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CNN TONIGHT

FBI Declined White House Request To Publicly Knock Down Media Reports About Communications Between Donald Trump's Associates And Russians Known To U.S. Intelligence During The Campaign; Interview with Michael Moore. Aired 11:00p-12:00mn ET

Aired February 23, 2017 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:00:06] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, a CNN exclusive. Is the White House playing politics with an FBI investigation?

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

CNN learning exclusively that the FBI declined the White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to U.S. intelligence during the campaign. That's according to multiple U.S. officials read on the matter.

Meanwhile, a senior White House official telling CNN that Trump administration assigned homeland security to work with the justice department on a legal case to justify its temporary travel ban to on people from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Lots to get to. I want to get right to our CNN exclusive about White House efforts to respond to CNN and other -- reporting about contacts with Russian context with high level advisors of then candidate Donald Trump last year.

Jim Sciutto, Evan Perez, broke the story along with Pamela Brown, (INAUDIBLE) and Manu Raju.

Evan and Jim join me now.

Good evening, gentlemen.

Jim, what did you find out?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, CNN has told that the FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications during the 2016 presidential campaign between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to U.S. intelligence. Multiple officials tell CNN that White House sought the help of not just the bureau but other agencies investigating the Russian matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts. These officials telling us - you recall that CNN and "New York Times" first reported just over a week ago this story. So far the White House has not commented to us On the Record.

LEMON: Evan Perez, not a typical request. How did it start?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Don. Well, a U.S. official tells us that this all began with the FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting on the day after these stories were published. Now, White House official says that McCabe told Priebus that the "New York Times" story vastly overstated what the FBI knows about these Russian contacts. But another U.S. official says that McCabe didn't discuss the aspects of the case. And we don't actually know what McCabe told Priebus.

The White House official says that Priebus later reached out to McCabe and to the FBI director James Comey asking for the FBI to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories. FBI refused. And we should note that the FBI has refused to comment on this story.

LEMON: Interesting. Jim, White house chief of staff Reince Priebus denied that story. This is what he said a week ago on FOX News Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The "New York Times" last week put out article with no direct sources that said that the Trump campaign had constant contacts with Russian spies. Basically, you know, some treasonous type accusations. We have now all kinds of people looking into this.

I can assure you, and I have been approved to say this, that the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate but it is grossly overstated and it was wrong. And there is nothing to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And Jim, the investigation is still ongoing, correct?

SCIUTTO: Listen. To say there is nothing to it is at minimum premature because we know the FBI is still investigating these communications. Several members of the House and Senate intelligence committees tell CNN that Congress is still investigating these alleged contacts. And that investigation has begun. And they started to collect documents, records and will later call witnesses to testify to these questions. Still open question what the contacts were and what the significance and meaning of these contexts were.

LEMON: It is interesting that they are criticizing sources on background and that's what they are asking allegedly the FBI to do.

Evan why is this not a typical back and forth between the White House and the FBI?

PEREZ: Well, Don, the communication between the White House and the FBI were unusual at the least because of decade old restriction on these types of contacts. Now, the request from the White House would appear to at least violate the procedures that limit the types of contacts and communications between the FBI and White House on pending investigations. A White House official said that the White House only reached to the FBI because McCabe initiated the conversation.

But either way the White House is asking the FBI to refute stories and that runs contrary to the justice department's procedure memos which were issued in 2007 and 2009 that would limit the direct communications on pending investigations between the White House and the FBI, Don.

LEMON: All right, Jim, Evan, now great reporting. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

And I want to bring in now CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, political commentator Jen Psaki, Kristen Soltis Anderson, a columnist for "the Washington Examiner" and historian Jon Meacham, author of "Destiny and Power."

Good to have all of you on.

David Gergen, I want to get your reaction to this exclusive reporting that the FBI refused a request from the White House to publicly knock down recent stories about the Russian contacts with high level advisors of then candidate Donald Trump last year. What do you think of this?

[23:05:21] DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, for starters, Don, it is inappropriate for the White House to reach out to the FBI about a pending investigation. The FBI protocols are quite clear about that. But generally speaking traditions within the White House are you keep your hands off. This is, you know, for the sake of FBI investigation and making sure that it does not either in fact or by appearance that the White House is not trying to influence investigation like this. You just stay out of it.

Now, charitable argument is that Reince Priebus is new on the job as chief of staff, didn't understand the protocol and, you know, he just wandered afield. The less charitable interpretation of course is that the White House was trying to muscle the FBI which is highly objectionable.

LEMON: Jen, I have to ask you, you have been in the White House. I'm wondering if that just because you are new if that makes a difference? I mean, as Jim pointed out and Evan and now David Gergen, a request like this from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications between the FBI in pending investigations.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I have to say Reince Priebus been in Washington a long time. It is hard to believe wouldn't know that the FBI is law enforcement agency and there are restrictions between White House interactions with law enforcement agencies including the FBI.

It is certainly not request that have ever come from Obama White House. If that would have ever been raised in meeting, that would have be completely shut down by our chief of staff for the last couple of years, Dennis McDonough. So this is absolutely out of the norm and I think it is pretty concerning that this type of slippery slope is happening.

LEMON: Jon, what does this say, if anything, about the Trump White House?

JON MEACHAM, HISTORIAN/AUTHOR, DESTINY AND POWER: Well, one thing about the FBI and the White House and things like this is it never ends well. You know, this is - the FBI -- David was once (INAUDIBLE) when there were questions about this back in the 1990s and came in to help during the Clinton White House. Richard Nixon and the FBI, Nixon's White House and the FBI, this was the key part of Watergate was Richard Nixon trying to use the FBI to stop the CIA.

So when you get into presidents, White House and agencies that have alphabetical designations, you are in a political and legal morass. I think what it says about the White House is, I suspect David (INAUDIBLE) part of this was probably early days. And also there's a kind of beguiling sense of power when you first get there. You know, you are the White House all of a sudden. And I think that suddenly, you might be a little too free and easy with reaching out, asking questions and then inevitably the culture rightly comes and calms things down.

LEMON: Yes. As what my colleague from another network said that what you don't realize is that you are just renting that space for the moment until the American people say no longer or, you know, your term is up.

So Kristen, what is your thinking of this reporting?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: this is actually reminding me a little bit of that moment in "Jurassic Park" when they are talking about the raptors testing the electric fence to see. It's sort of like the folks in the White House are now testing the fence. And they are seeing - and I will take the charitable interpretation that this was Reince Priebus trying to do what he thought would be helpful, not realizing that it is overstepping boundaries and norms.

I fully expect this White House to do a lot of overstepping boundaries and norms. In part, because I think they feel like that's what they ran on. That they ran on doing things incredibly different.

Now, of course, they are going to run into Congress or much more likely courts that push back and say, no, you can't actually do this. No, you can't actually come in as wrecking ball on this front or that front. But I think that is what you are seeing right now is them figure out exactly where the boundaries go and how far they go before they get shocked.

LEMON: But Kristen, as Jen Psaki so stoutly pointed out, Reince Priebus has been in Washington for a long time. After all, he was the head of the RNC.

ANDERSON: But as a political operator, being the head of the RNC is dramatically different than running a government agency, much less being chief of staff in the White House. Working in a political agency, you are really good at knowing how to run ads on TV, you are good at figuring out how to organize people. It is very different than running government agency.

LEMON: What I found interesting was the president - was Reince Priebus on the Sunday shows talking about sources and on background. And I have wondered if he had ever spoken as source or on background. And then in this particular instance, allegedly, he is asking people from the FBI to talk to reporters as a source or on background. What gives here, Jen Psaki?

[23:10:10] PSAKI: Boy, that's a tongue twister. You know, I think there has been a lot of discussion lately about sources speaking on the record, sources speaking on background, what people take as fact and what they don't take as facts.

I think this president and this White House has really introduced a new challenge to the media and lot of people watching, which is what is the truth. And they no longer can most people in the media lead with something the president of the United States says because you don't know if it is true or false. So there is a lot of confusion out there. And I think a lot of this is caused from the top.

LEMON: Yes.

David Gergen, if you are going to speak like that and you are going to talk about because sources and background, you know, just ask Carl Bernstein. You know, that's what happened with Watergate. A lot of sources, a lot of background, people on background speaking. If you are going to do that, should you say, you know, all the people that I have spoken to on background just said go ahead and reveal the information that I have. Or -- I just find that very interesting that he would do that.

GERGEN: I totally agree. And you know, the White House is in very contradictory positions about, you know, they don't like backgrounders. They don't like people speaking anonymously when it is critical of them but they use people to do that and they themselves do that all the time to advance their own stories.

But, I want to go back to this protocol issue. Listen, it is true that Reince Priebus' previous position would not have exposed him very much to the kind of issues he is facing now. But given the -- once you are chief of staff, your job is to understand protocols. Your job is to bring a sense of order. And here is where the boundaries are for the White House staff. And you do that by calling in general counsel. And in this White House, I'm afraid to say this but it's just true, that they have been so cavalier about what the standards are.

You know, the standards on ethics. They have been extremely cavalier about the conflicts of interest that are occurring with the president. And they are just sort of cavalier about - they act as if, we are here now. We own the government. We are in-charge. Everybody else listen to us. And really don't give a damn about what the sorts of the protocols are because we are different and we can tear all that stuff up. I'm sorry, it doesn't work that way. Those protocols are there to

protect the integrity of the system. To protect the integrity of what the FBI is doing. They are very, very important to the rule of law in a country like ours.

LEMON: We are just getting started with this panel. We will be right back with more.

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[23:16:15] LEMON: We have more breaking news tonight. A senior White House official tells CNN that President Trump has assigned the department of homeland security working with justice department to help build a legal case for its temporary travel ban on individuals from seven countries. The Trump administration sources tell CNN this is an assignment that has caused concerns among some administration intelligence officials who see the White House charged as politicizing intelligence.

The notion of collusion -- of the conclusion, excuse me, in search of evidence to support it after being blocked by courts. Now, others in the intelligence community disagree with the conclusion and are finding that their work disparaged, jus disparaged by their own department.

CNN's Jake Tapper and Pamela Brown broke that particular story.

So I want to get back now to my panel, David Gergen, Jen Psaki, Kristen Soltis Anderson and Jon Meacham.

Jon Meacham, is this the start of politicizing intelligence?

MEACHAM: Well, you know, we have said before, Mark Twain is alleged to have said that history doesn't repeat itself but it rhymes. And not it is rhyming yet again on what has been arguably the most significant source of distrust of government as an institution in the 21st century is the question of the allegations about the politicizing intelligence.

And when you have headlines, when you have flashes saying that the White House is looking for intelligence to justify something that is controversial, it puts people back 14 years now, 15 years to a place that I think many people in the press, many people in the intelligence community believe we should avoid at all costs.

LEMON: You are talking about the Iraq war, right?

MEACHAM: Yes.

LEMON: The intelligence, weapons of mass destruction.

Jen Psaki, what do you make of the White House strategy on travel ban -- on the travel ban?

PSAKI: Well, I think that, you know, they kind of flubbed out of the gate here when they rolled it out the first time. This is something that has caused a lot of concern around the world, has certainly caused concern in many communities in the United States. And they were slapped down by the courts.

So clearly, they are going to go back at it again. I think that one of the points David raised earlier is especially relevant here which is that they asked for justification of this should raise a lot of flags. There are institutions work the way they do for a reason. And there is separation between the justice department and legal justification and policy making. And, you know, that is really seems to be a big question that people should be looking at around this.

LEMON: Is this what you call a solution without a problem possibly here?

PSAKI: You know, I think -- I'm not sure what it's a solution to. And I think the initial challenges with this, with the early -- the travel ban they rolled out just a few weeks ago, were that it wasn't solving a problem for anything that was a clear issue. Instead it was going to cause more problems internationally by sending the wrong message about what Americans, what the United States felt about the Muslim community, about countries with majority Muslim populations. And there weren't clear dangers that this was going to address. I'm not sure how that's changed over the last few weeks.

LEMON: This is going to be a very heavy Jen Psaki segment, because as you were speaking, I hear the justification from the White House about the ban saying that this was exactly what President Obama did. President Obama named these seven countries. And so they are just doing -- working off his information. Can you tell us about that?

PSAKI: That has become a favorite talking point. It is absolutely false. What happened was after the attacks in Paris, there was real concern, real tangible concern, people could feel it in this country, fear. There was a push by a number of Republicans in Congress, Republican leadership in Congress to put in place new visa restrictions. It was never a ban. It was new restrictions to vetting for people coming in from specific countries.

So it's comparing - I'm not even sure it's apples and oranges, it is apples and papayas or something even far different from apples. And it is really not an accurate point to make. This also wasn't something that was driven by President Obama or the Obama administration. We actually had to work to negotiate with the Republican-led Congress on that specific issue. Because we were against even a number of the restrictions that Republicans in Congress wanted to put into place.

[23:20:53] LEMON: Thanks for clearing that up for us.

We are getting some new insight on the inner workings of the White House with President Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, making a rare public appearance alongside White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Here is what they told - it was a crowd of Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRIEBUS: Truth of the matter is, Donald Trump, President Trump, brought together the party and the conservative movement. And I have got to tell you, if the party and the conservative movement are together, similar to Steve and I, it can't be stopped.

STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: It is not only not going to get better, it is going to get worse every day in the media. Here is why it is going to get worse. Because he is going to continue to press his agenda. And as economic conditions get better, as more jobs get better, they are going to continue to fight. If you think they are going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken. Every day it is going to be a fight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So Kristen, Bannon continues to say that the media is the opposition party. They are pushing back against any idea that this is a White House in chaos. What is your take on the messaging?

ANDERSON: None of it surprises me. It is consistent with everything that they have been saying throughout the campaign and in the first month of the Trump White House.

I think the point that Reince Priebus made was a pretty interesting one where he says that the conservative movement and Republican Party are now unified. What is really fascinating about this is that Donald Trump is arguably not particularly Republican or not particularly conservative but winning really brings people together. And so, awful lot of people who consider themselves movement conservatives have been willing to sort of let some things slide from Donald Trump because he nominates Supreme Court justice that they like. And he picks Mike Pence to be his vice president. And Republicans sort of embrace Donald Trump because, hey, they finally get Republican back in the White House.

So it was interesting for me to hear Reince Priebus say that Trump unified the GOP in the conservative movement when I think both of the entities really rejected Donald Trump's takeover of them. Donald Trump, bear in mind, didn't even speak at CPAC last year. Big turn of events that comes in the wake of winning.

LEMON: Didn't Reince Priebus ask him to step down at one point before he became the nominee?

ANDERSON: I don't think asked to step down but I think they were rumblings at one point. I think very early on, there were rumors that he told Donald, hey, can you tone it down a little bit? And it created a little bit of a firestorm. I don't think ever asked him to step down.

LEMON: Ask him to step down, OK. Thank you for clearing that up. Go ahead.

MEACHAM: Quickly, I'm just - one thing, I misspoke a minute ago on ancient Watergate history, for those who are reading their (INAUDIBLE) tonight. Nixon was actually kind of used the CIA to stop the FBI, not the other way around. So before people writing in.

Secondly, I think what clip you just played is hugely important. Because what we just heard, what many Americans I suspect just heard for the first time is the voice and the argument that the president of the United States hears all day every day. That's the voice, that is in the ear of the president and we don't hear it very much. But that is a revealing clip of sound you just ran.

LEMON: David?

GERGEN: Yes. I wanted to build on what Jon Meacham just said. I think he is absolutely right.

Steve Bannon actually was much more affable. I never heard him speak like that before. He would much more affable and he seems to be enjoying himself, a lot of chuckles. But his vision is a very dark one as we are coming to understand. And he is relentless and trying to help drive Donald Trump toward his vision of what a very different kind of America would be.

And we see his fingerprints everywhere this week, both with regard to the travel ban that's being rewritten, but also in the way that the administration has had -- now jumped into the deportation and greatly expanded the numbers and their definition of who is -- who is unwelcome here from the undocumented community.

I can't remember a time when America has sort of hung out a sign to so many different people, you are not really welcome here. And you do hear overtones of the white nationalism with which he has been associated and Brietbart in the way he talks about it.

And I think Jon is right. We really need to pay attention. I wish Steve Bannon would go on a lot more shows. I think we have learn an awful lot about the driving philosophy is behind the Trump's presidency.

[23:25:00] LEMON: Not that Polly Ann-ish about anything but I understand what you guys are saying. It is a very sort of negative half -- glass has half empty perspective vision of the world, of American, especially the world.

And maybe this is the reason - I want to put this up -- I have to go, but I just want to put this poll up. This is approval rating. The latest approval rating now, he is at 38 percent. It is down from 42 percent earlier this month. And that is according to Quinnipiac University.

These numbers is in line with other polls that we have seen. And I'm wondering if maybe that negative view has -- how much it has to do with that.

All right. Thank you, everyone. I appreciate it. See you soon.

Straight ahead, he predicted Donald Trump would win the White House. So, is director Michael Moore surprised by anything in President Trump's first month in office? I'm going to ask him next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:30:06] LEMON: Oscar winning director Michael Moore is no fan of Donald Trump, but he saw his election victory coming a mile away. Michael Moore joins me now.

Is it fair to say that you are not a fan of Donald Trump?

MICHAEL MOORE, ACADEMY AWARD WINNING DIRECTOR: That would be correct. Although I did like the earlier press (ph), Don. That's OK. What can I say?

LEMON: Before he became celebrity apprentice.

MOORE: Yes. Actually, yes. But that was wise move he made because people like him -- watching him fire the rich and famous as opposed to Joe Skmoe (ph).

LEMON: So, let's talk about - it has been a month, almost five weeks. Is it going the way you thought it would go?

MOORE: Well, on both levels. It is definitely going the way I felt what he would be doing. Because again, remember, I was one of the people that believed that whatever he was saying was true.

LEMON: Right.

MOORE: That I don't -- I think when people say he lies, it's a different kind of lying. It's not like he is sitting around, you know. When he says he believes he could shoot somebody in the middle of 5th avenue and get away with it, he is proving it over and over again. That he can call John McCain a coward. That he could go after a gold star family that he could, you know, except for Billy Bush. Everybody thought kept thinking, that's the end of him. And I'm thinking, no. He is going to be himself. He is going to be very honest. He is going to say what he feels and actually people are going to will like that because he is not going to sound like a politician.

LEMON: Yes. But people said I don't believe he is going - I don't believe he means that. He doesn't mean that. But then, they believe the things they wanted to.

MOORE: When he says that he is going to dismantle the EPA and the department of education, he is actually going to and has put in people whose job as Steve Bannon said today is to - the word he used today was deconstruct, which is a nice way of saying demolish. Demolition, that is what they are there for. Now, Rick Perry is up for vote probably sometime this week or next week to be in charge of our nuclear arsenal. I mean, a man who is - and I mean this with all due respect, the village idiot. And in another time and place he would admit that because he was a goofball who didn't know there was a department of energy.

LEMON: How can that be respectful?

MOORE: Because there are nights you could call me that and I would say you know (INAUDIBLE)

LEMON: I wonder, maybe I have the term on cognitive distance because when people say I don't think he meant the things that, you know, that people see as racist. I don't think he meant that he is going to grab women by the genitals or all of his other things. But then they say - but I do say I think he is going to build a wall. Where is --?

MOORE: No, no. He is going to do everything he said he is going to do. And now Chaffetz and appealing to sessions, they are going to go after the Hillary server thing again next week again because that whole lock her up thing, you know, they were not done with that or they are not done with anything they said they are going to do. And anybody who in their bubble thinking that, you know, it won't be that bad, trust me it will be as bad as that and worse.

LEMON: Do you think they need a distraction? Is that why they are doing it or they just want to --?

MOORE: No. They are just doing it because they are honest. They honestly want to get rid of the department of education. They honestly want to remove department of education.

LEMON: No. I meant the server and that whole thing.

MOORE: Yes.

LEMON: Do they honestly want to go after them?

MOORE: Of course they do. The Clintons are the evil enemy to them. But on the other level you asked me how is it going on our end, on my end, with the resistance, the movement, what's going on out there at the town hall meetings, all the activism, the women's march, all of this stuff is so powerful and so exhilarating to see so many people who had never gotten involved politically in their lives are now out there at these meetings, in the streets, calling their members of Congress.

LEMON: I wonder how Democrats feel about that. And also wonder if -- do you say or the Democrats say, where were these people in November?

MOORE: No. They voted. I think those people, I think they voted. But you know, you have what you have nearly half the country that doesn't vote. That's largest political party in America, the nonvoter party. And then the other half is kind of, you know, usually 52/48 split one way or the other.

And what you have got coming up this Saturday with the DNC, you had the debate on last night, is that the Democrats have a real chance to change things. And I know that there's 400 members plus on the DNC, if any of them are watching right now, you have got to do the right thing here. You have got to - we have got -- old guard, God bless them, they got to go, and we need fresh blood in there, we need new people, we need Keith Ellison as the DNC chair. To just put in what the old guard wants, again, what's the message to young people? What's the message to people out there?

LEMON: Do see Keith Ellison as new blood?

MOORE: Yes. For the Democratic Party? We need someone - he from the Midwest, grew up in Detroit, went to Weinstein University in Detroit. Then went to Minnesota and became a congressman. Before he was a congressman in Minnesota, he had turned Minnesota from what then a red state into a blue state. He did organizing, political neighborhood organizing in the state of Minnesota to help make it happen. We need an organizer who is going to bring people all and turn this party around to do what it needs to do to bring people back.

[23:35:25] LEMON: I was going to ask you because you saw Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus today and they said that conservatives and the party led by President Trump cannot be stopped is essentially what they said. And so, you think--?

MOORE: No. They are going to be stop. They are being stop.

LEMON: You think so?

MOORE: Yes. Even John Boehner said today. They are not going to repeal Obamacare in the way that they want to repeal it and replace it. That's just not going to happen. And I'm thinking, wow, that's pretty powerful considering our side holds zero power of any branch of government.

LEMON: But that's interesting thing to me when it comes to the affordable care act, by the way, which is Obamacare, which a lot of people didn't know. They said that they like didn't like Obamacare but they liked the affordable care act. It's the exact same thing which is interesting. But I'm wondering --.

MOORE: Don't make fun of them.

LEMON: No, no. I'm not. I'm just saying I thought it was interesting. And that means that maybe the Democrats, their messaging to explain exactly what affordable care act was, maybe it wasn't sufficient. And that's why people had no idea.

MOORE: Or the Democrats should have pushed for single payer, through universal healthcare like every other civilized country has and then the problems that some people been having with Obamacare wouldn't have them because we wouldn't have this crazy system. Profit making.

LEMON: On the other side then, for six years Republicans said we are going to repeal and replace. And then when it came time, where was it? Where is it? And even Republicans are saying what did you do for six years?

MOORE: Yes. They held 50 votes because they are performance artists. I mean, that is basically what they would do. They show up and have a vote. They were never serious about it. And then, and they didn't even expect to win this election. So they don't know what they are doing and they don't have a plan. And Bannon and Priebus today, that's an amazing show. If you haven't seen it, it was during the day, so you can go online and watch this thing. They are very clear about their agenda. They are nationalists. They said they believe in economic nationalism, they believe in the deconstruction of our government, which is essentially saying they believe in anarchy.

They want to demolish and deconstruct the government because they consider the government the enemy. And when you consider the government the enemy, you also then, in that head set, right, in that mind frame, you don't them think there's anything wrong with talking to Russian intelligence officials for a year before the election.

LEMON: I just don't think that most Americans feel that America's future that the country is that dark and it is that terrible. We have our problems, we have our issues, maybe, you know, some people are not feeling the economy right now. But I don't think it's as negative as some of the people I heard on the stage today, particularly Steve Bannon's vision of America. I just don't think so.

MOORE: Well, I will come back in six months and we will play the tape of just saying that.

LEMON: Yes. And we will see.

MOORE: No. And you will feel bad of being wrong.

LEMON: Maybe I'm just glass half full.

MOORE: You are an optimistic soul and God bless you for it. We need people like you. We also need people like me.

LEMON: Yes.

MOORE: You know, sometimes it's 1933 and we need one or two people saying, well, it is just doesn't feel right.

LEMON: Yes. So listen. You have a website. This is anti-President Trump Web site that you launched for protesters. Tell me about it.

MOORE: I have my own Facebook and twitter where each today I just posted the thing, the ten ways that we can help make Trump toast. Specific things that people can do every day, every week at home where you can be part of this movement.

But also have helped set up this resistance calendar where you can go type your city or state right on this block on the site and it will tell you tomorrow's events that are happening in your area to resist Trump, to fight for the things that we want to fight for. To go to a town hall meeting. It is all there at resistancecalendar.org.

And yes just been helping different groups set things up to do my part as citizen. And to -- you know, I do think, Don, I just hated hearing you say that just then. We are in really tough shape here. And it's -- yes things are OK for a lot of people --

LEMON: I didn't say things were not bad. I just think America is the greatest country on earth and, you know, if anyone can turn it around, I think we can.

MOORE: That I believe. Because I believe the majority of the Americans are good people, have a good heart. They know right from wrong and they will stop this. And they know just as closing comment here, they know that if you or I had spent the last year talking to Russian intelligence officials, there would be a knock on our door because, you know, I think we put Israeli -- Israel is ally, we put Israeli who is dealing with spying on us, put them in prison. Remember that? Just got out a couple of years ago. We do this to our allies.

We have a Trump campaign that for a year as you're courageously reported. And now we find out tonight through this network that they went to the FBI to try and get them to not let this happen, not let this word get out, not inform the American people -- that's obstruction of justice. I mean, I'm not a lawyer but I just think this sounds very Nixon-like. And I can't believe he can get away with it. I can't believe anybody can --

[23:40:47] LEMON: When I spoke to experts on my panel, I'm not sure who is lawyer on the panel I spoke to earlier, but they said they didn't believe any laws are broken. They just believe that it is protocols and that rules that you just don't do. Listen.

MOORE: OK. We will play that back in a couple of months too.

LEMON: As most people out there, I'm proud to be American.

MOORE: Yes.

LEMON: And I don't think that there's a country to take back. I just think that we live in the country we are in and wherever.

MOORE: No. I didn't say that.

LEMON: But people are saying it is, you know, Steve Bannon saying got to fight to take the country back. This is everybody's country.

MOORE: No. We already have - listen. Let me say this to Trump supporters who are watching. We are all in the same boat. We are all Americans and we are going to sink or swim together. So I believe very strongly in that. And I'm willing to listen. I'm just - was talking to next guest, a Trump supporter back there. And, you know, we had a good conversation. And we can have this conversation, we can have the dialogue, but you know, fight for the things you believe in. And let the people decide. The people actually did decide by three million votes but, again, we have a different law to take care of the popular vote.

LEMON: I have got to run. But it's always a pleasure.

MOORE: Thank you for having me on.

LEMON: Maybe play "the star-spangled banner ".

MOORE: Or we could call this part two of tonight's "the history of comedy."

LEMON: By the way, you are looking athlete so.

MOORE: I'm not there, but --. Yes, we were talking during the break and he was asking for edit tips.

LEMON: Michael Moore, always a pleasure. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:46:13] LEMON: President Trump's top aide Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus would like you to know they are very dear friends, no matter what you have heard.

Let's discuss now. CNN political commentators Symone Sanders and Kayleigh McEnany, Democratic strategist Jonathan Tasini, the host of "The Working Live Podcast" and CNN political commentator Paris Dennard.

Good evening to all of you. I think Symone and Kayleigh called each other. Did you guys?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We did. We coordinated.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We did.

LEMON: So Kayleigh, you know, we have heard the reports about infighting and chaos at the Trump White House. But today at CPAC, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus dismissed that talk. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRIEBUS: We share an office suite together. We are basically together from 6:30 in the morning until about 11:00 at night.

BANNON: I have a little thing called war room. He has a fireplace with nice sofas.

PRIEBUS: And I consider him -- secondly, a very dear friend and someone that I work with every second of the day. And actually we would cherish - I cherish his friendship.

BANNON: Thing I respect most and only way this thing works is Reince is always kind of steady. His job is by far one of the toughest I have ever seen in my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Priebus and Bannon, Bannon and Priebus. Should they take this on the road? I mean, did you think that it with as genuine? You were there at CPAC today, Kayleigh.

MCENANY: Yes, I did think it was genuine because, look. They were honest. They said, you know, you heard Reince say we are very different people and they were real about that. But, you know, I think at end of the day what is going on with them is that you kind of resent the fact that this other person is pushing against your policy but you realize that at end of the day you have a good finished product. So it's mutual respect despite the fact that you kind of resent the resistance you are getting on the other side. But they realize that they are doing good work at end of the day. LEMON: I wish you guys could see Symone's face. You don't buy it.

SANDERS: I mean, I thought it was good PR stunt. But I really did -- look, if Steve Bannon built his career, built a platform of Brietbart to attack conservative mainstream, conservative Republicans like Reince Priebus, like Paul Ryan and others source. So, I just found it -- I was baffled that they can just sit there and pretend all the other things didn't happen.

And furthermore, for when Steve Bannon was talking about this economic nationalism if you will and really just basically saying -- basking in the chaos that is sometimes the count right now, and Reince just sat there cosigning it in his silence, but I'm sure it's a little bit more interesting in the White House than we saw in this station.

LEMON: Jonathan Tasini, do you, by their talk of a friendly relation?

JONATHAN TASINI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't know if it even matters. Who cares? I mean, if they fondle each other every morning. All I care about is what comes out in terms of policy. And I think that we already have seen the dangerous kind of policies coming out of the White House. Just yesterday, the overturning of the transgender protections, the travel ban, all the horrendous policies that are hurting the country, that I think is the central point. Not whether they, you know, are sort of wrestling each other and fondling, I don't really care about that.

LEMON: OK. I'm going to move on from that.

Paris, you know, there was a very important moment at the Florida town hall with Republican congressman Matt Gaetz. A woman started tearing up as she said quote "there are allegations, a foreign government has infiltrated our government at the highest levels." Then she asked Gaetz if he would call on the president to release tax returns. And here is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: Let me say right here, right now. Absolutely Donald Trump should release his tax returns.

(APPLAUSE)

[23:50:09] GAETZ: I'm one member of the Judiciary Committee, but I do believe Donald Trump should release his tax returns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. So he is not alone. There are other Republicans who say the president needs to release his tax returns. Why won't he do it?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the president made it clear that he is still under a routine audit. And he said that as soon as that audit is finished he will release his tax returns. But I think it is a moot point because the American people elected

candidate Donald Trump knowing that his tax returns were not released at the time and yet that didn't matter for the people who came out to vote for him and still voted for him and he won. So I think at this point he is the president. So what can be revealed in the tax returns is not going to change the election results or his ability to be president. So I think there are some people --

TASINI: It's part of honesty, Paris. It is about being transparent. I think what the American people do care about is transparency in their government and Donald Trump for the beginning has been not transparent. He hid did -- not just his tax returns, but as I pointed out on previous programs, every single day since Donald Trump has been sworn in because he has not divested himself from his businesses. He is violating a (INAUDIBLE) clause of the constitution both internationally and domestically. The Republicans will try to block any kind of investigation on that issue on the ethics of that in the house so we won't have transparency which I do think the American people care about that.

LEMON: And most people, I think, it's in the 70, 70 percent and higher want the president to release his tax returns and wanted candidate Trump to release his tax returns.

More when we come right back. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:54:52] LEMON: And we are back now with Symone Sanders, Kayleigh McEnany, Jonathan Tasini, and Paris Dennard.

I want to talk about voters all across this country. Getting very heated at town halls. Plenty of rage but do you think we are going to see an impact here, Symone Sanders?

[23:55:06] SANDERS: I definitely think we are going to see an impact. And I want to make sure folks know that these are heavy Republican districts. These are Democrats that are also getting heat because it's the people who are very upset about losing their health care and upset about taxes as we saw.

So I think lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, are going to have to answer for what is happening across this country. The people are pressuring the elected officials to do their jobs.

LEMON: I'm wondering what is going to happen when it comes to the affordable care act which is, you know, known as Obamacare. Because there are a lot of Republicans out there who are saying wait a minute. Not so fast especially if you don't know what you are going to replace it with. So it is going to be tough for our lawmakers to repeal and replace that. Do you think may be another iteration where they fix what's wrong with it?

MCENANY: Possibly, you know. We have been told repeatedly it's going to be repealed. But this is a very important moment for Republicans, what we are seeing. Because as we remember eight years ago people were making the tea party comparisons. The Democrats didn't listen to the people at the rally. Republicans need to listen. There are people who are scared about losing access to healthcare. They need to take those complain seriously. And I think they are by not immediately repealing Obamacare, but this is an important moment.

LEMON: Jonathan, what were you saying?

TASINI: Don, you and I were telepathic because as Symone was answering I was thinking healthcare, healthcare, healthcare. And I think the reaction not just in the town halls in the last few days, but over the course of last few months. I Republicans have been hearing oh, my God, people really are afraid of losing their healthcare. And I think that is part of why they are slowing down. Now, part of the reason they don't have a solution. But I think that this outrage on the part of people, independence, Democrats and Republicans has really frozen them in place.

LEMON: Go ahead, Paris.

DENNARD: Yes, I think there are portions and I said for a while repeal and replace is not a good idea. I have always said it I Review and revise because there are aspects of Obamacare that are positive that a lot of people, Republican and Democrat alike --.

LEMON: How do you that, Paris, when you saw - when you are built around repeal and replace. I mean, you know, that was a campaign promise, repeal and replace.

TASINI: Not only that, Paris. They are all connected.

LEMON: We have a short time, let him finish. Go ahead, Paris.

TASINI: Go ahead, Paris.

DENNARD: Yes. It was a campaign promise and that's what President Trump is going to deliver on. And it's interesting that these people are now upset about him proposing what he said he was going to do.

But at the end of the day, the people who have preexisting conditions, that's a very significant and real issue. They are telling the Republican Party and Democrats alike, this is something that is important to us. Don't take it away. So whatever Republican panic comes out, that's something they have to listen to and make sure it stays. If it doesn't, you will have a huge, huge issue. And morally.

TASINI: That's precisely why Donald Trump doesn't understand healthcare. Because you can't take the preexisting condition and right to stay on your parent's plan up until 26. Out of that plan because it is financed by the tax on the highest earners. So it's part of a package. So you can't just say I want to keep these two without having the whole package.

LEMON: I got to go. It's not as easy as you think. As you see six years, they have been fighting the thing repeal and replace. And so far there is no plan now that they can do it.

We'll be right back. Thank you.