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Parents Unable to Reunite With Their Children at the Border; Trump Reverses Approach, Allies as Foes, and Foes as Friends; Federal Court Trying To Sort Out Chaos Of Separated Families; Democrats, GOP Draw Battle Lines Over Kavanaugh Nomination; Sources: Cohen Team Compares Him To John Dean. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired July 10, 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)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Well, I should stop saying it's unbelievable. I'm going to talk about that in just a moment. We should start believing this, and stop saying, this is unbelievable. You know, I was on last week, on vacation for the Fourth of July.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: I'm well aware.
LEMON: Yes. And I saw you. But I was surprised. I don't know if I talk to you about this, but that the country wasn't, didn't come to almost a standstill about these children who were taken away from their families. It was outrageous. And myself part of the problem, sitting there, and you know, eating hamburgers and grilling or whatever, and why weren't people taking to the streets.
These are children, the most vulnerable among us, who are separated from their families. You have children, imagine your littlest ones you not knowing where they are?
CUOMO: Look, it is -- it's as horrible as it is true, because what we've seen time and again is, compassion fatigue. There's going to be a next thing, there's going to be a next tragedy, and people want to get away from it, they want to stop being smothered with bad news, it's so hard, even the coverage of Trump, while important to us, it can be suffocating to people, that's something we have to deal with.
But when it matters like this, when it's not just matters to politics, it's people, we have to stand strong. Because they have nobody to stand for them otherwise.
LEMON: You hit the nail on the head. I think you're exactly right. I think but there's so much that comes out of this administration on a daily basis. I think that people they have fatigue and they just don't know what to believe, or how to react. But this is the important one, Chris. So thank you. I agree with you. I'll see you tomorrow night, brother.
CUOMO: All right.
LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. Here's our breaking news. President Trump just hours away from the start of meetings with some of the country's closest allies, well, until now, anyway. The president spoiling for a fight with members of NATO. Do we know who our allies are at this point?
President Trump seems determined to create a new world order here, where friends are foes, and foes, as the president puts it, are competitors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really can't say right now, as far as I'm concerned, a competitor. A competitor, I think that getting along with Russia, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing. Not a bad thing. I've said that many times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, the president doesn't seem to be concerned about his upcoming one-on-one.
One on one, remember that, one-on-one summit with Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So I have NATO, I have the U.K., which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The easiest of them all. In a sign of just how upside down the world is right now, the U.S. embassy is warning Americans to keep a low profile in London. London. The embassy warning that demonstrators during President Trump's visit could attract large crowds, unfriendly to U.S. citizens.
London. More on all of that in just a moment. But I just want to talk about another piece of the news that I just discussed with Chris. It would be a disgrace if this got lost in the never ending parade of headlines, remember every day there's something, there's something with a deluge of everything. Right?
The Trump administration today blew a court order deadline to reunite parents with their children under the age of five. Children taken from them at the border.
One hundred two of those children have been ordered reunited or returned to their mothers and fathers, as of a few hours ago, just 38 were back with their families.
Now bear in mind this is far from the total number of children taken away from their parents. These are just the children who are under five years old. That itself is an outrage. Our government in your name and my name as well, took the smallest
most defenseless children away from their parents with no plan in place to reunite them. And that's true, you know why? Because they missed the 2deadline, a court ordered one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're going to have a lot of happy people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The president signed an executive order last month that was billed as the end to family separations. The fact is, it was nothing of the kind. It was a smoke screen. Made to try to get you to believe that something was going to change, all of these families would be reunited soon, and they knew where their parents were, they didn't.
Smoke screen, maybe it's gas lighting, who knows. But it didn't pan out. Thousands of families are still in limbo right now, still desperately searching for their children. And the president in the face of so many -- too many heartbreaking scenes at the border, he says this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, I have a solution. Tell people not to come to our country illegally, that's the solution. Don't come to our country illegally. Come like other people do, come legally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:04:58] LEMON: That is breathtakingly cruel. The President of the United States right there in his policies in his administration's actions, endorsing taking children from their families in order to send a message to keep undocumented immigrants from coming here. People who are seeking asylum. People who want better lives.
Isn't that why all of our families, our ancestors came here? Just asking. And because he believes, really in the end it helps him with his base.
And to all of you who look at pictures like these and say, I can't believe it. Believe it. This is happening. All of this, you know what, B.S. is real. And as I said, it's happening in your name, in mine.
So where is the outrage? I'm not just talking about you, what are we -- what are we all doing? Have we become numb to all of this? Children being separated from their parents, under five years old, many of them. Really?
This is not about Republican versus Democrats, so don't give me that crap about - you're such a liberal. You're a lib. No, I'm not. This is not about liberal versus conservative. It's not about that at all. This is about being a human being and being humane.
This is beyond ideology. This is madness, it is crazy. This is as I said, B.S., and we have to stop this. This is about what we want to be and who we want to be as Americans. And about what kind of country we want to be, what kind of people we want to be.
Those children deserve better. We all deserve better. So we're going to talk extensively about that tonight. But I have to get to the business first, because the president is on an important trip overseas, and then we'll talk about all of that in a moment, here.
So let's turn to the president's high stakes trip to Europe, where he is expected to be greeted with extensive protests and some very irritated allies.
So joining me now to discuss that now, CNN Political Analyst, Mr. Mark Preston, Republican Strategist, Rick Wilson and our newest Contributor, Susan Glasser, CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer for "The New Yorker."
Thank you, all. We have a lot to get to tonight, the children are important, we're going to talk a lot about them. I want to get this out of the way, first. So, Susan, welcome, and good evening.
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Thank you.
LEMON: President Trump is going to wake up there in Brussels for the NATO summit in just a few hours, and he has been blasting our allies again while praising Putin, how is that going to go over.
GLASSER: Well, you know, he left Washington cranky about our allies, he spent the time on the plane over to Europe, cranky, tweeting about our allies, and I guess they can only hope that he wakes up in a better mood.
But I think, really, anybody who's associated with the western alliance is very, very nervous about this week for President Trump in Europe, he goes to the annual meeting of NATO, basically with strong words. He continues to misrepresent as he did today, the idea that somehow our allies are ripping off the United States by not paying their dues to NATO.
There's no such thing as dues, it's really a question of how much of their own budget they're spending on their defense spending. But Trump really views this, not so much as an alliance as a sort of protection racquet, and he sees the other partners in NATO as deadbeat allies.
And of course, he's doing all this at the same time as he's preparing to meet with Vladimir Putin on Monday in Helsinki for a meeting that he's described this morning in sort of eye popping terms as, that's going to be the easy part of the trip. That will be much easier than meeting America's allies.
So, I think, you know, really people are terrified. The best case scenario I've heard from many of those I've talk in the last few days is a scenario where basically nothing terrible happens.
LEMON: Yes. Hey, Rick, why were you shaking your head when Susan was framing, doing the framing of how the president is playing this? RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: (AUDIO GAP) This is a -- this is
a moment of disaster already for our European allies, and for our NATO allies, and Susan hit it on the head. He's talking about, he's eager as a schoolgirl to have this meeting with Vladimir Putin, and he's throwing all kinds of shade and hating on our NATO allies, folks that have stood with us for 70 years.
And, you know, he's resisting beyond treaties of both the allies and his own staff, to please issue a statement about article v, which is the provision in the NATO Treaty that says an attack on one is an attack on all.
You know the last time article five was invoked was on 9/11. A NATO allies were calling us within hours, the rubble was still smoking when they were volunteering to help us. And you know, Donald Trump is clearly signaling that unless he gets, you know, he gets his cut of the big on this thing, he's going to walk away from this alliance.
And I just -- I think this is a moment of incredible (AUDIO GAP) and global tragedy if we (AUDIO GAP). And it feels a lot like Donald Trump doesn't want to let it slip, but he wants to throw it out the window.
[22:10:07] LEMON: Yes. I want to get to Vladimir Putin, but I just want to play this. This is the European Union's president, with a message to President Trump ahead of this summit. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TUSK, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COUNCIL: I would like to address President Trump directly who for a long time now has been criticizing Europe almost daily. Dear America, we appreciate your allies, after all you don't have that many.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Mark, stand by, because I got a -- I got a Putin question for you, but I want to give this to Susan. Susan, give this to me straight, if this is what they say in public, what is each side really think about the other side when they are in private?
GLASSER: Look, I've watched over the last year and a half as Europeans have gone through all the stages of anger, grief, denial, fear. And now I think there's a resignation, some Europeans are actually talking about the United States and President Trump right now using the term containment, the strategy, of course, we deployed against the Soviet Union.
They're talking about having strategic patience, which was the strategy that we deployed against North Korea in the Obama era. There is -- there is enormous sad feelings, a sense that the United States is walking away, it's turning its back on an alliance that the United States of course both created and led.
I think on Trump's part, what's really striking is that this really -- the president is kind of a party of one in many ways when it comes at least to his war of words, with the Europeans. I don't think that, you know, John Bolton or Mike Pompeo would pursue a foreign policy left to their own devices that included so much attacking of NATO.
And you saw this incredible pre-briefing before the summit in which President Trump's own advisors gave this on the record briefing the other day, their goals for the summit sound like any administration frankly, Democrat or Republican might have right now.
GLASSER: And you know, it's very different than what Trump's own goals are.
LEMON: So Mark, you're free to weigh-in on the overall, what you think about this overall trip. But I just want -- I want to ask you a question about Putin. Because he, the president says his easiest meeting on his foreign trip to Europe may be his sit down with Vladimir Putin. Yet, again, placing the Russian leader above people who have been our staunchest allies.
Make any sense to you?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I'm not going to sit here and try to make sense of the senseless, right? Because we've tried to do it and you and I have tried to do it, you know, since he decided to run back in 2015.
The fact of the matter is, is that when you see him praising Vladimir Putin, you can't look at it in isolation, you have to take a step back and see what he's saying about our allies, as we're talking about tonight.
So not only is he praising somebody who was considered an aggressor to the United States. An ongoing aggressor to the United States, you're also alienating all those who were trying to help you. When you have to wonder, what are these long term effects?
You know, we live in the moment, right, Don? You know, in this time. We don't think very much long term, we live in this moment as a society, you know, as a nation. And you got to wonder, what are those long term consequences?
And you just keep this in mind, could you imagine if an American citizen was killed by a Russian nerve agent here in the United States, and Theresa May, the prime minister of the U.K. was going to go meet with Vladimir Putin? Could you imagine that? I mean, it just would not happen.
LEMON: Yes, well, strange times, we're living in strange times, Rick, I'm sure you can -- you agree with that. There was also this tweet from the president while he was getting to Europe attacking the Russia investigation. The president he was embarking on this whirlwind trip to Europe. The Russia investigation and Mueller still at the top of his mind. Priorities, Rick.
WILSON: Look, there's nothing that Donald Trump obsesses about more. There's nothing that keeps him awake at night more than the fact that Robert Mueller doesn't play his B.S. Twitter games, he's not intimidated by, you know, his oddly punctuated and oddly capitalized and oddly, you know, grammatically stilted tweets. None of that matters to Robert Mueller.
He's grinding along. He's doing his. He's doing the business that he's there to do. And so, you know, Trump feeding chunks of red meat to his, you know, his base, and hoping to give, you know, Sean Hannity more cracks to throw out on his evening, you know, two-hours -- two- hour two minutes at eight every night is par for the course.
It doesn't change what Mueller is doing, but it tells you everything about how weak and how terrified Donald Trump is of this man, and he knows that Mueller is, you know, circling the camp now, he knows that Flynn is squealing, he knows Cohen is about to, he knows Paul Manafort is a soft handed sort of guy, he's not going to last much longer in solitary.
[22:15:04] He recognizes that the walls are closing in, and he's terrified. You know, in his version of that is to lash out and to post these idiot tweets.
LEMON: Yes. Much more to discuss, so stick around, all of you. When we come back, in President Trump's new world order, foes are friends, friends are foes. Why does the president at times have kind words for Russia, North Korea and China?
LEMON: The president hours ahead of his meeting with the NATO allies taunting them, really, at the same time hinting that he's looking forward to a summit with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. Is this the president's new world order in action?
Back with me now, Mark Preston, Rick Wilson, and Susan Glasser.
So I ended the last segment with you, Rick, I'm going to start with you. Because this is really your -- what your assessment here. We're talking about the -- on Twitter, the president shifting America's relationships and alliances, and you called it RANK. You said Russia, America, North Korea, someone else said China. Should be in there, too. That would make it CRANK then.
WILSON: Right. If you had -- the CRANK access of China, Russia, America, and North Korea. And China may be less than that now during -- because of the $200 billion of new tariffs, but you know, I think Trump is much more comfortable, he's shown this repeatedly.
[22:19:56] He is not a person who embraces the traditional liberal western Democratic values of liberty and free markets and human rights. He is someone who embraces something that is much darker. He is much more punitive, he loves the strong man swagger, he loves the dictator Xi, he loves the (Inaudible).
This is a guy who has an almost juvenile obsession with the bullies and the thugs and he strong men of the world. And I think that, you know, that's what plays out to him. He praises Kim Jong-un, he's so strong, he took over his country at 26
years old, and he did all this. Well, yes, he also stacks people dead like cordwood. You know, he likes Vladimir Putin who kills journalists.
So all these things, he likes Duterte in the Philippines who is running death squads, and this is not a man who embraces the western values that are embodied by America's founders or frankly, by our NATO allies. This is -- he's got a very dark view of all those, he's got a very dark view of all those things.
LEMON: And Susan, we're also getting new details about Secretary of State Pompeo his meeting with North Korea. Sources telling CNN, that the feeling at the White House is that the trip went, quote, "as badly as it could have gone." And added this, that North Koreans were just messing around. Not serious about moving forward.
I mean, wasn't that predicted by so many people except for the president supporters who were saying, this is great. Rick is one of them, right? Go on.
GLASSER: Well, I think that's right. When it comes to the North Korea summit, you know, if it does fall apart there will be no lack of people who can credibly say, I told you so.
You know, Richard Haas the other day when I was on with him on CNN he said it's the kind of summit where they put the dessert before the main course of diplomacy.
And I think what we're bracing for is for President Trump possibly to be doing the exact same thing all over again in a way with Vladimir Putin. Nobody can say really what is on the agenda of this meeting on Monday, except for the fact that Donald Trump has wanted to have it, it's been something he's pursued even despite the advice and counsel of his advisers.
I mean, you know, frankly, any political strategist in any party would say you're insane to meet with Vladimir Putin at the moment when there remains so many questions hanging over your presidency and your interactions with Putin.
And yet, nonetheless, you know, as I reported, President Trump personally, not only invited Donald -- not only invited President Putin to the White House in his famous do not congratulate phone call, but pursued it and followed it up even when his advisors desperately--
LEMON: Told him not to.
GLASSER: -- he would just, you know, sort of drop it and forget about it. So now we're going into the summit meeting with no one knowing what's on the agenda except that President Trump is so eager to meet one-on-one with President Putin.
LEMON: Mark, let's follow up on that. Because he was played by Kim Jong-un, that seems to be the reporting, right, that he was played by the North Koreans and Kim Jong-un. It's a concern here that he could get played by Vladimir Putin when they meet one-on-one. That it's going to cozy too quick to see things Putin's way.
PRESTON: Yes. I mean, look, there's no question he's going to go into this meeting and he's going to come out of this meeting and for certain he will come out and say it went very well. I'm sure the readout there we're going to get out of the Kremlin depending on how it's receive back here in the U.S. is going to be remarkably different.
But you know, the problem, and Susan hit upon this. Is that Donald Trump thinks of himself as this grand negotiator. You know, this great guy who is going to go in and get you the best deal. So the problem is, is that business doesn't always translate over to diplomacy. Business doesn't translate to war planning. Business doesn't translate always to the greater good of the economy.
And Donald Trump thinks that he's the only person that can go out and do these tasks, do these important tasks. He could go out and hire folks which he should do -- hire folks to do things such as these trade deals, to figure out what is the best way to move forward. And he should focus more on being a leader, instead of somebody who constantly wants to be in the limelight.
LEMON: I want to play this. This is Senate foreign relations Chairman Bob Corker play what he had to say about the president's upcoming meeting with Putin. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I hope there are people present during the meeting and--
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Why do you say that?
CORKER: I just do. I just hope there are people around him. Mattis and others, hopefully, Pompeo.
Putin is not a friend to democracy. Capitalism, anti corruption. He's not a friend of those efforts, OK. Those are the things we care about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Susan, and the director -- the former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper was here last night, he told me that he didn't know why they were meeting in the first place.
There is concern about what concessions the president could make. And again, what does this mean for our allies.
[22:24:56] GLASSER: Well, look, I think our allies are bracing for a situation that would be almost the worst case scenario, which is a bad NATO meeting that is followed up by a good Putin meeting. The message from that would be really disastrous for them.
Remember, that North Korea is far away from Europe. But Don, -- but Vladimir Putin is right in their backyard. He is the main adversary in many ways that Russia -- that NATO has organized against.
And I think, you know, when you pull back, and look at this Vladimir Putin is an experienced world leader, he's one of the senior figures on the world stage right now. The Russians see diplomacy as a zero sum game. I win, you lose. You lose, I win. They are trying to revise the terms of the end of the Cold War, which they thought was an unfair victory dance by the west.
Donald Trump has presented them an enormous opportunity to do so. And as you know, Trump often portrays things as I win, you lose. He's not really a win-win kind of guy. And I think Mark's point is really well taken here. Trump has this grandiose vision of himself as a deal maker. What is the deal that he wants to make with Vladimir Putin? It seems to be only a deal that would be favorable to Putin.
LEMON: Susan, Rick, Mark, thank you. I appreciate your perspective.
When we come back, the Trump administration failing to meet today's deadline to reunite 102 children, five years old and under separated from their parents at the border. That's not even counting the thousands of older children still being by the government. I'm going to speak to a lawyer. He's from the ACLU, about what he thinks needs to be done. That's next.
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Tonight is the deadline for the Trump administration to reunite 102 migrant children under the age of five with their parents. Officials admitting they're going to fall short. Only 38 of those children were back with their families as of just a few hours ago.
One father is from El Salvador reunited with his 4-year-old son. Look right there. They were separated for 48 days. Walter Melendez saying he only had two phone calls with little Jeremy during the whole time, and has no idea where the boy was taken. Joining me now is Lee Gelernt. He is a deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project. Lee, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.
LEE GELERNT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ACLU'S IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS PROJECT: Thank you for having me.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, you say it is clear to you that this administration didn't know what they were doing. Didn't know what they were doing, Lee, or didn't care, or both?
GELERNT: You know, I think it's both. I think you're right to ask if both. I think they knew what they were doing when they took the children away, that was intentional. They deliberately inflicted harm on these children. Now, trying to put them back together, I think, they just don't know what they're doing, because they simply didn't track these families. And as the judge pointed out, they track property better than they
track these little children. So we're in a horrendous situation where thousands of children were taken from their parents, and the government simply doesn't have all the information to put them back together.
Today in court, the judge basically said, cut the nonsense, get these families back together, and if you don't, I want to know exactly why you didn't get them back together by the deadline, which is today, for children under five. And if you don't get them back together, I want to hear from plaintiffs what remedy they think should happen.
LEMON: Listen, this is your line of work. You've been doing it for a while, and doing a great job at it. Have you ever seen anything like this?
GELERNT: No. I would -- I've been doing this for 25 plus years, civil rights immigration work. This is the most horrific thing I've seen in the 25 plus years. And for the Trump administration to say, well, other administrations did it, that is so flatly untrue.
No other administration, Democratic or Republican, ever systematically separated children from their parents, much less little babies. I mean, we're talking about 1-years-old, 2-years-old ripped away from their parents, and sent halfway across the country.
LEMON: Yes. Well, I mean, the administration obviously they -- that has this, especially this president has a very tenuous relationship with the truth. And signed the order saying that they were going to bring the kids back together, obviously, they can't do it now. They can't do all of it, because they've missed that court order, right, deadline.
LEMON: The Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told this -- I will post this tonight, that the administration has a lot to be proud of. And that they are saving kids lives by doing background checks. And his department is now performing one of the great acts of American generosity and charity. How do those comments jive with what you've seen what is actually going on?
GELERNT: They're so inconsistent with reality, what the government tried to do today in court is say to the judge, we want to do extensive background check, we want to make these parents apply for their children, and the judge looked at them like they were crazy and said, what are you talking about, you took them from them.
You just give them back to their parents. These aren't distant relatives, or some stranger coming to try and sponsor the child. These are children that are with these parents. Just give them back.
Do the normal simple checks you would do for any parent, but don't spend months and months not giving the child back as if they're a distant relative who has come from out of nowhere to take the child. The judge has shut the government down on every single one of their request, because they simply make no sense.
The judge called this policy brutal and offensive, and I think that is exactly right. It was brutal and offensive to take little babies away from their parents. The government needs to put in whatever resources it takes to undo this mess of the government's making.
LEMON: So, I hate to ask you this question, when you consider the number of kids and the incompetency of this whole process. Do you think there might be some kids who may not be reunited? They might not figure it out, or it may take forever, you know? And for a kid, you know, a couple minutes is forever, but you know what I'm saying, to figure out who -- which kid belongs to what parents?
[22:35:05] GELERNT: Yes, I do. What gives me hope now as the judge has realized, the government doesn't know what they're doing, and he intends to have us back in court constantly. He's having us back in court again Friday. We were in court today, yesterday, and this past Friday. That's what is giving me hope that he's going to be on the government every single day to make sure they're doing something. I recognized...
LEMON: What should the penalty be for this administration?
GELERNT: We are -- we are trying to figure that out. We want what's going to be most productive, and move it forward. We're not looking simply to penalize the administration for the sake of penalizing, although, obviously, people are saying that's what we should do.
We're going to have to figure out what the most constructive way forward is. And I think the judge feels the same way. He is not going to give them any wiggle room any more. He has seen that they cannot do it themselves, and he's going to stay on top of them. But we will try to figure out what we think the sanction should be, because they obviously are not going to meet the deadline by today at midnight.
LEMON: Lee, thank you for your time.
GELERNT: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: Yes. When we come back, what the President's Supreme Court pick could mean for the Russia investigation. Turns out, he could impact it in a very big way.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Democrats are vowing to take down President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. The Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer charges Trump chose Brett Kavanaugh to protect himself from Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Does he have a point? Here to discuss, a man who worked with Kavanaugh, his name is Solomon Wisenberg. He is a deputy -- a former deputy independent counsel for the Whitewater Lewinsky investigation. Sol, it's so great to have you on. Thank you, sir.
SOLOMON WISENBERG, FORMER DEPUTY INDEPENDENT COUNSEL, WHITEWATER LEWINSKY INVESTIGATION: Thanks. LEMON: You know Brett Kavanaugh. You both worked on Ken Starr's
investigation to President Clinton. What was it like to work with him?
WISENBERG: Well, he was -- he was quite young then. He was in his early 30s. And he was recognized even back then as a very brilliant and hardworking thinker, he was just another staff member, and he was very well regarded, quiet, hardworking, great sense of humor, he laughed at all of my jokes. And that's how I basically define having a good sense of humor. And so he was a delight to work with. He really was.
LEMON: So, you were both, obviously, investigating a sitting U.S. president. How did Kavanaugh viewed presidential powers then, and how has that changed? Because, you know, that's been under scrutiny since he has been nominated by the president.
WISENBERG: I think Brett has always viewed presidential power as something that's very important, you know, in the constitution. He's a separation of powers man. And he believes that each branch is supreme in its own sphere.
I think what's changed, and what he has said has changed is his ideas about whether or not the president should be subject to civil lawsuits, or criminal investigations while he or she is the president.
LEMON: Let me read the quote from him then. And let you finish.
LEMON: Because this is from his 2009 comments, right, about indicting a sitting president.
LEMON: He said the indictment and trial of a sitting president moreover would cripple the federal government, rendering it, unable to function with credibility, and either the international or domestic arenas. So, go on now, finish your comment, sorry.
WISENBERG: Well, what he is saying then is -- you have to remember, you've got the Jones versus Clinton, which says a president can be sued -- President Clinton tried to defer, and said he had a constitutional right to defer a lawsuit to when he wasn't president anymore.
The Supreme Court said nine to nothing, that's not true, but they did say, hey, if Congress wants to, Congress can pass a law like they do for certain of our military members, and Congress can say, wait until after he's president.
And what Brett Kavanaugh was saying in that article, and this is an article that made five or six legislative proposal was, you know, now that I've worked for a president, and seen how these investigations can distract them, I think that would be a good idea for Congress to pass a law like that. But he didn't say... LEMON: Here's the quote. Here's the quote.
WISENBERG: He didn't say he would rule that way.
LEMON: Congress might consider a rule exempting a president while in office from criminal prosecution investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense councils. And you are talking about what Congress can do there. OK, so, it sounds like he is saying the president is immune from prosecution, but the bigger question is...
WISENBERG: No, he's not.
LEMON: Go on.
WISENBERG: He's absolutely not saying that.
LEMON: All right, go on.
WISENBERG: He's absolutely not saying that.
LEMON: Go on. Finish your thought. Tell me what you are saying.
WISENBERG: What he's saying -- in fact, what he says is, hey, once he stops being -- I think it would be a good idea for Congress to pass this law, and once he's not president any more, then he can be indicted for what he did, and he can be sued, and by the way, when is he president, he can be impeached.
So he's not -- he's absolutely -- and that's one thing I want to be very clear on. He's a big believer in the rule of law. He's a follower of U.S. versus Nixon, which ruled eight to nothing that a president can't -- doesn't have an automatic right under executive privilege to defy a subpoena from a prosecutor. So, he does not believe the president is immune, or should be immune.
LEMON: Does he think that Trump has the right to refuse to answer Robert Mueller's questions?
WISENBERG: He hasn't -- he hasn't weighed in on that, the law in the D.C. Circuit is pretty clear. First of all, the law is clear that a president can be subpoenaed. There's no question about that, Jefferson was subpoenaed in 1807.
The real question is, once a president is subpoenaed, what do you need to do to overcome executive privilege? And even U.S. versus Nixon said, you've got to make a pretty strong showing.
[22:45:01] You've got to remember, Leon Jaworski was in a excellent position to make a very strong showing that the tapes had to be -- the tapes had to be turned over. There's a case, Don, from 1997 in the D.C. Circuit, that's the law in D.C. now, which says in order to overcome a valid claim of executive privilege, a special counsel has to show that the evidence he seeks is important. And that essentially he can't get it from anybody else.
2WISENBERG: So that's an area of law that's right, you know, that's -- it's pretty clear, the president has to give way to a criminal investigation if the prosecutor can say here's why we need this, and we can't get it anywhere else.
LEMON: Well, isn't that -- that's kind of the case that Rudy Giuliani has been making in the media, right? It's similar to what the president's lawyers have been saying, or at least Rudy Giuliani. I've got to ask you, and quickly if you can, because I'm out of time, I've got to get to so many -- so many other things.
But when I said the bigger question is, do you think that was the reason or one of the reasons this president picked Kavanaugh was because he believes that a sitting president cannot be persecuted and he is under investigation?
WISENBERG: I don't -- I don't -- I really don't think it's the -- who knows what the president thinks, Don. But, you know, it had to have factored it in some way. But I really don't think it's the overriding reason. I think the president saw the response he got from the conservative to the Gorsuch nomination. He loved it, and he wants to repeat it.
WISENBERG: And I think he tried to find the best person.
LEMON: Fair enough. Thank you, sir. It's a pleasure having you on.
WISENBERG: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, will Michael Cohen flip? Sources close to Cohen are telling me that they think he could. He could be President -- He could be President Trump's John Dean. I'm going to explain that. The same John Dean who broke ranks with President Nixon to tell prosecutors everything he knew about Watergate. John Dean himself joins me with his take on that. He is next.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Sources close to Michael Cohen tell me members of his team see strong parallels between Cohen and President Nixon's White House Counsel John Dean. Dean, of course, broke ranks with Nixon during the Watergate investigation in cooperative with prosecutors. Joining me now to react, CNN Contributor John Dean, the perfect person to talk to about this. John, thank you so much. So, what do you think?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's interesting, I've been thinking about it all day actually. Anderson asked me about it a little earlier, and I wasn't really quite sure what to think.
And the more I realize who are the sources, I happen to have been scheduled -- I've been asked to be on the radio show with someone who used the identical words publicly that I used with you privately. I won't name that person. But he knows Watergate, he knows me. So, I can say, I think he's sending a message that he's got somebody that can really blow up the entire Trump operation.
LEMON: Well, can you tell us more or would you rather not about that?
LEMON: I don't want you to reveal your source, but I'm saying, if you're saying they can blow up the operation, my goodness, that is -- that's huge.
DEAN: It's your -- it's your source who knows me. We have -- we have known each other for a long time. And he knows -- he knows my testimony. He was -- he's old enough to have been around in those days. He was in Yale law school just before it happened.
But anyway, that's another story. I didn't think your source might know Watergate when he made -- when he tossed that out. I realize now he does. And I think that clarifies his message to me, that he thinks that Cohen can do a lot of damage as I did to Nixon.
LEMON: Well, I'm not saying who my source is, my source could be a woman for all to anyone because...
DEAN: I understand.
LEMON: I see your point that -- and that gives legitimacy to what the source is saying because they know the story, they know the parallels, and you know -- and if so, maybe Michael Cohen is more damaging to this president and this administration, and they even -- that they can see, or could be...
DEAN: That's the way I -- That's the way I read it, Don. And Trump, of course, as we learned in Fire and Fury, is some -- is alarmed by me every time he sees me on your show.
LEMON: There are differences though between your situation and Cohen's though, right?
DEAN: Oh, many, many yes. For example, internally, I tried to get others to join me in ending the cover up, including the President of the United States, and argued that we were breaking the law, and I couldn't sell on it all internally. And told them what I was going to do is break rank, and go to the prosecutors, and was very open about it, while I was dealing with the prosecutors through my lawyer. So, there are big differences.
The other thing that's interesting though, Don, is I had two lawyers. Most people don't know that. I had a lawyer that is in many ways like we have here, with Michael, who has two lawyers. He has an experienced criminal lawyer from the Southern District, which I had.
But I also had somebody who knew his way around the Capitol Hill and the media, who had quietly -- I didn't learn this for some 30 years, thought my battle needed to be fought behind the scenes through private channels. And that's something Lanny Davis does. And so, that's another parallel here.
LEMON: Lanny Davis is the -- is now -- has been hired now by Michael Cohen as his attorney just recently.
[22:55:03] But, listen, sources tell CNN that Cohen has, quote, hit the reset button, and has committed to speak the real truth. Do you think comments like that is an attempt to get on the good side of prosecutors?
DEAN: Well, it just -- it's certainly sending a signal that he's not playing games now, that when his lawyers do deal with the southern district, or should they deal with Mueller that they're going to tell the truth.
And they're trying also to send signals as my lawyers did, that they shouldn't dismiss me quickly. Initially, the Nixon White House had no idea how much I did know, while I hadn't been involved in a lot of the activities I had knowledge of. I had knowledge of a lot of serious improper activities.
LEMON: And the advice from your attorney was, when you kick the king, it's got to be a mortal blow.
DEAN: That's right. That's exactly right.
LEMON: So, that -- So, Michael Cohen's attorney should be given that advice to him?
DEAN: They have to. When you -- when you testify against the president the on slot will be unending, and I mean that for the rest of your life because Trump will have supporters as Nixon does. There are Nixon apologists who to this day are still attacking me, and trying to create bogus stories. And so, he's in for the long poll when he makes his decision to go against the president.
LEMON: Look at how history played out. Interesting how you say that, so, Nixon apologist. Thank you, John Dean. I appreciate your time.
DEAN: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: Thank you. We'll be right back.