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John Brennan's Security Clearance Gets Yanked; President Trump's Enemies List Next On Target; What Is The President Worried About?; President Trump Hasn't Been Seen Publicly Lately. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 15, 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: He said he thinks that where they erred, the problem is that the church looks at it as a forgivable sin. Rather than a criminal act, which is how they should be looking at it. Going on and giving recommendations to some of these priests, one of them even got a recommendation to work at Disney World.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Yes, that's where he went after he left. Now look, I hear it. I get it on just one level. But I don't accept it as the truth anymore. There are too many examples.
LEMON: What don't you accept as a truth?
CUOMO: I don't accept that it's about believing they can change.
CUOMO: That they can be forgiven that it's an extension of some kind of divine clemency. I don't buy it. I think it was an organization protecting itself. I think it was working as an organization of man, not as a hand of God. I think that the proof is in the facts.
And this was laid out by this grand jury, who came out with their report today, Don, telling people, listen to us, we know there is compassion fatigue, we know it's too icky, pay attention. Because it only gets worse. And that's the truth. We got to change laws like this. It's not a partisan issue.
LEMON: You're right on. I have nothing to say except for, organizations protecting themselves, that's what we're going to talk about right now.
LEMON: Thank you very much, sir. See you later.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
On that note, what President Trump what he did today is straight out of a dictator's playbook. Revoking the security clearance of former CIA Chief John Brennan is nothing but a blatant attempt to silence a critic. To take away his right to free speech. To purge him. And the reason this White House gave is beyond belief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations, wild outbursts on the Internet and television about this administration.
Mr. Brennan's lying and recent conduct, characterized by increasingly frenzy commentary, is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation's most closely held secrets and facilities, the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Lying? Increasingly frenzied commentary? Just let that settle in, think about that for a minute.
This White House is actually attempting to claim, with a straight face, that lying and wild outbursts on TV and Twitter are reason to revoke security clearance? OK, so let me ask you this. Who else makes wild outbursts? Who else lies?
How about the man who gave secrets to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak right in the Oval Office? How about that? How about the man who by "The Washington Post's" count has made well over 4,200 false or misleading claims in his presidency? So far.
How about the man whose tweets, like calling ex-aide Omarosa a dog, are a personal grudge match? That man, of course, is Donald Trump himself.
And John Brennan, the man who convinced President Barack Obama to go ahead with the raid that took down Osama Bin Laden, knows exactly what this is all about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER UNITED STATES CIA DIRECTOR: I do believe that Mr. Trump decided to take this action, as he's done with others, to try to intimidate and suppress any criticism of him or his administration. And revoking my security clearances is his way of trying to get back at me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So John Brennan not the only one President Trump is targeting. He's not alone. Listen to Sarah Sanders reading out what sounds an awful lot like the president's enemies list. And we know how an enemies list worked out for a previous president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: James Clapper, James Comey, Michael Hayden, Sally Yates, Susan Rice, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So what do those people have in common? All of them have been targets of Trump's public ire, or they've criticized Trump, or both. Not on the list? Fired national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Ambassador Kislyak.
And take another page out of a dictator's playbook. President Trump seems to be trying here to manipulate the news cycle. What say you? Take a look at his statements as sent out today. Clearly dated July 26th, 2018. That's three days after the White House first said the president was considering the move.
So why would they sit on this for nearly three weeks? And why release it today? Well, the White House aide claims it's nothing but a cut and paste error. Would versus wouldn't. A cut and paste error.
[22:05:02] And the president tells the Wall Street Journal tonight he was prepared to do it last week but it was, this is in his words, "it was too hectic." He was on vacation last week.
But you've got to wonder about the timing here. There are a couple of possibilities here. One is that this could be just a case of a thin- skinned president lashing out one day after Brennan tweeted, quote, "It's astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, and probity. Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent, and honest person. So disheartening, so dangerous for our nation."
But there's another possibility. Is this a cynical attempt to change the narrative while the president is still battling the fallout over an ex-aide Omarosa's explosive and unproven charge that a tape exists of Trump using the n-word while he was on the apprentice?
And there's a jury in Virginia. As that jury is set to begin deliberating in just a few hours in the first trial of the Mueller investigation, the trial of Paul Manafort. Is that one of the reasons?
A former Trump campaign manager could spend the rest of his life behind bars if he is convicted of all the charges against him. You've got to wonder, is this president hoping to distract you from that?
So let's begin our coverage now. I want to bring in CNN Contributor, John Dean, who was of course Nixon's White House counsel, knows a lot about enemies lists, also CNN Global Affairs Analyst, Susan Glasser, she is staff writer for "The New Yorker."
Good evening to both of you. Good to have you on.
John, I'm going to start with you, because Sarah Sanders said Trump is still considering similar action on Comey, Jim Clapper, Michael Hayden, Sally Yates, Susan Rice, Andrew McCabe. President Nixon famously had his enemies list. Is this President Trump's? JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it certainly is got some
similarities. Don, I did some research today to look into what Nixon had done in this area, to see if he'd ever used the security clearance apparatus as part of his way to get at his enemies. I can find no similarities.
In fact, the big difference I find between Nixon and Trump is Nixon talked a tough game. It's on the tapes. There are memos that are written. But there's no execution on most of this stuff. Whereas, Trump seems to know that and he executes. He just does it. That's the big difference.
LEMON: I want to take you and our viewers back a little bit. This is from back in the day. You testifying to Congress about Nixon's enemies list. This is from NBC. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: No, And as I have submitted in the documents, other agencies were involved in seeking politically embarrassing information on individuals who were thought to be enemies of the White House.
I might also add that in my possession is a rather -- very much down the lines of what you're talking about, is a memorandum that was requested by me to prepare a means to attack the enemies of the White House. There was also maintained what was called an enemies list, which is rather extensive and continually being updated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: There were -- talk to me about that. Was that gasps?
DEAN: That was -- there was a silence in the room. Then a gasp. And everyone was kind of stunned. I hadn't put that in my prepared testimony. I'd actually talked to Lowell Weicker who was questioning me at the time, senator from Connecticut, and mentioned it to him. I said, if you ask the right questions, I have some documents the committee may find of interest. He did ask the right questions and I turned over the documents.
LEMON: Susan Glasser, I want to bring you in you now. Because you find it ironic that President Trump says Brennan engages in unfounded and outrageous allegations, and wild outbursts on the Internet. Sounds like someone we know, doesn't it?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, Don, I'm still recovering from yesterday's wild outburst on the Internet from the president of the United States. You know, I had one of those moments that hits you at different times, right?
But yesterday morning, remember that feeling of waking up? It was only 24 hours or so ago. And you know, realizing that even though nothing is truly shocking anymore, the president of the United States called someone a dog yesterday.
And now today he's accusing someone else of frenzied commentary on the Internet.
But I think John's point is a really interesting and excellent one. In a way, right, the difference between Nixon and Trump, many people have pointed this out but it seems relevant today, is that it's almost as if many of these things that Nixon took such pains to hide on the tapes are actually playing out in real-time.
There's gasps in the room when John dean, you know, decades ago, talks about an enemies list.
[22:10:00] Today you have the face of the president's own press secretary calmly reading out a list of names. There's no audible sense of shock or dismay anymore. And I think that's part of the difference from where the country was at with Nixon.
There was still the ability to shock and horrify people in both parties when the president violated norms. And today, we come to this, apparently unprecedented situation of retaliating against a political opponent by withdrawing his security clearance. And you know, how many people are actually even shocked by it anymore? Very few.
LEMON: Yes. And wouldn't be surprised if we hear in coming days, subsequent days, that these other folks' security clearances have also been taken away as well?
John, you know, John Brennan spoke with MSNBC earlier and he said this is how tyrants and despots act. Is this attack on free speech?
DEAN: Absolutely is. He's unhappy with what Brennan has said, he's attacking him for it. What's stunning to me is he just totally ignored the process that's inherent in the executive order that establishes the security system. And sort of unilaterally invoked his own will.
Now he can't really do that, and I'm hopeful Brennan will stand up and test this. Because there is a procedure, and he just totally ignored it.
LEMON: Yes. Susan, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal tonight Trump says that he was prepared to yank Brennan's security clearance last week but it was too hectic. He also told the Wall Street Journal that he would put a Republican on it too if I thought they were incompetent or crazy. What was so hectic about being on vacation last week?
GLASSER: Well, your guess is as good as mine, Don, on that one. I think it's a really interesting question that John raises here, which is, imagine that there were to be a legal case testing whether this constitutes a presidential abuse of power, whether it constitutes a violation of John Brennan's First Amendment rights to speak as he pleases.
It's a very interesting question. I think no one disputes the idea that the president of the United States has more or less unchallenged power to grant and revoke security clearances.
But once there is an administrative process in place and it does appear that President Trump has violated what would be the normal process for granting or revoking a clearance, that to me is a very interesting set of legal questions.
So you can actually be facing, wholly separate from the Mueller investigation. What if you had a federal court case making its way through the system challenging whether there was a presidential abuse of power here? Which is what this seems like to a layperson like me. It seems like almost the definition of a presidential abuse of power.
LEMON: Susan, John, I want you to stick around, I have much more to talk to you guys about. When we come back, from one president to another, the words Richard Nixon said in 1974 that could be a message to President Trump today.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump trying to silence his critics now. In the midst of explosive allegations from former aide Omarosa, with a jury about to begin deliberating in the trial of his former campaign manager, and with the possibility of an interview with Robert Mueller looming, he could be doing himself more harmed than good.
back with me now John Dean and Susan Glasser. So John, you're going to recognize this piece of history. Listen to President Nixon, 1974.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Never be petty. Always remember others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So John, I know you recognize that clip, it's President Nixon's words as he resigned the presidency in disgrace. And my friend Larry Sabato pointed out that, can anyone get this message to the president?
DEAN: You know what's interesting in that clip too is I think Nixon does get it in that clip. When he -- at one point his body language is very revealing when he literally takes his hand and points to himself. That's always a very striking action for me when I watch that clip. But you know, I don't think Trump gets it. And that's a clip that he should see.
LEMON: When you're watching all of this, John, what's going through your head? Are you saying, my God -- I ask you this question a lot. History is repeating itself, it seems.
DEAN: The echoes are frightening, don. We are just -- it's too -- I can't believe it's happening in my lifetime, frankly. I thought when we exposed Watergate, laid it all out for all the ugliness that it was, that no president, certainly in my lifetime, would ever go down this path again. And Trump is doing it not behind closed doors.
LEMON: Right out in the open. DEAN: He's doing it on the front porch.
LEMON: Yes, right in the open, and people are cheering him, which is sad.
Susan, you know, the Paul Manafort trial going on, the jury, and the Omarosa saga is happening, it's all blown up in the president's face. To the point of whether this is a distraction. You think it's much more questionable than that?
GLASSER: You know, everything is a distraction and nothing is a distraction. You know, my husband often uses the analogy that, you know, Trump's way of distracting us is to say, you know, forget about that burning house over there, let me light my own house on fire. And there's an element of that, you know. That he's doing damage to himself. And you know--
LEMON: Because this story may be worse than a distraction, though, but go on, to your point, but go on.
GLASSER: Absolutely. For example, three weeks ago when this first came up, remember that the speaker of the house, Paul Ryan, basically told reporters who asked him, is the White House really going to withdraw security clearances from these former officials? And Paul Ryan said basically -- laughed it off and said, no, I just think the president is trolling us.
And you know, he and so many other people have gotten used to treating this as sort of an empty spectacle that has no real meaning, right, that it's sort of the public theatrics of Donald Trump, and don't pay attention to that, pay attention to some elusive substance that's happening.
[22:20:01] What I find striking, right, is that Paul Ryan was wrong. And Trump has gone ahead and he's turned this from a carnival and just a spectacle or reality show or whatever analogy you want to pick for it and he's actually taken an action in the real world that none of his predecessors, many of whom obviously had serious issues with former officials who used to work for the government, speaking out, criticizing them publicly -- you know, President Trump is not the first president to really wish he could silence his critics, he's the first one to take this action.
And again, it's not just a carnival, it's not just crazy stuff that he says on Twitter. And so to me, that is consequential. And imagine how these Republicans in Congress, many of whom have started to speak out, some of them even in defense of this action tonight.
I believe that Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana actually said, well, John Brennan deserves it, he's a butthead. I mean, my goodness. How are Republicans going to feel in the future when there's a president of another party and this president has been set of retaliating against your political critics in this fashion? LEMON: Yes. And to that end, to the question that I asked, you talked
about Republicans not responding, when I said the president told the Wall Street Journal he would add a Republican to the list, remember the quote was he would add a Republican -- "I would put a Republican on too if I thought they were incompetent or crazy."
Well. McCabe is a Republican. I think Hayden is a Republican. And James Comey, definitely a Republican. So they are Republicans who are on that list. Although they don't like to tell you that, John.
DEAN: That's exactly right. I think -- you know, Trump doesn't think through any of this. He speaks just off whatever thought is in his head. This is something, though, that he realized he could do, apparently it was suggested to him by a member of the United States Senate and he bought right into it. He said, yes that's a good idea.
And so we're seeing it play out. And it's unprecedented. And that's why we've got to hope that somebody stands up and tests the procedure. That he just can't do it unilaterally without any check at all.
LEMON: Yes. And again, I'm not sure if Hayden is a Republican, he may be an independent. But there are at least two Republicans on that list, Comey and McCabe.
DEAN: He is Republican.
LEMON: He is Republican, well there you go. So Susan, you raise an interesting point. If the president is freaking out this much about the Omarosa book and about the Manafort trial, which is the legal proceeding that honestly has the least to do with him, what will happen when this Woodward book comes out and the Mueller investigation really starts coming to a head?
GLASSER: Well, that's right. I mean, President Trump, Donald Trump, cornered, you know, is clearly when he lashes out the most. It appears that some of this frenetic action and tweeting is because he feels a sense of increasing besiegement or whatever.
But that Bob Woodward book is coming out, I believe on September 11th, so just in a few weeks' time. And remember his very, very strong response to the allegations contained in the Michael Wolff book "Fire and Fury" at the beginning of this year. Michael Wolff is nothing like the journalist that Bob Woodward is. And you know, knowing Bob well, I for one suspect that there will be a lot of original reporting and eyebrow-raising revelations about what it's like to work in the Trump White House.
If, for no other reason than Trump has cycled through more senior aides and advisers, you know, at an unprecedented pace than any of his predecessors. So there's an enormous number of sources who are available for a journalist of Bob's integrity and caliber.
So I imagine that Trump will really freak out, you know. Look at how he is reacting to the unproven allegations in the Omarosa book.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, Susan. Thank you, John. I appreciate your time.
When we come back, President Trump tonight trying to justify his retaliation against John Brennan by blaming the one thing that's never far from his mind, wait for it -- the Russia investigation.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Sources telling CNN that the CIA was caught off-guard by Trump's decision on Brennan and that Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, was not consulted. But tonight Coats says the president has the ultimate authority to decide who holds a security clearance.
I want to bring in now CNN Counterterrorism Analyst, Philip Mudd, who is a veteran of both, the CIA and the FBI, CNN Political Analyst, Kirsten Powers, and Republican Strategist, Rick Wilson, the author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies," which is set to reach number one on "The New York Times" bestseller list. Wow. Congratulations. We are among greatness right now.
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: Good evening. Phil, I'm going to start with you. So as not to get, you know, Rick's head too big. But listen, Phil, director Clapper was on with Chris Cuomo earlier reacting to the president's actions today. I want you to take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: If the president wanted to pull Mueller's security clearance, how easily could he do it?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Pretty easy.
CUOMO: There's supposed to be a process. We just saw him ignore it with you guys.
CLAPPER: Well, the president does have the authority to, you know, to exercise here. If he so chooses. Now it's unprecedented for a president to reach down and take such an action on an individual just because he doesn't like what he says. And that's, you know -- that's really what this is all about.
And I just think, again, it's not about retired formers like myself or Mike Hayden or John. It's what else could be done here? Mueller? Or ask that members of the intelligence community declare who they voted for, and if you don't vote for me, you don't keep your clearance? I mean, where's this stop? You know.
I'm perhaps exaggerating a little bit here, but this is bigger, much bigger than just revoking John Brennan's eligibility or possibly mine or the others.
(END VIDEO CLIP) [22:29:58] LEMON: So Phil, to Clapper's point there, that Trump
tonight in the Wall Street Journal linked the Russia investigation to this decision to revoke Brennan's security clearance, here's what he's saying. He says, "I call it the rigged witch hunt. It is a sham. It is a sham. And these people led it. So Clapper was issuing a warning, and yet it's actually -- is this actually happening?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think that warning is appropriate. Let's take the narrow question first. What has the President done by the action today? People like me, I am a former -- I wasn't listed today. But what do you think you're going to do, intimidate us? You're going to arrest me? You're going to send the FBI to my house? What do you think you did?
Why would people like me stop speaking? I think the message, and I think General Clapper nailed it. It is not about what the President did today. It is about the message that says that you're a political opponent, including someone who's involved in the Russia investigation. I will unilaterally use my power to try to silence you.
I don't care. And I think nobody on that list cares about what the President did in terms of whether we speak or not. We will. He will never come to my house. The question is how does he use that power again to take a step further? What does he say to Director Mueller? I don't know. That's what I am curious about.
LEMON: Kirsten Powers, what's your reaction to Clapper and the President making this connection between the Russia investigation and Brennan's security clearance?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it reminds me of the firing of James Comey, right. I mean he's just telling us exactly what's going on, why he's doing it. And that he is once again, behaving like an authoritarian, like some sort of despot who needs to use, you know, some government power. And now the question is whether how much it really affects things or not.
Either way, to show, you know, that he can retaliate against people he deems enemies. Because they're his enemies, and somehow I think that in his mind that makes them enemies, you know, of the country. And so to me, it says more about the fact that we -- you know, look, the President has a lot of power. I don't mean President Trump.
I mean all Presidents -- the United States Presidents have a lot of power. What we've always counted on is some basic kind of decency and character, and that people don't just blow through all of these sorts of norms. And what he's shown us is he's going to blow through the norms. And he's going to do what he wants to do, no matter how divisive it is.
LEMON: Rick, do you think that this decision by President Trump, can it be seen as anything other than intimidation? I mean who is at risk from John Brennan, what he was saying, besides President Trump, even if he was at risk. I don't think he was at risk. RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No one's at risk. And this is
pure petty, you know, typical Donald Trump, man-baby, stompy-foot, temper tantrums. And I think the thing Trump forgets, and always, he always overestimates his own strategic ability. He thinks he's playing 87-dimensional chess. But what he's done is put the testimony and the understanding that these men have in their heads that he can't erase front and center with the press.
These guys understand a lot of the scope and the details of what happened. They're not going to bust classified, but they are going to speak out. They're going to continue to tell Americans there's a there, there. And he's made them even more the center of attention, the center of focus. He doesn't win anything by doing this, of course.
Except for, you know the usual accolades from the cheer section over on Sean Hannity. This is a guy who does things impulsively and in the most petty possible way. And you're seeing it play out right now.
LEMON: Phil, the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, wasn't consulted. At what point does he consider resigning, given that this is yet another example of him being left out of the loop? Remember Helsinki, the Putin invitation to the White House.
MUDD: I think this is more significant than Helsinki for a simple reason. If you want to argue that people on that list, including John Brennan, should lose their clearances partly for security reasons. The basic question you would ask is who looked at what Brennan said, who looked at what Brennan wrote, and said there was anything in there that included classified information that violated his security oath?
It's clear, based on what Dan Coats said. He wasn't consulted, that nobody in the White House asked a simple question. How do we determine whether what Brennan said violated the oath? And if you're Coats, you've got to look back and say, well, if this is happening, if we weren't even consulted on whether classified information was revealed, what's my role?
What message do I send in the workforce if I don't do anything? I don't think Coats should have resigned about not knowing what happened in Helsinki. This one is closer to home. I think a lot of people in my old life are saying what are you going to do? What are you going to go DNI Coats?
LEMON: Why is this President lashing out so much, going after Omarosa, going after Brennan, going after the news media, going after the NFL? What is he worried about? We'll discuss right after this. Kirsten, you'll be first.
[22:35:00] LEMON: So the President's back from vacation. And he hasn't been seen publicly in two days. But he has been keeping busy, tweeting up an angry storm. Back with me now Philip Mudd, Kirsten Powers, and Rick Wilson. So Kirsten, as promised, you've got the Russia investigation, you're
got Omarosa, you've got Brennan, the news media, the NFL, Lebron James. What does it say to you that this President is lashing out nonstop like this?
POWERS: Well, I know a lot of people are saying he's doing this to distract from all the things that you just said. But honestly, I don't feel like what you just listed is like any other day in the Trump administration. So I guess you could always say that he's lashing out to distract from something. But I think it's just as likely that he recognizes that the people on this list are very respected people, and that a lot of people listen to, including Republicans, because a lot of them are Republicans.
It's not like he's being criticized by members, you know, leaders in the Democratic Party or the news media or the people that, you know, he has declared sort of his enemy. These are people who typically have been pretty supportive of Republicans, and so what does it say that they're being so critical of Donald Trump, when they haven't spoken out this way about any other President?
[22:40:07] LEMON: Yeah. So Rick, here's a question. The President, he just got back from a long vacation at his golf club in New Jersey, as I mentioned.
LEMON: No public events for the last few days. He did sign the McCain Defense Bill on Monday. But remember, he didn't even mention John McCain. But you've got to ask, amidst all the attacks on Twitter, where's the real governing?
WILSON: Look. There is no real governing. All there is of the Trump administration is Donald Trump's Twitter feed. And so you see these examples of this guy. You know he's an intellectual midget and a moral homunculus about of all these things he's talking about. He's just spewing things about people, just random attacks.
He's desperately trying to throw up chaff about the Mueller investigation and to keep his base ginned up on the whole witch hunt theme. And so, you know, this is a guy who the entire government has to follow the sewage barge of his daily behavior all the time. They have to track behind him and try to clean up the mess he makes with these wild tweets.
I mean his attorneys must be getting hazard pay like you can't even imagine, because the things he's doing put himself, his family, and his administration in jeopardy every single day. And he makes the country, you know, chase this rabbit constantly of whatever crazy thing is on his mind in the morning when he's on the toilet.
PRUITT: What message, Phil, is this sending to is intelligence community?
MUDD: Boy, that's a tough question. If you're in the intelligence community, the leadership issue is the critical issue today. That is whether you're at the defense intelligence agency, the CIA, NSA. You're looking up to your leadership. In my case, that would be Gina Haspel, the CIA Director, and say, that person interact with the President.
I want to know if the person leading -- forget about the President of United States as respectable. Gina in my world is remarkably respected. So I think the CIA is safe. The other thing I would say is intel people, North Korea, Iran, Russia intervention in our elections. They've got a lot of stuff to worry about day to day.
And I think they're saying the leadership's got to deal with the politics. We in the business side are getting paid by taxpayers to deal with the real world. Forget about the President. We'll do our jobs.
LEMON: Can we talk about Mueller, though, Phil? Because I wonder with Mueller, if he's going to be interested in him, in the President admitting that he revoked his clearance over the Russia investigation.
MUDD: I don't think he is. I mean I looked at what happened today in terms of what both the President did and what Rudy Giuliani said. Why do you care if you're Mueller? If Rudy Giuliani is saying we're going to load a ton of bricks on you if you don't bring some charges by September. What's Rudy going to do? The guy's a bumbling idiot.
LEMON: The Wall Street Journal interview, the President said he did it because of the Russia investigation. So I am wondering if Mueller's going to be interested in that, from the words that came out of -- according to the Wall Street Journal, the President's own mouth.
MUDD: I don't think so. I think Mueller would look at that and say is that evidence of a federal violation. I don't think it is. I think it is poor judgment that the President's got to say, do we have facts that indicate a violation? I don't think it does.
LEMON: OK. So Rick, listen. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal was on CNN earlier. He said that he hoped that this would trigger a bipartisan reaction. Good luck with that. But I want to play what we heard from Republican Senator John Kennedy today. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA, SENATOR: I think most Americans look at our National Intelligence expert as being above politics (Inaudible). That's not (Inaudible). I think he called a butthead and I meant it. I think (Inaudible) national intelligence community a bad name. I don't see why he would need a security clearance. I really don't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I mean, you know, a few Republicans have spoken out against Trump's actions. But I mean all in all, there's no bipartisanship, so much for bipartisanship. WILSON: No, look. These guys live in the state of either fear or
admiration of Donald Trump at all times. And they will do nothing that will cause his rage to be transferred from John Brennan onto them. And so, you know, the moral cowardice of all these people is extreme at all times. And, you know, look. Kennedy's statement, he's got a colorful sort of style to him.
So I guess that was sort of on brand for him. But you didn't hear a lot of people, you know, saying that the intelligence community doesn't need to be treated as a political football by Donald Trump. These are retired intelligence officers. They have every first amendment right to speak out. They have every first amendment right within the bounds of their agreements on classified information to speak out.
They also serve, as Phil can affirm, a valuable function. There are a very, very small number of people with the constellation of clearances required. And sometimes there's some institutional wisdom that the current leadership needs to tap from the past. And they can't just, you know, drag it out of nowhere, out of a file cabinet.
[22:45:01] Sometimes these are things that only a former director would know within these agencies. So, you know, Trump's cutting off his nose to spite his face. And of course, there's no bipartisanship in Washington. I would not expect any at this point in our politics.
LEMON: As I'm sure, people at home are watching going, did a lawmaker just say butthead? I think I called him a butthead. Like I know you are, but what am I? What the hell is happening? This is crazy. Thank you, guys. See you next time. Oh, wait a minute. Homunculus, homunculus, I like that, Rick, a very small human or humanoid creature. That's a big SAT word.
WILSON: Words are threats.
LEMON: Yes it is. When we come back, why is Donald Trump so unwilling to criticize Russia? My next guest has a theory that may shock you.
[22:50:00] LEMON: So President Trump made a move today that wouldn't be out of place in a dictatorship, revoking the security clearance of a prominent critic. But my next guest claims Vladimir Putin and President Trump are bound by more than just an authoritarian streak. Joining me now is journalist Craig Unger, the Author of the book, "House of Trump, House of Putin: the Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia."
Good evening. Thank you for coming on.
CRAIG UNGER, AUTHOR: Thanks for having me, Don.
LEMON: So you make some shocking claims, suggesting that the Russians have been cultivating Donald Trump for decades. Explain that. UNGER: Right. Well, I think it was a story of the greatest
intelligence operation of our time, and it goes back more than 30 years. And I wanted to see how it began, and why it began, and I went back to 1984. And for the first time, you see a man, who's a member of the Russian mafia meet with Donald Trump in Trump Tower.
This is just after Trump Tower opened and it was the glitziest building in America. And he comes in and he buys five condos, paying all cash. And this is the first time Donald Trump properties have been used to launder money for the Russian mafia.
LEMON: OK. So you're saying his property is being used to launder money from the Russian mafia. And that's not what CNN is reporting. That's you're reporting and what you write in the book. But you draw a lot of the lines. Do you have any -- what proof of that do you have?
UNGER: Absolutely. Well, you know, Trump says he has no contacts with Russia. I found 59 people and -- who were in a meeting between Trump and Russia. And I traced them over the years. And I found not just hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars in money laundering from the Russian mafia using Trump properties.
But you had criminals living in Trump Tower and the FBI was chasing mobsters. They found that oh, they weren't living in Brooklyn. They were living in Trump Tower. And this went on for more than 30 years. I found 59 people. And one of the key parts of this, one of the most important things that I want people to really understand is the Russian mafia is not like American mafia.
It's not like what you see in the Godfather. The Russian mafia is a state actor. Russia is often called a mafia state. And ahead of that -- so they are working for Russia, in much the same way the CIA...
LEMON: You said this is starting in 1984, right?
LEMON: So it might seem farfetched to people that the Russians would run an operation that would survive the fall of the Soviet Union and it would go on, you know, for years after that. Are you giving them too much credit or are they that crafty?
LEMON: They are that crafty, the KGB. This started under the KGB, which is a precursor to the FSB. But as the Soviet Union was crumbling, the KGB made plans on how to survive the turmoil the Soviet Union was going through. And one of the ways they did that was they started huge corporations. And a number of those people were trading commodities.
But there were really veterans of the KGB. And now these people came alive again, and 20 years later, you see them partnering with Donald Trump. LEMON: So but why would the Russians be interested. At least that
early on in 2016, I think we sort of, you know, figured out why. He didn't like Hillary Clinton. He said he is (Inaudible) that he wanted Donald Trump to win. But why would they be interested in someone like Donald Trump, especially starting back as far as 1984.
UNGER: Well, back then he was just a businessman. They approached him as a powerful businessman, and that was sort of it. And I believe it started out as laundering money. When the Soviet Union crumbled, there were enormous amounts of flight capital that needed to be laundered. And what is the best way to launder money? It is through real estate.
And Donald Trump created an empire that became a money laundering machine. Trump Tower became a money laundering cathedral. This was his way of doing business, and it was a win-win situation. They saved him. He was $4 billion in debt at one point. And the Russian mafia came to his aid.
LEMON: So back in 1987, 1987, there was a lot of speculation that Donald Trump would run for President. As a matter of fact, he spent $100,000 of his own money. He was running ads in major newspapers, criticizing American foreign policy, saying that we spend too much money protecting our allies. Even back then, though, he was striking a tone that would be in line with Russian goals.
[22:54:49] UNGER: Absolutely. And that came just after his very first trip to Russia. And I went back and tried to examine how that came about. And it was -- came about through Ambassador (Inaudible) who was then Ambassador to (Inaudible) of the United Nations. And he and his daughter just went up to Trump Tower. They didn't have an appointment.
This was very unusual in terms of protocol at that time. And they met with him. They flattered him. They said why don't you do the same kind of thing in Moscow. And they flew him over. And during that trip, I later talked to General Kalugin, who had been head of counter intelligence of the KGB. And General Kalugin told me that Trump had lots of fun with lots of women, and he was reasonably sure that the KGB had compromise from that visit in 1987.
LEMON: Craig Unger, the book is House of Trump, House of Putin. Thank you so much for joining us. It's the untold story of Donald Trump and the Russian mafia. We appreciate it, sir. When we come back, President Trump revoked John Brennan's security clearance without consulting the CIA or his own Director of National Intelligence. And my next guest says, quote, his corrupt purpose is to silence dissent.