Return to Transcripts main page


WAPO: Sessions Considers Leaving If Trump Fired Rosenstein; Comey Memos; Showtime's "The Circus" Talks to Michael Avenatti; CNN: Bolton And Kudlow Bypassing Kelly; General Kelly is Trump's Equilibrium in the White House; DNC Sues Russia, Trump Campaign, and WikiLeaks; Protesting Gun Violence; CNN Hero. Aired 11-12mn ET

Aired April 20, 2018 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Don Lemon. Just a little bit past 11:00 here on the East Coast live with the breaking news for you. We're learning 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.

And we have some breaking news tonight that could impact the 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.

I want to bring in now a man who can talk about all of this, all of this issues and much, much more, Mr. Mark McKinnon, the executive producer of Showtime's "Time Circus" and a former advisor to George W. Bush and John McCain.

When he named a show that, I didn't think he would realized that would actually not even a (INAUDIBLE) circus, it would be --



MCKINNON: -- when David Nevins at Showtime first proposed the idea of "The Circus."

LEMON: So let's get -- we have a lot of ground --

MCKINNON: Yes, we do.

LEMON: (INAUDIBLE) behind you there. So let's talk about Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. The Washington Post is reporting that he told the White House that if the White House fires or the president fires Rod Rosenstein, he may go, too. What do you think? It's a chess move.

MCKINNON: I think it's a significant development. Sessions, for him to make a proactive call just suggests that he feels very strongly about it and that he was worried that it was going to happen. And I think he as attorney general and talks with a lot of Republican colleagues from the Senate, knows how those domino will fall if that happens. I think he felt that it was moving in that direction --

LEMON: Were you surprised?

MCKINNON: Yes, kind of. Yes, I was surprised. And I also think that it gives us a sense that maybe Sessions is more confident and secure than he thinks he is -- that we thought he was.

LEMON: North Korea now. CNN has -- you know, we're reporting that Pyongyang is saying they no longer need nuclear and missile tests.

MCKINNON: Big damn deal.


MCKINNON: Big damn deal. I mean this could be (INAUDIBLE) to China and it could be a legacy treatment.

LEMON: But they're not saying they want to give up nukes. They're just saying --

MCKINNON: Well, we'll see. Listen, they're talking and there's progress, and that's a lot more than we've had in a long time with them. I'm for it.

LEMON: Yes. Do you think this is going to happen? You're encouraged by it. Do you think this actual summit is going to happen?

MCKINNON: Yes. I think there's just going to be so much momentum on it now that I think it's going to happen. I mean, it's very hard to walk away diplomatically.

LEMON: Tell me, what is the move I guess to the get to the table or to get to some sort of negotiations, is it just him and Kim sitting there --

MCKINNON: Well, when you actually think about it, it's funny from a historical perspective we say this hasn't happened and that hasn't happened, but it's still North Korea. Even though they have nukes, this is a situation where he's going to meet with the president of the United States, the leader of the free world.

This is big deal for the ruler of North Korea, meeting with the president of the United States. So for him, it's a big deal. And I think in an odd way, in an unconventional way, that's the way he likes it. Maybe that's the reason it's happening. Trump's sort of chaos theory has worked with North Korea, the threats.

LEMON: Have you been sitting back watching the whole Comey, his tour, the publicity tour? MCKINNON: Not only I've been watching it, I work deep -- the title of our show this week is "Too Many Lawyers." And so what we wanted to do is take a really deep dive and also pull back the lens because people have heard so much and there's so many stories happening so fast that I think people are incredibly confused about what's happening.

LEMON: I want you to get to the list, because I have my list, too.


LEMON: I know that you have a list. But let's talk about this. How did you handle the memos? Do you think that because Republicans pushed hard for these memos to come out, and the general consensus from the public is like why are they pushing for these memos to come out? It doesn't paint the president in such a good light.

[23:05:00] I don't know if it shows collusion or any sort of conspiracy or anything, but obstruction --

MCKINNON: Well, I think actually it helps the president. The memos do in a way. In some ways with the book, but it shows in the memos, he says, for example, that Trump was pushing him to investigate the salacious details of the Russia thing. So it's a component of the Russia thing, but it is a Russian thing. You think if he was worried about Russian collusion, he wouldn't want Russia investigated at all.

LEMON: Was he pushing him to investigate or pushing him to just clear and say it's not true?

MCKINNON: Well, you got it one before the other.


MCKINNON: Usually --

LEMON: Yes. I don't know if he really wanted -- I think he just wanted to say, look, this is not true because he said, if my wife believes even one --

MCKINNON: The thing I feel from this week doing the deep dive is that the trajectory of the Mueller thing has kind of gone this way and the trajectory of the Cohen has gone the other way. It has gone up and the other has gone down.

LEMON: So you think it's about Cohen. You said that you think the book paints the president in a good light --

MCKINNON: Well, I think there's some stuff in the memo, but also the book. The thing that struck me was A, actually hard news has come out. I just expected more news from it, and it's more kind of gossip and, you know, psychoanalyzing the president.

But the one bit of news that came out that surprised me, and I'm going to try to characterize this somewhat accurately is that Comey from his own personal observations with the president and his dealings said he didn't believe that there's an obstruction in the case which doesn't mean there is (INAUDIBLE) components of it. But that kind of surprised me that he would say that or even felt that way.

LEMON: I think what he said was when I was there --


LEMON: -- I didn't see any evidence of that, but I'm not, you know, so far I'm not, you know --

MCKINNON: Yes, but given the interactions and things that happened with the president and loyalty pledge and all of that, I would have thought that he would have said, yes, I kind of felt like there was he was obstructing justice.

LEMON: I think what's interesting about to me about the memos is that it shows at least that Comey was consistent, but it also showed that he had said everything in the tour already.

MCKINNON: And the book.

LEMON: And the book.

MCKINNON: And his House testimony as well. So there wasn't a lot of new news in it, really.

LEMON: Do you think the White House is now (INAUDIBLE) we weathered that storm or --

MCKINNON: That was sort of the sense of the body language. I went to Mar-a-Lago and saw him there. And of course he was anxious to talk about North Korea as he should be, and of course the press asked about the Mueller investigation.

And this was -- just looking at his body language at Mar-a-Lago this week, he seemed more comfortable and less concerned about it. And I think that's kind of the advice he's getting obviously from his attorney general.

LEMON: He said they're still there. He didn't say I'm not going --


LEMON: -- big news.

MCKINNON: Yes. Again, just the body language. Just didn't seem as aggressive about that whole idea. So my sense is he's a little dialed down on that but maybe dialed up on Cohen.

LEMON: You thought Cohen -- you thought that was the biggest?

MCKINNON: Oh, yes.

LEMON: Because Stormy Daniels, it's moving full steam now. It's in California this week. And his lawyer is asking a judge to put the lawsuit on hold after the FBI raided his home and hotel room. But the judge is refusing to make a ruling until directly speaking to Cohen himself. You handled that right on your show, right? MCKINNON: Well, one of the things we did is we got inside the bubble with Michael Avenatti. In fact, my co-host John Heilemann on Monday when we had the big court scene here in New York, John was with him all day. He is with him in the car, with him writing his briefs. And we kind of shadowed him the whole day.

LEMON: Let's listen to him and then we'll talk.


JOHN HEILEMANN, NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, NBC NEWS AND MSNBC: So we're in the car headed down to downtown New York to go to the Michael Cohen hearing. Your client was is in courtroom today for what purpose?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: She feels very strongly about the way that Michael Cohen and the president treated her. She wants to send the right message to the people that have supported her over the last five or six weeks. But she is, you know, in this for the right reasons and she is in it for the wrong time (ph).

HEILEMANN: You guys have played this game in the media with great skill --

AVENATTI: No, no, no, we haven't played this game, John. We've haven't played this game. We played their game.



MCKINNON: The game.

LEMON: Tell me about this episode. Tell me what happens after that.

MCKINNON: Well, we just follow the ark through the week with Avenatti and also with all the other big time lawyers like Dershowitz and DiGenova.

And I got to talk to Sally Yates which was really interesting for me because we really haven't seen much of Sally Yates publicly, and she's an interesting character. For me, it was even more fun because I actually know her because I ran her husband's campaign for Congress in 1994.


MCKINNON: And I hadn't seen her since then. So it was kind of a reunion, too.

LEMON: That's a small world.

MCKINNON: Super small. I figured out that was Sally Yates, the attorney general was the same person that I was with in the campaign, eating popsicle with her kids. [23:10:00] LEMON: But don't you think -- don't you find Avenatti a fascinating character especially with what he's done? Is he beating Trump at his own game publicity and --

MCKINNON: He is a titanic match for the president, and he is right out of central casting. He's super creative. I mean he like Trump. He knows how to get the media's attention over and over again.

And he has -- well, the other thing is not only has he been creative strategically as we know with Monica Lewinsky and other cases like this, sometimes it's not where the investigation starts but it could be some minor thing like an illegal campaign contribution that ends up being the real problem that ends upturning the tide that ends up being the problem.

LEMON: He's sort of predicting it as well. Showtime.

MCKINNON: Showtime.

LEMON: "The Circus."

MCKINNON: Sunday night.

LEMON: Sunday night, 8:00. Thank you, sir.

MCKINNON: Thank you.

LEMON: Always a pleasure. When we come back, more news on Stormy Daniels. What her original attorney is telling investigators.


LEMON: We're learning tonight that Stormy Daniels's former attorney is cooperating with investigators in New York. We also learned that lawyers for Michael Cohen want the case delayed in California. CNN's Sara Sidner has more on that. Sarah?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, Judge James Otero held a no nonsense hearing in federal court questioning Michael Cohen's attorneys, saying there are plenty of holes in their argument to stay the case. Now Michael Cohen's attorneys have asked for a 90-day hold on the case because they are concerned that if he has to testify in the civil case against him, it could hurt him in the criminal case.


[23:15:12] SIDNER (voice over): Tonight Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, arguing in U.S. district court that his client's case should be allowed to proceed even as one defendant, President Trump's attorney Michael Cohen, is under criminal investigation.

AVENATTI: It's apparent to us that the court recognize, to quote the court, that there are gaping holes in the application by Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump to delay this matter.

SIDNER (voice over): The lawyer for Cohen says Daniels' case should be delayed, arguing that whatever Cohen says in the Daniels's proceedings could be used against him in the criminal investigation. Judge James Otero telling Cohen's attorney that Cohen needs to file his own declaration about his concern his Fifth Amendment rights could be compromised.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Will you file to protect his Fifth Amendment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not commenting.

SIDNER (voice over): Cohen's attorney did not make any comments to the press but agreed to file the declaration.

AVENATTI: I don't think that this could be overstated. We're talking about the personal counsel to the president of the United States who presumably knows where a lot of bodies are buried and it has come to point in time that it appears that he will plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. I think that is staggering turn of events.

SIDNER (voice over): FBI agents raided Cohen's home, hotel room and office last week. The search warrants specifically mentioned Cohen's 2016 payment with Daniels, according to Cohen's attorney. And sources say the FBI is also looking into an agreement between ex-Playboy playmate Karen McDougal and American Media Inc,, which prevented her from publicly discussing her alleged affair with President Trump.

And as for Stormy Daniels, she filed her lawsuit in March in an attempt to avoid a contract she signed days before the presidential election in which she agreed to stay quiet about her alleged 2006 affair with Trump. Daniels and Avenatti say the agreement should be nullified because Trump never signed the document.


SIDNER: The judge also questioned Stormy Daniels's attorney, Michael Avenatti, who has said that his client is still being threatened for speaking about Donald Trump. The judge saying, it doesn't seem like the threats have affected her very much.

She's already spoken to "60 Minutes" and she was recently on the view. We haven't heard though from Donald Trump's attorney who was in court but said nothing. We asked him if he had any comment, he said he did not. Don?

LEMON: Sara, thank you very much. I want to bring in our CNN legal analysts Mark Geragos and Areva Martin. She is the author of "Make It Rain." OK, so, you know the particulars of what happened today, right?


LEMON: Who won?

MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Actually you have to give Cohen credit to this extent. He didn't lose. When the judge tells you there's gaping holes and I expected that from Judge Otero, that doesn't give you a lot of comfort, but they live to fight another day.

Almost for the same reason the judge would in the southern district had said, bring Michael Cohen in here. It's the same thing. Lawyers can't just go in there and say, by the way, judge, I want to represent to you that we got to do A, B, C and D. You've got to have the client. The client has to assert something.

LEMON: So, it's a (INAUDIBLE). Is it --

GERAGOS: It's they live to fight another day, is the best way to put it.

LEMON: OK. Areva, what do you think?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think Michael Cohen went away feeling victorious as he should. This was an effort -- I'm sorry -- Stormy Daniels's attorney Michael Avenatti went away feeling victorious because Michael Cohen has been trying to delay this case for 90 days and he didn't get what he requested from the court.

And now he's got to file and sign a declaration saying that he believes that if he makes any statement in the civil case, he could incriminate himself. Basically as Trump has always said, if you take the Fifth Amendment, you're probably guilty of something.


GERAGOS: Legally, you cannot just say that I'm going to take the fifth. You have to actually do it. You have to do it in some proceeding and with a declaration. You just can't assert it. And so that's what they were trying to do. That doesn't work.

It's the same reason you can't just say there's attorney-client in there. You have to do things. I mean, this is not -- I know we're on TV talking about it but it's almost as if somebody is watching some bad law and order episode.

LEMON: It is, thank you.

GERAGOS: The caliber of lawyering just never ceases to amaze me in this.

LEMON: Go ahead, Areva.

MARTIN: But you know why, Mark? Nobody wants to file a public declaration saying that if they make a statement in a civil case, they could be subject to criminal prosecution. That's the last thing --

[23:20:06] GERAGOS: Areva, there was a moment today apparently as has been reported where the lawyer for Cohen said, I think in response to a judge's question about being under criminal investigation or being imminently subject to an indictment said, well, according to Mr. Avenatti. I mean that's never going to play.

LEMON: OK, let's get back on track here and quick answers if you can. Because you were saying that Michael Cohen is under a criminal investigation, still entangled in a civil suit involving Stormy Daniels. You said the two can --

GERAGOS: Absolutely have something to do with each other which is why I was saying before, why he filed this lawsuit is beyond me. It's never going to end well. When the FBI comes in and executes a search warrant, when you've been cooperating on a lawyer's office, that means only one thing. If that was a client of mine, I would tell you, it's 11:59 at midnight, you're going to get indicted.

LEMON: OK. Here's a tweet from Stormy Daniels' attorney today. Areva, you can weigh in on this. Always a bad sign when a judge tells you that your motion has gaping holes in it. As a judge told the attorneys for MC and DJT (ph) this a.m. I don't know why they continue to hide what they know about the FBI raids. Time to come clean and let the chips fall where they may. And used the hashtag Basta (ph).


LEMON: Go on. What do you think?

MARTIN: It's not a good day in court for Michael Cohen and not only did the judge say that. The judge also acknowledged that the high bar that had to be met in order for this magistrate judge to issue the search warrant. So even the civil court judge is acknowledging that there's probably going to be an indictment of Michael Cohen, and the judge said maybe we'll let the deposition go forward.

So not looking good for Michael Cohen who does not want to be subjected to any discovery. This judge is now seriously considering not only not delaying the civil case but perhaps giving Stormy Daniels's attorney what he wants, which is the opportunity to take the deposition, have Michael Cohen under oath answering questions.

GERAGOS: Well, you never want to be the one who files a case and you move it to federal court then you say OK, judge, now I want a time out. Federal judges are not inclined to do that. It's a simple procedural problem.

LEMON: You know Michael Cohen is loyal? That's his defining characteristic. That he is really loyal to the president. This is The New York Times's reporting. It said the president has a habit of treating Cohen poorly. Is President Trump taking his loyalty for granted, especially given the severity of this case with the charges that he could face?

GERAGOS: I think Rudy Giuliani if he is going to be able to do one thing or should do one thing as the lawyer now involved is to explain to him that his famous last words when someone says I'll never roll, I'll take a bullet from him. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that from clients and then the next thing you know they're telling me to run into the U.S. attorney and cooperate.

LEMON: Areva, also the --

MARTIN: It's hard to really characterize the kind of pressure that Michael Cohen is under, being squeezed by the feds, a raid of his office, a raid of his house and now a civil court judge saying, I may not delay your case, I may allow the party to depose you. That's a lot of pressure.

LEMON: The Washington Post is reporting, Areva, that the former attorney general -- the former attorney for Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, Keith Davidson, has been contacted by federal authorities investigating Cohen. The Post reports that Davidson is cooperating with authorities. What's this tell you about the scope of this investigation?

MARTIN: It tells us this investigation has a lot to do with those two hush agreements, which is what we've been talking about for several weeks now, if not more than a month. The feds want to know what happened with respect to this $130,000 agreement.

And Davidson negotiated the agreement with Michael Cohen. So he has information about the negotiation process. He has information about what led to this agreement. And he could be potentially a very good witness for the prosecutors. And this could mean more trouble for Michael Cohen.

GERAGOS: He's also going to testify, at least if you believe the reports, and you never can say. And I know Keith. Knowing Keith, he never consented to the taping.

LEMON: OK, I have to go. But quickly, if Michael Cohen is watching now, what would you say to him? What should he do?

GERAGOS: I'd say to Michael Cohen, tell your lawyers to dismiss this case. Get the heck out of dodge in the central district. You don't need this. And it's only a matter of time before you need to cooperate. So I'd get your ducks in a row.


MARTIN: We know he dismissed the other case against the media company involving the dossier. So he's dismissing civil cases left and right. I agree with you, Mark at 100 percent, it's time to cut his losses.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, both. I appreciate it. When we come back, sources telling CNN that the president's new advisers are reporting directly to Trump and bypassing his chief of staff. Is John Kelly's job in jeopardy?


LEMON: President Trump may be doing an end run around his chief of staff John Kelly. Sources telling CNN that the two of the president's high-profile new hires, John Bolton and Larry Kudlow, are reporting directly to Trump.

Here to discuss, Chris Whipple, the author of "The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chief of Staff Define Every Presidency," and CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. Gentlemen, good evening to you.

Douglas, the newly installed national security advisor, John Bolton, top economist Larry Kudlow, they haven't been on the job long but the boss seems to really like them. CNN is reporting that both men are reporting directly to the president, bypassing his chief of staff, John Kelly. How unusual is that?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, it's very unusual. It's because Donald Trump is getting paranoid, Don. You know, he really believes all this deep state idea that everybody is out to get him within the federal government.

So you have a president running the U.S. government that doesn't trust any of the career bureaucrats and feels that they're leakers and stooges and enemies surrounding him and lurking even in the White House.

Hence, the fresh meat, the new lone ranger-types like Kudlow and Bolton could come in and he's going to try to establish a one-on-one relationship.

[23:30:05] I think General Kelly, the fact that it's been reiterated this week that when Comey got fired Kelly was very sympathetic to Comey probably has unnerved President Trump some also.

LEMON: Yes. When you said the lone rangers, right, is that what you said, Kudlow?


LEMON: Because he seems to be carving out a more public role than his predecessor Gary Cohn. Do you think that's a risky gamble in this administration?

BRINKLEY: Yes. I mean, I think it's a very risky gamble. Bolton is not like by the -- a traditional foreign policy establishment. He's seen as kind of a rogue thinker. He's beloved by the hard right, Fox News. He worships him because of his hawkish rhetoric neo con announcements.

But Bolton is going to become now a whisperer to Trump. Somebody that's not part, you know, has a fresh start as, you know, Chris Whipple tell you, I mean, it's just been anybody that's in Trump's orbit gets thrown out or you know, doesn't have a long survival mechanism in place.

LEMON: Yes. This is what you're book is about, how important chief of staffs are. What do -- what do you make of this?

CHRIS WHIPPLE, AUTHOR, THE GATEKEEPERS: Well, you know, there's no question Kelly has been really undercut. He's been an empty barrel to use his phrase. I've been saying that for a hard time that he's failed to speak hard truths to Donald Trump. But Trump has really marginalized him now.

And as Doug says, it may be partly his paranoia but it's also this sense Trump has that he can somehow run the White House the same way that he ran the 26 floor of Trump tower which of course doesn't just work. I mean, history shows that you cannot govern effectively without White House chief who can execute your agenda. LEMON: Chris, we have seen less and less of John Kelly, right?


LEMON: There are reports, we've seen more of these reports that he's threatened to quit. Why do you think he stays on?

WHIPPLE: I think -- I mean, my sense of John Kelly he's a marine. He's a stubborn marine. He's duty, honor country. I think he's probably unlikely to quit unless Trump makes his life completely hellish. And I think Trump may be unlikely to fire him if he thinks he can just bypass Kelly and as I say govern without a White House chief of staff.

The only thing worse than a White House with a flawed chief of staff -- excuse me -- is a White House with no chief of staff. I mean, history shows Jerry Ford tried it and lasted a month, Jimmy Carter tried it. Two and a half years later he realized his mistake. It was too late for Carter.

LEMON: Interesting. Douglas, John Kelly was the guy who famously made everyone even Ivanka go through him to get to the White House. How did he get marginalized?

BRINKLEY: Yes, he was the great hope for the trump administration that he'd be able to control the Twitter, bring someone order and stop the chaos in the White House. It just didn't happen. I think General Kelly is staying in right now because he feels it's a patriotic duty, that somebody has to be there minding the entrance to the Oval Office.

And he may be a survivor by staying quiet, but not challenging President Trump. If Trump gets into trouble with Michael Cohen or with the Russia investigation, he may be the transitional figure for a President Pence down the line, somebody who can give our country a kind of smoother continuity if Trump implodes on us.

So he's still a very important figure, but he's obviously kind of -- any day now if he quit you wouldn't be surprised. And then of course tonight we heard Jeff Sessions saying if you get rid of Rod Rosenstein I'm gone, too. So there's something afoot going on within Trump world right now that the president is starting to think about can I knock off some more players.

LEMON: Yes. Chris, Kelly's influence seems to be waning Sean Hannity seems to be gaining more -- gaining a foot in the White House or his stars rising. And the Washington Post is reporting through a source saying, quote, "He basically has a desk at the White House." You have some ethical concerns about that?

WHIPPLE: Well, again, it may be true. Sean Hannity may be kind of de facto chief of staff at this point. Remember, Bill Clinton used to come into the Oval Office through the end of his first term and he would rip up the script and he would change everything. And his advisers were wondering who was whispering to him at night.

It turned out it was this vile character named Dick Morris who was advising him in the West Wing. Well, Leon Panetta was able to put a stop to that and in effect take control of the process.

You know, they say in Hollywood that nobody knows anything. In Washington nobody learns anything. This is especially true of presidents who are ignorant of history and who do not read.

[23:35:01] And I think if Donald Trump wants to be Jimmy Carter, if he wants to be a one-term president or worse he should just keep doing exactly what he's doing and try to run the White House himself.

LEMON: Douglas, I see you nodding your head back there.

BRINKLEY: I couldn't agree more with what Chris just said, meaning that he, Donald Trump, it's almost impossible to work for him. I don't think anybody could fulfill the job of White House chief of staff. And if this hard marine, General Kelly can't do it, there's nobody, because Donald Trump is lone wolf. He's paranoid. He's got a lot of heat and pressure on him right now, and he has one big play he's got to decide.

Do I knock off people like Rod Rosenstein and let Jeff Sessions leave and take this whole, you know, Mueller investigation by the scruff of the neck and try to beat it by being almost marshal in approach, or do you just kind of sit and let the clock tick on you?

But this Michael Cohen situation for him has to be creating kind of anxiety you can't imagine. And I only hope that General Kelly is secretly keeping diaries or notes about daily life in the White House for historians someday because it's got to be quite a circus scene around President Trump.

LEMON: Thank you, Douglas. Thank you, Chris. I appreciate it.

When we come back, the DNC suing the Trump campaign, Russia and WikiLeaks alleging a conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election and ruin Hillary Clinton's chances. Do they have any chance of winning the suit?


LEMON: The Democratic National Committee making a bold move suing the Trump campaign, Russia and WikiLeaks over the 2016 election. I want to bring in now CNN political commentators Keith Boykin, Matt Lewis, and Alice Stewart. So who isn't being sued these days?



LEMON: My whole is about people being sued. The Democrats have filed a suit against Russia, the Trump campaign, WikiLeaks, along with several associates of the president. They're alleging a far reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 campaign and sway the election to Donald Trump.

Keith, do you think this is a smart move? KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do. I think that this is importance because the Democratic Party -- it feels like -- first of all, Hillary Clinton won more votes than Trump did. The Democrats are upset about Trump the way he's governing.

And they feel like the party isn't doing anything. And this is a way the Democratic Party can get back and sort of get back into the action, be aggressive in responding to what Trump is doing. And there is a precedent for this. This is what happened in 1972.

LEMON: Don't you think it makes it seem even more political?

BOYKIN: It is political.

LEMON: Hillary Clinton got more votes, but that doesn't matter, she is not the president of the United States.

BOYKIN: I get that. I get that but in 1972, there was a precedent for this win, the Democratic Party sued the Nixon campaign because they cheated to win the election. Donald Trump essentially cheated to win this election. That's the point of this lawsuit.

LEMON: That's what they believe, that he cheated?

BOYKIN: Well, that's what's the lawsuit will hopefully prove. But I think it's important step for the Democratic Party to take this action.

LEMON: I have to say that's not what the evidence shows now. As of now, there is no concrete evidence --

BOYKIN: No, I'm not talking about collusion. I'm saying cheated. I'll give you a couple of examples, OK. The WikiLeaks example. Fifteen minutes after WikiLeaks sent a message to Donald Trump, Jr., saying you need to publish this --

LEMON: I got you. I got you. I got you. It's also --

BOYKIN: Donald Trump didn't win --

LEMON: I got it. I got it. I got it. I got to move on. I got to move. I don't want to go down the rabbit hole.

BOYKIN: Right. But there is evidence.

LEMON: Alice and Matt, you guys know that. I get frustrated and then I start yelling and everybody gets mad at me. The DNC chairman Tom Perez said this, during the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump's campaign, this constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for president of the United States in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency.

Is this -- do you think -- if this is true, is this lawsuit the only way to get to the bottom of it? MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, right. So first of all, we have a Mueller investigation that this steps on and totally ignores. I think you're right, Don, that this now makes it look partisan, right? The whole premise of the Mueller investigation, it's independent, it's not partisan.

Now we have -- there are actually aides (INAUDIBLE) Donald Trump and saying this is partisan witch hunt. It's a political vendetta. It's taking politics and turning it into litigation. So I think that not only is this basically a move to raise money for the DNC, I think it's a fund-raising ploy, obviously.

But I actually think it's actually counterproductive in the long run if your goal is to actually have this Mueller investigation be viewed as legitimate and fair.

LEMON: OK, hold on, Keith, because, Alice, a DNC official acknowledged today that there is -- to my point that are saying there's no evidence of cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia in this alleged lawsuit, so then why file it now?

STEWART: That's a great question. Look, I think this is a multi- million distraction from the fact that the Mueller investigation isn't moving fast enough. They evidently assume that there would be something substantive to talk about with regard to Russian interference in the election at this point.

Look, there's not only no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, there is no evidence --

LEMON: That we know of.

STEWART: -- of collusion.

LEMON: Right, exactly.

STEWART: I'm saying there is no evidence --

LEMON: You're right. You're right. You're right.

STEWART: And I thin the important thing whether you're Republican or Democrat, Russian interference in the election is a nonpartisan problem. We both want to get to the bottom of it. I think it's best for all of us if we let the Mueller investigation play out. Let it follow the facts where they may and let it lead to their conclusions.

LEMON: Keith is going to get in. Go ahead.

BOYKIN: -- limitations so the Democrats have a certain time when they had to file a lawsuit, so I understand why they did this. But you know, also, Matt says it's a partisan thing. OK, I'll admit Tom Perez says it's not partisan, of course it's partisan.

Anything that Democratic Party or Republican Party or any political party does isn't necessarily partisan. But who cares? This is an important lawsuit to deal with important issues. [23:45:01] And yes, Alice may be correct that there is no definite evidence of collusion right now. But we do know that there was collusion with WikiLeaks. And that's what I was pointing out to Don earlier, that they colluded with the quote-unquote, grabbing tape.

Seven minutes after that tape was released, what happened? WikiLeaks exposed more John Podesta e-mails. There was clearly a coordination with WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign to use those e-mails that have been hacked by Russia in order to benefit --

LEMON: You're saying there is enough circumstantial evidence that it warrants a lawsuit, that's what you believe?

BOYKIN: I think there is evidence that something happened here.

LEMON: OK, all right.

BOYKIN: Including the Trump Tower meeting, including Trump's Air Force One discussion where he sat there and he revised the talk and created those talking points. Even if there's no collusion, there's clearly evidence of obstruction of justice.

LEMON: Let's put up David Axelrod's tweet because he thinks it's ill- timed as well and I saw Jackie Speier (ph). I think she was on with Wolf or Jake. She thought it was ill-timed as well. Does that concern you?



BOYKIN: Look, I respect David and I agree with the mentality that he's putting out there, but I'm (INAUDIBLE) progressive wing (ph) of Democratic Party, and that wing (ph) is asking for action.

LEMON: All right.

BOYKIN: And this is the type of action that we need.

LEMON: Matt, quickly, I got 10 seconds.

LEWIS: That's exactly right. It's about action. It's about the base. The liberal progressive base wants action, and so this has nothing to do with actually accomplishing anything. It's about telling the base what they want to hear.

LEMON: I got to get to the break, Alice, if you can do it quick.

STEWART: I don't think the base is concerned about this. This is important, but they're also concerned about the jobs and the economy, and they need to connect with the base on issues that are important to them which they did not do in 2016.

LEMON: Thank you all. I appreciate it. When we come back, students across the country walking out of school today to protest school shootings. One student who marched out alone just one month ago inspiring hundreds at his school to protest today. That student joins me next.


LEMON: Thousands of students across the country are participating today in the national school walkout, protesting gun violence and marking the 19th anniversary of Columbine. Hundreds walking out of class at Wilson Preparatory Academy in North Carolina.

What a difference a month makes? In March, you might remember 16-year- old Justin Blackman was the only Wilson student to take part in the national walkout following a Florida high school mass shooting (ph). Justin Blackman joins me now. Justin, it's so good to see you. How are you doing?


LEMON: Great. So, listen, as I said, last month, you were the only one of 700 students at your school who walked out in honor of the --


LEMON: -- 17 victims at the shooting in Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. But today it seems nearly half the school joined you. Were you surprised?

BLACKMAN: Actually I was very surprised because earlier leading up to the event, I didn't know anyone was going to go out with me until Thursday or yesterday. So yesterday at SJ (ph) meeting where -- it is basically third to 11th grade, we all meet up in a big room and we just talked about what's going on in the school.

So, when it was asked who was participating in the walkout, I think everyone raised their hand. I was like, wow. That's more than one person this time. When I walked outside, there was already about 100 people out there ready to greet me.

LEMON: What do you think changed between now and then for your classmates?

BLACKMAN: I'm just thinking awareness because last time, they didn't really know about it. And now a lot of people were talking about it. You know why you're going out. They all knew what the cause was. We were all just having fun out there. We protest together and we protest as a family.

LEMON: Yes. Sadly there was a shooting in Ocala, Florida today. It was the 20th school shooting this year. You re-tweeted this photo. It was tweeted by a student at Forest High School in Ocala. It shows how the students used desks and chairs and file cabinets to barricade themselves in. Is this kind of thing to you and your friends -- are you becoming more used to seeing and hearing about it?

BLACKMAN: Honestly we are because at school, we practiced this -- we practiced our gun -- what is the word I'm looking for? We practiced our gun safety violence like (INAUDIBLE). We practice this like at least three times since the Florida shooting. We've actually acted it out. We move the desks and everything. This is like -- we are taking our (INAUDIBLE). We should be focusing on our work and not focusing on one day there might be a shooter walking in the school, how do we stop this or how do we stay safe?


BLACKMAN: That should not be the main focus at day in school.

LEMON: Right. It should be studies and improving your mind.


LEMON: It was courageous for you to walk out really and stayed for 17 minutes. You were all by yourself that first time. I wonder why it was important for you to follow through even though no one else participated? What did you learn from that experience?

BLACKMAN: Well, I felt like it was important to follow through because not only just because the shooting in Columbine where 13 people died, right now I have this platform where people actually care, people who want to hear what I say.

They want to hear -- they want to see what I do. So, if the people want me to do this, like if they want me to walk out, even if they don't want me to walk out, I will stay walk out because it is the right thing to do.

LEMON: Interesting. This is exactly what change is all about. Justin, you inspired your fellow classmates. You brought attention to this movement. Now they have joined you. What's next for you, you think?

BLACKMAN: Right now I'm just trying to focus on my school work and get this year over with.

LEMON: Yes. Well, that's a good focus.


LEMON: That's a good next step. Thank you, Justin. You made a real difference and I really applaud you. Thanks for joining us, OK?

BLACKMAN: Thank you for having me.

LEMON: Absolutely. We'll be right back.


LEMON: This week's CNN hero (INAUDIBLE) Bolivia, the country with the highest rate of sexual violence against women and all of South America. And sadly, she suffered sexual abuse as a teenager. But she finally gained the courage to break her silence and in the process discover the strength to take on a larger mission. Meet Brisa de Angulo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRISA DE ANGULO, CNN HERO: I found out that I wasn't alone, that there were tons of girls that were also being sexually abused. And I had to do something. I had to use the rest of my life to prevent other girls from going through what I went through. I think the biggest thing is keeping the voice back to girls and allowing them to speak up.


LEMON: At age 17, Brisa founded the first support center in Bolivia for child survivors of sexual abuse.

[23:59:59] To learn more about Brisa and the incredible work she is doing, go to and while you are there, nominate someone you think should be a 2018 CNN hero.

That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching.