormous emphasis on power.

LEMON: Yes. ZAKARIA: Those two elements in the Trump circle do seem very -- very resonant.

LEMON: Can we talk North Korea now? Because here's what he had to say about that.


TRUMP: If we don't think it's going to be successful, Mark, we won't have it. We won't have it. If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go. If the meeting when I'm there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.

President Moon of South Korea was very generous when he said if it weren't for Donald Trump, the Olympics would have been a total failure. It was my involvement and the involvement of our great country that made the Olympics a very successful Olympics.



LEMON: That was my favorite line. Without me, the Olympics --

ZAKARIA: If not for Donald Trump, the Olympics would have been a failure.


ZAKARIA: Any American president who has personally taken credit for the success of the Olympics.

LEMON: Now one has.

[23:25:00] So let's talk about -- he talked about Mike Pompeo, the secret meeting there. But the question is, and you know he has the summit. Denuclearization, is that a reality?

ZAKARIA: The Trump administration and Trump give them a lot of credit for trying, for exploring these issues is important. I think it's important to understand that so far the North Koreans have really been getting everything they wanted without having to concede anything.

All they have said is that they're willing to talk about denuclearization. And because of this, they have gotten a meeting with the South Korean president, a meeting with the American president, the prospect of the end of hostilities with South Korea, the prospect of the end of hostilities with America and the recognition of North Korea.

What do the North Koreans mean by denuclearization? Historically, maybe it's changed. But historically, what they have meant and they've been very consistent about this is, they say we are talking about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, by which we mean first, the United States has to withdraw it's nuclear guarantee for South Korea. It has to withdraw its troops in South Korea. It has to change its alliance which defends -- which assures South Korea of defense. Because all of that is basically in their view a nuclear threat to North Korea. When you do that, maybe we'll get rid of our nukes.


ZAKARIA: Now, that's a very different -- I hope somebody has briefed Donald Trump that when North Korea talks about denuclearization, this is what they mean. They're not just talking about getting rid of their nukes. They're talking about kicking the United States out of South Korea entirely. And if you do that, maybe we'll get rid of our nukes.

LEMON: Fareed Zakaria, thank you. Are we good now?


ZAKARIA: I still like it without the glasses.

LEMON: I know. He says you're too handsome for those glasses and I appreciate that. Thank you. Thank you, Fareed. Don't miss "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sunday at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

When we come back, the president says the House Intelligence Committee cleared him of collusion with Russia, but really the Republicans on the committee just shutdown their investigation. I'm going to ask a ranking member, Congressman Adam Schiff, if he thinks there's evidence of collusion. That's next.


DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT HOST: President Trump in his joint news conference tonight with Japan's prime minister repeating his assertions about the ongoing Russia investigation, insisting over and over again there was no collusion.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There was no collusion, and that's been so found as you know by the House Intelligence Committee. There's no collusion. There was no collusion with Russia other than by the Democrats or as I call them the obstructionists because they truly are obstructionists. So, we are giving tremendous amounts of paper --


LEMON: I want to bring in now Congressman Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, good evening. Thank you for coming on. The president once again says there's no collusion.

First, there are multiple investigations that are still going on. And secondly, your Republican colleague shutdown the House Intelligence Committee's investigation. Is that the conclusion you arrived at? REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Certainly not. The president said tonight a lot of things about the Russia investigation that simply weren't true, beginning with his mantra of no collusion, no collusion, no collusion.

We have certainly seen evidence of collusion in the Russian secret meeting with George Papadopoulos, where they informed him that they had stolen Clinton e-mails. They previewed the dissemination of those e-mails in the meeting they arranged at Trump Tower with the promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton. The campaign's willingness to accept that help and shortly thereafter the Russians unloading stolen e-mails to WikiLeaks for their dissemination.

So there is certainly evidence of collusion. Whether it rises to level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a conspiracy to defraud the United States, Bob Mueller will have to decide. But the president, Don, also said that the intelligence committee had reached a conclusion. We haven't.

The Republicans decided to abandon the investigation, even when we hadn't interviewed several key witnesses, hadn't subpoenaed any number of documents we needed, and that's hardly conclusive of the president's case.

The president today also in Mar-a-Lago made the claim that he's been fully cooperative and has never invoked privilege or withheld documents. In fact, it pertains to our investigation they have done that repeatedly. Steve Bannon testified that he was instructed by the White House not to answer our questions about time in the White House, the transition or even most questions thereafter.

And when he was subpoenaed, he would only answer 25 questions that were written out for him by the White House, all of which had a one word answer, and that was no. So, time after time, witnesses refused to answer questions.

They did so because they either invoked privilege, were instructed by the White House not to answer, or didn't answer because they wanted to preserve the White House's ability in the future to invoke privilege.

So the president's statement representation that they've been fully cooperative at least as far as our committee is concerned is completely incorrect.

LEMON: The president was asked again if he was planning to fire Robert Mueller and Deputy Rod Rosenstein. Here's what he said.


TRUMP: They've been saying I'm going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months and they're still here.


LEMON: Does that give you much reassurance? SCHIFF: No, it certainly doesn't. And of course the president contradicts himself all the time. I remember just a few weeks ago, he was attacking Maggie Haberman and The New York Times saying, they're suggesting that I'm unhappy with my lawyer Dowd, et cetera, et cetera, and then of course Dowd is pushed out within a week or two thereafter. So no, I don't have any confidence. The president apparently reportedly tried to fire Mueller once before.

[23:34:57] He was prepared to fire him the second time in December, when he thought that Mueller had subpoenaed the records of Deutsche Bank, something I think the special counsel will need to do if he hasn't done it already.

And I think Congress is completely abdicating its responsibility by not taking up bipartisan legislation to protect Bob Mueller.

LEMON: Yes. What represented, you know -- Trump advisers were saying that corruption investigation into Michael Cohen and the material seized at his office pose a bigger threat to the president than the Mueller investigation. What do you think about that?

SCHIFF: Look, it's certainly possible. None of us know what Michael Cohen has in his possession or what was obtained in those searches. But he is the fixer. He's likely to know a lot of what concerns the president, and it certainly would account for the incredible reaction from the president to the searches.

I will say this, that it's an extraordinary step to do a search of a lawyer's residence, of his office, let alone his hotel. And I'm confident that the Department of Justice would have dotted every I and crossed ever T.

They would have wanted to make sure they were doing doing everything by the book because this wasn't just any lawyer. This was the president's lawyer, and they would have known the sensitivity of this.

LEMON: The president claims that his administration had turned over 1.4 million documents to the special counsel. Does that number seem right to you? How many of those documents did you have access to on the House Intelligence Committee, and is that number right?

SCHIFF: I don't know if that number is right. And of course it's not the volume of documents that you produce. It's whether you're producing the documents that are subpoenaed, are requested, the documents that are most important to the committee or the special counsel.

In this case, when we wanted to subpoena the administration, Republicans were unwilling to do it. I will give you a perfect illustration. Twice, Mike Conaway and I wrote to the White House demanding any tapes or written records of conversations the president had with James Comey. And twice the White House refused.

And the second time we asked, we said, hey, if you don't give us an answer, if you don't respond, we'll have to consider compelling you with a subpoena. Well, they didn't respond. And nonetheless, Republicans backed down. This was true with witness after witness and document request after document request.

LEMON: Yes. So the president's pardon of Scooter Libby, congressman, has inspired you to propose new legislation. What exactly will it do?

SCHIFF: What it will do is say that in the event the president pardons anyone in an investigation in which the president is a witness, a subject or the target, those investigative files will all be turned over to the Congress. The Congress ought to know whether the president is using the pardon power to obstruct justice.

The American people have a right to know. I think it is clearly constitutional. It doesn't prohibit him from granting a pardon, even a pardon he shouldn't grant, but it does say that we will be able to at least find out whether the president is using this power to shield himself from liability.

LEMON: It offers transparency at the very least.

SCHIFF: Absolutely.

LEMON: Thank you, congressman. I appreciate your time.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: James Comey sits down with Jake Tapper live on "The Lead" tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. You don't want to miss that.

When we come back, the president blasting what he calls breeding in sanctuary cities. Does he know how offensive that is?


LEMON: President Trump tweeted something today that has a lot of people up in arms. I know what are the odds, right??

The president lashing out at California Governor Jerry Brown saying, there is a revolution going on in California, so many sanctuary areas want out of this ridiculous crime infested and breeding concept. Jerry Brown is trying to back out of the national guard at the border, but the people of the state are not happy. Want security and safety now.

Breeding. It's a loaded term to say. Joining me now, let's discuss this, CNN political commentators Maria Cardona, Tara Setmayer, and Scott Jennings. Maria, what do you think the president means by when he says the word breeding or breeding concept?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We know what he means. And I think that he knows exactly what he's saying. When he talks about breeding and sanctuary cities, we know he's talking about immigrants.

And we know that it's not just a loaded word, it's a racist word. And he's using it to rile up his anti-immigrant base who he knows this is political crack for, and this is something that he does when he knows that he is in political trouble.

He's still not been able to get out of the very low points that he is in terms of his ratings. And going into the mid-term elections, he does know that he's in political trouble especially in places like California.

Everybody keeps talking about a big blue wave that's coming. And the only thing that he does when he's up against a political wall like that is that he uses -- it's not even a dog whistle at this point, it's a megaphone.

LEMON: Yes. OK. All right.

CARDONA: Very clear, what he's trying to do.

LEMON: So, Tara, breeding is a term that we hear referring to usually horses or dogs or animals, right? So what do you think of him using that term to describe migrants coming to America?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I agree with Maria on that aspect, that the terminology is so inappropriate. We do have a problem, an immigration problem in this country. The immigration system is broken. California is a state that is bankrupted by the cost of illegal immigration among other things across California like $24 billion a year.

One in eight children in school in California either has at least one illegal immigrant parent. I mean, it's a problem. It's a legitimate policy problem. But when President Trump uses loaded terms like that, it totally shuts down the discussion. I mean, you know, I find the breeding comment so derogatory, even though there is a valid policy debate concerning birth tourism.

[23:45:02] It happens with Chinese immigrants that pay between $40,000 and $80,000 to come to places in California. It's like a high tech way of bringing immigrants in, which is legal. But the part that's illegal is when they lie about why they are coming to the United States. They come here to have babies there and when they have kids here they can stay.

LEMON: I want to get Scott in.

SETMAYER: Just really to finish that point because it's important for people to know what is happening in California, and that's happening with Chinese immigrants. It has been going on for a long time.

LEMON: I know. But I've got to get Scott in.

SETMAYER: And it's also happening with Russians.

LEMON: OK. Scott, sitting by patiently.

SETMAYER: In California.

LEMON: OK. So, Scott, I want to get your response.


LEMON: Before that, Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was asked about the tweet today. Declined to answer, saying that she couldn't speak to a particular meaning of that tweet. But can you go on?

JENNINGS: Well, I actually stared at this tweet for a long time today because I didn't quite understand the syntax. I looked at it for a long time. And then later tonight I think I know what he was trying to say. I'm just going to do some boring sentence diagramming. I think he was trying to say --

LEMON: You're going to be the Trump whisperer, the tweet whisper.

JENNINGS: I think what he was saying were sanctuary cities are crime infested and that they breed crime. The concept that sanctuary cities breed more criminal activity. I think that's what he was trying to say.

I don't speak to the president about his tweets, of course, but to me, I think people are jumping on the term. But I believe looking at the syntax, I thin that's what he was trying to say.

LEMON: OK, so then, let me ask you --

JENNINGS: And I think that's what the point he was making.

LEMON: I appreciate you're saying that. Why not just say that, though, Scott?

JENNINGS: I think he did. I think if you look at the syntax of a lot of things he says both out loud and in Twitter, sometimes it doesn't come out in the way you or I might say it out loud. But I think if you were to say it out, like, crime infested and breeding concept, I think if you take out the infested, he was saying sanctuary cities are a crime breeding concept.

And so I know this is like super boring to try to diagram the sentence here. We will all go back to fight grade. We should discuss it some point. But I think that is what he was trying to do.

LEMON: I love sentence diagram. That was a lot better than that to me. Stand by. We'll get to that after the break. We've got more to discuss. We'll be right back.


LEMON: We are back. Some in the White House say they are calling Fox News's Sean Hannity the unofficial chief of staff for President Trump. That is according to The Washington Post. Back with me are Maria Cardona, Tara Setmayer, and Scott Jennings.

OK, Scott, you first. One presidential adviser told The Washington Post that Hannity and Trump speak so much that Hannity, quote, basically has a desk in the place. He is not just filling conversations between Hannity and Trump. I want you take a listen to see if you can spot a pattern here.


TRUMP: The reason why Democrats only talk about the totally made up Russia story is because they have no message. No agenda.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS: This is more proof, the Democratic Party is in total disarray. They have no agenda.

TRUMP: I think -- Do you want to know the truth? I think it is a disgrace. What's going on in this country, I think it's a disgrace.

HANNITY: The highly classified FISA abuse memo has now been released and it is absolutely shocking. It is stunning.

TRUMP: A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves.

HANNITY: A lot of people broke the law. It is more than a shame. It is so deep in its corruption.


LEMON: Do you think they coordinate in their talking point?


CARDONA: No, it is a coincidence.

LEMON: Scott?

JENNINGS: I do. Of course, I do. They clearly talk all the time. And I think the president -- I mean if we know one thing about the president's core operating philosophy is that it revolves around messaging and communications. I think he views Sean Hannity as the best messaging and communications person to speak to his side of the political ball these days.

So I am not surprised they talk. I am not surprised they spend time together. And I am not surprised they feed off each other when it come to messaging about the issues that the president thinks has delivered him to the White House.

I read the story tonight in Washington Post. None of it surprise me. Frankly, I think if anybody is paying attention to the president and Fox News feeding off each other since he took office, none of this should come as a surprise.

LEMON: Thank you, Scott. I appreciate your honesty. So, Maria, do you think this situation is unique to Trump or other presidents have been -- close figures -- have they, you know, coordinated with close figures in the media? Are this close to figures in the media?

CARDONA: Well, I think that Trump does it in a way that is probably a lot more in your face and obvious than other presidents have done it. When I read the story, I think not so much chief of staff is what Sean Hannity is doing. I think there is a reason why Donald Trump has not filled the role of director of communications.

LEMON: He's the communications director? Oh, my God!

CARDONA: Yes! LEMON: Go ahead.

CARDONA: Exactly.

LEMON: Great mind.


CARDONA: That is what Sean Hannity is. He is a spokesperson for the president. He probably comes up with the talking point. He coordinates them with the president. And he has the biggest megaphone and maybe even bigger than the White House podium itself in terms of getting to the audience that he wants to get to and that he is interested in getting to. It is Sean Hannity. It has worked well for him.

LEMON: All right. I got to get Tara. Tara, not much time, but go on. Do you think it is dangerous to have one of the most watched cable networks in the country especially being an extension of the president's communication team?

SETMAYER: I think for this administration, it has been sure, because what they are doing over there, they turned it into a state propaganda channel. And if it has been the other way around, we went after MSNBC for being left wing and pro-Obama. But now it is OK.

I mean Sean Hannity is the highest paid government employee by de facto. He makes $29 million a year at Fox. He is using his platform to push out things that are (INAUDIBLE) the Trump administration that are just not either true or unfactual. That is a part that I have a problem with.

If it was really about policies and trying to, quote, set the record straight, fine. But every night you turn it on, it is a conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton or something else and trying to kind of gas-like people into not holding Trump accountable for what's going on.

[23:54:57] So no wonder Fox News has got rid of the fair and balance motto they used to have because there is no way they can live up to that now with what Sean Hannity does every night. I don't think that's great.

Ronald Reagan had the communications strategy talking to local news and that was something that bypass George Bush. Kind of bypass the bias in the mainstream media and do local news and you have kind of off the record goggles and things. And then Obama would do the same.


SETMAYER: But this takes that to a whole new level.

LEMON: OK. Scott, I got 30 seconds left. It is said that Hannity keeps him connected to his base. Do you agree with that?

JENNINGS: If you look objectively look at Sean Hannity's ratings and you look at the number of Republicans and conservatives that watch your show, he's probably one of the people most uniquely qualified to keep the president connected to his base.

Trump's voters watch Sean Hannity. I think that's why the president stays close to Hannity because of Hannity's talking up and speaking up for the president then he knows his base is going to stay with him.

LEMON: Great -- I got to go. I'm out of time. Go.

CARDONA: They share talking points and now we also know they share a lawyer.

LEMON: That was shady.


LEMON: Look at that.

CARDONA: It is true though.


LEMON: Oh, God! I was going to say that.

CARDONA: I like it!


LEMON: Maria.

CARDONA: There you go.


LEMON: Have fun.

CARDONA: I am a Scorpio, Don.

LEMON: Wherever you are going tonight, have fun for all of us.


LEMON: Thank you, guys. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.