Return to Transcripts main page
Trump's Inauguration; Civil Rights Icon's Strong Words on Trump; Coincidence or Intended Conversations; Obamacare's Budget Passed; Controversial Conversation; John Lewis' Strong Words for Trump; Probe to Investigate U.S. Elections; First Lady's Legacy. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired January 13, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Just a week left for the Obama family in the White House.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
By this time next week will be at the inaugural balls and Donald Trump will be the 45th president. But today this explosive statement from Congressman John Lewis speaking to NBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN LEWIS, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president.
CHUCK TODD, NBC HOST: You do not consider him a legitimate president? Why is that?
LEWIS: I think the Russians participated in having this man get elected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That as Senate intelligence committee says it will investigate any possible links between Russia and the campaigns. And more questions are raised about the president-elect's national security adviser Michael Flynn and his contact with the Russian ambassador.
Meanwhile, the House joining the Senate today in taking the first steps to repeal Obamacare.
Let's get right to it now in CNN's senior political analyst, David Gergen, political analyst, Kirsten Powers, and presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley, executive producer of Presidential Suite.
Happy Friday evening to all of you. David, I want to start with you. Tonight, the Senate intelligence committee has announced it's going to investigate any links between Russia and individuals involved in this years' presidential campaign, cyber activity in the 2016 election, and interview and subpoena if necessary officials from both the Trump and Obama administrations. What's your reaction to this? DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it was a surprise,
wasn't it, Don? Because earlier in the day, the indication or statements were they were not going to go down all those trails. And now for whatever reason, they maybe because looked at more evidence, they've decided they should.
That's going to be what it means is that these investigations are going to be shadowing President Trump as he takes office and into his first hundred days. So, it's going to be a -- it's going to make a higher hill for him to climb.
LEMON: I want to and this is surprising to you because Donald Trump also tell -- telling the Wall Street Journal tonight in an interview, in a new interview that he's going to keep sanctions against Russia, quote, "for a period of time." but then added, quote, "if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody is doing something -- some really great things." What's your reaction to that one?
GERGEN: Well, you know, it's interesting. He's sort of bridged the gap, hasn't he, between his original positions which was which seem to be lift the sanctions and even some of his appointees seem to wanted to left the sanctions, but I think they've had a second look.
And now they kind of essentially a compromise position keep the sanctions but you know, there are, they're obviously at a time when there are republicans, part of hawkish republicans who want to increase the sanction, Donald Trump is saying basically I'll keep them for a while but moment may come.
That could give -- it could be a bargaining chip for the Russians. So, you have to -- you can't -- I don't think we ought to dismiss it entirely, it could make the Russians more anxious to cooperate with Trump and with the United States. Let's see.
LEMON: It seems like the relationship with them is negotiable, Kirsten, it seems like a lot of thing are negotiable, if not everything. Because he was also asked if he supports the one China policy on Taiwan, and again, he says everything is under negotiation. What do you think?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think he, you know, he said he wanted to do things differently, he wants to sort of have his own rule book. We've seen this before with Taiwan as well. And he has, I think he's just made it very clear that he believes the way that we've been doing things is not necessarily the right way.
And so I wouldn't assume that because you point to precedence that this is going to be anything that he's really concerned about. That he's going to look at each issue individually and decide what he wants to do based on his opinion and the people around him versus what the U.S. has typically done.
LEMON: And Douglas Brinkley, you get the controversial moment tonight. Not that any of this is not controversial. But I want to play this for you. This is Democratic Congressman John Lewis which I'm sure will get Donald Trump's attention or already has. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWIS: I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president.
TODD: You do not consider him a legitimate president? Why is that?
LEWIS: I think the Russians participated in having this man get elected and they have destroyed the candidacy for Hillary Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Douglas, this is really extraordinary step for John Lewis, a living legend, a civil rights icon, to say this about the incoming president, is he questioning -- is questioning his legitimacy fair game do you think?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, look, I know John Lewis very well, Don. I fact, I wrote the introduction to his recent memoir at his behest. He wanted me to write it and I did. I go and did visit with him, Don, in Selma when he does his faith in politics events.
He is the moral authority on Capitol Hill. Many conservative republicans, particularly Christian prayer group republican love John Lewis, he usually doesn't say something to be inflammatory, he tries to be a national healer.
[22:05:06] The fact that he said this is surprising to me and I think it tells you the frustration with many, many democrats that Donald Trump is turning a cold shoulder on anybody who voted against him.
He seems to want to be right now Trump the leader for his group, the make America great again crowd and he's not really reached out to African-American community, in particular except for Harvey and Don King. But he should have met with John Lewis earlier and this is I think a problem for Donald Trump that leading figure of the Civil Rights movement and a great moral authority in our country is calling his whole presidency illegitimate.
LEMON: David Gergen, you've worked for several presidents, both democrats and republicans. This for John Lewis, he says this is the first time he won't attend an inaugural since he has been in Congress. This goes beyond politics for him. There is something different about just being a conservative or liberal this time for John Lewis, isn't there?
GERGEN: I think there is. And I do think that John Lewis is one of our national heroes. On this question, you know, we don't know, we don't have the facts, we don't have the evidence, there's nothing verifiable that the Russians really threw this election to Donald Trump.
I think -- I think it's given where we are it's premature to argue that.
GERGEN: I just disagree with John Lewis on a particular phrasing. But I do agree with Douglas Brinkley is, that in the past, presidents, new presidents have reached out and tried to heal divisions in the country and there are, as a result they have -- their approvals have gone up.
This is the first president in recorded history whose approval ratings since the election have actually gone down. The new Gallup poll out today has him at historic lows. Only, you know, less than half of the country, only 44 percent approved Donald Trump during this transition.
You compare that to the past three presidents, George W. Bush, was 61 percent approval during his transition. Bill Clinton was 68 percent approval, and Barack Obama, 83 percent approval during his first transition.
So, I do think that Donald Trump has been a divisive figure and he needs to be more presidential and reach out to the John Lewis' of the world.
LEMON: Kirsten, I want you to weigh in on that because Douglas Brinkley said that he believe there's a problem for to have a Civil Rights icon to come out and say this. What do you make this, does Donald Trump need to do more to reach out to people like John Lewis?
POWERS: Well, it would be great if he would but he's not going to. So, and I think that John Lewis is absolutely free to choose to not attend the inauguration for his own objections, moral objections.
But agree with David and I would -- I'm a little concern frankly, if democrats were moving forward with this story as fact that the election -- you know, that somehow was swayed by activities of the Russians. Because I don't think...
LEMON: We are starting to hear more and more of that.
POWERS: Yes. I don't think from a pure analysis standpoint that anybody has really need that case that the e-mails that mainly the Podesta e-mails really had that much to do with why Hillary Clinton lost the election.
And so, you know, I don't think they should start countering Trump's sort of, you know, fake news with their own because frankly, they're going to have to make a better case than just saying it because, theories analysis has really made it.
LEMON: How do you explain those poll numbers though, that David Gergen just referenced?
POWERS: Yes, well...
LEMON: How do you explain that with the transition approval ratings? POWERS: I think he's obviously very divisive and he's not even trying
to be healing. He's on a daily basis very divisive. But I would also say, it doesn't account for all of it but it would account for some of it. I think in the last eight years the country has just become much, much more polarized.
And to a certain extent I think it gets harder and harder to get high approval ratings the kind of approval we saw before.
POWERS: I think this could be higher if he, you know, wasn't being so antagonistic all the time but I do think it's maybe not that possible to get that high.
LEMON: Let's move -- I want to talk about the House taking steps to repeal Obamacare by approving a budget resolution. And Speaker Paul Ryan now says that he wants to repeal and replace at the same time. How likely is that, David Gergen?
GERGEN: I think it's darn hard. And you know, the longer this goes on, I think the republicans are discovering, you know, this is a very tough problem. Somebody has got to pay -- if you're going to put whole lot more people on insurance which the country has agreed that is a good thing to do, somebody got to pay somewhere, and you got -- you got to pin the tail on somebody's donkey.
So, I don't know where the republicans are going to come out. But they made extravagant promises about how they could save the best of Obamacare and have a new system that's going to work perfectly.
[22:10:07] But you know, seven or eight years in, we still haven't seen a plan from the republicans. I think that's incumbent on them to come up -- I think they ought to present the plan to the country first and then vote...
GERGEN: ... on the repeal and replace.
LEMON: Douglas Brinkley, as an historian had - as a historian, have you ever seen a big government program like this taken away, and if so what was the outcome? What happened?
BRINKLEY: Well, not just taken away, but just repealed apparently on day one or two. And this is the signature achievement of progressive democrats of the past eight years and it's very clear to me that Trump is going to repeal it. Now the replacements, what we are going to be arguing about.
But you know, there have been times when people wanted to get rid of Social Security or Medicaid or Medicare, it's harder than you think. Obamacare has now become a kind of right Americans have. You're not going to be able to put 20 million people out on the streets relooking for medical care. So, I'm not sure how the republicans are going to play it. They also
have the problems of Rand Paul and Susan Collins, there are some republicans that don't like all of this that may not go along. It's not going to be a rubber stamp to the GOP on replacing Obmacare.
So, it looks like the health care controversy is going to carry over and really be very dominant in late January or early February.
LEMON: And the problem is also very quickly, if they repeal it, their main constituents, older Americans, may end up paying more and that those are the people who voted for Donald Trump, David Gergen.
GERGEN: Yes. And one other thing, Don, this is not actually a government program in this the way we normally think about. This is not something that government runs. The government is subsidizing its program, but it was a program -- with the program that was built actually on a model from the Heritage Foundation, conservative foundation, which is very market based.
And so, when you start peeling away things it's the insurance companies, that are private companies may just withdraw from the market, the market could collapse if you don't do this well,
GERGEN: ... if you don't give them assurances. So, it's a much more difficult thing to repeal and replace than it was if it was a straight government program.
LEMON: David, Douglas, and Kirsten, thank you so much.
POWERS: Thank you.
BRINKLEY: Thank you.
GERGEN: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come right back, questions about Donald Trump's national security adviser and his contact with the Russian ambassador. Was it a coincidence they were in touch on the day President Obama announced retaliation for Russia's election hacking?
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Questions being raised tonight about President-elect Donald Trump's adviser, General Michael Flynn and his contact with the Russian ambassador.
Let's discuss now with New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, and Ambassador James Woolsey, the former director of the CIA, and a former senior adviser to the Trump campaign.
Good evening, gentlemen. Ambassador, I want to start with you. Because there's some brand new information that Donald Trump is telling the Wall Street Journal in a new interview that he'll keep the sanctions against Russia for a period of time, but added, quote, "If Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody is doing some great things." What's your reaction to that?
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, I'd be surprised if Russia started doing any really great things but I imagine what Donald Trump has in mind is cooperation against ISIS. It's been I think in the forefront of the mind of a lot of people who work on national security matters that the Russians ought to be concerned about Islamic radicalism in their own country and they would be wise to cooperate with us in dealing with it.
If something like that should come about, I suppose what Donald Trump said is understandable. I think the chances are pretty small. But perhaps not zero.
LEMON: Do you think it's understandable that sanctions might be removed, Nick?
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: You know, I mean, the fact that he said for a time makes me think that maybe that is on the agenda. And look, you know, every new president seems to come into office thinking I can -- I can, these are reasonable people, I can make things work.
Jimmy Carter and almost every president since, President Obama tried to have reset and then they are ended up disappointed. Because at the end of the day we have different values, very interests and you know, I don't think that Russia is going to be cooperative.
LEMON: Russia is interested in Asia.
KRISTOF: Yes. They have not been helpful on ISIS and we have the Ukraine.
KRISTOF: And Ukraine is has been a major stumbling block.
LEMON: And Ambassador, you said you agreed with that, correct?
WOOLSEY: Yes, yes.
LEMON: Nick, I want to ask about this. This is about General Michael Flynn, Trump's pick for national security adviser. We are reporting that he contacted the Russian ambassador to the U.S. last month including the same day that President Obama was imposing sanctions from meddling in the election. What questions, do you have questions about this?
KRISTOF: Well, boy, I have question and I, you know, I put them through to the Trump organization. There been a bunch of different reports about what days those contacts were on, to what extent they were text messages, to what extent they phone calls or the purpose was.
LEMON: One of his adviser -- one of his spokes people, Sean said it was -- Sean Spicer said it was the 28th, but we are reporting it was the 29th on the exact day. But go on.
KRISTOF: Yes. And David Ignatius at the Washington Post when he first reported it was on the 29th. You know, there are also reports that it had to do with this, with the U.S. being invited to a Syria conference, that it was involved to set up a Trump and Putin conversation, I don't know.
KRISTOF: But it made me nervous that there was some kind of conversation about easing sanctions or about allowing those Russian diplomats who are then kicked out of the country with PNG to be allowed back.
KRISTOF: And to ask Russia not to PNG U.S. Diplomats. It was very unusual that Russia did not kick out a bunch of U.S. diplomats as tit for tat for us having done that.
LEMON: So, Ambassador, you know, Nick mentioned David Ignatius, and I want to plays, this is David Ignatius and I want to get your reaction. He's a columnist he said he first reported on these contacts between Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID IGNATIUS, WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: We have a piece of legislation it's never been enforced, that never been a prosecution. It's called the Logan Act. And it basically says that U.S. private citizen, somebody not representing the government should not be involved with a country with which the United States has a dispute.
[22:19:57] I mean, we had a real dispute with Russia about their hacking that these explosions of the diplomats were eminent. Wasn't it appropriate to have that -- have that contact as you put it, that we can only have one president at a time? Soon that president is going to be Donald Trump. That president was not Donald Trump on the day this conversation happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Ambassador, do you think Flynn could be in violation here?
WOOLSEY: I supposed it's possible. The Logan Act point that, they've made it right on. It's confusing and complex situation. I don't blame anybody for getting mixed up in it. Because it reminds me the old Abbott and Costello routine who's on first, we know who the president is now, it's Barack Obama, we know who it it's going to be after the swearing in on Friday.
But it's a strange intermediate situation with policies being advocated, adopted, pronounced and there are sort of three players in it. And it's confusing. So, someone could have placed a phone call before he was supposed to or taken a step that was innocuous trying to set up a phone call but it was done at the wrong time. So, it's possible that definitely possible mistakes were made. Sure.
LEMON: That's the reason, Nick, I know you want to get into it. That's why we have the one president at a time.
LEMON: Rule, unwritten rule that we, you know.
KRISTOF: You know, it seems to me that it's not really a legal issue here. I mean, the last prosecution was in 1803, but there is certainly an issue of propriety. It is completely inappropriate to be negotiating policy in competition with the sitting president.
WOOLSEY: That's true, absolutely.
LEMON: Yes, So, Nick, this, let's talk about the FBI Director James Comey, because I think he's feeling the heat right now. In addition to the inspector general's investigation into his handling of the Hillary Clinton's e-mail we're learning that the former DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz confronted him on a contentious closed door meeting about the DNC leaks that essentially forced her to resign.
Pressing him on why the FBI never reached out to her or her team directly. Comey apparently stood by the FBI's response that makes him wondering. Do you think that he is going to be able to keep his post? It seems like he may not have very many friends left, well, I should say, on either side of the aisle.
KRISTOF: That's right. I mean, he has been lost friends on both sides and maybe those that matter most now are on the republican side. Look, I have some sympathy frankly with James Comey on this issue. I think he made a really bad mistake in announcing the Hillary e-mail issue toward the end of the campaign, and apparent violation of the Department of Justice its own standards about bringing in new information at the very end of a campaign.
But I do think that at the end of the day he has been a man of integrity, I don't think he is politicized. He has really been respected by colleagues within DOJ. And people make mistakes. I think he made a big one. I hope he's not going to be forced out.
LEMON: Ambassador Woolsey, I want you to weigh on in. Because what the Wall Street Journal's conservative editorial board says Comey should do. He said he should resign.
And they say, "If the FBI director has demonstrated anything in the last year it's that he has lost the trust of nearly everyone in Washington, along with every American who believes the FBI must maintain its reputation as a politically impartial federal agency." Should Comey resign, Ambassador? WOOLSEY: If it had been one slipup I might say no. But it seems as if
the FBI for a while there sell itself as the federal bureau of narrative production rather than the federal Bureau of investigation.
I can't really account for all of public interventions and descriptions of where the investigation was going and where it was not going. It's not the way they run investigations, and it's the way that anybody would run the investigation.
LEMON: Do you think he should resign?
WOOLSEY: Well, I think it's a very reasonable proposition given the fact that it was a series of I think very fundamental errors and not just a slipup.
LEMON: Ambassador, Nick, thank you. Have a great weekend. I appreciate it.
KRISTOF: Good to be with you.
LEMON: When we come right back, an extraordinary statement from one of the elder statesmen of the Democratic Party. Congressman John Lewis says he does believe Donald Trump is a legitimate president.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Strong words, very strong words today from Congressman John Lewis, a Georgia democrat and Civil Rights icon saying he doesn't see Donald Trump as legitimate president.
Let's discuss now, Lanhee Chen is here, he is a fellow at Hoover Institution, who was policy director for Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign. CNN political contributor, Maria Cardona, a democratic strategist, and political commentator Andre Bauer, a democrat -- I was kidding, Andre -- a republican who is the former lieutenant governor of South Carolina.
Good evening. Thank you all for coming on. Maria, I want to start with you, because obviously, you're a democrat, I want to get your response. But I want you to listen again to what the Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis said to Meet the Press about president-elect Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWIS: I don't see this president-elect as legitimate president.
TODD: You do not consider him a legitimate president. Why is that?
LEWIS: I think the Russian participated in having this man get elected. And they have destroyed the candidacy for Hillary Clinton. That's not right. That's not fair. It's not open democratic process.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Not a legitimate president, not fair to an open democratic
process. Do you agree with Congressman Lewis?
MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that he is voicing something that frankly a lot of democrats and a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters are starting to believe. And first of all, let me just say that, Congressman Lewis has earned the right to say whatever the heck he wants.
CARDONA: So, let's just start there. But I would also say that clearly what he's saying, the way that he's saying it comes from a place of a lot of pain and lot of angst that I think he is feeling for the majority of the American people who did not vote for Donald Trump.
[22:30:04] And I think a place of sadness because of a lack of support and outreach from Donald Trump himself. I would also add, though, he mentioned the Russians in terms of being a piece of this, that lends to the aura of illegitimacy of Donald Trump's election.
I would also put in there the FBI and Comey's letter 11 days before the election.
CARDONA: You put all of that together and frankly, Donald Trump himself with his rants against Hillary Clinton and his lack of understanding that he needs to support the investigation into the Russian hacking. He is buying into it, and it kind of shows that he himself is insecure about his legitimacy.
LEMON: All right. I want to get -- I want to get Andre's response. What's your reaction what Congressman Lewis said, Andre?
ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I respect Congressman Lewis, he's entitled to his opinion but this delegitimizing Trump's victory. And I got a news flash for democrats, say what you will that Trump didn't win, is the biggest election for republicans in the last 80 years. So, it wasn't just Donald Trump. It was the whole message.
Look, and now that we're moving forward we should be like the guy who wants to pilot to land our plane altogether. We're all in this together. He's the president for the next four years. We want the president succeed much like we want the pilot to land the plane. We're in it together.
And so, it doesn't move our country forward to just keep pounding and to delegitimize the election. He won, and if you say, well, he only won because of this, well, then how did the republicans clean House all across this country?
LEMON: Maria, that's a good question for you.
(CROSSTALK) CARDONA: You know, if -- sure. If Trump actually said the words that you just said Andre, I think it would made -- it would make a lot of us feel better. The fact that we need to move toward, that we need to do it together, that we're all in this together.
He has done anything but. He has been as divisive, if not more, in the days after the election and during this transition process than he was during the election.
And so, again, the majority of the American people, let's not forget, yes, Donald Trump won the Electoral College but Hillary Clinton has three million more votes than he has in the popular vote. He does not have a mandate, he is not acting like somebody who wants to be the president of everybody.
LEMON: OK. Lanhee?
LANHEE CHEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
LEMON: Is John Lewis just saying what many out there believe because Maria, you know, conveyed those sentiments a moment ago, or is he going too far as member of Congress in your estimation?
CHEN: I think, Don, that's the exact point. Is that there may be people who feel this way and you know, you can't begrudge them for feeling that way. The problem is Congressman Lewis is an icon, he is a member of Congress whom a lot of people have great respect for.
And I think when he says that I think it does interfere with our ability to move forward as a country. And look, there is any number of different factors that can influence an election. I mean, you can go back to 2012 and make arguments about all the different things that allowed Barack Obama to get over at the finish line ahead of Mitt Romney.
You can look at the 2016 election and say the same thing. I just don't know that doesn't any good to go back and litigate that at this point. I think it is, to Andre's point important, that we figure out a way to come together and try at least to over this next several months and years to advance the country on some really important issues. And we can't do that if we have people questioning the fundamental legitimacy of our president-elect.
LEMON: I have to bring -- I have to bring this up. Hang on, Hang on, Maria. Maria, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on.
CARDONA: Donald Trump didn't want to do it either.
LEMON: We had two people say that, you know, he's questioning the legitimacy of a president and I can just hear a chorus of people at home and I know I'm going to social media saying Donald Trump did the same thing for years...
(CROSSTALK) CARDONA: I bet. The other thing I was just going to mention.
LEMON: ... when it comes to this president. So, what's the irony in this it's just amazing to me, and probably to many who are watching this. Maria and then I'll let...
CARDONA: Yes, absolutely. That was going to be my next point. You know, karma is tough, right? Mr. Trump used that there for five years and tried to delegitimize the first African-American president with this ridiculousness of pushing 'birtherism.'
And now go on Twitter and you rant and rave against the people who are pointing out frankly what we are now starting to really see as facts, number one, that Russia had a huge role in this election and wanted to -- wanted it to go to Trump.
LEMON: But there is no proof that that swayed the election, though, Maria.
CARDONA: And number two that Comey and the FBI and the letter 11 days before the election had a huge effects on the outcome of the election.
CARDONA: So you know what, the irony is heavy here and he kind of has his self to blame.
LEMON: Andre, surely you have to see the irony in that.
BAUER: I do see the irony in it but I keep hearing this Comey thing, Comey could have very easily -- you know, this was on the cusp whether he could have prosecuted or not, so he really could have slam dunked this thing if he wanted to.
I keep hearing well Comey. Comey treated her with kid gloves, there are still a lot of people that still question whether she should have been prosecuted. And so, we keep hearing this.
[22:30:01] But again, it's not moving the country forward.
BAUER: It's not progressive. Whether you're a member of Congress, whether you're an individual, give the guy an opportunity to get into office. If he starts stubbing his toe along the way then start then beating on him. But as a member of Congress I would think we all come together.
I mean, I didn't vote for President Obama but I pulled for him, I hoped he would do well. I hope he would he would move this country forward. And I don't agree with everything he passed but he's had some good things along the way, and I tried to give fair 'atta boys' when he deserved them.
So, I would just think that we ought to all at least let the fellow get sworn into office, have a couple of months under his belt and then judge him.
LEMON: All right. Stand by, we'll continue right after this. Don't go anywhere.
MACDONALD: Breaking news tonight. The Senate intelligence committee opening investigation of Russia's meddling in the election. It will include a review of possible links between Russia and the political campaigns.
Also today, the Trump transition team confirming that a top aide to the president-elect has been in touch with a Russian official.
Back with me now, Lanhee Chen, Maria Cardona, and Andre Bauer. Let's pick up our conversation. Andre, you first. We're learning tonight that Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was in contact with Russia's ambassador the exact same day at the president, the current President Obama or the Obama administration was announcing retaliation for Russia's hacking. Is that concerning to you?
[22:40:12] BAUER: No, you know, all along trump has he want to reach out, or President-elect Trump has said he wanted to reach out to world leaders all around. He's extending the olive branch, he's giving them the opportunity to work together.
And make no mistake. I know we're hearing about Russia hacking, we've hacked, we've meddled in elections. I know we try to hold ourselves as holier than thou country but we've done this, too.
And so, we need to try to burry this bad ill will feelings and try to start moving forward with the new approach to governing and working with other countries, so hoping that...
LEMON: You don't think it's thwarting the current administration who is trying to put sanctions on Russia for possible hacking to have the president-elect who is not even in office yet, one of his people reach out and do the exact opposite of what the United States is trying to you, that's not problematic to you?
BAUER: I don't think it's problematic. I think he's reaching out to try to start dialogue, to try to find ways to find common ground and try to get past this.
LEMON: He can't reach out on January 21st or 22nd or 23rd after he is inaugurated?
BAUER: Sure he can, but then everyone would accuse him that he -- that he waited until he got in office, that he didn't go ahead and prepare and start the necessary steps. (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: Well, that's when he is actually the president is when he is in the office. He's not the president now.
BAUER: He is or less than a week away, he is president-elect. He is president-elect, he is a week away and he's taking steps to go ahead and hit the ground running.
LEMON: But Andre, this was weeks ago. This was -- this was weeks, this wasn't just now.
BAUER: Well, several weeks ago, they immediately when he got elected they started taking the steps in every form or fashion, whether it's picking folks, whether it's aligning up policy that, you know. If they didn't, then everybody would say, why didn't you wait until you were sworn in, you should have been preparing for a long time, a long time ago.
LEMON: Maria, the Trump team, what's your response to that, Maria?
CARDONA: I do think it's concerning, and maybe it's not so much because of the substance that they talked about, even though we don't really know what they talk about, they said, you know, they said they told us what they talk about but we really don't know.
The perception is terrible. And I just don't think that it is, you know, politically savvy to have those conversations in the midst of what this Trump transition team knows is going to be a huge issue for this president going into January 20th and into his new administration.
That they know this is going to be a huge Achilles heel for Trump, especially the more that he tries to not admit or pretend that it's not true, everything that the 17 agencies, intelligence agencies have said with high confidence is that Russia hacked and Russia hacked in order to get Trump elected.
You know, the more that he tries to deny that and more that we hear about conversations that were have -- that they were having between them before even the New Year, and it is concerning, and I don't think it helps them from a perception standpoint.
LEMON: We don't know exactly what they -- go ahead, Andre. Sorry. Was that Andre or Lanhee?
CHEN: No, Don, I was -- yes, I think -- I think the broader issue here is that you got this sort of open-ended outreach to Russia and the argument that we're getting from the president-elect is look, you know, we should be willing to work with countries who are willing to work with us.
The problem is the Russians have not indicated any willingness or interest in working with us. The latest evidence we have from them of their interaction with us is hacking of various offices and institutions here in the U.S.
Before that all of their collaboration against us in Syria, we had everything they've done to collude with Iran, you can go all the way to their aggression against Ukraine, we really have no evidence the Russians are interested in working with us.
So, I think that is the broader problem, it's the policy of engaging with an open hand toward Russia when really every time we've tries to do that, they slapped us in the face.
LEMON: Listen, let me...
BAUER: Well, Don, they have. They had the Russian reset, they had the Iranian deal, they had Putin directly calling Bill Clinton. They had an outreach program but it was with the other team, now the other team is upset because they didn't win the election.
LEMON: Well, I think the issue of what -- listen, the other team can speak for themselves, you're talking about democrats. But what I'm talking about is the mixed message that it sends to the American people and to the world at large, when you have one president saying one thing and then the incoming president saying another.
And I've heard this from republicans and even Trump supporters, is that they're uncomfortable with having two presidents at the same time. Ina week from now that won't be a problem.
LEMON: But then does that send a mixed signal, and to Maria's point if you are trying to tell people that you are not in cahoots or in collusion with the Russians and then you're having conversations with them when you're not even in office yet, it does not make sense. Andre?
[22:45:00] BAUER: Yes. Yes, Don.
BAUER: But again, I think they are trying to form outreach with a lot of different countries, not just Russia, this is the way they're going to approach policymaking, they is the way they are going to approach diplomacy that they're going to start immediately with their outreach to try to find...
LEMON: I don't think you understand what I'm saying.
BAUER: We know. I understand what you're saying.
LEMON: I don't think anyone has a problem -- I don't think anyone has a problem with that. That's the reason that you have an inauguration is to transfer power from one person to another. Once that power is transferred to the other person they can call anybody they want in Timbuktu or Russia or wherever. But when you're not even in office yet and you're making policy decisions that in conflict with the current president...
BAUER: Well, they're not making policy, nobody says...
LEMON: ... it sends a mixed signal and it is confusing. And it doesn't help your case that you're not -- you're not in cahoots with Russia.
BAUER: Well, again, I don't think they're making policy, they're making outreach.
CARDONA: We don't know that.
BAUER: They're dealing dialogue.
CARDONA: We don't know what they talked about. We don't know what they talked about.
BAUER: This is true.
CARDONA: But I think -- but I think overall again...
LEMON: Quickly please.
CARDONA: I think that this underscores the negative perception that Donald Trump is already suffering from. And frankly, from the people who already don't trust him about this, you know, it goes back to what Hillary said during one of the debates, which is of course Russia wants Trump to win because he will be a puppet for them. He has demonstrated nothing to the contrary.
LEMON: OK. That's going to be the last word.
BAUER: But the negative perceptions in the media, you go out in the streets and the people that voted for him they're excited about him. These perceptions, the same perception the folks that didn't think he was going to win that I sat their election night saying, he's going to win and they were saying absolutely nuts smirking and laughing.
So, they still hadn't doubted it, and they think that everything on the news is indicative of what's out there in the streets. And the people in the streets are excited about Donald Trump.
LEMON: Thank you.
CARDONA: But the majority of the American people didn't vote for him and he's done nothing to assuage their fears.
LEMON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Have a great weekend. Up next, this is the Obama family's final week in the White House. But what's the first lady's rating legacy after eight years?
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Michelle Obama ends her eight year tenure as the nation's First Lady when President Obama leaves office next week.
Let's discuss now with Kierna Mayo, she is a senior vice president of Content and Brands at Interactive One, and Kate Andersen Brower, is the author of "First Women." I can't wait to hear. But both of you have to say about this.
So, Kierna, you're right here with me so I'll start with you.
KIERNA MAYO, CONTENT AND BRANDS INTERACTIVE ONE SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT: OK.
LEMON: We're watching all these farewells including the one tonight here on CNN, "The Legacy of Michelle Obama." She was controversial in the beginning, it's hard to remember that.
MAYO: It is.
LEMON: But what do you think has change now.
MAYO: Time changes things, right?
LEMON: Why was that, and why she...
MAYO: Why was she initially?
LEMON: She's so real do you think?
MAYO: I think she's very real. So, it's interesting the way that black audiences received Michelle Obama from day one, was like, this person is the most familiar person I have seen on the political landscape maybe ever, right.
She is every auntie, every kind of sophisticated mom but who keep it funky when it needs to be kept real. So, Michelle was grounded in a way that we had not seen on political landscape and we loved it. It took the rest of the nation a bit longer to get comfortable with the fact that Michelle was so self-possessed.
LEMON: But don't you think she had to sort of the campaign have to rejigger, and OK, listen...
MAYO: Yes. Yes.
LEMON: Maybe you shouldn't be so real. Kate I heard you reacting to it...
LEMON: ... when she said that different audience was -- different audiences perceive...
MAYO: Over time.
LEMON: ... Michelle Obama differently.
KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, "FIRST WOMEN" AUTHOR: I mean, I think every first lady comes under a lot of scrutiny but especially Michelle Obama, and you know, the fact that she saw herself entirely apart from the women who came before her because she was the first African- American first lady. And that really is her greatest legacy is just being there.
And I think also reaching out to young African-American girls and showing that you, you know, anything is possible in this country. I think that that is her legacy that we'll remember her for.
You know, if you look at someone like Laura Bush was criticized for being too - too kind of boring and taking up literacy, and too traditional, and then someone like Hillary Clinton was criticized for having a west wing office. I mean, you're kind of, damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
LEMON: I was just going to say every first lady just like every president has to grow into the role, every first lady grows into the role and then figures out it sort of gets her groove. And you know, if you look at anyone, and so I think Michelle Obama is no different in that respect except she's the first African-American first lady, and people really didn't -- some people really had trouble how to -- how to perceive her.
So, but listen, about tonight, about the documentary, Kate, what did you think, did you think it portrayed Michelle Obama as you see her?
BROWER: Yes. I mean, I think it was -- I think it was a lovely look at her accomplishments. I think that you know, this sort of -- the way she's able to communicate and her relatability was something that was really showcased in that documentary. You see her hugging people a lot.
And just you know, I think young girls look at her and they see hope for their future. And that was communicated very well in the documentary.
BROWER: You know, but I do think to your earlier point, we forget, you know, that on the campaign how she was really surprised I think at the backlash over some of the comments she made when said you know, she's proud of her country for the first time.
LEMON: Yes. It's interesting to me, because she is -- listen, I don't know her that well, we were in Chicago together. I was local anchor in Chicago and she, as I say when they were coming up, right, we came up together.
MAYO: You came up together. LEMON: But she was always the warmest person you that could ever -- and most mom-like, always to me, you know, she probably read something about me in the paper, because you know who I am. And she could say, hey, Don Lemon, you keeping out of trouble? What are you doing? How are you? Are you taking care of yourself. She was always like the hugger and the warm one and he was always sort of standoff one. How did that perception of her being cold or I don't know, hard or, how did that come about?
MAYO: I think that's kind of loaded with racial stereotype in some respects, right?
LEMON: How so?
MAYO: I think you can't extract how Michelle Obama looks from how she was first perceived. She's statuesque, she's very deep chocolate gorgeous brown, she isn't a size two.
[22:55:10] There are many things that kept her outside of the lens of appearing as a docile and kind of kept woman. She looked like hardworking sophisticated, clear minded black woman that you see on the bus let alone, anywhere else.
LEMON: And she was the smart one in the family and the professional and the bread winner, I mean, I hate to say that, and really smart.
LEMON: Two Ivy League degrees.
MAYO: Two Ivy League degrees. Yes.
LEMON: So, Kate, Michelle Obama, she's going to leave the White House with incredibly high approval ratings, even higher than her husband's. So what do we know about what she's going to be doing moving forward.
BROWER: Well, I think she feels incredibly relieved partially to have a sense of freedom right now but also worried about the legacy and sort of still shocked about the election results and concern about what's going to happen over the next few years.
I think we're going to see her, you know, continuing some of the Let's Move campaign, looking at food deserts in urban communities, we're going to see her write a book than I'm sure will probably as successful, maybe more successful than the president's book, right? Because she might be very honest in a memoir, and sometimes the first ladies' memoirs are more interesting than the president's memoirs. So, we'll see. I mean, she's got an amazing future, I don't think she's going to run for office, though.
LEMON: You know, she said she's not. That is a book I would read.
MAYO: I was going to say that. I am dying to read that book.
LEMON: Thank you, Kate. Have a great weekend. Thank you, Kierna. I appreciate both of you. MAYO: Yes, thank you.
LEMON: When we come right back, the human cost of repealing Obamcare. The lifelong republican who says President Obama's President Obama's Affordable Care Act save his life.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)