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"Washington Post:" Russian Disinformation Teams Targeted Special Counsel Robert Mueller; Interview with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D), Connecticut; Mueller Releases Key FBI Memo Ahead Of Flynn Sentencing; Comey Unleashes On President Trump, GOP Over Attacks On FBI; Trump Inaugural Team, Transition, Campaign, Administration, Organization And Foundation All Being Investigated; Texas Federal Judge Strikes Down Obamacare As Unconstitutional. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired December 17, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:15] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Somewhere tonight, Vinny the Chin is smiling, smiling because Donald the President Trump is now speaking his language. John the substitute Berman in for Anderson.

A very big night of Russia developments including two new Senate reports on how systematic Russia interference in the 2016 election was, first on helping candidate Trump and later President Trump, which is new. So, was this late piece just opened on "The Washington Post" Web site, their lead, Russia's disinformation team train their sights on a new target, special counsel Robert Mueller, having worked to help get Trump into the White House, they now work to neutralize the biggest threat to his staying there.

So the Russians are going after the same guy the president is. Much more on that shortly.

Also breaking news on James Comey, what the fired FBI director said about the president and Republican lawmakers after his testimony to Congress today.

We begin, though, with the presidential tweet that dovetails with tonight's other Russia angles, statements by the president's TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that could put his client in legal, and political, put him in a box. That's because whether he intended to do it or not, Giuliani's language allows for the possibility that his client did collaborate with Russians, did pursue business ties with them all the way up to the election, and did lie about any number of things in public, at least.

The question is, why did Giuliani say what he said, and what might have it revealed about the state of the investigation?

First, what the president said on Twitter about his former consigliere. Remember, Michael Cohen became a rat after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable and unheard of, until the witch hunt was illegally started. They broke into attorney's office, all caps, why didn't they break into the DNC to get the server or crooked's office.

So, keeping them honest and translating from mob speak, became a rat is decided to cooperate with federal law enforcement, absolutely unthinkable and unheard of becomes neither unthinkable nor unheard of, and for broke into attorneys office, instead, try went to a judge, showed probable cause and obtained a lawful search warrant. The subject, as you know, was Michael Cohen's role in the hush payoff to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, and in case you were wondering whether the president's language is out of character, here he is talking about Cohen -- talking with Cohen about some of those arrangements.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up --


COHEN: And I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with funding.

TRUMP: So what are we going to do?

COHEN: Yes. It's all the stuff because you never know where that company, you never know what he's going to be --

TRUMP: He gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I'm all over that, and I spoke to Allen about it, when it comes time for the financing.

TRUMP: Listen, what financing?

COHEN: We'll have to pay --

TRUMP: We won't pay with cash?

COHEN: No, no, no, no, no, no. I got -- no, no, no.


BERMAN: The president late in the campaign, talking to the man he once called his lawyer and now calls a rat.

As for his current lawyer, at about the same time the president was tweeting about Cohen yesterday, Rudy Giuliani was on ABC's "This Week", he had plenty to say including a new theory about the hush payments, namely the allegations couldn't be true because the six figure payouts were too small.


RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP LAWYER: When it's true, and you have the kind of money that the president had, it's a million dollar settlement. Whether it's not true, when it's a harassment settlement and it's not true, you give them $130,000, $150,000. They went away for so little money, it indicates their case was very, very weak. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Get it. If it ain't a million bucks, it ain't nothing.

He also talked about the president's legal exposure and the hacking and leaking of Democratic e-mails, first, the president had nothing to do with it.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Did Roger Stone ever give the president a heads-up on WikiLeaks leaks concerning Hillary Clinton and the DNC?

GIULIANI: No, he didn't.


GIULIANI: I don't believe so.


BERMAN: He doesn't believe so? That certainly lets the imagination wander. Anyway, that's step one about the Trump-Stone-WikiLeaks nexus.

Step two goes like this, even if Trump did know anything about it, it's not a crime.


GIULIANI: Again, if Roger Stone gave anybody a heads up about WikiLeaks leaks, that's not a crime. It would be like giving them a heads up that the times is going to print something. This is why this thing is so weird, strange.


BERMAN: Weird to him, but perhaps central to Robert Mueller's investigation, and significant in that Giuliani allows for the possibility of president through Roger Stone and WikiLeaks being party to or aware of some sort of coordination with Russia.

[20:05:13] Giuliani also let this slip about how much longer than we'd known the pursuit of business with Moscow went on in 2016.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Did Donald Trump know that Michael Cohen was pursuing the Trump Tower in Moscow into the summer of 2016?

GIULIANI: According to the answer that he gave, it would have covered all the way up to November of 2016. Said he had conversations with him about it. The president didn't hide this.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Keeping him honest this, he did hide this, and Cohen lied about it consistently during and after the campaign. We have been reporting for weeks that efforts to do deals in Russia continued until at least the Republican convention in July. But November, that's new.

So was Giuliani's implication that some of what the president has been telling the public may not have been the whole truth.


GIULIANI: The president is not under oath, and the president is trying to do the best he can to remember what happened back at a time when he was the busiest man in the world. I was with him most of the time, I can't remember a lot of the stuff that goes on there. But boy, same way I go under oath, then I really think about it and I really say, I can't remember that.

I was wrong about who was with me on September 11th. I always thought the fire commissioner was with me in the building we were trapped in. Turns out later, Tommy told me I met you after. That happens when you're in the middle of difficult events.


BERMAN: So, bottom line, in the space of single interview, one of the president's lawyers said the president did nothing wrong but if he did, it wasn't a crime. He said the president was trying to do business with Russia far longer than he led us to believe. He said the president may have been lying to the American public but hey, it's not like he was under oath or anything.

But as if to remind everyone of the true stakes involved, two new reports to the Senate Intelligence Committee detailed just how extensive Russia's social media effort was during the 2016 campaign, to hurt Hillary Clinton, especially among African-American voters, by suppressing turnout, to boost WikiLeaks and support Donald Trump. At the end of the day, that's what this is about.

The president, though, sees it differently. Thank you, he tweeted yesterday, commenting on a piece in the "Wall Street Journal," people are starting to see and understand what this witch hunt is all about.

And perhaps they are. But not in the way he thinks because the same day he tweeted that, a new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll was showing that 62 percent of Americans do not believe President Trump is telling the truth about the Russia probe.

Meantime, the FBI director that President Trump fired was back on Capitol Hill today testifying before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees. It took place behind closed doors.

Afterwards, though, James Comey spoke out accusing the president and Republican lawmakers of damaging the bureau's reputation, and in the president's case, he says, lying about it. He also slammed the president for calling Michael Cohen a rat. We have to stop being numb to it, Comey said. Joining us now, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrat

Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Senator Blumenthal, I want to start by getting your reaction to this breaking news from "The Washington Post" that months after the president took office, Russian disinformation teams were specifically targeting special counsel Robert Mueller. What do you see there?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: What I see is that the sprawling, sweeping, Russian disinformation campaign is continuing. And it is continuing to echo and mirror, the Trump White House in its attack on Mueller, in its attempt to divide and disrupt and destroy our democracy. That is the Russian playbook.

It began early in this century, and it is continuing, and it is continuing with more intense pace and affect, because it's part of Vladimir Putin's overall strategy. And anybody who has any doubt about it, should go back and read the February and October indictments from the special counsel, which show how this operation is managed from the Russian side. Elena Khusyaynova indictment provides in stunning detail as well.

BERMAN: Some 5,000 tweets, and retweets specifically about Robert Mueller. It is fascinating.

Moving on, I want to play a clip to our viewers of what former FBI Director James Comey said today after he was grilled again behind closed doors by two congressional committees on the FBI's handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation and the Russia investigation. Listen to this.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: This, while the president of the United States is lying about the FBI, attacking the FBI, and attacking the rule of law in this country, how does that make any sense at all? Republicans used to understand that the actions of a president matter.

[20:10:01] The words of a president matter. The rule of law matters and the truth matters. Where are those Republicans today?

At some point, someone has to stand up in the face of fear of Fox News, fear of their base, fear of mean tweets, stand up for the values of this country and not shrink away into retirement but stand up and speak the truth.


BERMAN: Do you feel, Senator, there has been a failure to stand up?

BLUMENTHAL: There has been absolutely a failure on the part of my Republican colleagues to stand up, to speak out, and to push back against Donald Trump.

Unfortunately, I think my Republican colleagues need to find the Senate lost and found for their consciences, because history will judge them very harshly if they fail at this critical moment when we know the Russians are continuing this attack on our democracy as demonstrated by this report. That report shows they are mirroring and echoing the Trump continuing campaign against the special counsel.

BERMAN: I thought there was a lot fascinating about what Rudy Giuliani said yesterday, but suggesting that collusion is not a crime, that even if the president did hear from Roger Stone about WikiLeaks, that was not a crime, acknowledging that maybe the president did lie but he wasn't under oath. All of those admissions, moving the goal post so far, not to mention the fact he allowed for the possibility the president was negotiating on Trump Tower Moscow all the way up until the election.

Do you think there's a strategy behind Rudy Giuliani coming out with these admissions now?

BLUMENTHAL: I hope that Rudy Giuliani has his malpractice insurance paid up because I don't see a strategy. I see simply damaging admissions on behalf of his client. And moving the goal post, as you just put it, John, is exactly the right way to term it, because what they're doing is trying to say, in effect, conspiracy is not a crime. It is a crime.

And the president need not have known all of the ends of the conspiracy. He need not all of what the Russians were trying to do for his campaign, he need not know all of the collusion that was taking place or the obstruction of justice. It is still a crime.

And there is a credible case now of obstruction of justice against the president of the United States.

BERMAN: Along those lines, Rudy Giuliani said yesterday of the possibility that the president would testify or answer questions from Robert Mueller. Giuliani said over my dead body, but, you know, I could be dead.

Do you think presidential testimony is absolutely necessary for Robert Mueller?

BLUMENTHAL: For Donald Trump, testimony would be necessary to exonerate himself, but as you know, having covered him and as the American people know having watched him, Donald Trump's connection to facts and evidence is very tenuous. And so I doubt that he will ever be a witness voluntarily. It will take a subpoena and there should be one from the special counsel or from the Southern District of New York.

John, remember that the most advanced edge, the point of the spear now in this investigation is in the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, where that unindicted co-conspirator, individual number one is having a very bad time.

BERMAN: We should note as of now, we have no reporting on any subpoenas being issued by either entity, but obviously we're watching very closely.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from Connecticut, thanks so much for being with us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Perspective now from CNN Chief Legal Analyst, former Federal Prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin, also former Republican Attorney General from the Commonwealth of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, and CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

Jeff, I want to start with you, and let me ask you about the news that we're just getting from "The Washington Post," as we come to air, that Russian social media accounts are going after Robert Mueller.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's just consistent with how the Russian government has treated Donald Trump since he declared his candidacy. They are doing his bidding, whether it's by supporting Trump explicitly, whether it's by suppressing turnout by supporters of Hillary Clinton, whether it's attacking Hillary Clinton or now attacking President Trump's adversary, Robert Mueller.

Now, I don't know if there is any connection between the Trump presidency or the Trump campaign, and what's going on now. But again, it shows how Russia's interests are aligned with President Trump's interests.

BERMAN: You know, Ken, as a Republican politician and leader, are you comfortable that the Russian message so often is directly in line with the White House message?

KEN CUCCINELLI, PRESIDENT, SENATE CONSERVATIVES FUND: Well, I'm not comfortable with any involvement by the Russians. I would note this is all minuscule, but -- and we also haven't talked about -- Jeffrey rattled off the number of angles the Russians have taken, but not the ones that were not to Trump's interest and were to Hillary's or Jill Stein, their disruptive efforts after Ferguson.

[20:15:00] I mean, Senator Blumenthal mentioned that Russia's goal here is to destabilize, and even the knowledge of their involvement is destabilizing. So, I am uncomfortable with their continual drib drab role in the public discourse during elections. Other countries have dealt with them during their elections. The French come to mind as well.

So, this is a clear global strategy on the part of the Russians, and I'm not comfortable with it at all g all.

BERMAN: So, that's the news that came to light just as we were coming to air.

The other news has been Rudy Giuliani seemingly moving the goal post, Kaitlan, on what he thinks possible wrongdoing is for the president. If it ain't illegal, it ain't a problem. That's Rudy Giuliani's statement right there.

But there does seem to be something going on. There does seem to be this new concern among the president's lawyers, and perhaps inside the White House. Kaitlan, what are you seeing? What has the mood inside the White House been?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's relatively dark, and staffers inside the White House will describe a president in a very dark mood, and at times, we talk about that, and what the president is feeling, if he has been lashing out, but they do describe it as a different feeling lately, and it's not just because of the Russia investigation but all the other investigations by other U.S. attorneys that are essentially touching every aspect, almost, of just not the president's political life but also his personal life.

And that does seem to be weighing on the West Wing and we have seen that play out over the last few weeks as the president was searching for a new chief of staff, and essentially was trying to combat that narrative that no one wanted to be his chief of staff and take over what is sure to be a tumultuous few years, now with newly empowered Democrats taking over in January and so you're seeing it not only affect just the president's mood and mindset and what you are seeing on Twitter over the weekend, but also the staffing decisions that he's making inside the White House are also being affected by this. So, it certainly is quite dark in the West Wing.

BERMAN: So, Jeffrey, what do you make of what we have heard from Rudy Giuliani, this sort of mass inoculation all of a sudden that he's trying to provide the president, collusion is not a crime. If the president knew about WikiLeaks, that's not a crime. Sure the president may have lied but he wasn't under oath. So that's not a crime.

Why are we hearing that from Giuliani so much and now?

TOOBIN: Because I think the evidence is pointing that way, and he needs to give talking points to his supporters at Fox News and elsewhere.

I mean, I do think there is more method to the madness than people are suggesting like this is just Rudy being crazy. I mean, Trump, the president's supporters need arguments. They may not be very good arguments, but he's supplying them.

And I think just for example, one of them that I find completely maddening is the idea that, well, you know, Donald Trump was negotiating with Russia for Trump Tower Moscow during all of 2016, but everybody knew that anyway. Nobody knew that. And in fact, it would have been highly significant information. What we knew is that Donald Trump during the campaign was currying favor with Vladimir Putin for unaccountable reasons.

Why was he saying such nice things about Putin? Now, we hear it's because he was trying to make a deal with Putin's Russia about Trump Tower Moscow so he could make a lot of money. That was highly relevant information. The American public absolutely did not have.

BERMAN: You know, Ken, I've been asking you a lot of your comfort level tonight. What about the idea that collusion is not a crime. I suppose legally speaking, you could make that argument but are you comfortable that that is the case now being made by the president's legal and political team?

CUCCINELLI: Well, I don't think it's new that that point is being made on the legal (ph) front. You know, we most recently talked about this with respect to the campaign finance issue that Cohen pled to and looking back to John Edwards and you have seen debate in the public arena about that, and while it's uncomfortable to have a president or then presidential candidate trying to make arrangements to keep stories about his personal life that are embarrassing quiet, it is legal. It would exist outside of the campaign, which is the FEC standard for whether it's a campaign expenditure or not, and yet it's still uncomfortable.

And we keep hearing about it, and I get why. I mean, Michael Cohen just pled guilty to six or eight different things, and those two, there were two charges there among them. So the comfort level is problematic, and I don't know that Rudy Giuliani makes anybody more comfortable because he does have the appearance and sound of being a bit rambling, and because he's talking about things today that he wasn't talking about say two months ago.

BERMAN: So, Kaitlan, the president, he perhaps added to all of this with his tweets about Michael Cohen over the weekend, talking about Cohen being a rat and talking about lying, about the fact that the FBI broke into Cohen's office there.

[20:20:05] Where are we in the control of the president's Twitter stream? Particularly with John Kelly on the way out and Mick Mulvaney on the way in.

COLLINS: Well, I think most staffers have realized you cannot control the president's tweets and they have largely stopped from telling the president what he should and shouldn't tweet, and that's become pretty evident from what you have seen. He tweeted nine times alone this weekend from Saturday and Sunday about the Russia investigation, saying that Jeff Sessions should be ashamed of himself and whatnot, but he sent Rudy Giuliani on to the Sunday shows to essentially be his attack dog.

And as you saw some of his comments there, essentially arguing that the president did not have the affairs with these women and the proof was that he did not pay them more money than what he paid them, saying essentially if he had an affair, he would have paid closer to a million dollars, not $130,000 like the payment Michael Cohen facilitated to Stormy Daniels or the $150,000 that was facilitated Karen McDougal from American Media.

I think the question that's uncomfortable is an interesting one to make, because before as we have seen play out with other races, that is something that's disqualified, for that to be a story surrounding the president, and now we have the legal team going out there and making the argument that it's simply not illegal while they have changed their stories several times over the past few months. And I think that is why they have a credibility issue, especially when it comes to payments they have made to these women.

BERMAN: Kaitlan Collins, Ken Cuccinelli, thank you very much. Toobs, stick around, we've got more for you. It's a busy night.

Coming up, more perspective on Comey's outrage from Lieutenant General James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence. He'll also weigh in on that new report tonight that Russian disinformation teams targeted Robert Mueller.

Meanwhile, the special counsel released another crucial memo just hours before Michael Flynn is set to be sentenced for lying to the FBI. What that document reveals in just a moment.


[20:26:00] BERMAN: There is more breaking news tonight. Special Counsel Robert Mueller released a 2017 memo detailing the fateful FBI interview of then national security adviser Michael Flynn. This was the one where Flynn lied to FBI agents which led to charges against him and his guilty plea. General Flynn is expected to be sentenced tomorrow.

CNN's Jim Sciutto has been looking over the memo. He joins us now.

Also back with us, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. And joining us, Phil Mudd, former FBI senior intelligence adviser.

Jim, you got a chance to look at this memo, what jumps out to you?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Big picture. This effectively buries the perjury trap argument for Michael Flynn, that he went in there kind of innocently, and the FBI agents tricked him into lying about these things.

Flynn, based on these memos, willfully lied twice about issues of importance and sensitivity. The FBI agents asked him when he spoke to the Russian ambassador in December 2017 first, was he pushing them to vote a certain way on a U.N. Security Council resolution sponsored by the Obama administration, remember on the Israel settlements? He said, no, I just talked to -- he basically said I was counting votes to see how they were voting.

In fact, as we found out from the charging documents, they knew that he communicated and tried to get Russia to vote against the resolution or block it or slow roll it. Lie number one.

Lie number two, they asked him when he contacted the Russian ambassador again, this was after the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia for interfering in the election, including expelling diplomats, did he communicate to the Russian ambassador, hey, guys, don't react, don't retaliate for this because there's a new sheriff in town, et cetera, he said, no, I didn't do anything, I don't remember really, when in fact they knew exactly what he had asked them to do. He said don't retaliate.

Those are two key issues, because you have one administration running defense against the outgoing administration there. Those are issues of importance and consequence that he lied about to that FBI. The idea that he was somehow tricked into it or went in blindly or stupidly seems to be belied by what you see on the paper here.

BERMAN: Well, Phil, my reading of this, if you read this and again, I've never been an FBI agent, I've never worked in the FBI like you have, they seem to go out of their way to give him the opportunity to tell the truth. They would ask a question and say wait, really, you didn't do that or are you sure you didn't do that? They went again and again and again, and in case of the conversation with Kislyak, he still lied about it.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, because the reason is they know this is going to be reviewed potentially in the public domain as we're doing tonight. So, what do you do, whether it's a terrorism case or a national security case like this one, related to Russia, again and again, you're talking to a witness and you give them an opportunity.

What happened? Speak the truth. What happened?

If you look at almost every paragraph in this document, maybe every other paragraph, there's an opportunity for General Flynn to say I actually had sensitive national security conversations with the Russians. It's not like the FBI walked in the room and said let me trap this guy.

They gave him like 12 opportunities, or ten. I lost track, to say this is what happened. Every time, he said no, I didn't do that. That's why he's going to go to jail.

BERMAN: And, Jeffrey, I'm going to ask you the unanswerable question which is why? Why is Michael Flynn lying here?

TOOBIN: You know, it is really very difficult to answer. First of all, from a purely practical matter, he was the head of Defense Intelligence Agency. He knows about American surveillance of the Russians. He had to know that these conversations were monitored so the FBI agents were asking questions to which they knew the answers.

So, it was a pure stupidity level of lying to the agents but at a larger level, the difficult question to resolve is why was he lying about coordination with Russia, particularly the second answer, you know, the second thing he lied about. You know, they was trying to down play his friendship, in a way, with Russia, and that, I think, fits into the whole pattern of everything we have seen from Trump affiliated people since the day this investigation began. They are always trying to down play their relationship with Russia when, in fact, it was a lot more significant and extensive than we've understood.

BERMAN: A lot of the theatrics around this, Jim, tonight are fascinating, because tomorrow, Michael Flynn will be sentence, but the special counsel has recommended no jail time.


BERMAN: So why are we seeing all of these documents and whose arguments are they going to bolster. ACOSTA: Well, first to the jail time, why there's a lot of speculation he might not get jail time and that is because he has clearly offered a lot of very important and consequential cooperation, some of which we saw the results of earlier today with this -- the prosecution of this two other Turkish-American officials for trying to make a deal to extricate this Turkish cleric from the U.S. to Turkey, point being Flynn was involved in that as well, why is Flynn not being charged in that. I mean clearly he must have given the goods on that.

TOOBIN: Must have given a lot of goods, by the way.

ACOSTA: Exactly.

TOOBIN: Charge with that.

ACOSTA: Exactly.

TOOBIN: His federal sentencing guidelines are zero to six months.

BERMAN: Right.

TOOBIN: In my experience, most people whose guidelines that are zero to six months, particularly those who cooperate get no jail time. So frankly I would be surprised if he got any jail time at all. Phil seemed to say something different and I'm curious what he means with it.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: No, I made a mistake on that. Look, I think he's going to be hammered by the judge tomorrow. I don't mean -- I was mistaken. I don't mean to suggest he'll go to jail. I do mean to suggest that a week ago his lawyers are saying cry crocodile tears for my client. He was railroaded by the FBI.

I think the judge let this document or ordered this document to be out tonight because the judge tomorrow is going to say, "You might not get jail time, but if you want to go in front of the American people and say you were an innocent victim of the FBI, try that again. That's not going to work."

TOOBIN: Yes, that sounds right to me.

BERMAN: All right.

TOOBIN: Because I just don't think he's going to get jail time, given all of this.

BERMAN: Jeffrey, Jim, Phil, thank you all very much.

Next, back to James Comey. We'll be joined by one of the other top officials who was there with him as Russia attacked this country. James Clapper's take when "360" continues.


[20:35:20] BERMAN: The day was dominated by two reports detailing Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election and in fact, after the election, including a tax on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, that's according to new reporting in the "Washington Post."

James Comey was at the center of much of this at the time. He testified before Congress today but spent a portion of his time fielding questions not about that, but about Hillary Clinton's e- mails. And he was not happy afterwards that the Russia threat was not front and center for Republicans.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: People who know better, including Republican members of this body, have to have the courage to stand up and speak the truth, not be cowed by mean tweets or fear of their base. There is a truth and they're not telling it. Their silence is shameful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of the Republicans who are remaining in the House next session, do you see any taking that mantle (ph), coming up and defending the FBI, taking on the President?

COMEY: Not yet. To my view of their ever lasting shame, I hope they'll overcome that and realize someday they've got to explain to their grandchildren what they did today.


BERMAN: A short time later, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders weighed in saying, "Republicans should stand up to Comey and his tremendous corruption."

Joining us now, one of James Comey's colleagues at the time, also at the point of the spear on the Russian attacks, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, author of "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence."

Director Clapper, as someone who used to work with former FBI Director Comey, what do you make of his comments? Is the silence from Republicans as shameful as he says?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think just to step back a bit, John, what Jim was -- I think, he was venting and I can certainly understand why after enduring a second session, which for me, at least appears to be mostly about harassment, last chance for the Republicans to beat him up at a hearing before they lose control in the House.

But the bigger issue here that I think Jim was getting at is the general assault on truth and those institutions that depend on truth. And I'm referring to things like science, like journalism, like the intelligence community and what Jim is highlighting was the assault on law enforcement and specifically the rule of law.

General Mike Hayden has written a book about this, very eloquently so, describing this assault on truth, and those institutions that depend on truth, and why that's dangerous to any democracy, particularly this one. And I think he was chastising people who either acquiesce or defend this assault on truth.

BERMAN: In terms of an assault, there's, of course, a Russian attack on the 2016 election which we learned today has continued after the 2016 election. These two new reports, including one tonight, which is saying that some of these attacks are on Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation. Again, you were in the middle of it all through the inauguration. Are you surprised that the Russian efforts have continued until now?

CLAPPER: No, absolutely not. And, John, I have to say it is very gratifying for me to read about these reports because they simply reinforce or buttress what we said in our intelligence community assessment in January of 2017. And remember, the first objective of the Russians was to sew doubt, discord and discontent in this country and they have succeeded to a fairly well capitalizing and exploiting the polarization and divisiveness in this country.

Secondarily, of course, was to do all they could to damage Hillary Clinton's candidacy and to help, when he became serious as the nominee, help Donald Trump. But that first primary objective, sow doubt, discord and discontent, has continued and will continue to do so. This is how the Russians can exploit our weaknesses and compensate for theirs.

BERMAN: Why would they continue? Why would they continue to help Donald Trump, though, after the election? They already beat -- or I should say Hillary Clinton already lost, so why bother now with the President?

CLAPPER: This is just an opportunity to drive a wedge among us. Again, to sow doubt, discord and discontent about the advocacy of our institutions, about the rule of law, so a good way to do that is attack Mueller.

And they'll -- I mean, they had messages for everybody in the campaign whether it's Black Lives Matter, white supremacists, gun control advocates and, you know, second amendment advocates, it didn't matter. So the Russians are always going to be looking for issues that they're going to exploit to their advantage.

[20:40:05] BERMAN: That there message about Robert Mueller in so many cases, some of these social media comments, so closely mirrors that from the White House. Is that done intentionally? Are the Russians doing that on purpose?

CLAPPER: That's a great question, John. And I discussed in the book that, and thanks for the plug, I spent the whole chapter on exactly that, the striking parallelism thematically between what the Russians were doing and saying and what the Trump campaign was doing and saying.

I don't suggest collusion, whatever that is, legally. But it's -- there are striking parallels and those parallels continue yet today, and that's because the Russians go to school on how to do that.

BERMAN: General James Clapper, great to have you with us. Thanks very much.

CLAPPER: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: So with the news that the President's inaugural committee is under investigation for possible misuse of funds and giving political favors to donors, there's virtually no aspect of his life, businesses, or presidency that is not under the microscope. We're going to talk about what that means for the future of this country, next.


BERMAN: When you look around in the Trump universe, practically the only thing not under investigation is Trump University, and that's only because the fraud lawsuit has already been settled.

[20:45:01] As we noted last week when the news broke that the Trump inaugural committee is under active criminal investigation, just about every aspect of the President's life is under investigation, the campaign, the transition, the administration, the Trump organization, the Trump foundation, and now even the Trump inauguration.

When you look at that graphic, it's stunning to think about that this is where we are. And we're going to closely look at all these different elements every night throughout this week. As former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean puts it quote, "This is much more damming than Watergate and it's just getting started."

Joining me now to put the magnitude of what we're seeing in perspective, two men who have perspective, former Obama Senior Adviser, David Axelrod and David Gergen who advised Richard Nixon and three other presidents, Republicans and Democrats alike.

David, I want to start with you. You know, you worked with John Dean in the Nixon White House. What do you make of his comment that all these investigations, more damming that Watergate already?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there's a lot of truth to it. As that graphic showed, it's not just six different organizations, but they are now according to wired, 17 different criminal investigations underway, 17, you know. By numerous different, you know, whether it's the Mueller team or the Southern District Court of New York, or the statewide officials, the attorney general of New York, or what's going on in D.C. and Virginia, it's massive. And I think it's more than we've seen in Watergate.

Watergate, there's no question, corrupted at least three agencies of the government, the White House, the FBI, the CIA. It spread into that. But it wasn't as massive as this. And the number of people who were involved I think was smaller as a proportionate. The white -- the Nixon White House did not resemble a mob. It did have a criminal element in it.

BERMAN: So, David Axelrod, again, there was something about the news that the Trump inauguration was under investigation that painted this in a whole new light because it was that last moment of this timeline that wasn't under investigation. You're really looking at almost every aspect of things that the President has touched for the last several years. What kind of pressure does that put on him? What kind of pressure does that put on the administration?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, enormous pressure now especially with a Democratic Congress set to take office in January with the power of oversight that hasn't been exercised over the last two years. It's enormous pressure.

But I think the larger point is this. You say, well, how could all of these things be going on? They all have one common element, and that's Donald Trump. And Donald Trump's career has been basically marked by a certain ethos, which is that you take what you can, whenever you can, however you can that rules, norms, laws, and even institutions don't matter that you flout them and you do what you can -- whatever you can get away with and that's been his business model.

But now he's President of the United States and it has much, much broader implications and everything he's involved in, including the way he governs and the way he runs his politics have been infected by that, and the walls are closing in.

BERMAN: So, David Gergen, it won't be until, you know, two weeks from now when Democrats take control of the House that there would be a Democratic led effort in any way to investigate the President. That's when they will first have control of the committees.

But what about the role of politics and partisanship up until this point, the 17 different investigations that you noted (INAUDIBLE) talked about it and why. How much does politics play in any of that?

GERGEN: Well, it has enormous political ramifications. And fighting back against all of these investigations, Trump continually lashes out at the FBI. He undermines the legal -- the law enforcement of the country. He continually undermines the legitimacy of the press, and that go back to what Jim Clapper was just telling you, John.

You know, there's not only a parallel between what the Russians were doing and what the Trump team has been doing or has been accused of, but there are also parallels between what Trump is doing and what Democratic governments -- Democratic governments around the world are starting to become much more authoritarian.

And then ones you see going authoritarian, ones that attack the press and attack the rule of law, and that's what begins to weaken their democracies, and that's where we are now. The long-term damage is going to be to weaken our democracy and leave us vulnerable to more demagoguery.

BERMAN: So, David, if I can, I want to get your take. David Gergen just mentioned James Clapper. Well, Clapper was talking about James Comey who in turn is attacking Republicans for not standing up and raising their voice more. When you as a Democrat see James Comey now as a messenger for anything, is he delivering the type of message that Democrats want to hear right now?

[20:50:04] AXELROD: Well, look, I think he is delivering a message that Americans should want to hear, leaving the partisanship aside. I think his sentiment is one that is shared by Democrats, independents and, yes, some Republicans. But I will say this. The one thing -- the irony of all of this is the sheer weight of all of these investigations.

On the one hand, looks very, very ominous. On the other hand, if you're Donald Trump and you're trying to make the case that this is just a political beat down on him, the sheer weight of it actually works in his favor with his base because he can say, "Look, every single way I turn, they are trying to bring the hammer down on me."

And so he's going to use that and you see it in this flurry of tweets over the last several days. He's going to try and turn the sheer weight of all of these investigations in his favor at least to disqualify them in the eyes of his base.

BERMAN: You know, David Gergen, when the -- go ahead, David. I'm sorry.

GERGEN: OK. I just want to say, David Axelrod just made a very interesting point. I wonder, David, whether you could also flip it the other way and that is up until now this -- the whole -- this whole controversy hinged upon finding collusion. But now with so many investigations going on, is it as important as it was to find collusion? Isn't there just such a stench coming out of all of this investigations? It may make -- bless everything what you can find in collusion because they're all arrested the stuff.

BERMAN: To that end, David Axelrod --


BERMAN: -- maybe you can answer this. I mean if the Mueller investigation wraps up, is it all over?

AXELROD: No, I don't think it's all over. I think there are so many far flung tentacles of this that the President's problems are far from over. As we've seen in the Southern District of New York, I think this is just beginning.

BERMAN: David Axelrod, David Gergen, thank you so much for being with us.

Up next, the latest ruling against Obamacare could leave millions of people without coverage but it's likely to face an uphill legal battle. And as we've seen, Republicans seem to have no plan to fix health care. We'll hear from Ohio Governor John Kasich, next.


[20:56:20] BERMAN: It's another battle in the seemingly unending war over Obamacare after a federal judge in Texas ruled that part of is unconstitutional. The President is celebrating the ruling, but it's worth mentioning that the decision does not affect enrollment or coverage for 2019 and many legal scholars say it would be overturned if it's appealed and reviewed by higher courts. So, again, here we are. The future of millions of people's health insurance is uncertain. So what better time to get some perspective from Ohio Governor John Kasich. I spoke with him just a short time ago.


BERMAN: Governor Kasich, what do you make on Friday's ruling on Obamacare, given that you are Republican governor who has supported parts of Obamacare at past?

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Sure. Well, what I'm most worried about, John, is the fact that you've got a lot of people that could have their healthcare ripped from under them. It doesn't mean that Obamacare is perfect, of course, it isn't. And even the Medicaid expansion is not perfect.

John Hickenlooper and I and others, Brian Sandoval, governor of Nevada, tried to make improvements in it so that people could still have care and yet we could reduce the cost. So let's just be clear, there are other ways that you could reform that program. But to just take it away, what are you talking about? Are people going to lose lifetime limits?

So if you have a sick child and -- you could go bankrupt if there are lifetime limits that are too low. Pre-existing conditions, it does threaten people with pre-existing conditions. But the question is, is if you work for a large employer and they're self-insure, how will you be impacted? Well, Obamacare had an overlay over essential health benefits, at least some guardrails for them, so that was really important. As of right now, the program continues.

But, look, any time there is a threat of people losing their health care, it's like a cloud over their heads and you think about you and me, you know, as just normal folks growing up. You unconquered (ph) me back in Mckees Rocks and somebody all of a sudden said to our parents, we don't have any health care anymore. I mean that is really scary, right, and terrible. N So, we've got to get this thing settled.

And long-term, the health care costs are going up too fast and we've got a heavy comprehensive program based on paying for performance. I get quality at lower cost, that's where I need to go. That's the way we have to think about this in the long-term.

BERMAN: James Comey who was up on Capitol Hill, the former FBI director on Capitol Hill, he was asked to comment on some statements the President made attacking the investigation, calling Michael Cohen a rat, saying the FBI broke into Michael Cohen's office, which they didn't. A judge issued a search warrant for them.

James Comey said, "Republicans used to understand that the actions of a president matter, that words of a president matter, the rule of law matters and the truth matters. Where are those Republicans today?"

KASICH: Well, one of them is sitting across from you. I've always been concerned about calling them as I see them. And, you know, look, its tribalism. It has always been that way. I remember back when Bill Clinton got in trouble. You know, the Democrats all rallied behind him. The Republicans were on the other side, even back in the days of the impeachment of Nixon, which you and I read about and talked about.

You know, there's a case where the Republicans, you know, 28 percent still had big approval of him, even when he was leaving office. So, it's normal to have tribalism but I like to think that at the end of the day, John, let the investigation be completed, hold your fire. I mean, you can have opinions and judgments and all of that, but at the end, you've got to call them like you see them just like an umpire.

BERMAN: Governor John Kasich, thanks so much.

KASICH: Great. Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Appreciate it.

KASICH: Thank you.


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The news continues, so I'll hand it over to Chris Cuomo. "CUOMO PRIME TIME" starts now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, JB. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME. We have brand new information for you tonight. Here are the lies that Flynn told the FBI and these notions that Flynn was setup.