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Putin Invited to Washington for Another Summit in Wake of Damage Control from Helsinki Debacle; How Did Alleged Russian Agent Get Access to Top Politicians?; Cabinet Still Largely in the Dark about Summit; Trump-Putin Summit; Trump Presidency; Senate Votes To Reject Putin Proposal; DHS Secretary Nielsen Doubles Down On Charlottesville, Blames Both Sides; Texas Republican Wrote An Op-Ed Calling The President Out Directly. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired July 19, 2018 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. It is 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. Live with all the new developments for you tonight. President Trump under fire for his conduct at the debacle of the news conference with President Putin in Helsinki. Now deciding to invite the Russian President to the White House. The news coming in as a surprise to Dan Coats. His own director of National Intelligence, who found out in a live television interview.

So after a summit that went so badly, you had been forced to do days of damage control, you decide on a do over without even telling your Director of National Intelligence? This comes a few days after Coats released a statement reaffirming that Russia did in fact attack the 2016 election. He did that just after his boss, the President, called Putin's denial of responsibility quote, extremely strong and powerful.

The FBI Director, Christopher Wray said yesterday, Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in influence operations till this day. CIA Chief, turned secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, confirmed Russia's hacking and warned it would continue. All three hand-picked by guess who, President Trump.

All three. With decisive assessments about Russia's actions and intentions, and yet the President cast doubt on that while standing alongside Vladimir Putin, of all people. Got to ask yourself, why is that? I want to bring in now CNN Political Analyst, April Ryan. And also Bill Kristol, the editor-at-large at the Weekly Standard, and Republican Strategist, Rick Wilson.

Good evening. Good to have all of you on. So, Bill, I just want to play a stunning -- this is a stunning moment, when the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, found out from a reporter about the President's invitation for Putin to visit the White House. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall. DANIEL COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Say that again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You -- Vladimir Putin coming --

COATS: Did I hear you?




COATS: That is going to be special.


LEMON: So, you were in the room at that moment. Tell us, take us there.

BILL KRISTOL, FOUNDER AND EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, that laughter was not -- people thought it was funny, it was Dan Coats being embarrassed, obviously he was told it was news by a reporter while he was on stage. And it shows how much he is really out of the loop, I supposed. And the President's making his own decisions. That is the main thing I'd take away from the conversations of literally the people who work for some of the people out here at the aspen security conference. Mid-level officials, some careers, some political, some I've known over the years a little bit. When I was in government and after that. I mean, they think their bosses are doing their best to keep thing under control. They don't want them to re- sign, they hope they can stay. And these are people who work at the State Department agency, at the defense, at the White House itself.

What they have -- one has a sense in talking to them, they are worried thing are coming increasingly -- or increasingly coming apart. That the guard rails that were there in a little bit more in the first year the President's figuring out how to get around them. Or he just doesn't care. He is contented of it, you have seen that in the last years. The private meeting with President Putin, when I was in government, I work for Vice President Claire, we had a case, of course, when we travel with our Presidents, case didn't want to have a one on one meeting with the Vice President.

And as soon as he is come out we would get to a quick debrief of anything of importance that had happen. We quickly sent it back to the State Department so it could be circulated at the senior levels of the U.S. government. This is just Vice President Claire, we are not discussing usually the most sensitive things. But still, you got to make sure that the government's on one page.

Trump seems to fault no one about what happened in the two-hour plus meeting, one on one with one of our leading -- maybe our leading adversary. It is really astonishing, how can you make policy, how can you direct Intelligence resources, how, I mean, it really puts us as a genuine strategic disadvantage in dealing with the world. That is what I instruct talking to people out here. They are worried what's sort of embarrassing and ridiculous and annoying is now, morphing it to being genuinely damaging.

LEMON: And dangerous, extremely dangerous. So, April, you know, this morning the President tweeted that he was looking forward to a second meeting with Putin. As someone who covers the White House each and every single day, do you think the President's staff have any clue that this was coming or do you think they were caught off guard just like everybody else?

[23:05:05] APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALIST: This President does a lot on his own without consulting with people. He feels he is the end all be all. And to a certain extent, he is, but he also has a staff that he just does not consult with. He may consult with his children, but he is basically on his own. Many Republicans who are very close to this White House are saying it would be a disaster, and it's not a good thing for Vladimir Putin to come to the White House. I mean, you got Camp David. Camp David would be more palatable than coming to the White House.

This President has changed the dynamic, not only is he not listening to his own staff, Don, he has changed the dynamic. He is now looking at European leaders as our foes. And those who used to be considered the axis of evil, like little rocket man is now possibly friendly today or yesterday, whatever, you know, depending on the day and how the wind blows.

And then, Vladimir Putin is now competitor instead of someone who would be considered an enemy. This is a different day. This is not a communications issue, this is not just President standing alone, and this is upside down. This is this President leading on his own.

LEMON: And you know what, Rick, when people say this was a terrible performance, wasn't just about the performance, it was about his -- about knowledge and death and knowing -- and being out of his depth really and being out of his range. But I have to say, you know, April, said what she said, but Director Coats may be in trouble tonight, according to "the Washington Post". People were not happy. Their criticizing and say, hey look, he looks like he was playing to the intellectual elites and he embarrassed the President.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Of course. I mean, look, any time someone in the Trump world deviates from the ideology of Trumpism, they're going to get stabbed in the back. I mean, Lincoln have his team of rivals and Trump has his team of weasels. So, you got everyone in the White House right now, who saw Coats did not express a perfect, you know, degree of delighted surprise, and say, oh my brilliant President has come up with this enormously popular and wonderful idea. To you know, to have a slumber party with Vladimir Putin. You know, and so, the guy gets caught sideways. And of course the reaction isn't, wow, the President's out of his damn mind.

The reaction is why didn't Coats, you know, show the appropriate joy at the President's idea to bring the spy master and what -- more people perceive than ever, his boss to dinner at the White House. It's an astounding uncomfortable thing for a guy like Dan Coats who has a long history as a sort of nuts and bolts Republican conservative and Washington figure, who is not a flashy kind of guy. And he obviously, as Bill said, exactly right on target, you can see Dan Coats was extraordinarily uncomfortable.

LEMON: Yes, it is interesting, because when I read this, I know it sounds hot, it reminded me of the scene from "Mommy Dearest" where she like beats her daughter because she said her daughter you deliberately embarrass me in front of a reporter. Not the wire hanger, this is the -- you embarrassed me in front of a reporter which he comes back from boarding school and she -- like chokes her in the living room in front of a reporter, but anyway, go on.

RYAN: But don, here's the thing --

WILSON: April can chime in on this, but I'm struck, John Kelly is now really out of it, I think the chief of staff. Trump's not listening to him much, I think he'll leave pretty soon. H.R. McMaster --

LEMON: A lot of people have said that and it has not happened yet.

WILSON: No, but I think it may. Trump is impatient with McMaster. But he established some process, some ability, accountability to stop really crazy thing from happening. That is until the (inaudible). John Bolton, I don't believe is standing in any way in Trump's way. John Bolton is written that hawk on Russians for 20 years, and now he is just going along with Trump, because he wants to be in Trump's good graces. Bill Shine is now in there. The Deputy chief of staff, the former tough guy at Fox News who has his own record there, who is entirely a Trump guide. It is all about Trump P.R. I mean, some of the thing that were stopping some of craziness before, those things have been eroded I think.

LEMON: Go on April.

RYAN: OK, Don, we got the litany of the top staff. But here's the bottom line, ever since the President walked away from that podium in Helsinki, the White House has been trying to deal with damage control. The Republicans are behind the closed doors and they are even talking to the president. Someone is going to take a fall for this so that the President doesn't look so bad. They are trying to basically tell the blame to someone else. Someone or some people will take the fall. Someone will fall on the sword soon. And it could be Coats, we don't know. But that issue, is the President, he veered off from the script. It is not the staff's fault that the President spoke his heart and spoke his mind. The President did this, but they're going try to make other's scapegoat.

[23:10:03] LEMON: Rick, I know you want to get in --

KRISTOL: Trump has doubled down on it. That is the most astounding. He doesn't think he did anything wrong. And he may punish some people for as Rick said, for not being sufficiently craving and praising him, but he is pursuing his course now. If you think that course -- I do think that course is bad for the country. I think it's more worrisome even.

LEMON: Well, Rick, to April has a point. Someone always takes the blame for something that this President's does, something that he gets wrong. WILSON: You know, I think April's right. They will find scapegoat

they will find somebody to pin their pie up on the barn. The thing is, Donald Trump has been off the rails for basically four weeks now, starting with the child separation policy and the disastrous period in that where he just lost control of the narrative completely. He had a few descent days with Kavanaugh and then he made the decision to go in that room alone. And Donald Trump's idea that he knows better than everyone else, he is the greatest negotiator in the history of the world and blah, blah, blah.

All these thing about his ego and his self-image that have driven him to make these unilateral decisions outside of any kind of staff process, any kind of intelligence process, disconnected from both council and values that the American people generally expect their Presidents to understand, has led him into this hole. He is in this ditch of his own making. He was the one who went into that media yesterday and just couldn't force himself to stick to a script for five minutes that would have saved his tail.

He is the one that flipped it around in the middle of it. It could be somebody else. Maybe not be the Russian. He is playing this game, this is Donald Trump. Everything flows downhill from the top of fecal mountain of Donald Trump's leadership. But it all comes from him at the top. And yes, while April's absolutely correct, they will find somebody to blame this on, it isn't that person's fault. Whoever that person is, you know, they're marked forever now with the stain. But it's Donald Trump. It's always only exclusively Donald Trump who make these decisions.

LEMON: Thank you all. I appreciate it.

We'll be right back.


LEMON: Russian's foreign ministry launching a hash tag campaign to free Maria Butina. That is the alleged Russian agent who is behind bars tonight. But did a 29-year-old, Russian get access to so many top politicians. Let's discuss now with former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Harry Litman and former Director for Russia at the National Security Council, Jeffrey Edmonds. Gentlemen, good evening to you. So, Jeffrey, there are countless pictures of Maria Butina with big name Republicans like, Scott Walker, Bobby, top officials like David keen and Win LaPierre, how do you think Butina worked to herself in to that circles?

JEFFREY EDMONDS, FORMER DIRECTOR FOR RUSSIA, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: I think what's interesting about Maria, you know, when we think about spies, we usually think about somebody that the Russian security service has identified as having a weakness of some kind.

They cultivate this person then they exploit them. And over years they try to work them as they get classified information from the deep of the government. That is not what we're talking about, we're talking about a fail fast fail chief approach. And what bothers me is that it worked. It didn't cost her much to get in here. She was rather plan blunt about what she was doing, yet she still got within circles of people -- the typical Russian approach. Let's go in for the divisions and society, let's put somebody there.

And the people there on that division, whether it is the NRA, or what have you, welcomed this person in with open arms, really not realizing what their actual credentials are and where they're coming from.

LEMON: You said fail fast fail cheap, right, explain that? What does that mean?

EDMONDS: Well, I mean, you have a number of approaches, she is not expensive, she doesn't take years to cultivate, it doesn't take a lot of money to get in here, and it wasn't even hard for her to get in here. And it didn't seem like it was hard for her in getting in the circles. This is not someone, we're not talking about the Americans, right. We're not talking about the show where you really try to get someone deep within the government, it's very hard to get a security clearance, and they're getting secret documents out. That is not we are not talking about. What bothers me is she is cheap and there could be more like her out there.

LEMON: Harry, you know, you say this story has the potential to send shock waves not just in to the Trump campaign and into the officials there, but throughout the Republican Party, explain that.

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, I mean this was just falling up on what -- it was sort of a brilliant master stroke. A 29-year-old woman, she is being handled by a high person in the Russian government. What does she do, they hit on the idea of going through the NRA. And she does first, in fact, and foremost attract and get next to a 56-year-old kind of -- social climbing member of political conservative circles. He used to run Pat Buchanan's campaign. He is been around, he has rolled the decks and through him, they launch a campaign specifically, specifically for collusion.

The whole idea here, and her American knows it is to try to set up back channel communications from the Russian government to the U.S. And they hit on the idea that many in the NRA has this unusual influence with certain members in the Republican Party. And that was her point of entree. And you know, there's a sort of titillating aspect to the whole story. But when push comes to shove it really is a bit of a dark political tale. It was kind of easy, as Jeff said, to really consort with a whole bunch of people. There's going to be a lot of embarrassed older men I think, whose facts are going to be coming to light in the next couple months.

LEMON: You were reading my mind. She played them, right.

LITMAN: She played them.

LEMON: She worked them is what happened. So, Harry listen, Butina is wrapped up with Milwaukee County Sheriff, David Clark. In 2015, Clark was part of an NRA delegation that went to Moscow to meet with Butina's group. The right to bear arms, and according to an ethics report, Butina's group paid $6,000 of Clark's travel expenses. I mean, Clark is a huge Trump supporter, how significant is this? [23:20:16] LITMAN: Yes, I mean there's certainly money going back and

forth. The Department of Justice was careful to do a very small and easily provable charge. She is just in court, because she was acting as an agent and didn't register with the Attorney General. But there's all kinds of suggestions that especially through Torshin, her handler, he is right now under sanctions by the Treasury Department and under investigation for funneling money to the NRA. So underneath the small simple charge, may lie all kind of dirty money being funneled to the NRA and some sort of back and forth to facilitate the political influence.

LEMON: Listen, she was -- Butina was -- and Jeffrey, in a romantic relationship with Republican political operative, Paul Erickson. Do you think he was just a dupe?

EDMONDS: Oh, I think he was. I mean, this was very typical, this falls in line with what I was saying earlier about the fail fast and fail cheap. The Russian way of doing this is really kind of -- it is a very similar to the business kind of emerging strategy approach. You throw a bunch of stuff against the wall, see what sticks and you focus on that. And apparently she was having some transaction with this gentleman with NRA or what have you and so they start to funnel, you know, resources to her to exploit that, but what I want to know is like what else happened out there, what else is still out there that we don't know about.

LEMON: Yes. Interesting. Listen, authorities having on Butina for years. Who else could be wrapped up in this? Do you think that there is a lot that we don't know, Jeffrey?

EDMONDS: I mean, I assume that there is. I mean, I know individuals that were targeted by her. That is like -- kind of amateur actually, but what bothers me, again, fail cheap. She wasn't --

LEMON: They said it was --

EDMONDS: She would kind of promote herself in a way, like she had inroads in the senior political people, it wasn't clear that she did. Kind a lot of bragging, but just really pushing the envelope of where she could get influence in a government. And it was just really kind of a skater shot. Well, again, let's see what stick. Let's see who actually answers and believes me and let us go forward there.

LEMON: Yes. Harry who --

LITMAN: Some campaign officials do show up in the story though. She has a party right after the inauguration with campaign officials there. There's some suggestion that Trump Jr. has some very incriminating and wiretaps conversations with her handler, Torshin. I mean, there is some possibly big hits here.

LEMON: let us talk a little bit more about that because she directly interacted with Trump and his family as you said. She attended the 2017 national prayer breakfast where Trump spoke. She attended his inauguration as you said. She had a brief interaction with Donald Trump Jr. in an NRA convention and she attended the 2015 town hall in Las Vegas, were she asked candidate Trump this, watch this.


MARINA BUTINA, GUN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I'm visiting from Russia, so my question --

TRUMP: Oh, Putin. Good friend of Obama, Putin. He likes Obama a lot.

BUTINA: My question, if you would be elected as a President what would be your foreign politic, especially in relationships with my country? And do you want to continue the politics of sanctions that damaging of both economy? Or you have any other ideas?

TRUMP: OK, Obama gets along with nobody. The whole world takes us. I know Putin and I'll tell you what, we get along with Putin. I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin. OK?


LEMON: That was 2015, but I mean that could have been today, right. By anyway I digress. Harry, do you think anyone on Trump's team was aware of Butina's role?

LITMAN: Real role as a spy, well it is funny, because her role is only semi-covert. I mean, I don't think that we have knowledge and evidence of her real kind of relationship with Torshin and the whole e-mail traffic back and forth, that makes it clear she is being handled. But she is express about saying I'm here to change the dynamic and to actually facilitate back channel communications with the government. And she makes a big deal about Trump's candidacy saying, it may be an opportunity for a whole change alignment between the U.S. and Russia. So, in that sense it is an open -- she is playing an open hand. So, the general mission, yes, and possibly some of the money stuff, if that goes through the NRA. That would have all kind of implications, and that wouldn't have been secret either.

LEMON: There's going to be a whole lot of older men who are going to be embarrassed, Jeffrey says. Oh, boy. Thank you both, I appreciate it. We will be watching for all, thank you.

When we come back, we still don't know what happened behind closed doors when President Trump met with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. And the secrecy of that meeting is just the latest example of the President's problem with transparency.

[23:25:06] Remember those tax returns, he still hasn't release.


LEMON: Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats flat out admitting today that he still doesn't know what happened in President Trump's private meeting with Vladimir Putin. CNN's reporting shows that most top administration officials don't know either. Let's discuss now, CNN Contributor, Walter Shaub, he is a former director of United States office of government ethics, he joins. It was one year ago that he resigned in protest over President Trump's approach to ethics in government. Good to have you on sir. Thank for joining us.


LEMON: So, Walter, it's been three days since President Trump met one on one with Vladimir Putin and there is very little information about what went on inside that meeting, you said that the shear fact that Trump wanted to talk to Putin in secrecy is significant. Explain that.

SHAUB: Well, I mean, it means that right in front of us in plain sight, we know that he's got a secret with Russian President Vladimir Putin that he is not willing to share with the American people, at least not yet. And in fact, we learned today that he hasn't shared it with his director of National Intelligence or at least some information about the idea that they'll be meeting again.

I just can't even imagine what it must be like right now to be a state department diplomat sitting across the table from your Russian counterpart who has been briefed on the secret agreement between your two presidents, and he knows that your mind is on the concern about a former U.S. ambassador, Michael McFaul, who the president has considered turning over to Russia for interrogation. It's just unbelievable. I don't know how a government can continue to function this way.

LEMON: Well, that's what I want to ask you about. I mean, this former head of governor ethics. So then what is -- explain the significance of this because there should be some transparency at least as to what was discussed in the meeting.

It should be on the record. And if it's not on the record for the American people, shouldn't the officials in the White House or shouldn't some of our intelligence people or ambassadors or -- shouldn't they know what happened?

SHAUB: Yes. I mean, they can't do their jobs without it and it's chilling to know that they're at an informational disadvantage to their counterparts. You know, every single government employee except for the president and vice president is subject to the standards of conduct that require loyalty to America. It's constitution, it's laws, it's people.

Now, the president and vice president are subject to that rule, but I think we can safely assume that they should be loyal to this country. They take an oath that they're willing to put us first. They just didn't seem like that when you're sharing secrets with a hostile foreign power that attacked our election system.

LEMON: Yes. Let's go down a little bit here. You know, we have been asking this question all week why, I think everyone has, why did the president say what he said in Helsinki? Why the explanations and the clarifications? And why the refusal to say Putin lied? You suggested that Trump may be vulnerable to foreign efforts to manipulate his financial interests. So talk to us about that.

SHAUB: Yes. We learned this past year that at least the intelligence agencies have discovered that at least four foreign governments have been plotting to try to find ways to manipulate Jared Kushner based on his financial holdings that he held. The president has got more a great deal more authority and power than Jared Kushner and he has got, you know, significant holdings of his own.

And so it stands to reason that if we already know that they're plotting to try to manipulate and leverage the financial interest of an assistant to the president, it stands to reason that they must be doing that with the president.

And this is where we too are at an informational disadvantage just like government officials are because this president chose not to divest his financial interest and has shown a consistent pattern of being hostile to both government ethics and transparency.

And so the slightest thing where we don't know the secret that he has with Vladimir Putin is consistent with the fact that he didn't release his tax returns. We don't know from his financial disclosure reports for instance who his businesses owe money to, who their customers are, who their business partners are, how much money they're bringing in or our how much they're losing.

Now, we wouldn't necessarily get all of that information from the tax returns, but having those tax returns would be another piece in the puzzle and we are missing a lot of pieces to this puzzle right now.

LEMON: Yes. And that's the importance of knowing, you know, if there is a conflict of interest, of having the tax returns, knowing if there is a conflict of interest. Maybe he's comprised in some places and just at least the transparency of being able to see that with a tax return says so much, at least the American would know.

Listen, experts we've talked to say that it's likely that the special counsel has access to them already. Do you agree with that?

SHAUB: You know, I just don't know. The special counsel's team has been very good about not leaking information. But it seems reasonable that that might be the kind of thing they've gotten. Even if they don't have the tax returns, they may have other items that are much more valuable than the tax returns themselves.

In terms of understanding the nature of these businesses he owns, you know, unlike publicly traded businesses, the private businesses he owns don't have as much of an obligation, don't really have any obligation to disclose their business dealings.

[23:35:03] They don't file FCC filings and they don't have shareholders so they have a duty to keep informed. And so we know almost nothing about them, except from information that might be shared by business partners or customers. That's the kind of thing that Mueller might be able to get behind the scenes.


SHAUB: So --

LEMON: All right. Well, we shall see. Walter Shaub, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much. When we come back, the White House tying itself up in knots for a third straight day, trying to do damage control after the mess the president made in Helsinki. But do they really expect us to believe them with all the backtracking and the doubling down?


LEMON: Well, the president catching everyone off guard today, including top administration officials by inviting Vladimir Putin to Washington, doing this while top aides are still trying to clear up the mess he made in Helsinki and all of his misstatements since.

[23:40:04] I want to bring in now CNN Political Commentator, Amanda Carpenter, the author of "Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies To Us," and Political Commentators, Scott Jennings and Symone Sanders. Get on to books. Amanda is making you look bad. So, good evening.

Amanda, you wrote an entire book about gaslighting. So talk about the president's statements and his behavior over the past couple of days. Has there been a more egregious example of it, do you think?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, yes. I think what we need to look at is the way that Trump has been gaslighting the intel community ever since before he became president. Look back at the tweet he wrote when he was president-elect, saying that when news reports were coming out, saying that intel officers were looking at contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

He issued a tweet that said that this was evidence we are living in Nazi, Germany. That is a tweet that launched a million conspiracy theories that yes, a lot of Republicans love. And from there, he continued to gaslight the intel community. Look at how he treated James Comey in his firing, saying that he was fired allegedly because of his mistreatment of Hillary Clinton.

This yarn that he rolled out saying that he had tapes from the White House's Oval Office, supposedly showing James Comey's malfeasance. There have been so many narratives to distract from the fundamental conflict that we're witnessing that is between Donald Trump and what he doesn't want the intelligence community to uncover.

And so this war that we're seeing, I think we're witnessing a cold war of sorts between Donald Trump and the intel community because they are fighting, they are not on the same page because he has been at war with them ever since he became president.

LEMON: Scott, I know you support the president, but you have been critical of what he has been doing with Russia and Putin this week. What is happening inside the White House, Scott? Who is advising the president, who is listening, and is he listening to anyone?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good question. I'm certain that inside the White House, there are people who have expressed contrarian views to the way this has unfolded, and there are people that have said, ride on, Mr. President. So I think he has got advisers on both sides of it. I am troubled to see the president of the United States and his director of National Intelligence split publicly the way they are right now. I think that sends a bad signal to the world.

So, whether you think Donald Trump is doing the right thing or Coats is or they both are, they both aren't, it will be better as a projection that we have our act together if they weren't split publicly like this. So I hope they meet tomorrow and cease this sort of what I think is a public antagonism of each other.

You know, I think the president needs to think hard before he brings Vladimir Putin to the White House, about what message that sends to our NATO allies. I think he needs to think hard about what message it sends to his allies in Congress. There was a 98 to nothing vote today in the United States Senate, strongly pushing back on the idea that we might be turning over Americans for interrogation.

I know the president has ruled that out now, thank goodness. But this whole Russian situation makes a lot of Republicans uncomfortable. I think they like the idea of the president engaging and they want to give him the latitude to operate but there has to be some boundaries. He certainly pushed them this week.

LEMON: Well -- well, that was a long way to go around saying, get your you know what together, Scott. I think that's what you're saying. You guys need to come together and get your --

JENNINGS: They do. Coats and the president. Coats holds a very important position. They got to be unified or something has to change.

LEMON: OK. I got to bring Symone. Symone, he mentioned that 98 to nothing vote right to Senate today. They issued -- there was some bipartisanship today, right? The Senate voted 98 to zero to let the president know that they didn't support him entertaining the issue of turning over a former American ambassador to Russia. Is that where the line is on this, you think? Is it that far out?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know if that's necessarily the line. I want to be clear. And I think this is why we saw this bipartisanship in the Senate today is because what Russia did in meddling in our elections isn't a Democrat or Republican or independent thing, if you will. This is an issue that confronts all Americans.

It is something all Americans regardless of political party should in fact be concerned about, the integrity of our election process. And I think what you saw the Senate do today is say, hey, that is just not something we do. And the Senate, remember, they are branch of government and they can do things and send a message to the president and speak directly to him legislatively and this is in fact what they did.

I am still concerned with that, we have seen Donald Trump flip-flop on his position with Russia and Vladimir Putin, what did and didn't happen in the meeting, the would and the wouldn't and maybe, and the semantics of everything that he said. We have yet to see a number of top Republican officials name Donald Trump by name. They are still scared to confront him in a way directly.

[23:44:58] And I think that as long as we are in a place where folks aren't willing -- Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan aren't willing to call Donald Trump out, and then take other actions legislatively against him where Russia is concerned. I don't think we've reached the line, Don.

LEMON: Yes. Well, the Homeland Security secretary today saying, well, she doesn't quite believe what the intelligence community says, but she does believe wholeheartedly what the intelligence community says. We'll explain, coming up.


LEMON: All right. Back now. I'll call them my posse. Amanda Carpenter, Scott Jennings, Symone Sanders. They seem like they want it too.

SANDERS: That was my posse move.

LEMON: Yes, I like that. All right.

JENNINGS: This is the first time I have ever been included in a posse.

[23:50:01] (LAUGHTER)

CARPENTER: I'm not sure I should try.


LEMON: Look, I don't know, you know.

SANDRS: Quaggle, Scott. That's quaggle.

LEMON: We can start a show called posse. Listen, Amanda, this is for you. The Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, was interviewed today at the Aspen Security Forum. She was asked about the upcoming one year anniversary of the Neo-Nazi rally, you know, the one in Charlottesville. And she seemed to echo the president's controversial words. Watch this.


KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I think what's important about that conversation is, it's not that one side is right, one side is wrong. Anybody that is advocating violence, we need to work to mitigate.


LEMON: Did anyone in the administration learn from the backlash after this event? Why can't she just call out white nationalism? CARPENTER: That was appalling. I mean, certainly, she saw the reaction to the both sides argument and yet she repeats what Donald Trump has said. She had another bad answer about cyber security and Russian meddling in which she also repeated what the president has said.

And so it seems that she just mimics White House talking points from Donald Trump. This is a sign of really poor leadership from her position. People who don't -- are not effective in their positions often mimic what the principal says because they are not speaking for themselves, they are not acting for themselves, and that was just a really poor display.

LEMON: Scott, Nielsen also said that she has seen no evidence that Russia's meddling was aimed at helping President Trump.


NIELSEN: I haven't seen any evidence that the attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular political party. I think what we have seen on the foreign influence side is they were attempting to intervene and cause chaos on both sides.


LEMON: OK. There is another both sides thing there. So Mueller's indictment, Scott, states in detail how the Russians had a complex plan to sabotage Hillary Clinton's campaign in favor of Trump and to top it off, Putin stood there and said that he wanted Trump to win.

The intelligence community is saying that they favor Trump. They're saying they weren't tasked with figuring out if it affected any votes but their assessment did say that. We all heard it. What's your reaction to that?

JENNINGS: Yes. I don't get it, honestly. I mean, the intelligence is pretty clear on it. The Mueller indictments are pretty clear on it. I mean, you can have a position in which multiple things can be true. You can believe the Russians interfered in the election. You can believe that they tried to do so on behalf of Donald Trump.

You can believe that they had no impact on the outcome. And you can believe that there was no collusion between the Trump operation and the Russians, which I happen to believe. I have always been skeptical of the collusion even as I have always believed that they interfered in the election.

That is a perfectly reasonable position that I actually think great many Republicans hold. So for somebody who's holding that position, to say they haven't seen any intelligence or seen any information, that totally contradicts what she just said out loud. I don't get it. I don't understand what is so hard about the position. I just laid out because it's absolutely true and reasonable.

LEMON: And then right after that, she said, you know, I believe our intelligence agencies. Well, the intelligence agency said that they were trying to --

CARPENTER: She's Homeland Security chief.

LEMON: I know.

CARPENTER: She's acting like she didn't read -- everybody can read it in the internet. It's so easy. It came on what, January 6th, 2017? There's literally like bullets at the top that said the Russians ought to damage Hillary and help Trump. In boldface.

LEMON: But it seems to be a lot of people -- I mean, Paul Ryan is same thing. He never seems to hear about anything like, oh, I didn't, you know, I don't know, I haven't seen any evidence of that. Well, you're the speaker of the house. And well, you're the head of Homeland Security. Shouldn't you know this information? Shouldn't you have read that or at least be watching the news because maybe they think it's not real?

SANDERS: Don, this is another reason why many people have called Senator Kamala Harris, for example, for Secretary Nielsen to resign. Time after time after time, she shows herself essentially not well informed, I guess today, to sit in the seat as the director -- as the secretary of Homeland Security.

LEMON: So, listen, Symone. Former CIA officer and the current Republican congressman, Will Hurd, wrote this in The New York Times tonight. This is, over the course of my career as an undercover officer in the CIA, I saw Russian intelligence manipulate many people. I never thought I would see the day when an American president would be one of them.

A Republican lawmaker coming out in a publication the president loathes to say that Trump is manipulated by Putin. What kind of an impact will this have if any?

SANDERS: Look, I think Congressman Will Hurd whom I know personally and loves him very much, I think he is doing what more Republicans should in fact do. Be willing to call a thing a thing and name names when appropriate. In this instance, it's absolutely appropriate. Congressman Will Hurd in this instance has put the country over the Republican Party and I want more people to do the same.

[23:55:01] LEMON: So, I want to see that face again, Scott, when she says that she loves a Republican.


SANDERS: I love you too, Scott.

LEMON: Scott was like, what?


LEMON: Amanda, I'll give you the last word. I have about 10 seconds. What do you want to say? CARPENTER: I was trying to think, you know, we wonder how much Republicans are sticking to Trump. I was thinking back to December of 2010 when Obama was facing the midterms before he got shellacked. I was to think any Democrat that said something is drastic as what William Hurd did in the op-ed. And I couldn't think of a single one.

And so while Donald Trump does enjoy high approval ratings among Republicans, there is an awful lot of opposition still coming from within the party that Obama never faced and he still got shellacked.

LEMON: Yes. But I am told by my trustee producer her that that pool is getting smaller because a number of Republicans in the country are actually taking down about five percent. Democrats are pretty much staying the same. So, there you go. After this president was elected. After Trump.

Thank you all, my posse.


LEMON: Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.