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White House Reeling In The Wake Of Cohen Guilty Plea And Manafort Conviction; New York Tax Investigators Subpoena Michael Cohen In Trump Foundation Probe; Manafort Faces Second Trial Next Month; Does Michael Cohen Have Info For Mueller?; Trump Claims Hush Money Payment During 2016 Campaign Did Not Violate Campaign Finance Laws; Manafort Juror Speaks Out; Trump Tweets, Praises Paul Manafort. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired August 22, 2018 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Done Lemon. It is almost 11:01 here on the East Coast. We are live with all the new developments for you tonight. With two key members of President Trump's 2016 inner circle now guilty of criminal charges, the legal and political peril facing the president is reaching new heights right now.

While Trump maintains his innocence, his own Justice Department believes Michael Cohen's allegations of hush money, paying hush money to alleged mistresses at the direction of his former boss, true enough to proceed criminally against Michael Cohen.

Well, Cohen and by proxy, Trump's legal problems on this front have nothing to do with Robert Mueller and everything to do with the U.S. Attorney's office in the Southern District of New York. While Mueller and Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein could theoretically land in the President's cross hairs, the historically independent prosecutors in New York could be a different story.

Another Cohen-related Trump problem out today, New York state tax authorities want to talk to Michael Cohen about the Trump Foundation. I want you to remember, the state's Attorney General sued the President and his three oldest children, accusing the charity and the Trump family of sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self- dealing and illegal coordination with the Presidential campaign. No one knows where the next legal blow will land.

Already facing many years in prison after yesterday's verdict, while the former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, heads to a second trial next month. And then this one, well, prosecutors are expected to present even more evidence. There is also the matter of the President's legal team still in the dark over what White House Counsel, Don McGahn, told Mueller's investigators in some 30 hours of testimony.

The stakes for the upcoming mid-terms are now even higher as Democrats are openly discussing impeachment proceedings, should they gain control of the House and Republicans are dodging the questions. That is a lot to get to in one hour. But I want to bring in now a man who can makes sense of all this, he knows about a White House under siege, he has reported on it and live through it, Dan Rather, the host of AXS TV's "The Big Interview." Thank you very much.

DAN RATHER, HOST, AXS TV'S THE BIG INTERVIEW: Thank you, Don, for having me. Grateful to be here.

LEMON: That was a lot. I mean, before, you know, we get to the stuff that, you know, we had ready for you. What do you think? Is this madness? I've never seen this much in my --

RATHER: Well, it is a kind of madness. What goes through my mind, eventually the last 24 to 48 hours, with Cohen and Manafort, is President Abraham Lincoln had his team of rivals. Trump has his block of felons. That is what it is. He surrounded, he had drowned himself what turns out to be felons.

There's never been anything like this in American history. Watergate in the mid-1970s is the closest thing we've had with this. But the importance difference with Watergate, Watergate, it consisted of crimes of Americans committing crimes against Americans. At the core of this investigation, which we're not nearly at the end of it, is a foreign power trying to affect and possibly affecting our election. That is a very big difference.

LEMON: I've heard the term criminal enterprise a lot, over the last day or so, especially with Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort. Do you think that is befitting with what happened with campaign or what the Trump --

RATHER: Well, I wouldn't use the phrase myself, but I can't argue with anyone who does. Given the record. Look at how many people have either pled guilty or in Manafort's case, been found guilty. So we are in an ocean the likes of which no one has been on. And the head winds right now are against Donald Trump. I know his former aide, Omarosa, thinks he is crazy as a bull bat. I don't subscribe to that. I don't think he is crazy at all.

I do think that he is increasingly cornered and people who get being in a corner frequently can't think as straight as they otherwise do. And the pressure is on Donald Trump now. Things changed dramatically yesterday. It was reminiscent of March 1974 when I think nine of President Nixon's close aides were indicted and fired.

[23:05:07] That is the closest we've had, but again, you can't use Watergate as a complete template, because of the allegation of Russian influence in our election.

LEMON: Yes, and also, it was whether or not he is going to face any ramifications, or whatever he faces, the Congress was different then.

RATHER: Well, exactly. And I find people forget this. That during the Nixon Watergate period, widespread criminal conspiracy, led by the President himself. That both Houses of Congress were in the hands of the Democrats. Whatever situation. Now just the opposite. And someone else said earlier this evening, and I agree with it. That the only chance that the Republican Party, the GOP Senators and the majority house members, are going to split with Trump is if he tries on fire Mueller. If he doesn't do that, they are going to stick with him through thick and thin.

LEMON: At their own peril? Or do you think even at the end it will be OK with them, because they're getting their agendas across and they are getting, you know, who they want to be.

RATHER: Unless something changes dramatically, I think that is it. And by the way, Don, Lindsey Graham, Senator, South Carolina, a very smart guy, good sense of humor. As a matter of fact, I know him a little bit and like him, but back at the time when impeachment was being considered for President Clinton, and as you know, orders of impeachment, word against him, he won the trial in the senate, but Lindsey Graham said that impeachment is about the honor and integrity of the President. If you apply that to the present situation, if what we're talking about is the honor and integrity of the President, this is a situation Donald Trump in the end may not win.

LEMON: This is something that you tweeted earlier today. OK? Dan Rather says, one has a sense of the GOP leaders holding on to Donald Trump for deer political life have no idea where this wild horror show of a ride is heading. Can this get even worse? Undoubtedly. How bad can it get? No one save Trump and likely Mueller's team really knows. So, I mean that is pretty pro boding about what may come.

RATHER: Well, I think proboding (ph) is the proper attitude to have to it. Always keeping in mind that Mueller knows so much more than he has shown. If you think yesterday was a shock to our Democratic system, just stay tuned. Because the other things Mueller is working on, and sooner or later we'll find out what they are, is going to make yesterday pale by comparison.

LEMON: Do you think so?

RATHER: I think the evidence abounds.

LEMON: Because yesterday, the President's fixer and attorney implicated the President in a crime.

RATHER: The President in effect became an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case. And what you had, you have a conspiracy to defraud the American voter. A criminal conspiracy for the American voters to win the election campaign. This is, to say serious, understates it. And I come back to, Mueller is digging away, he has been digging away. There is still a long way to go with this. Anybody that thinks yesterday was sort of the high mark, they're kidding themselves.

We have to be prepared as a people and I want to preach about it. We, as the people stay steady and depend on the checks and balances. I mean, give that jury credit to Manafort case and give the federal prosecutors in the case, you know, the federal prosecutors with a hostile judge presented a case that got convictions. The jury did their job. They started, they deliberated and came back with guilty verdicts. It is a reminder, you know of President John Adams once said, that our jury system is both the lungs and the heart of our Democratic system. We have a reminder that is in the Manafort trial.

LEMON: I was trying to look at -- did you guys -- did you know the date on this, (inaudible) 1973, I'm not exactly sure what it is, but this is October of 1973. Because you were, you tweeted about how things would undoubtedly get worse and this is a flash back, this is your reporting during Watergate. The Saturday night massacre, 1973, October. Here it is. Watch.


RATHER: In breath taking succession tonight, the following historic events occurred. The President of the United States demanded that had the Attorney General Fire Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox. The Attorney General, Elliott Richardson refused and resigned. The President then ordered the assistant Attorney General to William Ruckelshaus to fire the special prosecutor. Ruckelshaus refused. The President immediately fired Ruckelshaus. So solicitor general, Robert Bork was quickly named acting Attorney General. Bork was ordered to fire special prosecutor Cox. He did.


LEMON: We discussed your reporting then before and you're anchoring then before. You said it is surreal, but that is -- now we're living through this. It is an indication that yes, things can always get worse.

[23:10:10] RATHER: Yes. Particularly when we are in and see clear we are in. We're in a kind of political theater of the absurd now. And we should expect things at least for a while to get worse before they get better. By the way I am sorry to play that clip, I have more hair --

LEMON: I was going to say, who was the guy with all that hair back then?

RATHER: And a better color.


LEMON: It's always pleasure.

RATHER: Don, thank you very much.

LEMON: Look at that -- look at that hair. Do you see that? You haven't changed a bit. The hair is a little grayer. You had bigger side burns. And you look exactly the same. Thank you Mr. Rather.

RATHER: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, does Michael Cohen have information for the Special Counsel and does it have anything to do with Russia. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Michael Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis is saying that Cohen has

information of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. Here's what he told me last night.


[23:15:13] LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY: Michael Cohen has information that would be of interest to Mr. Mueller in his probe of a conspiracy to corrupt American democracy very similar to the indictment of the 12 Russians. I believe that Mr. Cohen would be able to provide information useful to the Special Counsel. I won't call it smoking gun information. Somebody else will have to judge that. But I believe that he does has relevant information.


LEMON: All right. So a couple questions here. How worried should the President be about all of this? And what could his former personal attorney and fixer possibly know about any alleged campaign coordination with Russia to help Trump win the election? Well, from the reporting that we've seen so far, Michael Cohen could know something. In his own work on a plan to build the Trump tower in Moscow could reveal just how much Cohen knows.

In October 2015, during the primaries for the 2016 election, Michael Cohen was working with the Russian born businessman Felix Sater on the Trump tower in Moscow project. And this isn't the first time Sater has worked with Trump. He is a former Trump businesses associate going back to at least 2005. He is also a mob linked felon and a former FBI informant.

What exactly did Sater do for the Trump tower in Moscow project? Well, Sater told "The New York Times" that he lined up financing for the project from VTB bank. That is a bank partially owned by the Kremlin and under U.S. sanctions at the time. Sater bragged an emails to Cohen about his connections to the Russian President, according to the "New York Times," and an e-mail seen by the "Washington Post."

Sater told Cohen that Putin would say great things about Trump if the deal for Trump tower went through. Again, all of this happening during the primaries. One e-mail between Cohen and Sater that was obtained by the "New York Times" dated November 3rd of 2015, offers one of the earliest publicly known signal that is Russia could help Trump win the 2016 election.

Sater told Cohen this. He said, buddy, our boy can become President of the United States and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putin's team to buy in on this. I will manage this process. Again, quote, we can engineer it. I will get Putin's team to buy in on this. So Felix Sater told Michael Cohen that he and Putin's team could work to make Donald Trump the President of the United States.

Aster denied any effort to veil their relationship between Putin's allies and the Trump organization. And he also said, that he didn't have connection to Putin's government, but felt confident that he could find others who knew Putin who could help. So Cohen himself reached out directly to the Kremlin to discuss the Trump tower project. Cohen admits he sent a message to kremlin Spokesperson Dmitri Peskov in early 2016 while negotiating about bringing in a Trump tower to Moscow.

But Peskov says that, he received a message and didn't respond. Cohen and Trump are clearly closely working together for more than a decade and Cohen's plea yesterday alleges they were so close that they worked together to pay off two women claiming to have had affairs with Trump. So I have to ask, what are the odds that Cohen knows something that Mueller would find interesting?

I don't know, seems pretty high, no? Let's bring in now CNN Political Analyst, April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and CNN Presidential Historian, Douglas Brinkley.

Good evening to both of you. I am so glad that you join us.



LEMON: So what do you think of what I read there, they ended up not doing it and I think obviously Michael Cohen is denying that at least he did earlier that he knew anything about it. That the project never came to fruition. Therefore there is no there-there. So, Douglas, I just want to play something that Sarah Sanders said today about Michael Cohen. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah, does the President feel betrayed by Michael Cohen? Is he concerned about what he might say to Robert Mueller?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think the President is concerned at all. He knows that he did nothing wrong and that there was no collusion and we are going to continue focusing on the things that Americans care about and that we can have an impact on.


LEMON: So Doug, the White House says the President isn't concerned about what Michael Cohen might tell Mueller, but I mean, I just laid it all out there. Cohen might have a lot more to say.

BRINKLEY: Well, of course Michael Cohen has a lot more to say. I mean, we keep calling him the fixer. For a decade he was doing the dirty work for Donald Trump. That includes the Russia deal, it includes the fact that he is made tapes. I mean, we've heard one of the tapes and it has been very damming to President Trump. But we might be hearing more coming out. And of course, he is being subpoenaed in New York for the Trump Foundation where it is just potentially ripe with illegalities.

[23:20:10] So, this is just beginning. Cohen is going to be the ultra-nemesis of Donald Trump and really, when you have your closest attorney flip on you like this, I don't know how Donald Trump sleeps at night. Then you have Lanny Davis, the lawyer famous for the Clintons, orchestrating all of this. The President must be just horrified to find his White House paralyzed like this.

LEMON: April, Sarah Sanders stuck to her guns that the President didn't do anything wrong. Watch this.


HUCKABEE SANDERS: As the President said, we had stated many times, he did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him and we've commented this extensively. I can tell you as the President has stated on numerous occasions, he nothing wrong. There are no charges against him and as the President in this matter has done nothing wrong and there are no charges against him. The President has stated a number of times he did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him. He knows that he did nothing wrong. What I can tell you about this is that the president did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him. The President has done nothing wrong. There are no charges against him.


LEMON: Seven times she said did nothing wrong. And by the way, six times she said no charges against Trump and no collusion. Three times essentially she wasn't really answering questions to this.

RYAN: Right. My question is, what is the White House definition of the President did nothing wrong? What does the President believe in his mind or what is his lawyer saying he did nothing wrong to? So, here's the issue. When you have someone like Michael Cohen in your camp, his fixer if you will, he has his hands in a lot of different pots. He is that close to the President to do his bidding. And we know this (inaudible), you know, Michael Cohen dwelt with the issue from what we heard from the tapes, and Michael Cohen paid off this playboy playmate of the year.

Also, he paid off this porn star. Now, also, years ago, Michael Cohen introduced the President to at least one black preacher. So Michael Cohen has his hands in a lot of different pots. So it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Michael Cohen could indeed have something to do with conversations with those who are close to the Kremlin.

LEMON: So Douglas, CNN is learning the President and his team want to discredit Michael Cohen as a liar. A non-credible witness. This is Trump tonight. This is a Fox interview. And he is playing down that relationship. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Cohen. Tell me about your relationship with Cohen.

TRUMP: Well, he was a lawyer for me for one of many. You know, there was a lawyer and then they like to add, the fixer. I don't know if he was a fixer. I don't know where that term came from. But he is been a lawyer for me. He didn't do big deals. He did small deals. Not somebody that was with me that much. They made it sound like I didn't live with without him. I understood Michael Cohen very well. It turned out he wasn't a very good lawyer, frankly, but he was somebody that was probably with me for about ten years. And I would see him sometimes.


LEMON: So is that, will that strategy work? Downplaying their relationship?

BRINKLEY: No. It is not going to work. And the reason why Michael Cohen came into the picture is because Donald Trump, basically the Trump organization, it was a family endeavor. When you are paying off a prostitute or a playmate, you are not going to have Jared do it. You are not going to Don Jr. do it. So, he needed somebody to do the dirty work for him. And he found a lawyer that was scrappy and who was hungry to be successful. And he came up with Michael Cohen. They are partnership. That has been his sort of thug lawyer for the past decade.

So this -- point of cause great consternation to Donald Trump. Because he doesn't know what else Cohen might have. What other documents? What other telephone calls, Don? I mean, the fact is one of the things Donald Trump is lucky is, he never does email. We talked about twitter all the time, but he is not an e-mailer, but the fact that his secret lawyer, his private guy that he is taping Donald Trump is a disaster for the sitting President. And then we have the Omarosa possible tapes coming, too. So this is a President being screwed up, hung by his own Frankenstein's that he created that are now turning on him.

LEMON: April, I'm sure you have something to say about that. The question is this will this strategy work, downplaying the relationship with Michael Cohen?

RYAN: No, it won't work. Because again, I keep saying this. Sex, lies, videotape and audio tape. The proof is there.

[23:25:00] The proof is the proof. And the problem is that this President likes to spin it his way and craft this narrative for his base to believe. But once you have someone who is in the inner circle who pleads guilty, and there are tapes, you cannot deny it. There's a tape of the President saying things on Air Force One that this Cohen tape is showing totally different. The President can say what he wants. But as long as there is tape, as long as there is video, and his voice speaking these truths that we're hearing. He is in trouble. He is in trouble. And this is a wounded President. Today we saw it. He is not operating out of a stance. We saw a wounded and a weaken President when he was in that East room today in that medals ceremony.

LEMON: Let is stand there. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.

RYAN: Thank you.


LEMON: So the President falsely claiming today that the felony campaign finance violations, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to are actually not crimes. Yes. They are. And he brushed off the hush money payments claiming they didn't violate campaign finances because he paid for them.


TRUMP: They didn't come out of the campaign and that is big, but it's not even a campaign violation.


LEMON: So I want to bring in three CNN Contributors now, Ambassador Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics czar; Larry Noble, a campaign finance law expert and former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission; and Garrett Graff, the author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror."

Good evening, everyone. Not much to talk about tonight. You know, nothing is going on in the world. So, Larry, I'm going to start with you first. Today, the president says, since the money came from him, it is not a campaign finance violation, but Trump put $65 million of his own money into the campaign and his own Justice Department along with the southern district of New York ruled it is a crime. So does Trump's argument hold up?

LARRY NOBLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No. First of all, it doesn't look like the money actually came from him in any legal sense because from what we've seen, it looks like the money came from the Trump Organization. What happened was that Cohen paid Stormy Daniels and then was reimbursed from the Trump Organization by putting in falsified vouchers for payments.

And so if that happen, then what you have is a corporate contribution from the Trump Organization. Now, the president may think of the Trump Organization and his family in the White House as all one big thing and his campaign is all one big thing, but it's not. So that's an important difference.

We have not yet seen where -- where -- any evidence that he actually paid the money. If he did pay the money and he was paying back Michael Cohen for a loan Michael Cohen effectively made, well then it should have shown up in his ethics report. So he is kind of boxing himself in here. The more he speaks, the more trouble he's getting into.

LEMON: So, what about these reimbursement payments to Cohen? They're saying it is an administration mistake. They're downplaying, saying it was not really a big mistake. What do you think of that?

NOBLE: It was a big mistake. Actually I don't think it was a mistake. I think they tried to figure out a way to hide these payments.


NOBLE: So Cohen makes the payments and then he needs to get reimbursed for them and so what they do is they put them through the company as basically legal fees to Cohen and paying Cohen back for things. And in fact, according to the information that the U.S. attorney filed, they did what is called grossing up the payments to cover for his taxes.

So, you know, it looks like if information U.S. attorney put forward is true and if what Michael Cohen said is true, it looks like a real scheme to try to get money to pay for Stormy Daniels to pay her off and to do it in a way that hides it and keeps it away from the campaign but it is in fact campaign contribution.


NOBLE: So, it looks like they have trouble.

LEMON: All right. So, Norm, well, then, talk to me about that. You know, in the court of public opinion, does it matter if it was campaign money or not?

NORM EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Don, the president is trying to fudge that, but there is no running away from the devastating impact of Michael Cohen standing up in court yesterday. And not only the court of justice but the court of opinion, those words ringing out that he committed campaign finance crimes at the direction and control of a candidate.

We all who know that is. The president of the United States. And I think you've seen this reverberation across the country. There are some things that get confined to the connoisseurs of law. Not this one. So, yes. I think this is going to be devastating. The smell. You know, you can only ignore the smell for so long.

The smell is bad and it is going to get worse, Don, because every day, it's a new crime. Today, the president went on Fox News and as Larry said, he seemed to concede that he was aware of these payments and was involved in them.

LEMON: Did he implicate himself even further?

EISEN: He did.

LEMON: He did himself more harm --

EISEN: He did.

LEMON: -- than good?

EISEN: He proved a case -- he proved a case that my watchdog group profiled several months ago when we first got wind of this. We said wait a minute, the president should -- if it is the way he said, he should have put this on his financial disclosures. Don, that is not a small offense. In addition to the campaign violation --


EISEN: Trump signed those forms under 18 USC 1001, false statement penalty. It says on the forms, a felony. So did he lie? That's the crime today. The biggest one is coming tomorrow or the day after that, when Bob Mueller eventually, no one knows when it will be, releases his obstruction report because --


EISEN: -- there is going to be overwhelming evidence there. So, this is a death spiral day by day, I think, for Donald Trump.

LEMON: All right. Garrett, I promise you, we will let you talk now. So Garrett, you've been waiting patiently. One of the jurors in Paul Manafort's trial spoke to Fox moments ago.

[23:35:02] Here's what they said about the trial star witness, Rick Gates. Here it is.


PAULA DUNCAN, JUROR FROM PAUL MANAFORT'S TRIAL: Some of us had a problem with accepting his testimony because he took the plea. And so we agreed to throw out his testimony and look at the paperwork, which his name was all over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you find him to be credible?

DUNCAN: No. I think he would have done anything that he could to preserve himself. That's just obvious in the fact that he flipped on Manafort.


LEMON: So, she admits that they threw out Gates' testimony because they didn't trust him. What do you make of that?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, so, they threw out Gates' testimony, if she is to be believed. They still convicted him on eight charges in all three buckets of the criminally charged conduct. Your bank fraud, your tax fraud, and failing to report foreign bank accounts.

So they found the totality of the prosecutors' case very believable and very plausible, beyond a reasonable doubt, even. And in fact, one of the other things she said in that interview was that there was a single holdout for all 10 of the other charges. That basically, Paul Manafort came within one vote of being convicted on all 18 charges.

Now, that is all sort of somewhat immaterial though because even just on the eight that he's already been convicted on, he faces what is probably the equivalent of a life sentence for a 69-year-old.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, there's more. We're going to play more of that juror and talk more about this. You won't believe what else she said. We'll be right back. [23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Back with Norm Eisen, Larry Noble, and Garrett Graff. So, I want you guys to listen to the juror, what she said about the behind the scenes deliberations and the one person who held out. Here it is.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What were the deliberations like? Was it heated? Was it --

DUNCAN: It was. Crazily enough, there were even tears. Two of the jurors, one of the females that did finally change her vote to guilty, would come in one day and say guilty and then the next day say, oh, no, I felt pressured, I want to change my vote back. So there was a lot of back and forth with that.

But finally, once again, we got all those documents, put them in front of her, and she changed her vote to guilty again. But the one holdout would not.


LEMON: So, the juror says that 11 out of the 12 agree on all 18 counts but there was one juror who still had reasonable doubt on 10 of those counts. Remember, Manafort was convicted on eight out of the 18 charges. Larry, does this just prove how complicated Manafort's trial was? What does this show you?

NOBLE: Well, it does show how complicated the trial was, but also it explains what seems to be some inconsistencies in the verdict where he is guilty of the crime but not the conspiracy. And so obviously there were some compromises I think made there.

But, yeah, it shows how complicated this case was. It is also interesting, you know, how much weight they put on Rick Gates versus how much on the evidence, they had to show the documents over and over again.

These are complicated trials. And juries do tricky things. I mean, you never know what a jury is going to do. But what is important here is they -- even with that one person who want to hold out, they managed to convict him of eight felonies.

LEMON: Yeah. Norm, as you're listening to the juror, what are you thinking?

EISEN: Well, Don, of course I've tried cases to juries all over the country and I've sat on juries. I was even the foreman of a jury. What goes on is like sausage making. You wouldn't want that to be on television, what goes on in the jury room. You know, I think that there is often going to be -- with that jury I sat in on as a foreman, there was one person who seemed dissociated from the evidence.

And you have to remember, Don, there were other factors here. You had a judge who was constantly and unfairly criticizing the prosecution. That sends a signal to a jury so that may have made it tougher sledding. And you had the president tweeting about the case. The jury was not sequestered. They were at their homes. They were told not to look at stuff but they could be exposed to things.

You had the president attempting to make his opinion known. So there was some uphill sledding. Proof was overwhelming. And eight counts to me is as good as 18. This is a de facto life sentence for Mr. Manafort.

LEMON: I wonder, Garrett, I wonder if this changes the way they prosecute the next trial?

GRAFF: Well, so, you know, looking ahead to next month, he goes on trial again for a separate set of charges including witness tampering, being an unregistered foreign agent, these charges coming much closer to the underlying questions about Russia's role, Paul Manafort's ties to Russian business leaders, the Ukrainian politicians and so forth.

Presumably also, it is going to be in D.C., so it will be with a probably more friendly jury pool than the Virginia case featured. And in some ways, it is actually considered a much stronger case for the prosecution than this bank fraud and tax fraud case was, which as Larry and Norm have already said, was already a pretty overwhelming case.

[23:45:01] So I think there's every reason to imagine that Paul Manafort's legal jeopardy is ongoing and that the worst may be ahead of him. He faces another possible century in prison stemming from the September trial.

LEMON: Yeah. So just a polling before we go, each of you, yes, was this a win for the prosecution? Was it a good day yesterday for the prosecution? Norm?

EISEN: Home run.

LEMON: Yeah? What do you think, Larry?

NOBLE: Absolutely.

LEMON: Garrett?

GRAFF: No way that anyone sees it on Mueller's team as anything other than a full victory.

LEMON: Thank you all.

EISEN: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Have a good night. When we come back, the president says he feels very badly for Paul Manafort and he is taking aim at his own Justice Department and his own attorney genera. We're going to speak to a member of the House Judiciary Committee about all of this. Congressman Ted Lieu joins me, next.

[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: President Trump today praising Paul Manafort who, don't forget, is now a convicted felon, facing years in prison. The president calling his former campaign chairman a brave man.

Let's discuss now. Congressman Ted Lieu is here. He is a California Democrat who is a member of the judiciary committee. Congressman, thank you for joining us this evening. I appreciate it.

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: The president tweeted this morning, attacking his own justice department's treatment of his convicted former campaign manager. Here's what he said.

He said, I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. Justice, which is in quotation mark, by the way, took a 12-year-old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him. And unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to break, make up stories in order to get a deal. Such respect for a brave man, and then he put an exclamation point on top of that.

So, Manafort was convicted by a jury of eight counts of bank and tax fraud charges. Yes, the president has quotes around, you know, the word "justice" but why is the president defending Paul Manafort? He's a convicted felon.

LIEU: Thank you for your question, Don. As a former prosecutor, it is very hard for me to watch these direct attacks on the rule of law by Donald Trump. And it's also very telling, because an innocent person would not view these facts the same way that a criminal mind would.

And in this case, Donald Trump clearly thinks that cooperating with the government, with prosecutors, is somehow bad, and being convicted of tax fraud and bank fraud is somehow bad. No, these are actual crimes.

In America, we uphold the rule of law. And no one who commits bank fraud and tax fraud should be able to get away with it. I think the president really needs to apologize and stop attacking law enforcement.

LEMON: But the president keeps lashing out at Michael Cohen, who pled guilty to -- and is cooperating by the way with authorities while he continues to praise Paul Manafort. So, it's interesting. What does that say to you?

LIEU: Let me say that Michael Cohen's guilty plea is a game changer. We now have a sworn court document under oath which basically the president of the United States is alleged to have committed two felonies.

And I think it's important for people to understand that there's a difference between a civil campaign finance violation versus a criminal campaign finance violation. In this case, Donald Trump is alleged to have engaged in two criminal campaign finance violations where the punishment is prison time. And I can understand why the president is very nervous, why he attacks Michael Cohen, because Donald Trump is in serious legal jeopardy.

LEMON: Wow! And you really believe that. So, you say he's in serious legal jeopardy, but as a lawmaker, do you have any recourse? What actions can the Democrats take without the Republicans acting? Because there's a deafening silence coming from Republicans on Capitol Hill now.

LIEU: Most campaign finance violations are handled by the FEC. Those are civil fines. That's what happened with Obama campaign. That's a case Donald Trump referred to. But when we look at this fact pattern, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice and I, we wrote a letter to the FBI because as former prosecutors, we thought, this looks like a felony.

And we asked the FBI to investigate. And they did. Life comes at people fast. And now you got Michael Cohen essentially pleading guilty to felony campaign finance violations. And it's important to understand that in a democracy, campaign finance laws are extremely important.

One of the bedrock principles of democracy is to make sure that elections are run fairly and for people to somehow say that this is not a big deal is highly disturbing.

LEMON: Well, let's talk about the Justice Department. The Justice Department is led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom the president continues to publicly undermine. What would you like to see Jeff Sessions do differently?

LIEU: Well, I think it's actually honorable for Jeff Sessions to continue to not intervene in the Russia probe and the Russia investigation. He did what was right by recusing himself. I would like to see Jeff Sessions speak up more against Donald Trump when he gets attacked by the president.

And I have to give a great shout out to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who has done a tremendous job so far making sure that the rule of law is being followed. And when you have a Department of Justice that is allowed to proceed without political interference, you get convictions, you get the rule of law being honored.

LEMON: In light of the developments with Manafort and Cohen, Senate Democrats want to suspend confirmation hearing, the hearings for Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Do you think his nomination should go forward?

LIEU: No, I do not. But it is also a problem when you have a Republican-controlled Congress. You see that they have been complicit in the culture of corruption that has occurred this past year and a half.

[23:55:00] So, it wouldn't be surprising to me if Republicans went forward with the nomination. I don't think they should do that. And in the House of Representatives, I'm on the House Judiciary Committee, I think our committee now absolutely needs to hold hearings on the campaign finance allegations against the president.

And in particular, because the Department of Justice guidelines have said that they're not going to indict a sitting president, which means it's now incumbent on Congress to investigation, did Donald Trump commit two felonies? And if he did, then what do we do with those facts?

LEMON: Congressman Ted Lieu, thank you for your time.

LIEU: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.