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CNN TONIGHT

New York Attorney General Resigns Over Abuse Allegations; President Trump Not Happy With Rudy Giuliani's Performance; Giuliani Says Trump May Take The Fifth; Trump Watches As First Lady Tackles Cyberbullying In Speech; Stormy Daniels Makes Cameo On "Saturday Night Live;" Trump To Reveal Decision On Iran Nuclear Deal Tomorrow. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 7, 2018 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[22:00:00] (JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The other dangerous toxic fumes and earthquakes, the officials are warning people to stay away from the danger zone for their own safety.

That's all for me tonight. I'm John Berman. Time now to hand it over to Don Lemon. "CNN TONIGHT" starts now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

We have breaking news to tell you about. Four women accusing New York's attorney general of physical violence, according to "The New Yorker" magazine.

Moments ago, Eric Schneiderman resigned under pressure from the governor and other prominent Democrats. He has cast himself as a prominent opponent to President Trump and a defender of the Me Too movement. This has been a fast-moving story. We will bring you all the latest on the stunning developments. The stunning developments in just moments.

And also tonight, the White House insisting that President Trump's new attorney -- new attorney Rudy Giuliani is adding value to the president's legal team, but his numerous T.V. appearances may be causing anxiety for the administration.

Reports tonight that the White House is not happy with Giuliani. Tonight, a CNN source saying that he is embarrassing the president. And Giuliani no doubt raised eyebrows in the West Wing when he was asked if -- asked this weekend if Trump's longtime fixer Michael Cohen paid other women to stay silent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I have no knowledge of that, but I would think if it was necessary, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: When asked today if other women have received money from the president, press secretary Sarah Sanders would only say that she's not aware. Rudy Giuliani was also asked if the president would ever take the Fifth Amendment in the Russia investigation. And he did not rule it out.

Mr. Trump, you recall, has repeatedly said that only criminals take the fifth. And would the president comply with a subpoena from the special counsel Robert Mueller? Here's what Giuliani says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: Well, we don't have to. He's the president of the United States. We can assert the same privilege the other presidents have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Sarah Sanders was asked about CNN's -- asked by CNN's Jim Acosta about that and sidestepped the answer. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In the same vein, does the president believe it is within his executive powers to reject a subpoena from the special counsel's office?

SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's a question I would refer you to the special counsel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Rudy Giuliani, well, did he talk himself out of a job? Like his boss? He has a penchant for the spotlight, but President Trump likes the spotlight all to himself and usually gets rid of the people who overshadow him. Lots of details. Lots of stories to cover tonight in the next couple hours here on CNN.

We're going to begin with the breaking news out of New York. The New York attorney general resigning tonight after accusations of physical violence by four women.

I want to bring in the players now, CNN's Senior Media Correspondent, Brian Stelter is here, Political Commentator, Bakari Sellers, and CNN Analyst, Laura Coates, a former federal prosecutor.

Again, Brian, this a fast-moving story. Many of the details just developing now. Of course, he is resigning. The women accusing him, Schneiderman, of nonconsensual physical violence hours after the story broke. The governor asked him to resign. He's resigning tonight.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a public official who in public was an outspoken proponent of the Me Too movement who has brought a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, his brother, Bob, and the Weinstein Company, who has been trying to drive a path forward for New York State as an opponent to the Trump administration. All that is the context for tonight's shocking developments. It took

exactly three hours from the time "The New Yorker" published the story with allegations of physical abuse by Schneidermen, two women on the record, two other women speaking or sharing details anonymously through the two on the record women.

Bottom line, Don, four women accusing this man of physical abuse. His response is it was always consensual sex but this is not just about sex. These allegations are about abuse. They are about violence that actually led to some of these women going to the hospital.

Bottom line, three hours after the story hits, he resigns. I'm told the work of the office, the A.G.'s office, will continue. That's an important point to keep in mind. The lawsuit the, the work against Trump, all that continues but the man on the top, he's gone.

LEMON: Yes. He tweeted out something earlier, but then an official statement. Here it is. He said, "It's been my great honor and privilege to serve as attorney general for the people of the State of New York. In the last several hours, serious allegations which I strongly contest have been made against me. While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct, the operations of my office, or the operations of my office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office's work at this time. I therefore resign my office effective at the close of business on May 8th, 2018.

STELTER: Tomorrow.

LEMON: Yes, what do you think of that?

STELTER: He is in a situation here, a prominent Democrat, a rising star in the Democratic Party, who clearly saw no way out of this situation. Whether he acknowledges, whether he admits to these allegations or not, whether he contests them as he says he's saying he is. He saw no way forward.

With the governor calling for his resignation, other prominent New York officials calling for his resignation, the path was clear.

[22:05:00] This was a bombshell story by "The New Yorker," Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow, Farrow of course known for his reporting on Harvey Weinstein. That office was now investigating Weinstein which none of them would be leading that.

LEMON: Since we're talking about the governor calling, asking him to resign, Laura, we'll get to the legal part of this in a moment. But politically, how might this play out?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it actually moved quickly. We talked about the three hours from the story.

STELTER: Yes.

SELLERS: But Governor Cuomo came out, I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that it is election season. But he came out extremely, extremely quickly, followed by Senator Gillibrand, who has been a hero for a lot of individuals during the Me Too era.

This however, is slightly different because of the way that it was described with such great detail in "The New Yorker" story. This type of physical abuse and the lack of a denial by the attorney general simply saying this is role play is no excuse for balling up your fist and punching somebody when they rebuff you or, you know, having of young lady's ear bleed while you're having sex.

I mean, that is beyond perverse, that is beyond wild and that's unacceptable and I'll let Laura comment on this, it's probably a crime. And so we have to understand that this is -- this is more, this is allegations of domestic violence, physical abuse, and assault and battery by the sitting attorney general as of right now.

And by the way, the last thing as we're talking about this cascading P.R., I don't know who told him it would be a good job a good day to go to work tomorrow.

LEMON: Yes.

SELLERS: There is no -- there is no reason to prolong this. If you're going to pull the band-aid off, rip it off now and go home.

LEMON: Let's talk about the legal angle here, Laura. And I want to read some of the descriptions from "The New Yorker" as we get to that. "A fourth woman, an attorney, who was held -- who has held prominent positions in the New York legal community, says Schneiderman made an advance toward her. When she rebuffed him, he slapped her across the face with such force that it left a mark that lingered the next day. She recalls screaming in surprise and pain and beginning to cry. And says that she felt frightened. She also asked to remain unidentified, but shared a photograph of the injury with "The New Yorker"."

So, I mean, in no way does that sound consensual. Could he face legal charges, Laura?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Of course, he could. You know, part of this story involves trying to confirm the reports and the allegations that are made. And of course, the number-one question you're going to have if you're trying to prosecute these as assault, as battery, if possibly more for any nonconsensual behavior, you're going to have to figure out where there any police reports filed or other ways to corroborate?

She says she has a photograph of the injuries taken, contemporaneously with what actually happened? All that's going to be used in a case if there is one to be built against the actual former attorney general.

The reason it's all very important is because as you see in many cases, he said/she said, she said/she said, he said/he said cases, all about who can corroborate what and when they report it. Unfortunately in this country, a lot of weight and emphasis is put on the timing and the timeliness of your reporting, and if you fail to do so, it can be a harder case for a prosecutor to pursue.

In any event, however, there's a perpetrator in charge of one of the most prominent sexual assault cases in the country, Harvey Weinstein, or somebody who is in a position who just was named a champion of women and someone who says if a woman has no control over her body, she has no power, all quotes by this now-former A.G., well, you got more than just a court of public opinion.

You've got a duplicitous nature that's going to go against him in any court proceeding and no one is going to assign him any level of credibility if he's engaged in the sort of nonconsensual disturbing and perverse behavior.

LEMON: So let me just read the statement. This was his initial statement, Laura. He said, "In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have never assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex which is a line I would not cross."

But the reporting from "The New Yorker" also describes a former girlfriend who says not all the abuse took case during sexual encounters. Schneiderman reportedly slapped his girlfriend during an argument. How does that change any argument that slapping someone was a sexual proclivity?

COATES: Well, it's very odd that he would parse it out the way that he did, that he'd never engage in nonconsensual sex. That's the line he would not cross. But apparently assault is not one in which he would vehemently deny the allegations and he would simply say he vehemently contests the allegations.

A very interesting legal term to talk about. Maybe because he has his eyes toward a defamation case or perhaps other things, about calling somebody a liar, or their actual statements to be untruthful. But what that says to me is that he had legal counsel and he, himself, by the way, the top dog lawyer in New York, should know enough not to make a blanket assertion or statement that could be used against him later.

So you parse it out in a very careful way. But legally speaking that you didn't commit nonconsensual sex, which known as rape in other people's worlds, it's not enough to say that you did not commit the other crimes that you were accused of including the slapping making the woman's ear bleed.

And also a very important one, the threat. There's an allegations in the report that there were threats made that if they you were to go forward, there would be wiretapping on their phones, I believe it reports in there, that there would be repercussions in many ways.

[22:10:03] And remember, this is an allegation that many women and men who have contested proceedings against, say, a person in law enforcement, an officer, or somebody in the court system, will often feel as though they have no recourse. No one will believe them, and they will be punished in some way, shape or form. Imagine that being the top lawyer in New York.

LEMON: But they -- according to "The New Yorker" they were inspired, they say, by women who had been coming forward as part of the Me Too movement. Brian, and I'm just wondering how much did these two women speaking on the 2record, how much more credibility does that add to the story?

STELTER: I was really struck by what one of those two women said, Michelle Manning Barish. She was dating Schneiderman for a while. The I believe they broke up in '15. She tweeted, she Instagramed a month ago, before the story came out, she said, "I feel a wave of truth coming, purging those who should not be in positions of power. Women are rising up and they've had enough. We must end this cycle of abuse of power and sexual violence."

And that's the difference involving this story, from all the Me Too accounts we've heard, all the allegations against prominent men, it has primarily been about sexual assault and sexual harassment. In this case, Schneiderman is also accused of abusing his power and acting in violent ways separate from any sexual activity.

And that's one of the reasons why the story stood out, why it's so disgusting to read. Again, these are only allegations made by two women on the record, two other women who are speaking anonymously. But when it adds up, you can see, it added up in such a damaging way that these other prominent New York officials quickly --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Allegedly using the power of his office to retaliate against these women if they move forward.

SELLERS: Well, you can't separate the politics from this case of abuse which is we oftentimes want just to be able to sit back and listen to the victims and listen to their stories, but in this case with Schneiderman, you cannot separate the politics from it.

The politics of how quickly those elected officials responded. And again, I go back to the fact that Governor Cuomo is in a tight race, or tougher than expected race, with a female, Cynthia Nixon, who has been uplifting women throughout the State of New York and been running an awesome campaign. So he's compelled to move quicker as well.

Senator Gillibrand, this is her bread and butter issue. So she's compelled to move quickly as well. And so now you have a political firestorm, you have the person who's been for lack of a better term, he's been the worst enemy for Donald Trump when it comes to issues.

STELTER: Yes, a nemesis.

SELLERS: A nemesis, day in and day out.

STELTER: Yes.

SELLERS: And so the question is now how does Donald Trump respond? Somebody who has, you know--

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: Donald Trump Jr. is already attacking--

(CROSSTALK) SELLERS: A bevy, a bevy of sexual assault allegations and victims and

the list goes on and on and on. And then you have the last thing, which people really don't want to talk about today, but it's going to happen if it's not 2happening right now, it will happen tomorrow. It is what is Hakeem Jeffries going to do, who's going to be the next person to run? You know, all of these things come to play when we have these discussions. But right now--

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: Yes, will it be Preet Bharara or someone else to become the ext A.G.?

SELLERS: Right.

LEMON: It's got to be the -- it's got to be the last word. Thank you, all, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Just ahead, President Trump and his senior aides are not happy with Rudy Giuliani's media blitz. A source telling CNN that he's embarrassing the president.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Reports tonight that President Trump and his senior aides are unhappy with Rudy Giuliani's media blitz now that he's part of the president's new legal team.

Let's bring in Mark McKinnon, the executive producer of Showtime's "The Circus" and a former adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain, and also CNN Contributor, Frank Bruni, a columnist for "The New York Times." Good evening, gentlemen.

MARK MCKINNON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, SHOWTIME'S "THE CIRCUS": How are you?

LEMON: There's always a development. So, Politico has this headline out tonight, Frank, it says "Trump grows frustrated with Giuliani as Stormy drama rages on." The president is reportedly grabbing to associates that Giuliani as promised was supposed to shut down the Stormy Daniels saga and has not done. You can't predict this, right?

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he shut down nothing because he can't shut up. I mean, he just keeps on talking and talking and saying different things. And none of them seem to be the talking points that would serve the president. And you've got to think that above and beyond all of that, Donald Trump doesn't like somebody else hogging the spotlight.

LEMON: Yes.

BRUNI: And Rudy Giuliani like a man who's finally found a camera again, has shown us nothing more than he loves the sound of his own voice.

LEMON: Yes. You have some new reporting on this? MCKINNON: Well, it's the worst abuse since water world. But Andy

Borowitz is reporting tonight that the president is going to take him off the legal team and make him White House doctor.

LEMON: That's your new reporting?

MCKINNON: Yes. That's it.

LEMON: Thank you very much.

So, listen, this is what we heard from Rudy Giuliani. I don't know how much we have all evening to play this but what we've heard just over the weekend. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: Did you misspeak or did people not interpret what you were saying? Were you talking about the facts or were you talking about the law--

(CROSSTALK)

GIULIANI: I'm talking about the law and the conclusion. The facts -- the facts I'm still learning. So I'm not an expert on the facts yet.

The agreement with Michael Cohen as far as I know is a longstanding agreement that Michael Cohen takes care of situations like this then gets paid for them sometimes. Gets paid for them sometimes. It's reimbursed in another way. Depends on whether it's business or personal. Even if it was considered a campaign contribution, it was entirely reimbursed out of personal funds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Mr. McKinnon, give us your damage report, how harmful is this media blitz?

MCKINNON: Well, you think about what the goal is just from a communications strategy when you bring in a new lawyer, the goal is to create a single coherent narrative. Right? There's been too many stories out there. We want you to come in and take charge, get the facts together, and go out and tell the story that is coherent and makes sense and is singular and he's done just the opposite. He's created new story lines and made it more confusing.

LEMON: And--

MCKINNON: And made it, and created more legal liability more than anything.

LEMON: For the president.

MCKINNON: For the president.

LEMON: And also, you know, beyond that, but just -- as you said, they're supposed to be on the same message. Well, the president is having to say, well, he doesn't know about things, and he's new to this, we have to get him up to speed.

MCKINNON: But he didn't know about the most important thing.

LEMON: There you go.

MCKINNON: What did they talk about before he went out on T.V.? If not -- if not the payment to Stormy Daniels?

BRUNI: Here is the president is the only one saying he doesn't know about things. Rudy, himself, saying I'm no expert, I don't have the facts but I'm going to talk anyway.

LEMON: But he said this, he's still out there being interviewed. Because an interview on Monday, Giuliani push back against the notion that the president is unhappy with his performances. "If I'm not up to it, I don't know who is," that's what he told Politico. "I know the Justice Department better than just about anyone."

BRUNI: Is he's right on one count. I mean, the fact is, to Giuliani.

LEMON: Giuliani.

BRUNI: He sounds exactly like Donald Trump. I know better than anybody else.

MCKINNON: Yes.

BRUNI: I mean, this is exactly the brand of humility you get from the president.

MCKINNON: Well, it's also what you get when you run out of lawyers, too.

LEMON: Meaning?

BRUNI: Yes.

[22:20:01] MCKINNON: Well, you've got, I mean, Ty Cobb left. He just went through a whole series and he tried to get a bunch of top-tier lawyers that for reasons that both are explained and unexplained that they didn't step up. So, I mean, he got to the end of the list. Rudy Giuliani is the last guy standing.

BRUNI: And he did what he likes to do which is he hired a T.V. show guy, right?

MCKINNON: Yes.

BRUNI: If he sees you on T.V. and if you're good on T.V. and if you're good on T.V. you're good on--

(CROSSTALK)

MCKINNON: And he was also a guy during the Access Hollywood tape who went out on T.V. for Donald Trump that Sunday. And that's where he kind of made his bones with Donald Trump. LEMON: As you were saying, there was supposed to be one message, and

he was supposed to, as we said, bring an end to this, but Rudy Giuliani says Stormy Daniels may not be the only woman who was paid by Trump's longtime fixer, Michael Cohen. Sarah Sanders--

(CROSSTALK)

MCKINNON: Open another door.

LEMON: Yes.

BRUNI: Yes.

LEMON: -- was also asked about that. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rudy Giuliani said that if necessary, it's possible that Michael Cohen could have paid off other women to keep them quiet about alleged affairs with the president. Is that possible? Are there other women out there who received money from the president to stay quiet?

SANDERS: I'm not aware of any other activity, but I would refer you to Rudy Giuliani to respond to any of those questions or anybody else on the president's outside counsel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you've been in the circle for a long time now, you were on the campaign, is that anything that came across your desk?

SANDERS: Again, I'm not aware of anything like that, but I would refer you to the president's outside counsel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: She really wants to refer that to Rudy Giuliani? She doesn't want--

(CROSSTALK)

BRUNI: Translation, I have been burned too many times before I am passing this one off.

MCKINNON: Yes.

LEMON: Yes.

BRUNI: Yes, I'm just going to hand it back to the guy who created the confusion.

LEMON: Why isn't the answer to that, then, just an authoritative no?

BRUNI: Because she's been burned too many times.

LEMON: No, I mean, from Rudy Giuliani. BRUNI: Yes.

LEMON: Or from her.

BRUNI: Because Donald Trump doesn't ever give anyone a straight story and that includes the people around him.

MCKINNON: Well because, and there isn't an authoritative no.

LEMON: Yes. Let's talk about Scott Pruitt tonight, because the New York Times is reporting tonight that senior White House staff members are encouraging the president to fire Scott Pruitt, his embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief. His 11, now his 11 federal investigations that involve him. How can he stay in this job?

BRUNI: I mean, he shouldn't be allowed to stay in the job, but I think two things are keeping him in the job. One is, there's been such a historic turnover, such embarrassing turnover, that people don't want to see another person exit too quickly. Number two, he's actually doing in a substantive way when it comes to--

(CROSSTALK)

MCKINNON: That's more of.

BRUNI: -- repelling regulations, exactly what the president wants. And so there's this tension, he's an ethical nightmare, I mean, he's beyond an embarrassment but he is executing an agenda that the president wants and a lot of Republicans applaud.

LEMON: I would have you respond but I need to get to this. I want to talk about your show. I think you'd be OK.

MCKINNON: My favorite subject.

LEMON: Show time the circus. You're highlighting Georgia's Stacey Abrams who is running to be the first black woman elected governor anywhere ever, right? Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCKINNON: What do you hear and see when you talk to people about Donald Trump?

STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: They are deeply disappointed in his xenophobia, his racism, and the sexism and his rejection of the rule of law. There's a great deal of trepidation.

The composition of Georgia is different. Fifteen years ago Georgia was absolutely a red state but more people moved in and more people grew up and the diversity of Georgia is unlike any other state in the south. President Obama came within 200,000 votes of winning Georgia and that was 10 years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: All right. So let me get our strategy straight here. She wants to galvanize minorities and women and focus less on white Trump voters who used to be Democrats?

MCKINNON: Yes, I think the typical Democratic playbook is to say, you know, let's go after the Trump voters that we lost. Well, that's a diminishing demographic anytime, anywhere. It's older white men that are diminishing and she's saying we've got this whole pool of voters who haven't been activated before. P

People of color, women, and others that simply haven't gotten the right message or from the right messenger and delivered by somebody like her, they can more than make up that deficit of the numbers that they've lost over Trump.

LEMON: Her chances?

MCKINNON: People say it's going to be competitive. Like you said, Obama came within 200,000 votes 10 years ago, so I think she's in the hunt.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you, Mark.

MCKINNON: Kick it.

LEMON: Thank you, Frank. I appreciate it. Kick it hard as you say. Showtime's the Circus airs Sunday night at 8.

And when we come back, in one of his many interviews, Rudy Giuliani wouldn't rule out the president could take the fifth in the Russia investigation. But would that be his best legal strategy? We'll discuss.

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump said to be growing frustrated with Rudy Giuliani. His media blitz raising even more questions for the president.

Back with me is CNN Legal Analyst, Laura Coates. And we're joined by Samuel Buell, a law professor at Duke University who is a former federal prosecutor. So good to have both of you on. Welcome back, Laura. Welcome to the show, Samuel.

Samuel, I'm going to start with you. We talked about Rudy Giuliani in the last segment. And I want to play something that we heard from the White House about Giuliani earlier today. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the president pleased with the appearances of Rudy Giuliani over the last few days?

SANDERS: I didn't speak with him specifically about his feelings about it but certainly feels that he's an added member -- added value member to his outside special counsel. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So Samuel, is Giuliani adding value to Trump's outside legal team?

SAMUEL BUELL, PROFESSOR, DUKE UNIVERSITY: Well, so far not because he's out front much too quickly and much too vocally taking a position on things that he can't possibly have clear knowledge of at this stage of the representation. Anywhere coming into a case like this would keep his head down for a period of time and make sure he had the facts in line. And this attorney is not doing that. So I'd have to say, no, he's not helping his client at all.

LEMON: And Laura, as far as the Russia investigation, a big question in all of this is will the president take the Fifth Amendment? Here's Giuliani on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you confident the president will not take the fifth in this case?

GIULIANI: How can I be confident of that? When I'm facing a situation with the president, all the other lawyers are, which every lawyer in America thinks he'd be a fool to testify.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Laura, what do you think? Will the president ultimately take the fifth?

COATES: Well, it's certainly always going to be his choice to do so. But remember, taking the fifth everyone has this assumption that it means he can walk in and simply say, I'm taking the fifth and no questions can be asked. You cannot make a blanket a assertion of the fifth. It has to be in response to a specific question, the answer to which might intend to incriminate you.

He can't come in, ask him his name, and say the fifth. To do so would be ridiculous. So if there's a pointed question that is asked of him that he feels will incriminate him, it's his right to do so.

[22:30:01] The larger issue as well, maybe whether he asserts executive privilege which is also his right to do so and a little bit more of a better scenario if he actually does that because you may have a situation where he can, listen, I don't want to talk about things that may haven't done with my advisers or counsels in some way.

And the Fifth is available to him. But there are repercussions. You could actually draw not necessarily a criminal case, but there will be a public inference drawn about the President of the United States who's been so vocal about only the mob taking the Fifth if he should chose to do so in this instance.

LEMON: Yes. Well, I'm glad you said that, because just to jog everyone's memory, here's what the President said in the past about the Fifth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have you seen what's going on in front of Congress? Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, horrible. Horrible. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment? When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment -- taking the Fifth, so they're not prosecuted. I think it's disgraceful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Samuel, so we know how the President feels about people who take the Fifth Amendment. No doubt the President would explain why these views don't apply to him, right?

BUELL: Yes, I mean, Don, I don't think -- if we're looking for consistency at this point as you well know, we're not going to -- you know, we're not going to get it.

So, you know, doing a 180 on things that he said about the legal system, about other people's situations in the legal system, you know, he's being subject to a witch hunt, you know, Jim Comey and Hillary Clinton should already have been locked up without a trial.

You know, I mean, its just -- we're beyond double standards here. So, you know, it wouldn't surprise me, actually, at this point because nothing would surprise me.

In terms of how the legal system, you know, is approached by this White House if, in fact, they -- if Mueller wants to go ahead and subpoena me, I'm going to have to assert the Fifth because I just can't have faith in this prosecutor being fair.

In fact, defense lawyers sometimes say that for clients, say why client's really got nothing to hide, but they're just going to have to take the Fifth.

You know, it's the classic, you know, executive who appears before Congress and says, you know, I'm sorry, Senator, but on the advice of counsel, I'm going to have to rest on my Fifth Amendment privilege.

And then outside Congress, well, I'm not doing that because I have anything to hide, it's because, you know, this isn't a fair process. I wouldn't actually be that surprised if this president wouldn't try that, and see how it plays politically.

LEMON: Laura, what about Giuliani saying that the President doesn't have to comply with the subpoena. Is he wrong, is he right?

COATES: Yes, he's wrong because there has been clear precedent in the Supreme Court that said that a president is not above the law. And that term, and that phrase is often used to say, well, the President can't actually be prosecuted -- cannot not be prosecuted for a crime.

But in reality, that particular portion of the court's holding in U.S. versus Nixon was about whether or not the President had to comply with aspects of due process of the law. And the idea that you run the executive branch, the role of the executive branch is to enforce the laws as are written, and that includes due process.

And you cannot get in the way of trying to ensure that due process or a criminal investigation is being pursued. And so that includes whether you can comply with a subpoena. Now, in the Nixon case, of course, that dealt with documents.

Whether the President had to comply with the subpoena, it ultimately led to the disclosure of these nefarious tapes. But the principle is still the same here, that the President cannot simply thumb his nose at a very key member, a key portion of due process in this country.

LEMON: Yes. And, Samuel, then there's...

BUELL: But, Don...

LEMON: I want to get this in, please, because I think it's important. The President's tweet this morning, OK, Samuel, he said, the 13 angry Democrats in charge of the Russian witch hunt are starting to find out that there is a court system in place that actually protects people from injustice, and just wait until the courts get to see your unrevealed conflicts of interest.

So first, to quickly fact check, some members of Mueller's team have made contributions to Democrats, but Mueller, himself, is a Republican. Aside from that, what do you make of Trump suggesting that there could be legal action against Mueller's team?

BUELL: I have no idea what he's referring to, and I think, you know, this just sounds like the classic sort of wait until I show you what I've got behind the curtain kind of move that often doesn't lead to anything.

I mean, look, if the standard is, you know, nobody can be prosecuted by a DOJ lawyer who happens to have previously indicated that they have a party affiliation, every single political corruption case that's been brought in the history of the United States Department of Justice practically would be -- you know, would have to be deemed invalid.

So if the claim here is just, you know, this task force has different, you know, lawyers affiliated with different parties, that's going absolutely nowhere.

LEMON: Yes. Samuel, Laura, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

COATES: Thank you.

BUELL: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, the First Lady debuting her plan to combat online bullying today with her husband right beside her. Think he'll change his behavior on Twitter at all? [22:35:03] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: First Lady Melania Trump making a rare speech today as she unveils her official platform to help children. She's focusing on everything from opioid abuse to cyberbullying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: It is our responsibility as adults to educate and remind them that when they're using their voices, whether verbally, or online, they must choose their words wisely, and speak with respect, and compassion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The President, her husband, is listening to that. Let's discuss now, CNN Presidential Historian, Douglas Brinkley, Sarah Ellison, a staff writer for "The Washington Post," and Lauren Wright. She is the author of "On Behalf of the President: Presidential Spouses and White House Communications Strategy."

We can probably use you right now, by the way. Welcome, everybody. Douglas, let's talk about the new poll released by CNN. More than half of Americans, 57 percent, have a favorable view of the First Lady Melania Trump.

That is a 10 percent jump from January, while 27 percent hold an unfavorable view of her at the same time. The President's approval rating is only at 41 percent. What's your reaction to those numbers?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: First ladies usually are more popular than their husbands for starters.

[22:40:03] Secondly, there's a feeling of you almost feel bad for Melania, the fact that she's living with the Stormy Daniels crisis all the time, the fact that, you know, her husband does have a bit of a bullying nature to put it mildly, the fact that she's just a bit, trying to raise baron in this sort of crazy media environment, and trying to keep him out of harm's way.

But, you know, all first ladies are usually beloved. But when Hillary Clinton was first lady, and she began all about politics, you saw her take a hit with public opinion polls.

As long as she's not overly political, and stays on things like opioid addiction, and the strangeness of cyber bullying, she'll stay, I think, high in the public estimation.

LEMON: And, Lauren, she also has taken a more high profile role recently with the Macrons with the state dinner.

LAUREN WRIGHT, AUTHOR: Yes.

LEMON: Do you think all of these events at least recently will help the President? WRIGHT: They can, and my research shows consistently first ladies are

the number one surrogate when it comes to boosting public opinion of presidents, and their policy agendas.

I absolutely think so. A big part of this appeal that Doug just talked about is that they're political outsiders. They're family members, so people don't evaluate them in the same way that they do politicians. And that's extremely valuable.

LEMON: What do you think, Sarah?

SARAH ELLISON, STAFF WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I mean, she is the most popular person in that family, and in the west wing, so more than Ivanka, certainly more than Jared, more than her husband. And I think it is because she hasn't tackled anything that's really that controversial.

LEMON: Yes. You mentioned, Douglas, that she's dealing with Stormy Daniels and all of that. And then there was a very special guest star, a special appearance, on Saturday Night Live this weekend. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM ACTRESS: Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stormy? This is Michael Cohen. Are you alone?

DANIELS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what are you wearing?

DANIELS: Excuse me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, Michael. I can take it from here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. But as your attorney, I highly advise against you to...

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what up, girl?

DANIELS: Hello, Donald.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, Stormy. Stop making such a big deal about this. Everyone knows it's just an act.

DANIELS: I work in adult films. We're not really known for our acting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just tell me what do you need for this to all go away?

DANIELS: A resignation. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, right. Being President is like doing porn,

once you do it, it's hard to do anything else. Besides, my poll numbers are finally up, and speaking of polls being up.

DANIELS: Donald.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, come on, we'll always have shark week. I solved North and South Korea, why can't I solve us?

DANIELS: Sorry, Donald. It's too late for that. I know you don't believe in climate change, but a storm's a coming, baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never been so scared, and so horny at the same time. Live from New York it's Saturday Night.

DANIELS: Live from New York it's Saturday Night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That's...

ELLISON: You're not going to come to me.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Do you think the first lady sees that? That's got to be tough for her, the spouse, anyone that's in -- do you think she see this stuff?

ELLISON: It's tough, ad funny to everyone except for her, probably.

WRIGHT: On a serious note, we always turn to first ladies when it comes to presidential misconduct. This is funny, but really we're asking questions about Melania Trump when the President is the one misbehaving.

And we always do this with political spouses. And I wish we could do a little better with that hold the President accountable, not his wife, for his misbehavior.

LEMON: Did you -- guys, I'm sure you saw "The Washington Post" revealing -- very revealing piece today about Melania Trump, it's called Inside Melania Trump's complicated White House life: Separate schedule, different priorities. And I just want to read a part of the piece.

It says, the Trumps are often apart even during their free time according to several people who know the couple's schedules. At Mar- a-Lago on holidays and weekends, the President golfs and dines with politicians, business executives, and media personalities on the patio, while Melania is often nowhere to be seen.

According to several current former aides, the President and First Lady often do not eat together in the White House either. They spend very little to no time together, said one longtime friend of the President. So she's seen as a separate entity from him, very independent, if reporting is true.

ELLISON: Right.

LEMON: Maybe that's why her numbers are higher, that she's just separated herself and said, you know what, I'm going to take on cyberbullying, in your face.

ELLISON: Well, I mean, she has said for a long time that she gives her husband his space. She -- they're both very independent from one another. That story started with he's waking up at 5:30 in the morning, and checking out what's on cable news, and she is getting their son, Barron, ready for school.

We've known from the beginning that she's very dedicated to Barron, and less concerned with the political life in Washington. I do think that people asked me, do you think she's trolling him with her cyberbullying focus?

[22:45:05] And I think that is probably not. I think what she's actually doing is she's recognizing that -- she does recognize that could be something that people say, oh, that's so ironic. It's so absurd that that would be your cause.

But I think she's actually dedicated to it, and so she's decided she's going to do it no matter what it is that he does, even though it's absurd to be having that as your cause, and having your husband be the most powerful cyberbullier on the planet.

LEMON: And she's -- I mean, as a mom, she would know, and all moms know about the cyberbullying, at least when your child is of a certain age. And that's certainly something that would be relevant to her. It's just the irony.

ELLISON: Right. The irony is big.

LEMON: Remember, Douglas, in the beginning we were like who's the real first lady? People were saying is it Ivanka, is it Melania? But it seems like Ivanka's role has reduced lately, and Melania's moving up.

BRINKLEY: I think Melania's the one that the American public's infatuated with. I think if she really hones in not only the cyberbullying, but on the opioid crisis in the Midwest, and starts showing up in elementary schools in Ohio, and Michigan, Wisconsin, and talk about public health, and how not to be on drugs, a kind of low- grade Nancy Reagan just say no.

But really aiming at younger people, I think her numbers will continue to go up, and she's also a victim, not just a victim of Stormy Daniels, but, you know, over a dozen women charging sexual harassment against the President.

Rudy Giuliani inferred over the weekend there may be more women. If I'm Melania Trump, I'm not watching Saturday Night Live. I'm not watching a lot of news program. I'm trying to keep my son away from the humiliation of what's happening right now. LEMON: Douglas, Sarah, thank you. It wasn't so bad.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

LEMON: Your maiden voyage.

WRIGHT: No, I loved it. This is great. Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you, Lauren. When we come back, the President said he'll announce tomorrow if he's going to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. If he does, would he be playing right into Vladimir Putin's hands? I'm going to talk to a former U.S. Ambassador to Russia.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're just hours away from President Trump revealing his decision on the Iran nuclear deal. This is the accord he promised to rip up on day one of his presidency. But he has been in office for 16 months, and now he's feeling pressure to stay with it.

Here to discuss now is former Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. He is the author of From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin's Russia. And we have the book right here, looks like it's pretty extensive to read.

AMB. MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Big book, there are a lot of footnotes.

LEMON: Yes.

MCFAUL: Don't be too scared.

LEMON: I may not get to this until summer.

MCFAUL: It's OK.

LEMON: But I'm looking forward to it. So, can we start with Iran? Because the President says he's going to announce his decision on the Iran deal tomorrow. If he ends this deal, you say that this is playing right into Vladimir Putin's hands. Explain that.

MCFAUL: Well, first of all, I think it's a big mistake, and irrespective of Putin. It's a great deal, it's better than anything we can get, and to denounce it now, to walk away from it, I think it's bad for his negotiations with North Korea.

So I think it's a big mistake. But for Putin, it means we are on the outside, and Putin is standing with the international community, with our allies against the United States of America. That's not a good outcome.

LEMON: So pulling out increases the threat to America, in your view?

MCFAUL: Yes, and it isolates us. So why are we isolating ourselves at a time when we need other countries to cooperate with us, especially as we enter into these negotiations with North Korea?

LEMON: I want to ask you about the firm that was supposedly trying to, you know, get dirt on the Obama administration.

MCFAUL: Yes. Two of my friends.

LEMON: Yes, The Observer and the -- The Observer in London and The New York or New Yorker Magazine reported that the Israeli private intelligence firm was hired to dig up dirt on the Obama administration -- Obama administration officials who worked on the Iran deal.

They said they were trying to undermine the agreement. The Observer reporting that aides of the President hired the firm, and the firm is called The Black Cube. They denied -- the press secretary denied knowing anything about that. She said she wasn't aware of anything on that front. Have you ever heard of something like this before?

MCFAUL: Yes, in Russia. It sounds like something Vladimir Putin would do, to gather dirt on his opponents. That's something right out of Putin's playbook. So for -- we don't know who paid for this, obviously.

But it sound really strange to me, and I know Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl. I worked with them in the government. They are very honorable people that served America well. You can disagree or agree whether the Iran deal is a good deal or not, but to do this as a way to undermine the deal, I think, is truly un-American.

LEMON: Russia is at the center of so much that's happening on the globe as far as us trying to, you know, meddle in people's elections politically, obviously.

Their influence is playing out at the center of American politics. Are things as bad as they seem, Russia's interference when it comes to American politics, and trying to fool with other people's elections, meddle in other people's elections?

MCFAUL: I think they are. You know, I call the book From Cold War to Hot Peace to make sure people don't confuse our time today with the Cold War, but in many aspects, the Hot Peace is more dangerous and more volatile.

I mean, in the Soviet days, they didn't meddle with our elections. In the late soviet days after Stalin, they didn't annex territory like Vladimir Putin did in Ukraine in 2014, and they didn't support dictators like Assad killing hundreds of thousands of people.

So, he's a dangerous person, and I think we need to push back on him, so that -- to stop him, both in terms of what he does to the United States, but also what he does to our allies, and small-D (ph) Democrats around the world trying to fight for their own autonomy in places like Ukraine.

LEMON: What has been, Michael, the most surprising to you about this Russia story, especially as it relates to the 2016 election and this administration? MCFAUL: So Vladimir Putin has, and his government, have tremendous

capabilities to listen to your phone, to listen to our -- read our e- mails. I know that firsthand. What has never happened before is that they leak that information purposely designed to influence the outcome of our election. He wanted Putin to win, he didn't want Secretary Clinton to win. That is easy, to have that preference.

[22:55:00] But to do something about it, and to go inside our country is shocking, number one. And then number two, to bring Russian agents into our country to pose as Americans to stir up polarization among our communities, that also -- even for me, I first met Vladimir Putin in the spring of 1991. I know the guy pretty well, and even for me that was shocking.

LEMON: Why do you think the President has been slow or has mildly denounced that part of it, at least?

MCFAUL: I honestly don't know. And I think it's a huge mistake. I think had he pivoted hard after the election to say, hey, they did this. I don't -- I couldn't control them. But now we have to be tough on them. That he hasn't leads to suspicious motives. I don't know the answer.

LEMON: Do you think the Russians have compromised on the President?

MCFAUL: I don't know the answer to that. I want Mr. Mueller to answer your question. What I do know is if you go to Russia, especially if you stay at the Ritz-Carlton, they have tremendous capabilities to gather information on you.

When I was there, I was there in July 2009 with President Obama, and we were so worried about them listening to our conversations that we built a kind of mini submarine inside one of the suites in the Ritz- Carlton so we could have a private conversation. So whatever you do in the Ritz, Putin is going to have it.

LEMON: It's that serious?

MCFAUL: Yes, it's that serious. They're capabilities are quite impressive.

LEMON: Interesting. Thank you, sir.

MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.

LEMON: I appreciate your time. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Just before 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. We're live. We have new developments tonight. President Trump ramping up his efforts to discredit the Russia investigation, accusing Robert Mueller's team of being a bunch of angry Democrats who have conflicts of interest, but is there any truth to his claims. Also, we're now just hours away from the President announcing where

the United States will remain in the Iran deal. If he decides to back out, what are the potential consequences?

And breaking news, New York's Attorney General resigning tonight amid allegations of physical abuse by four women, Eric Schneiderman had cast himself as a prominent opponent to President Trump, and a defender of the Me Too Movement.

More on all of that throughout the hour on CNN, but I want to begin this hour ahead with President Trump turning up his efforts to derail the Russia investigation. I'm joined now by CNN National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem, Republican Strategist Rick Wilson, and CNN Political Commentator Mike Shields.