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Trump Takes on NATO Allies; New Conspiracy Against Germany; Trump Attacks Germany, Aides Look Uncomfortable; Manafort Thinks He's Being Treated Like A VIP In Jail, Special Counsel Mueller's Team Says; Senate Confirms DOJ Nominee With Ties To Russian Bank. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 11, 2018 - 22:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: What is culture? It's a lot of things. What it isn't is law. So what does that mean? If it's not a matter of law, that means it's up to him.

And I'm spelling these parts out to you because they really matter. The judge gets to make the determination of what he answers. And here are the two questions. If he just answered these two it could make such a big difference.

One, how do you think Roe versus Wade should have been decided? Number one. Number two, do you think a president must comply with legal process like a subpoena. If he answers about Roe and he answers about the process, it could change the stakes and so much of the acrimony we're seeing right now.

Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I'm going to have to get a black board now, I can see it coming. You have your white board. I got a black board, don't even comment.

CUOMO: It should never be about the color of the board, Don.

LEMON: It's about the information. Thanks, Chris. See you tomorrow. Nice job. 2

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

In just a few hours, President Trump will start his second day of meetings with our NATO allies because the first day went so well. The president deploying what you could call, I know you are, but what am I strategy?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia because they supply -- they got rid of their coal, they got rid of their nuclear. They are getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia.


LEMON: Word, deflecting much? It's not Germany's relationship with Russia that's causing so much concern now, it's Trump's. But if President Trump's goal is to append our relations -- our relationships with some of our closest allies ahead of his own meeting with Vladimir Putin, he's doing a pretty good job of it.

Once senior European diplomat telling CNN, quote, "it's like the world's gone crazy this morning, Trump's performance was beyond belief," that's the end of the quote. And then the annals of ridiculous things the White House expects you to believe this may be the most ridiculous. So let's look at the reactions as President Trump repeats his claim that Germany is controlled by Russia.


TRUMP: Germany is totally controlled by Russia because they're getting from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline. And you tell me if that's appropriate because I think it's not. And I think it's a very bad thing for NATO and I don't it should have happened.


LEMON: John Kelly looks really uncomfortable, doesn't he? Did you see that? No, says the White House, the chief of staff was not expressing displeasure over President Trump's bull in the China shop approach to diplomacy.

Sarah Sanders telling "The Washington Post," that Kelly was unhappy because and I'm quoting, here again, "he was expecting a full breakfast and there were only pastries and cheese."

This is where we are. I want to bring in now CNN Chief National Security Correspondent, Jim Sciutto, CNN's Global Affairs analyst, Max Boot, the author of "The Road Not Taken," and "New York Times" columnist, Nicholas Kristof.

Good evening. He was expecting a full breakfast, so I'm sure that's the reason he's upset.

Thank you for joining us. Nick, I'm going to start with you. When the president is asking what good is NATO, he's slamming our NATO allies, he's calling Germany captive to Russia. Are you starting to wonder whether this president even wants to be part of this alliance?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": You know, the crazy thing is that he starts with some legitimate points. I mean, he is absolutely right that Germany should be spending more on its military. It's spending 1.2 percent of GDP. It should be spending more.

And if this was done in a constructive way then that would benefit NATO. But in fact, he's doing this in a destructive way that is leaving NATO weaker than it has perhaps been in its 69-year history. And if you try to think what Vladimir Putin would want, then it is precisely this kind of questioning, this kind of rupture in the relationship between the U.A. and Germany.

LEMON: Listen, but isn't that already in the works for NATO allies who start paying more of their GDP at a certain date? That was part of what President Obama negotiated, right?

KRISTOF: That's right. This has been in the works. And it's incorrect for President Trump to say that they're already in breach of their obligation. Their promise is by 2024 to reach 2 percent GDP. And they've been increase--


LEMON: So is he saying President Obama is right, I just want to reiterate that.

KRISTOF: Well, in fairness, I must say, in fairness think that his, you know, bad mouthing our allies has indeed been one factor that has led them to pay more although Russia behavior in Crimea has been a bigger factor.


KRISTOF: But he's doing this in a way that just hurts NATO, hurts our allies and benefits Russia.

LEMON: Jim, is what the president, what he's publicly saying about our allies any different than what he has said before though?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, no. It's been a consistent message. He has taken it upon himself to extract something from U.A. allies, and it should be notable, he's not looking to extract or at least in his public comments from U.A. adversaries, right.

[22:05:09] Russia -- I mean, Russia has a whole series of aggressive behaviors against Europe and the U.S. that are designed, that are part of a broad plan to undermine the U.S. based on a vision that this is part of Russia's interests, right?

I mean, you have a whole list of behaviors that Russia is doing that, whether invading Ukraine, attacking U.S. election, killing civilians in Syria, et cetera. So that's the big picture. The president doesn't focus on that. He doesn't make public comments on that. He doesn't call out Russia on that.

In fact, he repeats Russian talking points on many of those issues, one, doubting that Russia interfered in the election and, two, raising the possibility that perhaps Crimea should belong to Russia, et cetera. He undermines NATO positions on that and then takes very hard stances against America's longest serving allies of many decades.

And Nicholas is right to point out that , listen, you know, the U.S. has demanded more from NATO for some number of years through Republican and Democratic president including President Obama and that's a perfectly reasonable demand to make, and it's not just money. It's also, listen, NATO allies have risked the lives of their troops

on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq but many of them have put restrictions on that U.S. and other allies have not.

For instance, I spent time in Afghanistan. You would see German planes taking off from Kandahar and they didn't have bombs on because they had not agreed to carry the bombs on those flights, whatever. So, you know, those are legitimate claims.

The question is, as Nicholas raises is, does it serve American interest, forget if it's justified or not, but does it serve American interests to attack your allies in public to achieve those ends.

LEMON: Right.

SCIUTTO: And support your adversary's goals in public to achieve those ends or is it just kind of a cattiness (Ph) that doesn't suit your own interest. And that's the essential question.

LEMON: I think -- I think it's the last part of what you said. I mean, you know, anyone can see that, any right minded person can see that.

Max, other presidents have criticized NATO countries for falling short on funding commitment. So is this tough talk or even bullying tactics or shaming, whatever it is toward that end or is NATO really in trouble?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think NATO is really in trouble, Don. And I agree with what Jim and Nick were saying. This is -- I think this is qualitatively different than from previous presidents who are criticizing NATO from a position of being pro-NATO and wanting to make NATO stronger.

Whereas, the sense I get from Trump is he is anti-NATO and the reason why he is criticizing is because he wants to weaken NATO, he wants to bring it down and he is using completely exaggerated and often made up arguments and figures, for example, claiming that Germany gets 70 percent of its energy from Russia when the actual figure is 9 percent, or claiming that NATO is in arrears to the United States, owes money to the United States, which is false.

That's something that he should have learned in a year and a half of being president, is just flat out untrue. NATO doesn't own a penny to the United States, he's talking about individual defense budgets and he's comparing apples and oranges when he says that the U.S. has about 70 percent of the NATO military spending.

That's true but almost all of that spending is outside of Europe because we have to worry about China and North Korea, Iran and other threats. And in fact, in Europe we have about 60,000 troops compared to about two million troops for our European allies.

And he never mentions all the contributions that NATO makes in place, just like Afghanistan, where 1100 NATO soldiers have given their lives alongside American soldiers and the contributions they made in places like Iraq and Syria.

He never talks about any of the positive things about NATO just like he never talks about negative things about Russia. And so, my conclusion from this is his harping on about the cost of NATO is just a pretext for undermining and ultimately, perhaps destroying the alliance.

LEMON: Well, the question is, I mean, who's advising him or is he just freelancing, Nick, when he says it? Because facts do matter. I mean, and everything that Max said there is correct but it's now how the president is reacting.

KRISTOF: You look at that image that you showed of John Kelly grimacing and Kay Bailey Hutchison, our ambassador to NATO beside him also her eyes rolling. And I mean, I think this is what he's coming up with on his own. You know, and it's not just NATO, it's the western alliance more broadly, it's the institutions that have undergirded the west for the 70 years.

You know, it's his assault on the European Union, the attack, well, overturning the TPP, the attack on trade rules, on the WTO. It's much broader than just NATO. It's a systematic effort to undermine America's greatest strength.

What Jinping and Vladimir Putin are most jealous of, and that is our allies that support us around the world.

BOOT: Just to pick up on Nick's point.

LEMON: Yes, go ahead.

[22:09:55] BOOT: Briefly, I mean, you see this real divide in the administration, where most of the people in the administration are pro-NATO, pro-Atlantic alliance. But it doesn't matter because the only person who counts, the decider in chief is Donald Trump.

And what we've seen over the course of the last year is that the power of the axis of adults has been waning that Donald Trump is not willing to listen to anybody anymore, he is acting on his own instincts and his instincts are unilateralists, isolationist, protectionist and that's the policy that we're getting, however much it may horrify people like General Kelly.


LEMON: Hey, Jim, I want to give you the--

SCIUTTO: Yes, to that point if I can.

LEMON: Yes. Quickly, because I want to ask you, I want to take it to Vladimir Putin. Go on, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, just on that point, I've been speaking to diplomats from these NATO countries. And the issue that they will bring up is this. Is that they've been getting assurances from Secretary Mattis' and the John Kelly's of the world for the last year and a half. To say, listen, that's what the president says in public. But listen, America is committed to this, committed to the alliance, et cetera.

What their concern is that those assurances have less value over time. Then at the end of the day, the president may be advised that by his most senior security national advisors but ignore that advice. And they've seen the evidence of that on the Iran nuclear deal, on for instance, ending U.S. exercises with South Korea as part of the North Korean negotiations without consulting South Korea.

This president despite the advice of those advisors moves forward. And that's their concern that those assurances mean less over time.

LEMON: It sounds like there was a movie like this, and it was Judy Garland starred in "The Wizard of Oz," pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

So, Jim, I've got -- I want o ask you about Vladimir Putin, because with all this NATO attention in all display, what is the message to Vladimir Putin ahead of the Helsinki summit?

SCIUTTO: Listen, the message in the simplest terms, if you look at the confluence of Trump talking points and Putin talking points, is that, you know, I agree with you on some of these core issues, right.

I mean, Putin said a year ago the division within the NATO alliance is to Russia's benefit. Trump is exacerbating these divisions. Regardless of motivation it's a fact that serves Russia's interests, when Trump says that, well, maybe Crimea is part of Russia and that should be OK.

That is in disagreement with U.S.-NATO allies. When Trump says well, maybe Russia did not interfere with the election as he did a couple years ago. That contradicts American intelligence agencies and all of U.S. allies, and those are exactly Russia's talking points. Is that President Trump's intention? I don't know. But the fact is that President Trump repeats arguments that Vladimir makes. And that has a consequence for U.S. national security interests.

LEMON: Someone who a very smart man, you guys probably know him. He's a Trump biographer, Michael D'Antonio. He made this point to me, I think it's really important to say. He said remember the massive turnout in Berlin for Obama in 2008. Obama also had a good relationship with Merkel. And Merkel thinks Trump's hate -- Trump hates Germany because, Michael, I should say, he thinks Trump hates Germany because they loved Obama. Also, because Merkel is a powerful no nonsense woman who doesn't like Trump.

I mean, that unnerves Trump. How much of this is about personal relationships and not what's best for the United States, Max?

BOOT: I think that's certainly part of it. But remember that Trump's hatred of our allies long pre-dates Obama and Merkel. In fact, it goes back to the 1980s. So these are actually positions that he believes in, unlike his opposition to abortion, which is of relatively recent vintage.

He really dislikes our allies and thinks they've been ripping us off since the 1980s when we are winning the Cold War, standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies.

I mean, the elephant in the room here, Don, that we need to bring up here is the fact that Donald Trump was elected with Russian help. I mean, there is no two ways about that. We don't know if the help was decisive or not, but it was certainly there and he's aware that it was there.

And there's a fascinating essay in the courtesy of New York magazine by Jonathan Chait where he brings together a lot of the evidence of ties between Trump and Russia going all the way back to 1987, and suggest that there is a real chance that Donald Trump has been compromised by the Russians.

Now we don't know that for a fact. And I have to stress that. We don't have definitive evidence. Maybe Robert Mueller will deliver it and maybe not. But this is an opinion I've heard from many intelligence officials on and off the record.

I was talking to a U.S intelligence official just a few days ago with long experience on Russia who said that Russians have to have something on this guy because there's no other way to explain how friendly he is to Putin because everybody else he insults but he is friendly to Putin. Can there be an innocent explanation for it? It's hard to think of what it is.

LEMON: Yes. Hey, that's going to be the last word. And Nick, we'll get you next time. We appreciate it. Because I got to get on to some breaking news.

Thanks, everyone. I want to get to the breaking news now on immigration crisis that separated thousands of families at the border. An immigration official is telling CNN that in the next few hours they expect to have reunified all children under the age of 5, the children who are eligible to go back to their parents.

CNN's Ed Lavandera here with more on the breaking news. Ed, good evening to you. What's the latest?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you kind of hit the nail on the head there, Don. So that is the key word of what you mentioned, the kids that are eligible to be reunited.

[22:14:59] Remember, there is a court mandated order that a 102 children under the age of 5 were expected to be reunited with their families by yesterday, Tuesday. So far, the last number we had received is that 38 of that 102 would be -- had been reunited.

We haven't heard any other updates officially from the U.S. government throughout the day today. But an administration source tells CNN tonight that they expect all of those eligible reunifications to take place here within the next few hours in the early morning hours by Thursday morning, so going into tomorrow morning.

And that is going to apply to about 63 of the 102. There are 12 parents who have been deported, still waiting to be reunited with their children and we're told by administration officials that 27 of the 102 are not eligible to be reunited because of criminal background checks and security issues. So that's where we stand tonight, Don.

LEMON: I've just been handed a note and I'm told you know about this. There's a big development on the story of that 6-year-old girl we first heard on the Pro Publica audio recording of the kids crying for their parents. Listen first and then give the update. Here it is.




LEMON: So, Ed, there's news about her and her mother. What can you tell us?

LAVANDERA: Well, her mother is Cindy Madrid. She -- we've spoken with her tonight, CNN has, and she has been released from a detention center in Port Isabel, Texas. She tells us that she is very happy to be out. That she is planning on trying to see her daughter. Her daughter, 6-year-old Allison, is being held in a facility in Arizona.

And she, the mother, Cindy Madrid, says that she plans to travel to Arizona tomorrow to connect with her and see her, and that she is hoping that the daughter will be released to her soon pending a DNA test. And one of the last things she said to us, was that she was very proud of her daughter for quote, "becoming famous for such a good reason." Don.

LEMON: Ed Lavandera with the breaking news for us tonight. Ed, thank you very much.

When we come back, President Trump's blistering claim that Germany is controlled by Russia, sounds like the classic, I know you are but what are my strategies, especially coming ahead of his own meeting with Vladimir Putin? But is it a strategy that could work?


LEMON: The president's attack on NATO allies, especially Germany, are causing shock and alarm. European diplomats telling CNN that Trump's strategy is to win points with his base back home and to put the blame on others for the criticism he is getting for cozying up to Vladimir Putin.

So let's discuss all of this now with CNN Political Commentators, Joan Walsh, Scott Jennings, Amanda Carpenter, who is the author of "Gaslighting America: Why We Love it When Trump Lies To Us."

Good evening to all of you and welcome. Amanda, you first. Let's plays some moments where President Trump has taken his own weaknesses and weaponized them against others.


TRUMP: From everything I see has no respect for this person.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that's because he'd rather have a puppet as president--


TRUMP: No puppet.

CLINTON: And it's pretty clear--

TRUMP: You're the puppet.

CLINTON: It's pretty clear you won't admit that the Russians have engaged in cyber attacks.

TRUMP: Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to seek the office of the presidency of the United States.

Hillary Clinton's corruption is corrosive to the soul of our nation and it must be stopped, it must be stopped.

The Evangelicals are with me because they know one thing about me. I'm not a liar!


TRUMP: But Ted Cruz, he walks in, bible high, bible high, puts it down and he starts lying. I'll tell you what.

This guy, Ted Cruz, is the single biggest liar I have ever dealt with in my life. I mean it. I have never seen -- he will lie about anything.

Germany is a captive of Russia because they supply. They got rid of their coal plants, they got rid of their nuclear, they're getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia. I think it's something that NATO has to look at. I think it's very inappropriate.


LEMON: His projection to be president Kodak. Listen, Amanda, what do you make of the presidents know you are strategy?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. This is a classic case of what aboutism where someone raises a question about Trump and he turns around and says, well, what about you.

In this case, he's saying it towards Germany. And this is what aboutism with a purpose. He is trying to normalize Russia in many senses. He isn't going after NATO countries on the funding because he wants NATO to fully fund it.

Remember, he thinks it's obsolete. What he's saying, is that you're not paying up because you actually don't believe Russia is a threat. By the way, Germany, you're dependent on their oil.

Now there is problem with that statement. But he is trying to soften the ground, soften the posture towards Russia because also remember what he said during the G7, that he thought Russia should be reinstated. That was only last month he was having those same conversations with these same countries.

And so, somehow he keeps finding ways, in front of the camera to make Russia not seem threatening. And so that's all upside as he goes into the meeting with Putin in Helsinki later this week.

LEMON: So Scott, do you say that Trump is just being defensive, but isn't some part of this propaganda, I mean, trying to deflect attacks to our opponents?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think some of this is, you know, rhetorical defensiveness that a lot of politics display frankly. But if you listen closely to what President Trump did this week he made good points on a lot of fronts.

Honestly, it is a problem that Germany is reliant on Russian gas. It's a problem the E.U. is reliant on Russian oil and gas. It's a problem these countries don't spend enough money. But at the end of the day, I look at the results of what came out of the NATO trip. They signed a strong tough on Russia communique, re-reaffirmed all our commitments.

[22:24:59] And don't take it from me, take it from the German ambassador who on this very network today on Wolf Blitzer's show said the German-U.S. relationship is strong, the Trump-Merkel conversations were good and they are looking at positive outcomes and a stronger NATO on the back end of this summit.

So I think there's been a lot of discussion about Trump's rhetoric today. But I'm looking at the results. And don't take my word for it, the Germans say NATO is stronger today than it was last week.

LEMON: But Joan, rhetoric is one thing, getting your facts straight is another. Because I was talking to Max Boot and he was saying, well, he was saying that 70 percent, it's not, it's actually 9 percent what he was talking about gas and reliance.


LEMON: And so, he has, he says these things rhetorically, according to Scott, but his facts are wrong.

WALSH: His facts are almost always wrong. And you know, I'm glad that Scott agrees or believes the German ambassador. What I saw was a woman practicing diplomacy, God bless her, somebody has got to do it. So yes, she comes out and says things are good.

You know, Susan Glasser on our network last night said they talk about Trump in terms of containment. They use the word containment about the U.S. now. They are trying to manage a very tough situation with a guy who cannot go to NATO and say, thank you for shedding your blood after 9/11, thank you for still shedding your blood on some of these countries in Afghanistan and Syria, who can't honor what they've done. And then privately vent his spleen and there are things to be upset about. You know, Scott is right. So, you know, the fact that somebody came on

the air and praised him and said everything is good, she's a good diplomat. I love to see diplomacy. It works sometimes.

LEMON: NATO diplomats are dumbfounded by President Trump's barrage of acidic rhetoric at the annual summit in Brussels on Wednesday, it's like the world has gone crazy this morning one senior European diplomat told CNN.

We're going to continue to discuss. Everyone, stick around. When we come back, this is how the president's own chief of staff reacted when the president went after Germany at the NATO summit today. And he's not the only staffer who looked a bit uncomfortable there.


LEMON: So body language says it all. Some of the President's top aides looked really uncomfortable with his angry attacks on NATO allies. Back with me now, Joan Walsh, Scott Jennings, and Amanda Carpenter.

So, Amanda, I just want to play the reaction of President Trump's own staff, particularly the -- his Chief of Staff, John Kelly, when he took aim at Germany over there in reliance on Russian energy. Take a look at this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia because they support it. They got rid of their coal plants, they got rid of their nuclear. They're getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia.


LEMON: He looks pretty uncomfortable there. I mean, how did you read that, Amanda?

CARPENTER: Yes, I mean, this is what erratic leadership looks like. Certainly, John Kelly, and NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison had laid some ground work in the run-up to the meeting, and Trump was ruing some of the work that they've done.

And I think they must have the same question as I do, and millions of other Americans is, what is Donald Trump's policy towards Russia. Still to this day, I do not know how Russia has gotten so much benefit for so little after waging a cyber warfare, and disinformation campaign during this election.

Why is Donald Trump souring this relationship with our allies for a person he has never met? Now, listen, I have an open mind. I believe there is a possibility where someone like Michael Flynn maybe thought there was a possibility of a military alliance with unlikely people in the Middle East.

I think it's very possible that Donald Trump thinks there's untapped markets that perhaps the U.S. should be getting into. But no one has made that case. And I know going into this meeting with Putin, that Putin will have an agenda. He will want the sanctions lifted. I have no idea what the Trump White House expects to get out of that meeting. And I would like to know sometime soon.

LEMON: OK. Joan, so here's what Sarah Sanders tried to explain Kelly's -- how she explained it, telling the Washington Post -- Sarah is just up on the screen. Kelly was displeased because he was expecting a full breakfast, and there were only pastries and cheese. Really?

WALSH: Don, in what world is that a better explanation? In what world is that a good explanation? I know Scott will follow me. But I really expect him to agree with me on this one point. My god, who thinks that's a good thing to say?

And I also really want to shock the world, and defend Donald Trump, because these people who work for him, who sat alongside him, they're working for essentially a toddler. And when a toddler acts like a toddler, you don't really get to act out, and act horrified. And you know, John Kelly literally pulled himself away. I mean, that was deep. But they should expect this.

And we're all acting like, oh, even his staff was so upset. He got on the phone with Vladimir Putin by some accounts, and complained about his staff. He commiserates with Putin over his problems getting good help. So, Sarah Sanders, I don't know if she's given up, if she really -- people say she's looking for the door. But that is pretty much the worst explanation I've ever heard.

LEMON: Maybe it's because people -- the most outlandish explanations and excuses people buy them. So they just say he was hungry, and just keep moving, and they don't really care anymore.

WALSH: He wanted his bacon. I mean, I get grouchy when I expected bacon, Don. You should know that.

LEMON: Scott, a quick response because I want to ask you something else. Do you want to -- do you want to respond to that or you're cool?

JENNINGS: Sure. Look, I looked at it. I don't read a ton into body language, or stuff like this. But I would say I think General Kelly probably knew that Donald Trump had it 90 percent right. It's absolutely true. He missed on the numbers. But he got the coal part right. He got the nuclear part right. He got the German alliance on Russian gas right, and he whiffed on the numbers. And then, he knew at the point General Kelly...


JENNINGS: So, that's what I saw.

LEMON: Body language means nothing at all.

WALSH: Nothing. LEMON: But, Scott, listen, this is a new Pew Research poll, and it

shows that 31 percent of Americans say President Obama was among the best presidents they have seen in their lifetime. Twenty-one percent say Reagan was the second best.

Thirteen percent say Clinton was the third. Ten say Trump. Kennedy is at seven percent, both president -- both of the Bushes are tied at the bottom at three percent. At a time when it seems like Americans are consumed with the president, and his base -- what his base wants, it is interesting though that two Democrats, top the list of presidents, Obama is number one.

JENNINGS: Yes, I think that a lot of this is wrapped up in age. A lot of people in the age group, the millennial age group, I mean, Obama and Trump are the two presidents they know. And it doesn't surprise me they liked Obama.

[22:35:00] And it wasn't surprising to me that Reagan was up the list a little bit as well. And it doesn't surprise me, frankly, that President Kennedy still gets high marks. Because frankly, I think he did some things that were great during his short and tragic time in office.

So, I wasn't terribly surprised by this research. I also think over time the view of presidencies change when George W. Bush left office, for instance, he had very low approval ratings, but today his approval rating are much, much higher than they were.

LEMON: That has a lot to do with Trump, I'm sure.

2JENNINGS: You know, history changes, and change is how we view -- how we view presidencies. And look, Obama won two times for a reason, because he was a really talented politician who inspired a lot of people. I'm not going to deny that. And a lot of people who voted for him once or twice are still proud of those votes. And so, I am not surprised.

WALSH: I would also jump in and say, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both won the popular vote. And George Bush, the first time around -- it's the first time George Bush did not, and neither did Donald Trump. So, that might account for something, too.

LEMON: Amanda, I'll give you the last word.

CARPENTER: I think just all of the coarseness and callousness we're seeing right now coming from the White House, I mean, Melania's choice of the jacket, and that harsh message...

WALSH: Oh dear.

CARPENTER: ... just -- I mean, it makes you nostalgic for anyone who shows respect for the office and the messages that they carry.

LEMON: I think that's why I said the president -- the current president has a lot to do with this because I'm sure some Democrats are saying, well, maybe Bush wasn't so bad. And that's -- no, seriously.

WALSH: I say that sometimes.

LEMON: I think that's why maybe, you know...

JENNINGS: It's hard to judge presidencies in the moment, Don. I mean, in the moment...

LEMON: Yes, people romanticize them, too.

JENNINGS: It's really hard to judge.

LEMON: They usually do better -- history usually does better than when they're in office at least.


LEMON: OK, thank you. I appreciate it. When we come back, Paul Manafort complaining that he is unable to prep for his trial while he's in jail even though officials have recordings of Manafort himself bragging about his VIP treatment. What does this all mean for the case in Robert Mueller's investigation? That's next.


LEMON: A federal judge ruling today that Paul Manafort must be transferred to a new jail while he awaits trial, despite Manafort's objections. That as prosecutors released new details about what Manafort himself describes as his VIP treatment behind bars.

Let's discuss. CNN Legal and National Security Analyst, Asha Rangappa is here, also, the former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman joins us, and Michael Isikoff, Chief Investigative Correspondent for Yahoo News, and the co-author of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, that I got to read on my vacation last week. And it was fascinating.

So, thank you for giving me something to read on the beach. I appreciate it. So, Asha, let's talk about this. In a new court ruling, Mueller's team goes into detail about Paul Manafort's cushy conditions in jail, and they say his privileges, and these are, quote, including this, a private self-contained living unit larger than other inmates, his own bathroom, and shower, a personal telephone, his own workspace to prepare for trial, a laptop with an extension cord in his room.

He's able to send e-mails, and make more than 100 phone calls to his legal 2team, and he doesn't have to wear a prison uniform. So, on a monitored call from prison, Manafort mentioned that he is being treated like a VIP. So, why do you think he's getting this special treatment?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, he is in solitary confinement 23 hours a day. And somewhere, Don, you can hear the smallest violin playing for Paul Manafort, who claims that he isn't able to prepare for his defense. And I think all the things that you just listed now suggest that he

has more than ample time, and more than ample resources to do just that. So, you know, we've just seen motion after motion from Manafort to try to, you know, throw roadblocks into this proceeding.

And by the way, we should note that the reason that he's in this position is that he first violated his house arrest by writing a ghost op-ed -- a pro-Ukraine op-ed in violation of the conditions, and then he was trying to coordinate with witnesses on his testimony. So, I think his situation right now is of his own making.

LEMON: So, Michael, why do you think Mueller went after Manafort's, quote, VIP lifestyle in jail? Is there a strategy here? Is he sending a message to Manafort?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, I think they were just trying to push back on Manafort's efforts to change his -- the terms of his confinement. But, you know, the most interesting thing I found in the motion that Mueller's people filed today, the essential complaint of Manafort is that he hasn't been able to go through all the evidence in his trial.

He hasn't been able to meet with his -- with his counsel as much as he would like, but they quoted from a taped phone call that Manafort had with somebody else, all prison phone calls are taped, and Manafort says, I've been through all the discovery now.

So Manafort clearly has been able to review the material that's going to be evidence at the trial. And I think they were -- Mueller's people, you know, put that in just to sort of push back on Mueller's -- on Manafort's motion.

LEMON: So, Harry, is Mueller saying, hey, listen, we know -- we know about your communications, and we know everything that's happening to you in jail. I mean -- because he's also using Manafort's words against him.

Manafort has been complaining to the judge that he can't prep for his trial because he's behind bars far away from his lawyers. But the monitored calls also revealed that Manafort on a phone call saying he has gone through all the discovery, he's able to visit with his lawyers everyday, and that he has all his files, like he would at home. They know. Are these comments problematic for Manafort?

[22:45:01] HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Of course, in a number of ways. First of all, as Asha said, this is how he got in jail in the first place is by talking imprudently, and actually saying things that, of course, Mueller was going to overhear, and did.

And what happened here by the way is he originally said, could you move me please closer to jail, and then he changed his mind, and said, you know, I kind of like it here with the VIP treatment. And the judge, perplexed, said, what are you -- what are you talking about, and moved him to Alexandra. I've been there by the way, and I've also seen the kind of unit he is in. He is trading down big time. But he has also hurt his credibility

with Ellis quite clearly, the judge, in making this motion, and then trying to backtrack. You could see in Ellis' comments a general loss of credibility.

The trial starts two weeks from today. That's going to -- and now, we're going to see actually evidence from Mueller where we've only seen allegations. And he definitely begins in the hole because he's lost a measure of credibility by making this effort, and then aborting it.

LEMON: All right. Everyone stay with me. When we come back, we're going to talk about President Trump's latest DOJ appointee. He is a former Sessions staffer who once represented a Russian bank, and now he will be heading up the Justice Department's Criminal Division. By that, it has Democrats and others worried. That's next.


LEMON: The Senate confirming a controversial nominee to head up the Justice Department's Criminal Division. Democrats tried unsuccessfully to get Brian Benczkowski his nomination pole, but his ties to a Russia bank -- a Russian bank that have been scrutinized by FBI counterintelligence, that's what's in question now.

So, back with me now, Asha Rangappa, Harry Litman, and Michael Isikoff. So, Harry let's talk about Brian Benczkowski. He was confirmed with just one Democratic vote, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, the rest of party is slamming his confirmation. Here's what Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said to Erin Burnett about Benczkowski. That was earlier tonight. Watch this.


SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: He's going in as chief of criminal, having never been a prosecutor, having never tried a case, having never argued a motion, having virtually never even been in a courtroom. So, if you're trying to figure out why somebody like that would be there, the obvious answer is that as the chief of the criminal division, he will have visibility into the Mueller investigation.


LEMON: So, there's a lot there. He does -- he has no prosecutorial experience. Does he -- does the senator have a point there?


LITMAN: He has -- he has a point. But the way -- and but the way, the senator is a former U.S. attorney, so he knows how the Department of Justice works. He know the importance of the Criminal Division. It's a real nitty-gritty position. And you do need prosecutorial experience.

I can't think of anyone who has not had it. That said, he does have experience throughout the department including chief of staff, to the attorney-general, the deputy attorney general. I've spoken to some former partners of his who say he's, you know, a decent and straight- up guy.

But you have to wonder, why do you need somebody without prosecutorial experience to lead the Criminal Division? And of course, there is this problem that's going to have a strong functional role in the probe.

It's not that he might take over the probe, but there are all kinds of decisions about getting a search warrant, or about how to handle certain evidence that he'll be in on. And you worry because of his political ties to Sessions. Even if it's not true, that's where we've come to in the Trump administration. You always think the worse, and think that there's a political reason underneath the appointment.

LEMON: So, so many questions, Asha. I mean, aside from his lack of experience, Benczkowski worked for Alpha Bank, that's one of Russia's largest banks, and has close ties to Vladimir Putin, he failed to disclose that on his Senate judiciary questionnaire. Couldn't they have found someone else for the job without these issues?

RANGAPPA: That's the question, Don. This is a highly coveted position that I think career prosecutors would love to have. So, it's quite astonishing to me that of all the qualified people that could possibly get this position that they would choose this particular person.

And it's almost like the White House is trolling the Department of Justice. You know, having said that, I agree with Harry that, you know, I don't know that it's time to raise the alarm bells just yet. You know, lawyers represent questionable clients, I don't think you can impute the actions of those clients on to the attorney.

And I'll also just add that we can take some lessons from the IG investigator into the Hillary Clinton investigation, which is that when people in the Department of Justice or the FBI make decisions in the investigation, they are documented, and they are subject to be reviewed with a fine-tooth comb at some point. So, I think that he would be aware that, you know, everything that he does will be especially scrutinized given the controversial nature of his appointment.

LEMON: Michael, he was also on the president's transitional team. Do you think it's another case of the president wanting a loyalist in law enforcement -- in the law enforcement position?

ISIKOFF: Absolutely. I mean, we've seen the president repeatedly break Attorney General Sessions for not protecting him by recusing himself in the -- in the Russian investigation. So, Benczkowski was -- he was ahead of the Justice Department transition team. He was viewed as a political loyalist. Now, I don't think he's going to have much a direct input into the Mueller investigation itself.

[22:55:03] Mueller reports to Rod Rosenstein. You know, there's a -- there's a pretty clear line of communication there. But let's remember, there are lots of other investigations going on in the Justice Department that implicate the president, and people in his -- in his administration. Just for starters, the whole Michael Cohen affair being investigated by the Southern District in New York.

That is something that Benczkowski will have direct oversight off. And the Southern District on that matter would have to report to him. And so, you know, there are reasons to -- for concern for those who question whether the Justice Department is going to be completely straight, and on the -- on the up and up here. But at the end of the day, he did get confirmed, and he's not the first political loyalist to hold that position in The Justice Department.

LEMON: Michael, Harry, Asha, thank all appreciate it. When we come back, the President picking fights at the NATO Summit, and angering our closest friends abroad, but all of it seems to be pleasing his base here at home.