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CNN TONIGHT

Trump White House Under Siege In The Wake Of James Comey's Testimony; House Republican Leaders Releasing Amendments Tonight To Their Bill To Repeal And Replace Obamacare Key Amendment. Aired 11:00p-12:00mn ET

Aired March 20, 2017 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00] BRIAN FALLON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Will you bring Carter Page up? And he demure. I think Democrats may start calling for an independent commission if he's going to balk at holding any further hearings after today.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: OK, thank you all. I appreciate it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

LEMON: Bombshell revelations on Capitol Hill.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Done Lemon.

The Trump White House under siege in the wake of James Comey's testimony today. For the first time, the director of the FBI says publicly the bureau is eight months deep into an investigation of any possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow. An investigation the director says includes whether any crimes were committed. And he says, FBI agents have found absolutely no evidence to corroborate the claim by the President of the United States, that President Obama, the former President spied on him.

Let's get right to CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown with more - Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, it was certainly a remarkable day in Washington with the bombshell announcement by FBI director James Comey that the FBI is investigating possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and Russians during the election. And director Comey even put himself at adds with the White House when he knocked down President Trump's wiretap allegations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): FBI Director James Comey wasting no time dropping this bombshell near the beginning of the hearing.

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: The FBI as part of our counter intelligence mission is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 Presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts. BROWN: And in a rebuke to the President, Comey said there is no

evidence to support the President's claim that former President Obama had wires tapped inside Trump tower.

COMEY: I have no information that supports those tweets. And we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The department of justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the department of justice and all its components.

BROWN: The head of the NSA, admiral Mike Rogers, also denying a report repeated by the White House that the Obama administration asked British intelligence to spy on the Trump campaign.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Did you ever request that your counterparts in GCHQ should wiretap Mr. Trump on behalf of President Obama?

ADM. MICHAEL ROGERS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: No, sir, nor would I. That would be expressly against the construct of the five agreement that's been in place for decades.

BROWN: Republicans avoided asking about Trump's wiretapping claims. Instead, focusing on whether laws were broken and reporting about national security adviser Michael Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador that were caught on surveillance. And even insinuating former Obama appointees could be the source of the leaks.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Do you know whether Director Clapper knew the name of the U.S. citizen that appeared in the Washington Post?

COMEY: I can't say in this forum.

Would director Brannon have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen's name?

COMEY: In some circumstances, yes.

BROWN: Congressman Trey Gowdy proving no evidence to back up his insulation from the beginning, laying out a circumstantial argument about what they believe transpired.

It wasn't simply that the Russians had a negative preference against Secretary Clinton. They also had a positive presence for Donald Trump. Isn't that correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct.

Schiff: Will they have a preference for a candidate who expressed open admiration for Putin?

COMEY: Mr. Putin would like people who like him.

BROWN: Comey repeatedly tried to avoid going any further on what the investigation has uncovered.

COMEY: I'm not going to talk about any particular person here today. So I can't answer that.

BROWN: Perhaps, anticipating outcry from Democrats Comey sought to explain the difference between today's testimony and when he spoke about the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private server.

COMEY: Some folks may want to make comparisons to past instances where the department of justice and the FBI have spoken about the details of some investigations. But please keep in mind that those involve the details of completed investigations. Our ability to share details with the Congress and the American people is limited when those investigations are still open, which I hope makes sense.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Well, during the hearing today, director Comey says he doesn't know when the counter intelligence investigation will wrap up. And one official I spoke to says these types of investigations can take a while, and some cases, it's even taken years, because intelligence isn't always black and white, and it's rarely conclusive - Don.

LEMON: Pamela, thank you. I appreciate that.

Now, I want to bring in General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme ally commander, Michael Isikoff, the chief investigated correspondent for Yahoo! News. CNN political commentators Matt Lewis and Alice Stewart and CNN presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley, the author of "Heritage, Franklin D. Roosevelt r and the land of America." And back with us, Brian Fallon, the former press secretary for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

So good to have all of you on.

Michael, let's start with you. Today the FBI director James Comey publicly confirmed for the first time that the FBI has been investigating links between the Trump campaign and Russia since July. But here's what the White House press secretary Sean Spicer had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[23:05:22] SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Following this testimony, it's clear that nothing has changed. Senior Obama intelligence officials have gone on record to confirm there's no evidence of a Trump/Russia collusion. The Obama CIA director said so, Obama's director of national intelligence said so, and we take them at their word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Michael, nothing has changed, really?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: I think a lot has changed. I mean, his was extraordinary to have the FBI director confirming publicly an ongoing counter intelligence investigation about whether the campaign of the sitting President was involved in coordination or collusion with a foreign power.

Now, among the many amazing revelations from Comey today, is that this investigation was actually launched in late July. Shortly after the Republican convention ended, more than three months before Election Day. And none of that was known to the public. Now, one can understand the FBI does not normally disclose such investigations, but the fact that it was going on during the campaign is pretty stunning.

LEMON: Right.

ISIKOFF: Also, I just want to make one other point that, you know, Comey only publicly said this, because he got clearance from the justice department to say it. The guy at the justice dement who gave him the green light was Dana Boente, the acting deputy attorney general. Now, he is an Obama holdover and that's only going to fuel the paranoia inside the White House about some sort of deep state that's aligned against him. But he is a guy -- these are all people working for the President of the United States. And we all agreed that this should be made public.

LEMON: We should not downplay this. What happened today, you're right, Michael, was extraordinary. And I see Brian in shaking his head in agreement with you when you said, you know, when you brought up that this happened in July, and you said that the FBI, they don't usually lead us on when there are investigating. They will tell you that they are investigating. But they did tell us that they were investigating Hillary Clinton's emails. That did not come up today. So Brian, why are you shaking your head?

FALLON: Well, because I think it's remarkable that the voters went to the polls on November 8th and they only knew about one of two investigations that were going on being led by the FBI at that point. It was only the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails that was known to the public all those months. And I can sympathize to some extent with the Trump White House and their allies today which are saying, well now, the effect of Jim Comey's pronouncement is going to have a gray cloud hang over their heads for an indefinite period of time while this investigation plays out.

But that's exactly what happened to Hillary Clinton during the campaign. And it was none other than Donald Trump and his campaign that sought to leverage that and lead chants at rallies about lock her up. So it's hard in that instance to have sympathy now for the Trump White House.

LEMON: Alice Stewart, did that put the Clinton campaign at a disadvantage?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the Clinton campaign put the Clinton campaign at a disadvantage.

Look. I know that the Democrats went out of their way to today to try and prove that Russian interference or Russian influence had something to do with the outcome of this election, that's not the case. Hillary Clinton lost because she didn't have the right message. She didn't campaign in the battleground states, and she spiked the football in the third quarter.

Donald Trump worked hard. He had the right message and he played smart in the battleground states. And played to win in an Electoral College campaign and not the popular vote. And at the end of the day, like it or not, he is the President of the United States that's the key here. I don't think anything the Russians did with regard to their influence in this election, or interference had anything to do with the Electoral College. If so, they are smarter than the Clinton campaign. At the end of the day, Donald Trump won this election.

LEMON: And that's going to be investigated.

Douglas, I read this quote from you. Where is it? It says, "the Washington Post," this is the most failed first 100 days of any President. I mean, that is a pretty harsh assessment, was today the worst of the administration? The Trump administration?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, you have to go all the way back to civil war to find a time when a President can't get traction like this. I mean, Donald Trump is his even worst enemy.

The big factor of today with Comey, is that the FBI and justice department saying he lied, he misled the American people about Barack Obama wiretapping him. That's a big revelation. That means that the trust of Donald Trump is deteriorating. And it's not just about American politics, Democrats and Republicans, the whole world is watching this. Great Britain has been up in arms. We have had Australia up in arms. I mean, China up in arms. Everybody is furious at Donald Trump because of his constant misbehaving. And he didn't learn from not sending, you know, the 6:00 a.m. tweets today. You had Trump tweeting all day long. And he is going to probably continue doing that in the coming weeks. But the cloud is not going to go away. Russia gate is here to stay for months and it has tarnished his first months in office.

[23:10:30] LEMON: It does come out to a credibility problem as you can see. Maybe not among his supporters, which is not, you know, the majority of the population. Because his job approval rating has dropped to 37 percent. It's lowest since he has taken office. And that's according to Gallup. So there is a credibility issue. There it is right there, when it comes to this presidency.

Go ahead.

BRINKLEY: That's before today, Don. That 37 is before today. He may be down to 33 here in the next poll. And that's hard to govern when two thirds of the country doesn't buy your act right out of the gate.

LEMON: General Clark, the White House points to statements made by the former acting CIA director Mike Morrell, the former director of national intelligence James Clapper who say that they have seen no evidence of collusion between Trump associates and Russia so far. Could this be a lot of smoke but no fire?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, (RET.) U.S. ARMY: Well, I think what we are going to have to wait for is the FBI investigation because what Clapper and the others and what Morrell is saying is, they didn't see any evidence. But they didn't investigate it. So when you have a real intelligence investigation like the FBI is conducting, you are going to look at all the evidence. And that's the standard, not something that was said during the campaign in an effort to try or write afterwards in effort to try to solve -- maintain the legitimacy of the process, and not go into the details, because they knew they couldn't get into those details.

So the FBI is the right organization at this time. I would like to see a special prosecutor put in-charge, because I think that gives the investigation added credibility.

This is not really about the Trump administration. This is really about Russian interference and the American election system. And so I think Democrats and Republicans should unite on this, and make sure that we are going to get to the bottom of this, and we are not going to allow whether or not it happened and how it happened. We know there's a vulnerability here. What we don't know is, how big is the vulnerability, and what must be done to correct it?

And this investigation's going to point the way to the answers to some of those questions, and their vital questions for the future of this country.

LEMON: Robbie Mook made the same -- Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager made the same point last hour here on CNN.

Matt, let me bring you in. This is from Maggie Haberman of "New York Times." I want to put this quote. She said one adviser dismisses the internal White House mess and says, the only fight that matters is the one inside Trump's head. That fight, the adviser said, is between Trump's instinct to never back down which is now bumping into his fear of failure. What do you think of that?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think that's right. If you look at Donald Trump's sort of MO, it is attack, counter attack, and never apologize. And look, I do think that there's a danger that we may be misinterpreting what's happening here.

And look, it is possible that there is some there there. That there was some coordination. And that Donald Trump is going to go down in (INAUDIBLE) like Richard Nixon. But I also think that there's a chance. You were talking about putting this in a historical context, the worst first 100 days or whatever, of any administration. I think the world has changed and I think that it's a mistake for us to sort of compare Donald Trump to normal Presidents. And even as recent as Bill Clinton. I mean, I feel like there's -- this is a new world, this is a reality show now, there's -- the depth about outrage. I think a lot of average Americans --

LEMON: Matt, I love you. It sounds like you're making excuses.

LEWIS: No. But Don, if you know me.

LEMON: It doesn't matter if the average Americans are believing a lie. Then they are believing a lie or if they are misinformed. (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: No. But it sounds like you are making excuses for misinformation. You are making excuses for lies. You are making excuses for the evidence that's all there in place. The FBI director, the head of the NSA, the justice department all came out today saying there was no information that there was any wiretapping.

They did also say that there's no information so far of any coordination, but there are still investigation. They also investigating. They also said that this investigation has been going on since July. Should we -- because someone and, you know, I'm making up -- someone believes that, well, people are out to get the President in light of all of this information, in fact, that we should go, OK, fine, then it doesn't matter?

LEWIS: No, no, no, no, no, no. I'm not making a value judgment or saying that everything that Donald Trump does is OK. What I'm saying is, I think that a lot of Americans out there, they are looking at us like why are these people freaking out and hyperventilating, you know. We are the problem. So I'm doing analysis. I think we're out of touch with a lot of Americans.

[23:15:01] LEMON: Who is freaking out and hyperventilating?

LEWIS: Have you watched the last, I don't know how many hours of cable news today?

LEMON: I don't see people freaking out.

LEWIS: There's a Supreme Court nominee --

LEMON: OK. Here's the thing, and I have a question about that.

LEWIS: A health care bill coming up Thursday, but we are focused 100 percent on Russia.

LEMON: OK. And I do have a question about that. I do have a question about that. But no one is hyperventilating. I saw a very straightforward hearing, yes, there was partisanship from the politicians who were there. But from the two gentlemen who were sitting there answering questions, I did not see any partisanship. I saw only facts. And they answered questions that they could and then it did not answer questions that they could not answer. There was no hyperventilating, especially from people on television. I have not seen that. I think people are incredulous in that --

LEWIS: This is the worst day in the first 100 days.

LEMON: It is a very bad period, when you look at the travel ban.

LEWIS: How many bad days did Donald Trump have before he won the election? He had a lot of horrible worst days of any presidents have gone in this race.

LEMON: But that doesn't mean that there's a fact that he did bad days. You're saying, OK, well maybe -- what you're saying now is alternative facts, Matt.

LEWIS: If he goes to jail -- otherwise, I think we're probably a little overwrought.

LEMON: My God.

STEWART: Don --

LEMON: Go ahead.

ISIKOFF: Don, can I just make a quick point? I think that until today there was some belief and some hope by Republicans, people in the White House, that this issue was going to die down. That there was no there there, you even had some people like Mike Morrell, the former deputy CIA director suggesting that maybe there was a lot of smoke and not fire. But then when you have the FBI director come out and say, this is an active investigation, that changes the calculus. And the real political impact of this, is doesn't go away. The issue doesn't fade.

And even worse for the Trump White House, FBI director Comey made it clear that there's no timetable on this investigation. He is not going to give updates to Congress. He can't say how long it's going to last. So this cloud which even Republicans said is now hanging over the White House, is going to last for some time. Perhaps for years. And that's --

LEMON: General Clark?

CLARK: Don, there's a very easy way for the White House to get rid of the cloud, and that's simply lay it all out there. I think it starts with the tax returns. I think it starts with his business connections because of suspicions of Russian involvement. Now, he says he didn't have any, fine. So lay it all out there. And then have his own people come forward and talk about the campaign.

And just -- he's going to be distracted anyway, it's gotten bad. If I were the President, I would want to get all the facts out as soon as possible. I wouldn't want to wait on an FBI investigation. Let's get the facts out and let's get America moving.

STEWART: Don, can I --

CLARK: That's what we expect of our President.

LEMON: Alice, I got to take a break. If do it, quickly.

STEWART: Just real quick. I agree with the general. He should lay it all out there. He should release his tax returns. He should apologize. That's not going to happen. The American people are going to accept these tweets for what they're really concerned about, is the Neil Gorsuch.

LEMON: Don't -- no, no, no, no, no, no. I think the American people -- his supporters are not the entirety of the American people. I think the American people for the most part, I don't mean a choral, I think a majority of them are finding this incredulous and they are outraged by anyone who can accuse a former President of breaking a crime. Of breaking the law with absolutely no proof, and then pretend that he was talking about the administration when he specifically targeted that person. I don't think the American people are that dumb, I do think that they care. I got to run.

STEWART: I agree.

LEMON: When we come back, will it take an independent commission to get the truth out of all of this?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:23:02] LEMON: I'm back with CNN national security analyst Steve Hall, and retired chief CIA ration operations and Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative who was 2016 independent presidential candidate.

Thank you for joining us.

Steven, I'm going to start with you first. Comey's hearing today raised a lot of questions regarding Trump and Trump administration's relationship with Russia. But what do we know at this point?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, you know it's difficult to tell what we know. And I don't think we will know more until we get more into this investigation. And it is going to take a long time and it's going to be really hard because the surprising thing that I heard from director Comey earlier today, it's a counter intelligence investigation. And a counter intelligence investigation, you know, because they deal with really sensitive information. And it also overlaps into the legal part, it's just takes a long time and it's really hard. So we are going to have to see where it all ends. But also from a counter intelligence perspective, though. There are so many data points that have gone down over the past really since the investigation began last year. I would be really surprised if there were absolutely no fire for the amount of smoke that we have seen.

LEMON: What do you think of that, Evan? Do you think that there is -- you wouldn't be surprised if there's absolutely no fire?

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Look. I would be shocked if there isn't a lot to discover in an investigation here. What we know is already shocking. I know it's been normalized, because we have been having these conversations about Donald Trump and Russia, now for several months, during the campaign, during the -- before the inauguration, and since the inauguration. The reality is, that Donald Trump has had close ties to Russians and the Russian oligarchs for quite some time. He had a campaign staffed full of a number of people who had their own ties to Russia, at a time when Russia was attacking our democracy. It's a big big deal. This is a matter of strategic significance. Much more significant than the day to day leak debate that we are having, that's -- leaks are a daily weekly issue, that is serious, and important that we have to confront. But when we talk about Russia undermining our democracy, trying to influence it for one candidate or another. You are talking about a major strategic national security incident that we've got to get to the bottom of. [23:25:18] LEMON: I have to follow up with you, Evan. Because if you

watch the hearings today, you would think there were two different hearings going on. And someone tweeted, I forget who it was, something and I'm paraphrasing here. That the house is on fire. That the President is running around with matches, and Republicans are wondering who called the fire department. Did it seem that way to you? I thought that was a very good analogy when I read that.

MCMULLIN: Yes, sadly it is. And I think what you saw today was some extreme partisanship mostly on the part of Republicans. And they spent most of their time talking about leaks. They are trying to confirm that there was no evidence that voting machines were hacked.

Now, originally, that allegation came from Democrats, so I can understand that they wanted to clarify that perhaps. But no one is saying that now. We are way past that. And right now, we need a bipartisan effort to investigate what actually happened, what did the Russians do, and was there any involvement or knowledge by the Trump campaign or Trump associates. That's what we need to do.

And let me just say this, and I'll wrap it up. But there's a moment here in which the American people need to be climbing a learning curve about what Russia's doing to undermine democracy both here and in Europe. This is a moment where we need our leaders to be out front, helping us understand, helping the American public that doesn't follow this on a daily basis. What is happening? What are they doing? And instead, we have this partisan back and forth that I think is doing a tremendous disservice to the American people.

LEMON: Steve, I want to ask you, discuss something that happened during the hearing today, it's a Russian concept called "compramat" brought up today by Representative Castro at the Comey hearing. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Director, can you describe to the American people the Russian concept of "compramat."

COMEY: It's a technique that they use to gather information on people that may be embarrassing or humiliating and using it to coerce cooperation.

CASTRO: In your career, have you known instances where that has been successfully leveraged?

COMEY: Yes, I believe our counter intelligence division has encountered it a number of times.

CASTRO: Does that include private places such as hotels that are wired for audio and video?

COMEY: I don't think I remember enough about the particulars to say, but in theory, sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: So why did Representative Castro ask that question? What was he going after there?

HALL: Well, I think what he is making a clear reference to is the steel dossier that came out a while back with allegations, some of them lurid with regard to potentially the Russians having compromising material on Donald Trump. And it raises the bigger question of, OK, if the Russian intelligence services, and, therefore, the Russian government have information that essentially makes somebody in this case President Trump blackmailable (ph), then, you know, that's a dangerous situation to be in. What I can tell you is that --.

LEMON: You think they have that?

HALL: Well, director Comey was being careful there and appropriately so. What I can say `is, the Russians absolutely have a capability to do this. And I can also tell you that somebody like Donald Trump, even before he had political aspirations, were he to travel to Russia, the Russians would simply through their lens, see him as essentially as an American oligarch. There is American, you know, rich guy. And you never know, The Russians would say, when you're going to need that kind of information. And so they would gather and collect whatever information they could, on somebody like Donald Trump and store it away for later use.

LEMON: Steve, Evan --

HALL: The bigger question is whether it would work on him, but there's no doubt that if he was in Moscow and Russia, they collected everything they could have.

LEMON: OK. And thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

Just ahead, what we learned from today's house intelligence committee hearing. And what we still need to find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:33:11] LEMON: An extraordinary appearance today by the FBI director testify before the house intelligence committee. I want to bring in my legal experts now. CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, and former federal prosecutor Page Pate, criminal defense and constitutional attorney.

I'm so glad to have you.

Let's get to the bottom of this legally. What's the significance, Laura, behind the fact that this investigation into the Trump team, these possible contacts or contacts and Russia, that it was going on months before the election, and is still ongoing after eight months.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the consequence really is, they have not concluded their investigation, that you are seeing in real time that these things do not work on an election calendar. They work on investigation calendar, which often lags behind as quickly as we like it to. But what it also shows is there is a longstanding tradition in the

FBI, not - you know, a mandate that says we don't comment on ongoing investigations. We never ever do that. But now it appears that directive, that edict is now, well, sometimes we will, and we'll tell you when we think it's important enough to do so. And so, you have a kind of everyone getting swept under this hurricane that says, we are only going to follow protocol, and as a result, you have the credibility of agencies now being questioned, the President of the United States, and his campaign being in question and certainly former candidates as well.

LEMON: Yes.

Page, James Comey, the FBI director also mentioned that the agency is looking at possible coordination between associates of the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Just a few weeks ago, Mike Flynn was forced to resign, after it was revealed he misled the vice President and other top White House officials about his conversation with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. What kind of trouble is Flynn or anybody else that is found -- if they're found to have worked with Russia? What kind of trouble are they in?

PAGE PATE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Don, there are a lot of different possible crimes that can be investigated here. The violations of the espionage act, that is clearly one. There are other federal crimes that were late to the conduct of somebody who is working for the federal government and having a relationship with a foreign power with another country especially in connection with the investigation.

And of course, during the course of an investigation you may also want to uncover false statements that may have been made to investigators, that's a separate crime. Obstruction, that's a separate crime. And so, like any federal investigation, you really don't know what you have, until you start peeling back the onion. And I think today James Comey said, we started doing that. We are going through this process. And without getting into any details, he wanted America to know that we are looking into it, we're taking it seriously, and we're going to peel back the onion and see what we find.

[23:35:47] LEMON: But he also said that there is no evidence, there's no evidence to show -- to support President Trump's claims that Trump tower was wiretapped. Does that mean that President Trump lied?

PATE: Well, I don't know what President Trump was thinking when he sent that tweet. Obviously, he was relying on information that was given to him. I would think if you are the President you have access to all of that information through the department of justice. If you were suspicious about wiretapping activity, ask your attorney general, ask your FBI director, find out if there was wiretapping going on, and if so, why? So either he asked that question, knew the answer and gave America a false statement which would be a lie, or he simply made no inquiry, he watched TV and the next day decided it was true.

LEMON: Does he have any exposure legally? Or can a former President -- does he have any recourse?

PATE: Well, Don, yes. Legally, I think there's an arguable defamation claim there. But I can't imagine President Obama having any interest in pursuing litigation over something like that. I think it would only damage the current President's credibility even more, which of course in a collateral way, damages America's credibility. So President Obama will likely stay out of this mess. I think he might demand an apology, or at least his representatives should, because clearly it's a defamatory statement if it's not true.

LEMON: Laura?

COATES: Well, I think you are being a little kind, Page, frankly, because it's not a matter of semantics, whether or not it's a misinformation or misstatement. Certainly, to say someone's lying does presume there's a kind of, you know, a nefarious intent behind it. But just legally speaking and just plain folk speaking here, when you make a statement that is based on a knee jerk reaction, it's the same reason why we condemn the FBI, when they make statements about investigations that are ongoing, and the reason they do not do it. And that is, we have to be able to develop, and the President of the United States, as you well know, Page, has to be able to develop and know the facts before they make these statements. And when you don't, you lose the ability to litigate in the courts, where there are set parameters to protect your reputation and credibility. And instead, you replace that with the court of public opinion.

And when that happens, you have people who are unfairly tarred and feathered. And whether it nourish the benefit of Republicans or Democrats, it remains to be seen, what day of the week it is.

However, the reason why it is so toxic legally speaking, is because it compromises the investigation and the investigation of the department of justice. And it allows people to believe that somehow there is a political motivation, as opposed to a development over the investigate use of procedure.

LEMON: That is going to be the last word. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

When we come back, we know now that both candidates were being investigated during the campaign. What would have happened if we had known that in November?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:42:25] LEMON: We have some breaking news to share with you. House Republican leaders releasing amendments tonight to their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare key amendment where give states the option of requiring abled bodied recipients to work. A change that GOP leaders hope could win them some of the conservative votes they need without alienating moderates.

So let's discuss this and a whole lot of things.

CNN political commenters Bakari Sellers, Angela Rye, Andre Bauer and Alice Stewart. Happy birthday's in order, Mr. Bauer?

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

BAUER: I don't feel one most nights.

LEMON: Well, let me ask you then. What do you think? Do you think this is going to help now asking to give states the option requires able bodied Medicaid recipient to work? Do you think that will help? Because you had some concerns about this health care bill.

BAUER: I like any type of discussion where it says hey, we want to try to at least make folks have skin in the game. Is this the right way? Maybe not, but at least it engages a discussion where we say how can we cut costs? How can we get people to be more engaged? Who can we get people to change behavior and we are discussing it now which I think is healthy for the system.

LEMON: You think that, Alice I ask you the same question as a conservative because you had some apprehension about the bill in its original form as well.

STEWART: Sure. The original bill was never going to pass in the house. I mean, it was absolutely not going to pass in the Senate. A lot of work's been done behind the scenes with the house freedom caucus specifically with Congressman Mark Meadows, also (INAUDIBLE), Ted Cruz as well as Mike Lee. They are working hand in glove with the Trump administration, Donald Trump himself and Steve Bannon to roll back some of this Medicaid expansion. And this key provision also requiring work for Medicaid recipients. That is critical that conservatives in the house and in the Senate want to see some major reform. And as Anders said, some skin in the game. But they want to, first and foremost, they want to make sure there are no premium increases and they want to make sure that the overall people are not thrown off health care to begin. This is what they campaigned, Don, and they know that will come back to haunt them if they aren't able to follow through.

LEMON: The freedom caucus, Bakari Sellers, is they still have enough votes to kill this house legislation even with these changes? .

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well yes. And I think that we saw today even Alice' boss and Mike Lee and others came from a meeting. I guess they were working hand in glove with the White House, and said that they were still very frustrated. And yes, there is enough members in the house to kill it, we know it only takes those three senators and the Senate to kill it.

But I do have to correct a few things. The Republicans have been hopping on this talking point about premiums increasing. What we do know is that there have to be some controls placed in Obamacare. But only three percent of American or three percent of those who are on Obamacare are actually affected by these premium increases.

And what we have been seeing from Republican leadership and Paul Ryan is this. It is unbelievable that they have no concept of the term working for. These people who are on Medicaid, contrary to Alice and Andre's belief, just aren't freeloaders. These people are actually hardworking Americans, the same people who came out and ironically enough voted for Donald Trump, and they make $20,000, $30,000 a year, but they are working 50, 60 hours a week in this backbreaking generational poverty.

So this theory, this going theory in the Republican party that you just have people who are gaming a system or taking advantage of a system, and now we are going to even make sure that they quote-unquote "work and have skinning in the game," or we are going to cap their benefits I think is patently absurd. But we are starting to see the clear philosophical differences between the two parties. And Donald Trump simply has a bill that's not functional. And if he does pass it, it's going to cost them both.

[23:46:08] LEMON: Listen. We have a short time and want to move on and I want to talk about this because today was a big day, Angela. And I know you want to weigh-in on health care. But if you will just, you know, go with me on this.

We know that both our Presidential candidates were under FBI investigation during the campaign. However, director Comey only revealed the Clinton investigation. If he had been transparent about the Trump investigation, the outcome might have been different, do you think?

ANGELA RYE, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Don, you know, reasonable minds can only hope so. I think that it's so unfortunate. I remember the day that director Comey's letter came out. And the impact that it immediately had. And then, of course, him later releasing a letter saying, all is fair, all is clear, we are done with this. Just, you know, another few weeks before the election.

I think the real issue that we have here is today at this house committee hearing, I did not hear enough of the Democrats saying, you know, this is something that you have known about since July. Why did you not then have the obligation to disclose this same information at the time in which you disclose that Hillary Clinton was allegedly under investigation which of course we know is not really the case? I'm dying to know what his rationale is. And I think Democrats were so focused on ensuring they were building a narrative, creating reasonable doubt, demonstrating that Donald Trump doesn't have the ability to lead this country as commander in-chief, that that kind of got lost in the sauce. And I think that is not -- that wasn't a game for us.

LEMON: OK. I want everyone to stand by. Because we will talk about in the other side of the beak. But a question I have been wanting to get in the panel from earlier, that someone posed to me is, should a President whose administration is under investigation, should they be allowed to nominate a Supreme Court justice and get it passed?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:51:40] LEMON: Let's continue our discussion. My panel is back with me.

Miss Stewart, I want to read -- this is a tweet from Kellyanne Conway in October 2016. And she said most honest people I know are not under FBI investigation, let alone two. When will everyone need to learn that tweets come back to haunt you?

STEWART: Wow. That's pretty telling. Look, I'm not a lawyer like Bakari and he knows this much better than me. But it's important to keep in mind, when you are under investigation, that doesn't mean you are guilty. You have the presumption of innocent until the outcome of the investigation is completed. And I think it's important to keep that in mind.

That being said, I think we need to let the investigation, let the facts play out and see where they go. I think it is important also to look at the big picture and context. Think the big take-away from today is we have confirmation that there was Russian influence in the election, whether or not it impacted the outcome of the election, that will also be determined. But I think we need to let the investigation play out and do where it takes it.

LEMON: So Bakari, should a President or administration that admitted from the FBI director today, that is under investigation, or their campaign at least under investigation, should they be allowed a Scotus (ph) pick and a confirmation?

SELLERS: I think that's pretty cute and creative. But I think that there are other reasons that the Democrats need to stand on their heels and attempt to pushback this nomination of Neil Gorsuch. I think he is way outside of the mainstream on issues when it comes to women and choice and things of that nature. So I think that should be the reason that you stand up against him.

And you can look at the historical factor of what Republicans did to Merrick Garland who sat there over a year without a hearing. So do I think that there is some precedent. The fact that there's an FBI investigation into the White House I think is a different ball of wax. And we do need to let it play out and I hope it runs its course and I hope it runs all the way down there to all of Donald Trump's aides.

LEMON: Angela, President Trump was a big critic of President Obama's golfing habits during the campaign. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods. No, think of it. We don't have time for this. We don't have time for this.

And I won't be playing golf instead of going to see the people in Louisiana who have been devastated by floods.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. And then this is how Sean Spicer described the difference. Because wait a minute. The president this now - this President has made ten golf trips in the two months that he has been President. Here's Sean Spicer today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think two things. One is, you saw him utilize this as an opportunity with Prime Minister Abe, to help foster deeper relationships in Southeast Asia -- in Asia, rather, and having a growing relationship that is going to help the U.S. interest. How you use the game of golf is something that he has talked about.

Secondly, you know, we went to -- down to -- he had a mini cabinet meeting the other day down -- or two weekends ago, down at his club in Virginia. And I remember so many people jumping to the conclusion that he is going down and playing golf. Just because you go somewhere, it doesn't necessarily mean you did it. So on couple of occasions, he's conducted meetings there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Angela --

RYE: Was that Sean or Melissa? Melissa, girl, stop playing! Stop playing, girl.

[23:55:03] LEMON: Come on. You guys have to see the irony in that. Go ahead.

RYE: That's rich, Don. I mean, come on. Sean Spicer doesn't believe Sean Spicer at this point. In his eyes were just like, you know, just because you are on the golf course, doesn't mean you are really golfing. It's ridiculous. So I mean, there is nothing even to say here.

We know that Donald Trump doesn't believe the words that are coming out of his mouth. We know that Sean Spicer doesn't believe the words that are coming out of his mouth. We know Kellyanne Conway, even when she create this artful term, alternative fact, still doesn't believe the words that are coming out of her mouth. It is ridiculous at this point. And the level of hypocrisy is frankly astonishing.

LEMON: I got to say Prime Minister David Cameron is who President Obama played with Republicans governor John Kasich. He also played with John Boehner, (INAUDIBLE) Chambliss of Georgia, Senator Bob Corker, (INAUDIBLE), Joe Courtney, (INAUDIBLE) and John Yarma. There's a big difference.

Andre, I can't let you talk because I'm simply out of time. Not because we don't want to hear your (INAUDIBLE).

RYE: Happy birthday, Andre!

LEMON: Happy birthday, brother. You were talking to Angela. All right, happy birthday, brother. See you guys later.

Thanks for watching, everyone. I will see you right back here tomorrow. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)