Return to Transcripts main page


Jeff Sessions to Resign if Trump Fires Rosenstein; Trump Adds High-Caliber People in His Team; Cohen May Flip Due to Pressure; "Wall Street Journal:" Pompeo Told By North Korea That Summit With Trump Could Be Paired With Release Of Three Detained U.S. Citizens; Reporter Claims Trump Posed As John Barron And Lied About Wealth To Get On Forbes 400 List. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 20, 2018 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. -We have breaking news obviously because there always is. We're leaning that Attorney General Jeff Sessions who's been on thin ice ever since he recused himself from the Russia investigation recently said he might be forced to leave if President Trump fires Rod Rosenstein.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that Sessions wasn't making a threat. But the protest -- it just sort of reignites a resignation, I should say, of the attorney general would not be a good look.

And we have some breaking news tonight on Trump's legal team. Sources telling us that the president himself pushed to bring us on Rudy Giuliani. Those sources says Trump demanded a big name to knock down reports of multiple legal A-listers turning him down. And now he's got a big name, but will that really help with the Mueller investigation?

One source says, the idea that Rudy Giuliani could bring the Mueller investigation to a quick end is, quote, "not serious thinking." But what may be the biggest question the Trump legal team is dealing with now, how long will Michael Cohen stay loyal?

The president's fixer has always been the loyalist of the loyal, but Roger Stone tells "The New York Times" this, quote, "Donald goes out of his way to treat him like garbage," end quote. And now the Times report that Trump's lawyers are resigned to the strong possibility that Cohen will flip.

The president may be wishing he'd been just a little bit nicer to Cohen. That, as we have news out of the Stormy Daniels lawsuit in California to tell you about. Lawyers for Michael Cohen want the case delayed, arguing that anything Cohen says could be used against him in a criminal investigation in New York. The judge saying he needs to hear from Cohen in his own words, if he wants to plead the fifth.

We're also learning tonight that Stormy Daniels' former attorney is cooperating with investigators in New York.

And we have breaking news that could impact a coming historic meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. Pyongyang announcing a freeze on nuclear tests. A source tells CNN Kim Jong-un wants to open up North Korea and normalize relations with other countries.

But it's important to note, the North Korean leader didn't say anything about giving up nukes. We're going to break down what it all means, really means for relations between Washington and Pyongyang.

We have a lot to get to, but I want to bring in now CNN Political Analyst, Josh Dawsey, the White House reporter for "The Washington Post." He joins us via phone. So, good evening to you. Let's talk about this Jeff Sessions thing, if you will. Talk to me about your reporting. What exactly did Attorney General Jeff Sessions tell the White House?

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So our reporting indicates, Don, that about a week ago, when there was chatter that the president might fire Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General who is overseeing the special counsel probe to the president and his campaign and his administration, that Jeff Sessions made a call to chief White House lawyer Don McGahn, and in the call, he said, if you fire Rod Rosenstein, I may be forced to resign, too. I'm very opposed to this move, and I think it would be bad for the country.

And he expressed some frustration on how Rod Rosenstein had been treated by the president. Obviously, we have not seen Mr. Rosenstein fired I think people have stabilize it would have been this week. But it's a pretty unusual and bold move for the attorney general to reach out to the White House and say, hey, if you make this move, I may be leaving too.

LEMON: Yes. Do you think, Josh, this was in some way a warning of a, you know what storm if Trump pulled the trigger on axing Rosenstein?

DAWSEY: Well, it's a good question. I think it's hard to predict anything until things actually happen and you have people pulling out, but there's certainly a lot of consternation at DOJ with the president. His musings about firing Rosenstein, his several attempts to oust Jeff Sessions. He's telling the A.P. one of the resignation. Now that's part of the obstruction inquiry by the special counsel.

And he's very frustrated with the FBI and DOJ. It's been a recurring the constant theme of this presidency. That the president is not simpatico with DOJ and FBI. He wants them to more bid as well. One interesting is that they were willing to provide.

And you know, more than maybe anything else, according to our reporting, Don, the president expresses lots of frustration with the United States legal system and its leaders who he think he should be investigating and charging Andrew McCabe and Jim Comey and Hillary Clinton and thinks this investigation into him is a witch hunt. And he sometimes does not seem to understand that he cannot interfere in these investigations and I think he's really frustrated.

LEMON: Yes. How was the warning received by the White House, Josh?

DAWSEY: Well, Don McGahn expressed to the attorney general, according to our reporting that, that there was no immediate plan to fire Rod Rosenstein and we should not be concerned about that. We had reported earlier in the week, and I think CNN had as well, that the president was musing about firing Rosenstein, was telling advisers and confidants around him that he was really tired of the deputy attorney general, mainly because Rod Rosenstein proved the raid of Michael Cohen's home and office and hotel room.

And the president have long dislike the law enforcement official, but that raid was intensely personal to the president. The man as he probably seen in this investigation when he learned that Michael Cohen's property was raided. And he really lashed out at Rod Rosenstein. And I think Jeff Sessions was feeling the reverberations of that and realizing how perilous a situation had come to be and wanted to intervene.

[22:04:58] LEMON: Josh Dawsey with "The Washington Post." Thank you, sir. I appreciate your reporting.

DAWSEY: Hope that was helpful.

LEMON: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much. I want to bring in now CNN Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez, CNN Political Analysts, Ryan Lizza, and April Ryan.

Good evening to all of you. Before I ask you your take on this, Evan, why do you think we're hearing about this now? Who is this a message to, do you think?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, you know, I think the White House certainly wants to try to control some of this out there, because I think they know that there's a lot of concern at the Justice Department about the fact that the president has been musing about firing not only Rod Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions, but also just trying to figure out to control, as Josh was just saying, exactly what's happening with all of these investigations.

But Don, I got to tell you, this is one of those bye, Felicia moments, where you've got to think that if the attorney -- if the attorney general is literally thinking that he can threaten to resign if he gets rid of Rod Rosenstein, you've got to think, you know, the president is going to be like, what, really? It's going to be that easy to get rid of all of these people?

Because I mean, he's been talking about getting rid of not only Rod Rosenstein, he's also been talking about firing Jeff Sessions and getting rid of both at the same time.

Obviously, people around him keep telling him that that's not a good idea. But it makes you kind of scratch your head and think, what's going on here?

LEMON: Yes, that -- bye, Felicia, I can't believe you said that. But I think that would outrage -- I know, it's Friday, right? TGIF.

PEREZ: Right.

LEMON: That would sort of outweigh the Saturday night massacre that happened under Nixon I think.

PEREZ: No kidding.

LEMON: But listen, I want to get your take on this reporting. Remember, we saw Jeff Sessions dine with Rod Rosenstein, this back in February. We got the picture up now. The solicitor general was there, too. Is this like the latest sign -- all of this the latest sign of solidarity, do you think?

PEREZ: Yes, I do think that the Justice Department, I think Sessions really does want to portray and tell the White House, look, we want to make sure that this doesn't happen because this would be bad for the president.

I think Jeff Sessions has gone out of his way to try to show to the president, look, we're trying to get your priorities passed here, immigration -- Jeff Sessions, for all of the pressure that he's been under, has been a very consequential attorney general.


LEMON: Yes. He's passing all the policies. He's doing a lot of work.

PEREZ: He's doing -- he's doing all the work quietly, exactly.


PEREZ: And even though he's not touching Russia, because he can't, he's recused, but he's doing a lot of the things that frankly the president really wants and the base really wants. So, I think, you know, against the president's own, you know, judgment, frankly--


PEREZ: -- Jeff Sessions is trying to save him from himself.

LEMON: Yes. So, Ryan, the president, as we know, and then we've discussed it here, publicly humiliated Jeff Sessions in the past, and he sees Sessions as the reason why there's a special counsel in the first place. Listen to this and then we'll talk.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sessions should have never recused himself. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.

I'm very disappointed with the Attorney General. But we will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell.


LEMON: So, Ryan, a similar question. I mean, Evan raised the point here. Who says the president wouldn't mind the outcome of Sessions leaving? Evan called it bye, Felicia, but he might not mind. RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that is possible. I mean, he

might want a sort of clean sweep. I think part of the interesting thing of this story is not just that Sessions did this, but that it leaked out. Either perhaps by McGahn, the White House counsel, who's worried about the president firing Rosenstein and remember, McGahn was one asked to do some firing, clean house at the Justice Department and he refused to do it, right?

Or if it was Sessions people and Justice Department sources that leaked this out because they wanted to send a message, both to President Trump and, I think, to Congress to say, you know, hold firm. Don't let the president cross this line.

And while I think it's true I understand what you're saying, you know, he doesn't -- the president doesn't like Sessions, he might want him gone. On the other hand, the lesson from the Comey firing was that politically, that was the most catastrophic, dumbest thing he's done from a personnel point of view as president.

And I think most Republicans who actually have Trump's interests in mind, in mind think that it would be similarly bone-headed for him to make any moves like this. So I feel like this is Sessions saying, don't cross this line, you know, President Trump. It won't actually help you anyway.

And you know, we've been down -- how many times we've been through this now, right? Trump likes to test the waters, he likes to see what happens and float this idea of cleaning house at the Justice Department and then he gets enough pushback from either Sessions or Congress and he doesn't actually do it.

LEMON: Yes. Or somebody leaks the information. April, is Rod Rosenstein still on the potential chopping block, because it certainly seems like the president's ire right now is focused on the Cohen matter, more anything else. He seems to be, I think he's apoplectic about it.

[22:10:02] APRIL RYAN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he's still on the chopping block. Rosenstein has been on the chopping block for a long time. And the president has been afraid to pull the trigger because so many people are talking about obstruction of justice and a possible constitutional crisis if he does this.

And this would be, the president's bye, Phillip, moment, I would think. The president doesn't like it. And even going to Jeff Sessions, if this happens, for Jeff Sessions to come out and say this, to give this a warning shot to the White House, this is saying something. Jeff Sessions has said, look, I'm telling you I'm not going, even though there were times I've shown I'm bringing up Jennifer Holliday from Dream Girls, you know, that scenario. But the president, you know, it's Friday.

LEMON: This is Friday. Gee, it's been a long week.

RYAN: But, no, but Jeff Sessions has -- Jeff Sessions and the president have had this back and forth for months. And Jeff Sessions, even in the rough times has said, look, I'm not going. And Republicans, Senate Republicans have stood behind Jeff Sessions. And if Rosenstein is fired and Jeff Sessions leaves, Republicans are going to be forced to do some things that they don't want. And they have warned this president not to do anything to Sessions.

And if he fires Rosenstein and Sessions leaves, this signals something to Senate Republicans. Just Republicans on the Hill. And you have to remember, there is a fine line for this White House and any other White House, you're not supposed to put your hand in the pot at the U.S. Department of justice.

LEMON: Well, that was -- that was then. This is now. And that could all change.

RYAN: It's still, supposedly, the fact. It's still policy.

LEMON: Yes, OK. So, Evan, you have some new reporting tonight that on how exactly fresh firepower got added to Trump's legal team. I'm talking about Rudy Giuliani. Trump personally pushed for him, right?

PEREZ: Yes, he did. He pushed not only for Giuliani, but he also was very concerned about this idea that, you know, the headlines have been coming out not only here from CNN, "The New York Times," "The Washington Post" have been reporting that you've got multiple big-name lawyers, well-known, white collar lawyers who have turned down an effort to join the president's legal team.

And so, you know, some negative headlines. And I think the president was very concerned about that. He was disturbed by that. And he wanted Rudy on his team.

But let me tell you, I think even more significant than Rudy, who's, you know, Rudy Giuliani, who's obviously a big name, but hiring Jane and Marty Raskin down in Miami, this is a serious couple of lawyers down there who are serious lawyers, well-known.

I've talked to a bunch of white-collar lawyers here in Washington who say, these are people who are going to make a difference for the president's legal team. And so, Rudy Giuliani is going to be the face, he's going to go interact with Robert Mueller's team.

And, you know, Rudy is telling people, Rudy Giuliani is telling people, certainly, that, you know, the fact that he used to work with Robert Mueller, he knows Robert Mueller very well, and he feels that his presence and his negotiating skills are going to help bring this home, down the home stretch.

Look, I'm not sure if he's being a little too optimistic, but I do think that overshadowing the hiring of the Raskins, again, this husband and wife team down in Miami, who are going to spend a lot more time in Washington, and are going to be working on this case, I think it's going to make a difference, perhaps even more than the big, shiny nameplate of Rudy Giuliani.

LEMON: So sort of backing up the reporting that you just mentioned. Politico is reporting that Giuliani is planning to meet with Mueller soon--

PEREZ: Right.

LEMON: -- they work together when Giuliani was mayor and Mueller was FBI director.. But I'm just wondering where do the discussions stand for whether Trump sits for an interview with Mueller's team? Where does that stand?

PEREZ: Look, it still stands at a standstill. When John Dowd abruptly left the legal team it was kind of left in disarray, and I think that's where it still is. I think they're expecting to try to set up a meeting very, very soon, perhaps in the next week or so.

But I will tell you that I think the odds against the president sitting down for an interview are still very much against it. I don't -- I cannot see the Raskins or even Rudy Giuliani coming in and thinking that this seems like a good idea. Don, I just don't -- nobody really thinks this is a good idea. So, I think even though these discussions are still ongoing, I'm told, today I talked about to people who said, look, we haven't closed the book on this. I think that it's pretty much not going to happen.

LEMON: All right. Bye, Evan. Not, Felicia, Evan, thank you. We're done. Ryan and April are going to come back. Stick around. Have a great weekend, Evan.

When we come back, the latest sign that Trump's fixer might be about to flip on President Trump is a man who always said he would take a bullet for Trump changing his mind.


LEMON: Michael Cohen has said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump. There are signs he might not feel that way anymore.

2So, back with me, Ryan Lizza and April Ryan as I promise. And joining us now, CNN White House Reporter, Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, welcome to the panel. Good evening to you. Listen, we always hear about Michael Cohen being Trump's longtime fixer, very loyal. We heard Cohen gush over the president over and over again. Watch this and then we'll talk.



MICHAEL COHEN, DONALD TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORRNEY: In all fairness, who hasn't said something or done something that they regret, simply trying to protect somebody that they care about? And I dare about Mr. Trump.

But one thing Donald Trump is, he's a compassionate man.

He's a man of great intellect, great intuition, and great abilities.

Mr. Trump's memory is fantastic and I've never come across a situation where Mr. Trump has said something that's not accurate.

Mr. Trump truly cares about America. He loves this country.

He's an amazing negotiator. Maybe the best ever in the history of this world.


LEMON: OK, so that's a lot of praise, but "The New York Times" is reporting that Trump hasn't always treated his long-term attorney so nicely. Roger Stone is telling "The New York Times," "Donald goes out of his way to treat him like garbage." Kaitlan, it's a tortured relationship, is it?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It does seem to be that way, Don. I think that's what's so smart about this New York Times reporting, is because we've been saying so much, how close he and Michael Cohen truly are, how Cohen is like an attack dog for the president, clearly very loyal.

But that relationship hasn't always been 50/50. "The New York Times" says the president has been very dismissive of Cohen, insulting, even threatening to fire him at some points. And it seems as though their entire relationship, President Trump has had leverage over Michael Cohen, but now the tables could be turning in that.

[22:20:00] And that is what the president's legal team and his advisers fear here. Because, of course, they know that Michael Cohen knows a lot about the president. He's being investigated for his business dealings, a lot of which have to do with President Trump, of course.

And this is someone who has a wife, he has two kids, he's facing a serious amount of legal fees, potentially criminal charges, and they think it's not out of that far of a possibility that he could turn on the president and reveal what he knows about the president, which from what we've gathered, is quite a lot here, Don.

LEMON: Wow. So, Ryan, it's out west today. The whole Stormy Daniels moved out west. Cohen's attorney argue that they want the Stormy Daniels case delayed until they can sort through what the feds have on him following the raids of his home, his hotel room, and his office. I mean, he's under a tremendous amount of pressure. Do you think he's going to flip, Ryan?

LIZZA: Yes, and what happened in that courtroom suggests that he believes he's likely to be indicted. And I think anyone that's been paying attention to what's happening in New York thinks that that is quite likely, that the--


LEMON: But his attorneys have said -- they said that because that's what Michael Avenatti has said. And so they were using that as, you know, sort of their--


LIZZA: Yes. If your -- if your office, home, and all of your electronic devices are the subject of a search warrant, where the prosecutors don't even go and get a subpoena and in the court documents, as you've seen, they referenced multiple crimes, that he's a target of an investigation, he is very, very likely to be indicted, right?

I don't think there's anyone who's looked at the case, who doesn't think that.

So he's in some -- he's going to be in some serious legal jeopardy. And as you've heard a lot of other lawyers who have been on the airwaves say, you know, someone like that facing a serious prison term, loyalty to President Trump might not look like such a good deal anymore, especially when it's always been one way.

I will say this about "The New York Times" report. The way they describe Trump and Cohen's relationship is basically how you could describe almost every relationship between Trump and a senior person who's worked for him, either in the Trump organization or the White House. That's how he treats people. Loyalty is always a one-way street.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, and I -- getting back to Michael Cohen, all the legal experts, I always like to say, innocent until proven guilty--

LIZZA: Absolutely.

LEMON: -- but everyone feels that if things go the way they normally go, then he's in a lot of trouble.

LIZZA: I'm not saying he's guilty. I'm saying, with the evidence so far, it seems likely he's going to be indicted.

LEMON: Saying the same thing. OK, so here we go. Listen, April, the comment by Roger Stone, again, is that message -- is that a warning to the president through the media?

RYAN: It could be a warning, but it could be also just reality. And the irony right now is Stormy Daniels is here in Baltimore, performing. She's had three days and here--


LEMON: Are you going?

LIZZA: So what are you doing on TV?

LIZZA: I know. I was trying to go. People chickened out on me. I wanted to go tonight, because I wanted to do research to find out what all the hype was about. And also, try to talk to her, as well. But I was not going to go by myself. So anyway, getting back to the issue--


LEMON: You said it's reality. Maybe it's just reality.

RYAN: When someone -- yes. In the president's circle, for the president's friends, close friends to say this to the media, it's sending shock waves and something that the president should take in. This is some serious stuff.

Michael Cohen, the reality he could actually do jail time for criminal charges with incriminating evidence of tapes, possibly. Wire fraud, bank fraud, and other items, we don't know. It's about the trail of money. This is big. And this is something that could really bring down this presidency. People don't believe it. But we've seen this before.


RYAN: We've seen this before in the last 20-some-odd years with Bill Clinton, Whitewater going down to Monica Lewinsky.


LEMON: Well, that--

RYAN: So for his friends to come out and make statements is huge.

LEMON: Yes. And that's what Stormy Daniels' attorney is predicting, that's his prediction. He's saying he believes it's going to take the president down or the president will resign, you know, that's him saying that.

So, Kaitlan, let's talk about this. Michael Cohen told himself that he is thinking about the impact of all of this on his family and he told me, himself, I should say, and the Times is reporting that Trump's lawyers and advisers that they resigned that there's a possibility that the Michael Cohen could ultimately cooperate with federal officials. Is there any wonder why President Trump is consumed by this?

COLLINS: Well, you can see why the president is so consumed by it, because look at everything they took from not just Michael Cohen's office, but his home and his hotel room. They have a lot of information. Of course, we've reported that Michael Cohen is someone who's recorded a lot of his conversations. The president famously is not on e-mail, does not use that kind of technology.

But if Michael Cohen recorded a conversation he had with or about the president, that could be troublesome for him. And we've seen the president be more consumed by this than what he is with these revelations in the FBI director's -- with the former FBI director's book.

[22:25:03] And you can certainly see why. Michael Cohen is someone he has known for a long time.

And two things in that New York Times reporting that I would like to point out, is one, of course, the president, as we reported, called Michael Cohen in the days after they raided his office, his hotel, his home to check in, but Michael Cohen has apparently been telling allies and friends that he feels isolated and that they have not spoken lately.

And secondly, in that reporting is that Michael Cohen went up to Melania Trump at a Republican fund-raiser here at the Mar-a-Lago club in West Palm Beach -- or excuse me, in Palm Beach, Florida, and tried to apologize for that payment he made to Stormy Daniels to the tune of $130,000. But the Times doesn't know whether or not Melania Trump replied to that.

But, of course, Don, the question here, we all know that Michael Cohen is loyal to the president, but now the real question is just how long that loyalty is going to last.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, all. We're all very jealous of your short sleeves, Kaitlan, and the warm weather you have. It's 42 in New York City right now. So, thank you. Have a great weekend.

LIZZA: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, North Korea suspending nuclear and missile testing ahead of Kim Jong-un's summit with President Trump. The president is calling it very good news and big progress, but is this the big win it seems to be?


LEMON: Breaking news. North Korea's leader saying tonight that his nation no longer needs nuclear, or missile tests, and that he is shutting down a nuclear test site.

We're also learning tonight that Mike Pompeo was given assurances by North Korea that a summit with President Trump could be paired with the release of three detained U.S. citizens. That's according to the Wall Street Journal.

I want to bring in now CNN International Correspondent Will Ripley, and CNN Military Analyst, Major General James "Spider" Marks. Will, first, I want to get to you because you're one of the only U.S. reporters there in the region reporting.

And I want to talk about the reporting of CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is in the meeting with Trump and Kim, they would be paired -- possibly paired with the release of three Americans. What's your reaction? What do you know?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is something that we know that, you know, the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang has been working on for quite some time.

In fact, North Korea's Foreign Minister flew to Stockholm last month, which makes me think that there's a possibility that the summit been -- maybe they could hold it in Sweden if Kim Jong-un agrees to travel so far, because it would be kind of the ideal location to announce the release of these three Americans.

So we know that's in the works. Obviously, that's an easy win for President Trump to come away with, that he brought three Americans home, in addition to these concessions that North Korea has announce they are prepared to make about their nuclear program, closing the nuclear test site at Punggye-ri, and stopping their missile testing program, at least for now.

But we do need to point out, that these are while significant announcements, they're largely symbolic moves by Kim Jong-un at this point. He could easily resume operations at the nuclear test site, he could easily start launching missiles again if things don't go well.

He hasn't agreed to destroy any of his nuclear weapons, and frankly, the United States doesn't know where all of the nuclear stockpiles are hidden in North Korea.

So even if North Korea did say that they were going to denuclearize, that would be difficult to verify. Clearly, this is a very complicated situation. North Korea going into this well prepared, Don, and there's still a lot to work out.

LEMON: Let's slow down a little bit more, Will. North Korea says that they're shutting down their nuclear test site, freezing nuclear, and missile tests. That's major news. And again, they're not promising to get rid of any news, but what are your sources telling you?

RIPLEY: Well, what struck me when I heard this is that this was an announcement made to the North Korean people. And this would mark, if this comes to fruition, really a dramatic cultural shift in North Korea.

I've been to Pyongyang many times, and you're surrounded by propaganda celebrating Kim Jong-un's nuclear program. He has built up his image, and much of his legitimacy over more than six years in power by bolstering his nation's nuclear force. He had it written into the constitution.

So now he's saying that the nuclear program is completed, and he doesn't need to do anymore testing, but he is not saying he is going to give up the nuclear program. That would come at a considerably higher price than what North Korea agreed back in 1994, when they negotiated the great frame work with the Clinton administration.

Back then it was two light water reactor, which were never built, and heavy fuel shipments from the United States, which were often late. North Korea at the same time was secretly enriching uranium, and you know, backing up its own backup plan if the agreement fell apart, which it did.

So will this time be different? Well, I did speak with a North Korean source shortly after this news broke, who said that he believes Kim Jong-un is committed to this path of denuclearization.

And is going to now try to fulfill his promise to improve the economic living conditions of the people in North Korea, and if that actually does happen, it certainly would be very good news for the 25 million people in that country, many of whom are completely impoverished. LEMON: That could be different for a combination of things, which we

will discuss. And, General, that's when I want to bring you in now, because the President tweeted this, he said, North Korea has agreed to suspend all nuclear test, and close up a major test site. This is a very good news for North Korea and the world, big progress. Look forward to our summit. So given what you know about North Korea's past practices, are you skeptical? What do you think?

JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Very skeptical. I think Will just nailed it completely. Look, the agreed framework of 1994 was inked in place, and then the breakout -- nuclear breakout was 2006.

In other words, it was an unsuccessful attempt to try to reign in this capability of -- or at least emerging capability that North Korea wanted to achieve. They have achieved that, and they have accelerated beyond all expectations.

I would say we were caught by surprise, the intelligence community, the international agreements, as well as the United States Intelligence Community were caught by surprise in terms of the development that North Korea has been able to achieve both nuclear in terms of missile capabilities.

So, Don, I think what's going to happen is, there is clearly an overarching effort being made right now, and we all understand that any solution in Pyongyang, in terms of its nuclear capability, and any solution on the Peninsula goes through Beijing.


MARKS: And Kim's visit to Xi a few weeks ago clearly indicates that he's pulling the strings, he's the puppet master here, and I'm sure it was a bit of an ass chewing, where he said, look, you've got to stop being as provocative as you are.

[22:35:07] We've got your back. You cannot afford to try to instigate, and start something, and be too cute by all of this because you're going to end up doing this on your own. You're going to end up losing it all, and we, China, will suffer if we lose this regime buffer.

LEMON: You made Will Ripley blush on the air. I think this is the first time I've seen him smile giving a report about North Korea. But I digress. Will, I'll get back to you momentarily.

MARKS: Well, Will's on it. I mean, who else has been to Pyongyang as many times as Will? I think it's a wonderful source. We just don't want you to go native.

LEMON: Right. In their announcement, General, North Korea said, we will never see nuclear weapons unless there is a threat, or provocation to our country. Does that change the threat North Korea poses to the U.S.?

MARKS: No, I've got to -- I've got to tell you. Capabilities speak more -- much more loudly than anything else. North Korea has a nuclear capability. They have a developed missile capability.

They've indicated on two separate launches that they have an ICBM capability. And that might even be irrelevant, because of the threat that a short range missile poses both to South Korea and Japan, two strongest allies that we have in the region.

And frankly, they might feel left out, going forward, if the development going forward with the President is to try to do something with the ICBM capabilities, and Japan sits there, and says, wait a minute, what about these short-range missiles. We're still underneath that umbrella.

LEMON: Yes. Will, I was talking to Fareed Zakaria -- was that last night? One night this week. It's been such a long week. And he said that denuclearization might mean something different to North Korea than it means to the United States.

There's a big caveat in these up coming talks, when Kim Jong-un says denuclearization, does he mean -- does that mean something different to U.S. and North Korea?

RIPLEY: Absolutely. I mean, the United States would like to see North Korea just destroy all of its nuclear weapons, destroy its nuclear facilities. I don't believe that North Korea would do that. I think they are always going to keep their leverage.

They're always going to have a backup plan. But have said that they're no longer insisting that all American forces be withdrawn from the Korean Peninsula. It doesn't mean though that they don't want the American nuclear umbrella that protects South Korea and Japan to go away.

It's very complicated what denuclearization actually means. A lot of analyst I have been speaking with, and diplomats as well, say that perhaps an ideal outcome would be controlling and containing North Korea's nuclear program, and keeping them as a suspected, but undeclared nuclear power.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, Will. Thank you, General. Have great weekend.

RIPLEY: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: I appreciate you, guys. When we come back, the reporter who claims Donald Trump took on a fake persona, and lied to inflate his wealth, and land him a spot on the Forbes richest list.


LEMON: You've got to see this story. A former reporter for Forbes Magazine claims that Donald Trump used a phony name years ago, pretended to be an executive with the Trump Organization, who was speaking for Trump, and then lied about his wealth to land a spot on the iconic Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans. Senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt has the story.





BARRON: John Barron.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's back, John Barron, the name first heard in the 1980s who spoke for Donald Trump, sounded like Donald Trump, but was never seen or met, and yet the President denies that he, in fact, is Barron.

BARRON: Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump, you know, because you have down Fred Trump.

MARQUARDT: In this audio recording just released from 1984, the so- called Barron is claiming to a reporter that the assets of Trump's wealthy father, Fred, are in fact, Donald's.

GREENBERG: OK, and when you say, you know, in excess of 90 percent of the ownership?

BARRON: I would say in excess of 90. In fact, well, it's actually really closer to even the ultimate, but in excess of 90 percent, yes.

MARQUARDT: So, he says, Trump deserves a higher spot on the new Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans.

BARRON: And it's been pretty well consolidated, OK? So that's one point that you can...

GREENBERG: Now, is that including the residential units?

BARRON: Yes, everything's been consolidated, basically now, and over the last couple of years, they've been working on it.

MARQUARDT: As Forbes was launching its now-famous list of super wealthy millionaires and billionaires, Trump, speaking as himself, was in regular contact with Forbes reporter, Jonathan Greenberg, who is researching the candidates. Trump said his family was worth some $900 million, and repeatedly argued that he was wealthier than others.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then you mentioned other names and there's no contest. I mean, there's no contest.

MARQUARDT: Forbes didn't take Trump at his words, instead, first listing him at $100 million. Nothing to sniff at, but far lower than what he was claiming. Later, Greenberg says he discovered that Trump was worth less than $5 million at the time. Well below the list's threshold.

GREENBERG: He is a consummate conman. And he figured out what he had to do in order to deceive me, and get on to that list. And he did it very well. And he maintained that persona of just sort of talking about his assets without any sense of debt, and lying about it.

MARQUARDT: Greenberg says he's only reporting all of this now because he just recently came across these tapes from the mid-'80s.

GREENBERG: I guess I am something of a pack rat, and I thought, I would like to see those tapes of that -- you know, the Forbes 400, and the rich list, and looked in, and I was like, wait a minute, this is John Barron, and when I heard them, I thought, these things were much better-crafted lies than I thought.

MARQUARDT: Greenberg accuses Trump of repeatedly inflating his wealthy by dramatically exaggerating the value, and scale of his assets.

GREENBERG: He lied about, there were 25,000 apartments in Brooklyn, and Queens. There were 8,000 apartments in Brooklyn, and Queens. He lied about his father -- that owned all of his father's assets, and he borrowed against his father's assets.

MARQUARDT: Barron isn't the only alias that Trump is alleged to have used.



MARQUARDT: John Miller was another suspected pseudonym in calls to gossip reporters.

MILLER: By the way, I'm sort of new here. And I'm...

CARSWELL: What is your position there?

MILLER: Well, I'm sort of handling PR because he gets so much of it.

MARQUARDT: Confronted with the allegation during the 2016 campaign, Trump denied it.

[22:45:00] TRUMP: No, I don't think -- I don't know anything about it. You're telling me about it for the first time, and it doesn't sound like my voice at all. I have many, many people that are trying to imitate my voice, and you can imagine that, and this sounds like one of those scams.

MARQUARDT: But that same year, Trump did let it slip that he used aliases while doing business, including a familiar name.

TRUMP: I would never want to use my name, because I would have to pay more money for the land. If you are trying to buy land, you use different names, I have alias.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: What names did you use?

TRUMP: Well, I would use -- I actually used a name, Barron. MARQUARDT: The new audio clips, and Greenberg's detailed, and

scathing allegations tonight resurrecting the continuous questions over the President's casual relationship with the truth. Alex Marquardt, CNN, New York.


LEMON: That sounded exactly like him. Did he say it's not him? Oh, my gosh. When we come back, what all of this says about the President's personality, and how he's been conducting himself in office. We're going to talk to the man who interviewed John Barron.


LEMON: Back in his days as a New York real estate developer, Donald Trump reportedly used a phony name, and lied about his wealth to get on to the Forbes' list of the richest Americans. I want to bring in now Jonathan Greenberg.

[22:50:00] He is the reporter who talked with Trump, and he is now a contributing writer for "The Washington Post", and also Gwenda Blair. She is back with us. She has been on the show before. The author of The Trumps: Three Generations - "The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a President."

Good evening, I'm so glad to have both of you on. Jonathan, we're going to start with you because it's your reporting that we've talking about, a tape recording of Donald Trump pretending to be his own spokesperson John Barron, trying to convince, you know, Forbes 400 that he was wealthier -- far wealthier than he really was 30 years ago. You called him a consummate conman in your words, tell us why?

GREENBERG: Don, the greatest cons are those that you don't even know you're being conned. You're looking at a man who for 34 years thought that I had been a really good watchdog for the media in keeping Donald Trump's claims to be worth more than any other realtor on the -- any billionaire on the list down to $100 million.

And what I realized was the con was so -- it was so much of a pattern over 82, 83, 84 that he switched the guideposts. So I came in with the question, should he be on the Forbes 400 worth over $100 million too, how much more than a $100 million is he worth, and I didn't know it until I listened to the tapes, and found them a few months ago. That's a great con man.

LEMON: And fooling the world right now. So, listen, let's jump ahead, and I want to play what James Comey told "The New Yorker's" David Remnick last night about the President's behavior in office. Listen.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I think he has an emptiness inside of him, and a hunger for affirmation I've never seen in an adult. And I'm not saying that to be funny. I think that he lacks external reference points. Instead of calling

-- making hard decisions by calling upon a religious tradition, or logic, or tradition, or history, it's all what will fill this hole.


LEMON: I've heard that before, him say that. I forget whether it's Jake, or the View, or whatever it was. I mean, you -- look at your experience with John Barron, and with Comey -- I mean, what Comey is saying now three decades later. Do you think Comey is right?

GREENBERG: You know, I've interview thousands of people. I've been a journalist for 38 years now, Don. I have never met thousands of people, anyone as insecure as Donald Trump, and eager to impress.

Even when I was 24, the first time I interviewed him, I was like I can't believe how insecure that man is. Why would someone -- as I'm interviewing dozens of people, Don, why would someone take credit for what his father had done, and say that he had bought 80 percent of his father's apartments when it was so obvious it wasn't true.

LEMON: Interesting. Gwenda, you have been following the Trumps for year. Is this the way you see Donald Trump -- President Trump hungry for affirmation?

GWENDA BLAIR, AUTHOR, THE TRUMPS: THREE GENERATIONS OF BUILDERS AND A PRESIDENT: Absolutely. He's a conman, and he is a salesman. I think in these tapes, one of the interesting things was he's really good at figuring what you want to hear.

And he figured out what Jonathan wanted to hear -- what Jonathan was after was like figuring out the facts, and getting the story right, so when he twist things around, he said, you know, if you want to get it right -- I mean, if it's interesting to you, if that's important you, and he pulled you right in.

He's just like stuck out that worm on the end of the hook, and yanked. He's really good. By the way, his father did this. His father did this, yes.

LEMON: So the apple didn't fall far?

BLAIR: He didn't use Mr. Barron. He used Mr. Green. That's who he was when he called up reporters. Yes, he was Mr. Green. And Donald's sister told me that she and her husband, a lawyer named John Barry, they used to have a joke they were going to call Donald's office, and say there's a subpoena for John Barron, and see what happens.

LEMON: It reminds me, remember the old days that you have the record phones, and you put the handkerchief over, and you're going, hi, is your refrigerator running?


GREENBERG: Is Mr. Wall there?

LEMON: Is Mr. Wall there?


LEMON: It's so obvious it's him. I mean, there are so many examples to, guys -- Gwenda, this is for you. His need for affirmation, he's bragging about the crowd sizes, the audience sizes, insisting that he's among the top businessmen in the world.

Even that spectacle of his cabinet being pushed, remember they were forced to say all those flattering things about him around that table? Where does that come from? Does it come from his father?

BLAIR: He has to be a success. I mean, he has to define success. He has to constantly keep reinforcing that. If he says it, it has to be true, it has to be right, it has to be successful, you know. And any other possible, you know, way of thinking about anything can't get under that big pompadour, you can't let it in.

[22:55:03] LEMON: Wow. Jonathan, did you think he would be president after -- you know, I don't know, John Barron, or John Miller would be president either?

GREENBERG: It has shocked me, I mean how far he's come. What he did to journalists as a businessman, and to bank as a businessman, in a way, he's done by conning the American public. When he got elected, Don -- or as he was running, I said, he's the most successful conman in the history of the world.

And I just want to add Roy Cohn's role in there for you and Gwenda. You know, the Roy Cohn -- there's also a tape of Roy Cohn calling me in 1983, and re-collect that him calling me in 1982, so he learned -- part of what he learned was also from Roy Cohn.

Joe McCarthy's right hand man -- I have here a list of 500 people from the State Department who are communists. And Joe McCarthy got that from Roy Cohn, and Roy Cohn brought that to the gossip columnist about his enemies, and Donald Trump like watched him, and he was like, Roy is getting away.

So Roy Cohn called me to vouch for Donald Trump being having $500 million, and then $700 million of liquid asset, and he's looking at a piece of paper.

LEMON: Oh, my gosh.

GREENBERG: And there was that surreal moment in journalism, Don, that I think you should appreciate that I'm looking at a piece of paper that says Donald Trump has $700 million in liquid assets.

1and I am thinking -- and I'm like, can you send me the paper before I'll consider it, Mr. Cohn? No, you know I can't do that, John. You know, it's confidential. And I'm thinking here is the most notorious liar and fixer attorney in the history of this country saying take my word for it.

LEMON: Yes. Look, I've got to go. But I've got a new book for you. I mean, you should do it. I'm serious. And you could call it the Art of the Con. Go work on the cover there.

GREENBERG: Thank you, Don.

BLAIR: Good idea.

LEMON: All right, see you guys. We will be right back.

GREENBERG: OK. Thanks so much.