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CNN TONIGHT

Greg Gianforte Allegedly Body Slams a Guardian Reporter. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 24, 2017 - 22:00   ET

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


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Shocking violence in Montana tonight. A reporter for the Guardian allegedly attacked by a GOP candidate Greg Gianforte. You can hear it right here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN JACOBS, REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: ... the CBO score, because you know, you've been waiting to make your decision about healthcare until we saw the bill and it just came out. And when you talk about...

(CROSSTALK)

GREG GIANFORTE, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: We'll talk to you about that later.

JACOBS: Yes, but there's not going to be time. I'm just curious...

(CROSSTALK)

GIANFORTE: Speak with Shane, please. I'm sick and tired of you guys! The last time you came in here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here! Get the hell out of here!

JACOBS: Jesus.

GIANFORTE: get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. Are you with the Guardian?

JACOBS: Yes and you just broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: The last guy did the same damn thing.

JACOBS: You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here.

JACOBS: You'd like me to get the hell out of here? I'd also like to call the police. Can I get you guys' names?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you got to leave.

JACOBS: He just body slammed me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to leave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That actually happened. And wait until you hear the guy's response to his side of the story.

Plus, the Justice Department telling CNN that Attorney Jeff Sessions failed to mention meetings with Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance. It's getting to be a bad habit. He also failed to mention those meetings during his Senate confirmation hearings.

We'll report on that, as well. But let's get straight to that story. Our breaking news tonight. Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs allegedly body slammed by the republican candidate in Montana's special congressional election.

He was set to join us tonight, but a short time ago, he let us know by e-mail that he's out of the hospital and currently at the police station and will -- he's going to get finished there. Hopefully we'll hear from him when he finishes up, but again, they have his phones, both of his phones, his work phone and his personal phone and that is being used as evidence by the police.

So as soon as we can get him, we'll try to bring it to you in this hour. Now I want to bring in CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, political commentators, Matt Lewis and Ana Navarro, and CNN's Dylan Byers, also Kyung Lah joins us.

Jeff, I saw you in the hall. You changed your mind on this.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: I did.

LEMON: This is outrageous.

TOOBIN: Yes.

LEMON: I've got to say, Ben is a better guy than I, because we would have been fighting, seriously.

TOOBIN: Yes. And you know, I think it's also not coincidental that this happened now. I mean, we have the President of the United States tweeting that reporters are enemies of the American people. It's one thing for, you know, for journalists to be booed, to be yelled at.

All of which is fair game. But when you're starting to talk about physical violence and body slamming is no joke, this is a matter for law enforcement and it is not -- it is not business as usual, or at least it shouldn't be. And I hope he's OK.

LEMON: OK. So I want everyone at home to pay close attention to this tape. Right? Because the response from the candidate doesn't appear to match up to the audio tape. So, listen to this again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JACOBS: ... the CBO score, because you know, you've been waiting to

make your decision about healthcare until we saw the bill and it just came out. And when you talk about...

(CROSSTALK)

GREG GIANFORTE, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: We'll talk to you about that later.

JACOBS: Yes, but there's not going to be time. I'm just curious...

(CROSSTALK)

GIANFORTE: Speak with Shane, please. I'm sick and tired of you guys! The last time you came in here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here! Get the hell out of here!

JACOBS: Jesus.

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. Are you with the Guardian?

JACOBS: Yes and you just broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: The last guy did the same damn thing.

JACOBS: You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here.

JACOBS: You'd like me to get the hell out of here? I'd also like to call the police. Can I get you guys' names?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you got to leave.

JACOBS: He just body slammed me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to leave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. Quickly, Jeff, I keep relying on you, is this assault?

TOOBIN: It could well be. I've been looking at the Montana laws. It could be misdemeanor assault, it could be battery. It is, at a minimum, if you did this to someone in a bar, the cops would be involved.

LEMON: So why isn't this guy arrested? Because imagine if it was the other way around, if the reporter had done that, don't you think the reporter be arrested?

TOOBIN: As I understand, that the sheriff is holding a news conference later tonight.

LEMON: Yes. TOOBIN: I don't know if he's going to be arrested. I mean, what makes this story even weird, is that tomorrow is Election Day in Montana.

LEMON: Yes.

TOOBIN: And although a lot of people are already voting by mail, but I mean, the thing that's perhaps most disturbing about this is you don't know whether this is going to help this candidate or hurt him...

(CROSSTALK)

MATT LEWIS, COMMENTATOR, CNN: Yes.

LEMON: Or hurt him.

TOOBIN: ... given the way...

LEWIS: Very well might help him.

TOOBIN: ... people feel about the press.

LEMON: Because according to our David Chalian, seven in ten people have already cast their ballots or will have already cast their ballots by...

LEWIS: You've got a guy -- you can imagine some voters in Montana might be thinking, yes, it's what these reporters deserve. This guy is from a British newspaper, anyway.

LEMON: Yes. So here's why because...

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Because they just to say, Ben is very much an American.

LEWIS: And a nice guy, highly respected.

LEMON: But he called him in the statement a liberal reporter. So, listen, I asked you at home to listen closely, because the statement doesn't necessarily -- it doesn't justify what -- it doesn't match up, right?

He's saying that it's a liberal reporter and that he was shoving, what have you. Here's what he said.

[22:05:00] "Tonight as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, the Guardian -- the Guardian's Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face and began asking badgering questions," I didn't hear a badgering question in there.

"Jacobs was asked to leave." I didn't hear him ask to leave in the beginning. "After Jacobs -- after asking Jacobs to lower the recorder," did you hear that in there? Nope. Nope. "Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face, Jacobs grabs Greg's wrist and spun away from Greg pushing him -- pushing them to the ground. It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ or barbeque."

So he's accusing now the reporter...

LEWIS: Right.

LEMON: ... of assault.

LEWIS: The reporter was guilty of being a good reporter.

LEMON: Yes.

LEWIS: He dared to have the audacity to ask a couple of follow-up questions. Now, why did he do that? For one thing, the election is tomorrow.

LEMON: Right.

LEWIS: And the CBO score, the CBO report...

LEMON: Had just come out!

LEWIS: ... had just come out. This candidate the republican had been dodging the health care issue, had not wanted to weigh in on it. And this reporter, last chance, wanted to get him on the record, what do you think about the CBO score. Apparently he didn't want to answer that question.

LEMON: Yes.

LEWIS: It seems like.

LEMON: And Kyung interviewed the candidate, his opponent, but, An, I just want to get you in here before I go to Kyung. Because I'm sure Kyung is going to have a much longer statement to tell us what she, what his opponent said.

Is this about politics, where he's saying this liberal reporter? Ana, what's your take on this, as a republican?

ANA NAVARRO, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I think he lost his damned mind. You know, I think -- and I think that voters need to pay attention. Temperament does matter. I've heard about closing a campaign with a bang, but this was crazy!

You know, this guy and his statement post facto was even crazier, because he's got to understand, there is an audio tape that is very damning evidence. There are also eyewitness that were there. Some of them were watching the entire thing, some of them watched part of it.

So, you know, there's no cover-up that's possible at this point. But more than that, understand this to the voters of Montana. This guy is running to go represent you in Congress. When you run for Congress, when you get elected to Congress, you are chased by reporters daily. There are press scrums. You have got to answer questions daily,

because you see, in this country, we believe in freedom of expression. We believe in freedom of the press. And we ask questions of our elected officials.

Constituents are going to get in his face and ask pointed, aggressive questions, and demand answers. That is what we do in a free country, with our elected officials. We like transparency, we like answers.

This -- you know, the reporter wasn't asking about, I don't, you know, offending his wife's honor or his mother's honor. He was asking about the CBO score on the health bill.

LEMON: Yes.

NAVARRO: Something which if he is elected to congress, he will have to cast a vote on.

LEMON: Yes.

NAVARRO: So it was a very relevant question that affects the voters of Montana. I just think it speaks very badly about this gentleman's -- well, maybe I shouldn't say gentleman...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Character.

NAVARRO: ... this man's temperament. And you know, I don't know if he's going to end up going to Congress. I do think he should end up going to anger management at the very least.

LEMON: Yes. Kyung Lah, as I said, you spoke with his opponent in the race, he's democrat whose name is Rob Quist. What did he say?

KYUNG LAH, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: You know, as soon as he got in his R.V., we were chasing him. There were a number of reporters here, because everyone wanted to hear what his reaction was. And his immediate reaction was, he wasn't going to respond.

Take a listen as we followed him into his campaign event.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROB QUIST, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: You know, I'm just here to thank my volunteers tonight. That's kind of why I'm here.

LAH: Is there anything you want to say about the audio?

QUIST: You know, I think that's more for law enforcement, you know, so to understand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: But everyone inside his campaign event, they were all buzzing about it. And here's why. Partially because the audio is so surprising for people, but there's also something, that if you live here in the State of Montana, people prize here, and it's actually just simply being nice.

And a lot of people here, and we should point out that there are -- it's an abundantly democratic event. These are Rob Quist supporters, but they think that this is going to make a difference.

So the people who might be undecided until the very last minute, who may think about not coming out, because turnout is going to be essential here in this race...

LEMON: OK.

LAH: ... in this special election, they do believe it will make a difference in this state, Don.

LEMON: Kyung, stand by. I'm just getting an update. Do we know, producers, when they're going to hold this press conference? Is that they're going to hold it soon? So, yes, they should hold a press conference soon, again. And we just...

(CROSSTALK)

[22:10:01] TOOBIN: Are you talking about the sheriff?

LEMON: Yes, the sheriff.

TOOBIN: Yes.

LEMON: The sheriff is going to hold a press conference soon. Speaking of the sheriff -- the police there, Dylan Byers, I want to play the Bozeman Police Department's scanner dispatching the call. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two twenty-eight Discovery Drive, RP states that he was just assaulted by a Greg Gianforte. States Greg body slammed him and kicked his arm. RP has a recording of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six-seven-five, 675 with an update. RP says he's a reporter and he asked Greg about his healthcare plan and he, quote, "body slammed him." Greg is still at headquarters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What's your reaction to this, Dylan Byers?

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR MEDIA AND POLITICS REPORTER: Well, look, everything that Ben said, Ben, the reporter, from the Guardian, of course, said, matches with both the complaint that he made to the police, as well as the audio recording, that we've all heard now several times.

Everything that the candidate's statement says is totally out of step with what's on the audio recording. So, in fact, speaking of this press conference that's coming forward

from the sheriff's department, I'm interested to know whether or not his campaign gave the same statement to the authorities that they did to the public.

Because it seem -- it seems here that either Gianforte is lying through his teeth, or Ben Jacobs doctored that audio recording. And I'll just say, I don't know Gianforte, I do know Ben and I know he would not doctor that audio recording.

Look, I think the larger context that Jeff Toobin brought up here is an important one. There's so much anti-media rhetoric. There's such a feeling, certainly among conservatives, that the media is somehow the enemy of the American people which is...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I wonder where they got that idea from, Dylan, because...

BYERS: Obviously espoused by the President of the United States.

LEMON: Here's what our colleague at a different organization wrote, it's Matthew Dowd. He said, "When the president calls the press the enemy, hires thugs who man handles the press, befriends an authoritarian regimes, no wonder M.T. happened." Meaning Montana.

What do you say? That's where you're going with this?

BYERS: Yes. And it's absolutely right. And look, there -- is there a chance that had Gianforte been running 10, 20, or 30 years ago that he might have done this, sure, of course there is.

But we can't ignore the larger context. We can't ignore the fact that civility, and particularly civility between politicians, larger conservative republican politicians, because of that sort of anti- mainstream media rhetoric, has sort of fueled a violent atmosphere.

We saw it at the Trump campaign rallies. We're seeing it here in Montana. There's just a total absence of respect and sort of civility here. And you know, the irony should not be lost on this either, that politicians are running on the basis of being strong leaders of their country.

And if they can't withstand the sort of most banal media scrutiny, questions from reporters that they should really have prepared and packaged answers for, I think that raises legitimate questions about how fit they are for office.

LEMON: It will be interesting to see the reaction, because there was a point in time not too long ago, when I was just starting out in this business, where this would have been roundly, roundly spoken -- you know, people would have spoken -- denounced.

Anyone who treated a reporter like this, whether you're a democrat or a republican. It's going to be interesting to see if this, in this environment, if that happens, especially considering him saying this liberal reporter came in.

The Guardian is saying, "The Guardian is deeply appalled by how our reporter Ben Jacobs was treated in the course of doing his job as a journalist while reporting on the Montana special election. We are committed to holding power to account and we stand by Ben and our team of reporters for the questions they ask and the reporting that is produced."

Do you want -- what did you want to say, you want to say something, Jeff?

TOOBIN: We're getting a report there, the sheriff's press conference did take place and I think the sheriff said, I guess, quite appropriately, said, look, we're doing an investigation, we're going to talk to the people who were there and see what happens.

And I think that's, you know, that's a cautious and appropriate statement. But the good news is, at least, is that they are going to do an investigation, because when somebody gets body slammed, whether it's a reporter or whether it's someone in a bar, whether it's someone at a ball game, this is a matter for law enforcement.

LEMON: He said he's going to interview Gianforte, as well. But I mean, it's just -- it's just -- it's really, it's really sad that this has to happen. And if this person -- listen, the voters choose him, that's their business, if they choose him.

But to choose someone who has that sort of, as Ana says, that sort of temperament, is really an interesting time in our country.

Here's what Congressman John Dingell tweeted about this. He said, "Hell, I spent six years in Congress without body slamming a single reporter. This guy in Montana won't last long if he manages to win."

Should republicans condemn this, because we haven't heard any response from the party so far?

LEWIS: Well, I mean, I think anybody would condemn it, but I don't expect we're going to have the national republican campaign, congressional committee come out and talk about anything like this. They're going to keep their mouths shut. And I think that even the democrat running is -- doesn't want to weigh in on this. I mean, doesn't want to be...

[22:15:00] LEMON: Well, he's running.

LEWIS: Right. Right.

LEMON: So, you can understand why he may not want to say.

LEWIS: I mean, I would, obviously, as a conservative, I would obviously condemn it. I do think and I think Dylan is right. I mean, and you're certainly right that this is -- there is a climate that has been created out there. It's being a reporter is almost a hostile work environment.

It wasn't a Katy Tur or somebody from NBC who had to be escorted to her car after a Trump rally last year? So I think that's part of it.

The other thing I would say, though, is campaigns, this does not excuse by any means what happened, but people, most people probably don't realize how grueling these campaigns are. It's not a surprise that this would happen the day before the election, that this guy would really lose his cool in a very uncool way.

LEMON: It's not surprising, you said?

LEWIS: No, that it would happen a day before the election. If it's going to happen at all, it's not surprising to me -- you would think he would be on his best behavior. What I'm saying is, the grueling nature of it. And the other thing is, these special -- not that...

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: No, no, a lot of people work hard without body slamming the...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So I just have to say...

LEWIS: These special elections, though, interestingly, with (Inaudible) there was an incident. Martha Coakley...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I get -- I get what you're saying.

LEWIS: A lot of these things come out of these special -- these people were not used to media.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But you're not making an excuse?

LEWIS: No!

LEMON: OK.

LEWIS: I'm just making conversation.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: Don, can I make...

LEMON: You can, but Ana, can you say it on the other side? Here's what I have to say, and I usually don't talk about this. Katy Tur is not the only one in this environment. It's not just being walked to your car at a Trump rally. There have been many threats against members of the media and our family members and people we know that happened and the public doesn't know about it.

It did not happen before this particular election cycle. And it has happened to me and my family and quite frankly, I'm sick of it. This disgusted me to watch this. And anyone who's out there, whether you're a democrat or republican, whether you like CNN or not, you like Don Lemon or not, or whomever, any reporter, you should denounce this.

This is disgusting and it should not happen. We're going to try to get the sheriff on the phone. We'll be right back.

[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: This is our breaking news. A Guardian reporter allegedly body slammed by the republican candidate in Montana's special congressional election.

I'm joined now on the phone by Sheriff Brian Gootkin of Gallatin County, Montana. Sheriff, thank you so much. I understand, we weren't able to have the press conference live, but we're so glad that you could join us now.

Five other people were present for this. Five other witnesses. Is that correct?

BRIAN GOOTKIN, SHERIFF, GALLATIN COUNTY: Yes, that's correct.

LEMON: Yes. So tell me, to your knowledge, what happened?

GOOTKIN: I can't give you a lot of information, because we're still interviewing the alleged victim and the witnesses. What I can tell you is right around 5 o'clock here just outside of Bozeman in Gallatin County, there was Mr. Gianforte was at his campaign headquarters. There were people there.

Then we received a report of an alleged assault. Our deputies responded, did the initial investigation. From there, it was my understanding that the victim went up to the hospital and after that, we're continuing the investigation.

LEMON: OK. So you have spoken to him, correct? And all of the witnesses?

GOOTKIN: We're -- I think we are -- we're actually currently with the victim still interviewing him.

LEMON: You're still interviewing him?

GOOTKIN: The alleged victim, yes.

LEMON: OK. Do you know any about his health. Does he have any injuries? Any physical injuries that you know of?

GOOTKIN: I don't know the specifics, but I do know that he was up at the hospital and I actually saw that on the news and then we had our deputies go up there and from there, our detectives brought him back to the law and justice center and that where's we have him now. So I don't know specifics on any injuries.

LEMON: OK. So as I understand, you have taken the audio into evidence, right? Which his phone, I would imagine? Is it his phone that has the audio on it?

GOOTKIN: I don't know how it was on there.

LEMON: OK. So you've taken the audio into evidence. I want to play the evidence for you then I want to get your response, OK, if you can just give me a moment, I'll play that for our viewers and for you and get you to respond on the other side. Stand by.

(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)

JACOBS: ... the CBO score, because you know, you've been waiting to make your decision about healthcare until we saw the bill and it just came out. And when you talk about...

(CROSSTALK)

GREG GIANFORTE, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: We'll talk to you about that later.

JACOBS: Yes, but there's not going to be time. I'm just curious...

(CROSSTALK)

GIANFORTE: Speak with Shane, please. I'm sick and tired of you guys! The last time you came in here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here! Get the hell out of here!

JACOBS: Jesus.

GIANFORTE: get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. Are you with the Guardian?

JACOBS: Yes and you just broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: The last guy did the same damn thing.

JACOBS: You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here.

JACOBS: You'd like me to get the hell out of here? I'd also like to call the police. Can I get you guys' names?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you got to leave.

JACOBS: He just body slammed me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to leave.

(END VOICE CLIP)

LEMON: OK. So, Gianforte, sheriff, released a statement, saying -- basically blaming the alleged victim. Does that audio tape match up to what witnesses are telling you and what you're hearing from, as you say, the alleged victim? GOOTKIN: Yes, I'm not going to get into that through the media. We'll

cipher all of that out with our investigation, with the witnesses, with the alleged victim and if Mr. Gianforte is willing to visit with us.

LEMON: If he's willing to visit with you. So you're not going to pick him up? Wouldn't someone be automatically -- you must come in. You'd be compelled to come in for questioning?

GOOTKIN: No. He has -- so, in Montana, all individuals have every right in the world to have an attorney and that attorney has actually already contacted us.

LEMON: OK. So, have you spoken to him? To Gianforte?

GOOTKIN: No, I have not.

LEMON: You've spoken to his attorney?

GOOTKIN: Correct.

LEMON: And can you say to us what the attorney said to you? Without giving any information you've spoken to him, what was basically the broad basis of your conversation?

GOOTKIN: No, I'd rather keep that between the two of us. But I will tell you that, yes, we absolutely want to sit down and speak with Mr. Gianforte. But again, he has every right that any other Montanan has.

LEMON: Yes. People around the country may not be familiar with your laws and that the attorney, you know, and it's OK, and I would imagine that you're correct, I'm not an expert on law, and especially not law in Montana.

[22:25:04] But people may think that he is getting special treatment, because he is a congressional candidate. Can you speak to that?

GOOTKIN: Yes, that's absolutely not true. That's -- we're treating this like we would any other investigation and once Mr. Gianforte left, we continued with our investigation and once we have all of the information and will be able to sit down with the county attorney's office tomorrow and we'll go from there.

But again, I want to reiterate, of course, we want to sit down and interview Mr. Gianforte, but in Montana, we respect everyone's rights.

LEMON: OK. I have to ask you, because, there are special circumstances around this. Tomorrow is Election Day. Will voters have a report from you that may satisfy them before the polls open and they go cast their ballots? Because don't you think they need to know this by the time they go to the polls tomorrow?

GOOTKIN: This is not about politics. This is about the investigation. And if we have all of the information that we need by tomorrow, then, absolutely, we will provide that. But what we can, that is appropriate, that will not at all jeopardize the integrity of the investigation, we will provide that to the people.

LEMON: Sheriff, Jeffrey Toobin, our center legal analyst here on CNN has a question for you.

TOOBIN: Sheriff, in Montana, is it a crime to body slam someone?

GOOTKIN: If there is an assault, then, yes, of course that's a crime.

TOOBIN: Are there circumstances when it's OK to body slam someone?

GOOTKIN: There's all sorts of different -- you can run into a million different types of situations where there's two sides to every story and if someone may have pushed someone or something like that, that is why law enforcement has to do a thorough investigation to get both sides of the story, get as much factual information as possible and as much evidence as possible, before deciding to go to the county attorney and requesting charges.

TOOBIN: So at this point, would -- what happens next? Would you just make an arrest or would you go to the county attorney and then they would get an arrest warrant?

GOOTKIN: There's actually a bunch of different things that could possibly happen. If the information and the facts are determined to, for instance, be a misdemeanor, there's many cases that we just issue a citation.

If it could be a felony, then it could possibly be an arrest warrant or criminal summons, but again, that goes through the county attorney's office.

LEMON: So what happens -- Jeffrey, are you done, by the way?

TOOBIN: Yes.

LEMON: OK. So what happens if -- if let's just say, Mr. Gianforte, if it is found that he committed an assault of some -- what does he face?

GOOTKIN: It depends. It just depends. Again, we have to find out from the hospital what that information was. We have to gather up all of the interviews, look at that evidence, and make sure that that's corroborated.

And then if Mr. Gianforte comes in and speaks with us, we have to also add that into -- and then all of that goes into our decision on what we think, if there is a possible criminal charge.

LEMON: OK. Not that we're trying to pressure you, but I just want to -- just for the sake of our audience, and some people may just be joining us, sheriff.

So, then, what happens next with this particular case? You've spoken to -- and I think you said -- you believe you're in the process of speaking to, as you say the alleged victim and the witnesses, so now you have to speak to Mr. Gianforte and his attorney, so then what happens after this? Take us through that. GOOTKIN: Sure. After that, we'll have much better idea if there will

be any charges and if there are, whether or not they're misdemeanor or felony, and that will decide whether or not we just issue a citation for the misdemeanor assault, if that's actually what occurred, or if it's a felony and the county attorney's office decides that.

And I have been in contact with Marty Lambert and I'm confident we'll be visiting first thing in the morning.

LEMON: OK. Sheriff Brian Gootkin of the Gallatin -- of Gallatin County in Montana, sheriff, thank you so much for joining us here on CNN. I appreciate it.

GOOTKIN: All right. You bet.

LEMON: Thank you. So back now to my panel. Ana Navarro, you wanted to say something on the other side of the break and I told you to hold it because we wanted to get the sheriff on the line. You listened to that interview. What are your thoughts?

NAVARRO: Well, you know, first, I kind of got stuck on Jeffrey Toobin's question of, is there an appropriate time in Montana where somebody can body slam somebody else...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I think he is -- I think what he meant is, if you believe you're under assault, correct? If you believe you're...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: Well, look, I mean, to me, Gianforte, you know, made two huge errors -- more than errors, you know, tonight. One was the act itself and another was the way he has reacted to it.

I don't understand when it became the wrong thing to do to admit wrongdoing, to apologize, to say, look, I'm human and I lost my temper.

For a moment there I challenged the ghost of Andre the Giant, instead of trying to make up alternative facts, which seems to be what happens today.

[22:30:04] Maybe I'm old fashioned. I still think temperament, character, and truth telling matters when electing people to Congress. And when electing those that are going to write our laws.

LEMON: Yes.

NAVARRO: But we spent a lot of time before the break and before the sheriff enters you talking about the general ambience that has been created as a result of this election. And I think everything you all said was true.

But I'm also a very strong believer in personal responsibility. It was the personal responsibility of this candidate to carry himself in a way with dignity that his constituents, that his potential voters, potential constituents would feel proud to be represented by him, the way I am proud to be represented by my republican Congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who in 38 years has never made me want to wear a paper bag over my head of embarrassment for having voted for her.

And I also believe in the personal responsibility of voters, who are going to go out and cast a vote tomorrow and tell America whether this is acceptable or not.

LEMON: Yes.

NAVARRO: And so, you know, as much as we want to talk about the general ambience, which is true, I think we also have to look at ourselves as Americans and accept that we have a personal responsibility to this country, to behave in a different way, to behave in a better way.

LEMON: And Ana.

NAVARRO: To behave in a way that, you know, that is consistent with American values.

LEMON: I think you're right. But I think that somehow, in this environment, people believe it's acceptable and maybe, you know, Gianforte believes it's acceptable. Maybe he believes that's what his voters want.

I don't understand what's going on in this particular environment. As I said, I shared a personal story with you guys. If you only knew the number of reporters who have to deal with this on a daily basis, I think the general public would be shocked.

I want to -- stand by, panel. I want to bring in Congressman Tim Ryan, an Ohio democrat. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

TIM RYAN, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: What's your reaction to the events that have unfolded, the interview with the sheriff, and the audio and on and on?

RYAN: You know, it's unbelievable. I'm sitting here listening to your conversation and you came back from break and you kind of re-announced what happened in the story and I'm thinking to myself, this is -- this is unbelievable. That this would -- that we're actually living in an environment, quite frankly, not to be political, but that Donald Trump helped create.

I mean, he would have his crowds turn around and look at all the reporters in the back of the room, and basically say they're the enemy.

And so fast forward a few months after consistently doing that for over a year and then you have a candidate body slam a reporter. I mean, what do you think is going to happen? And it is, it's appalling.

Look, no politician loves to have journalists asking them tough questions. But if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. You certainly don't body slam the guy.

LEMON: Do you think that voters, Congressman, do you think that they're OK with people attacking the media like this? Not only verbally, the way that this president has done repeatedly, but physically in this case?

RYAN: No, of course not. I mean, you know, my wife is an elementary schoolteacher. I mean, what are we teaching our kids here? You know, this is unacceptable behavior.

And I think Ana hit a great point, like, look, we all make mistakes, we all lose our temper, we all say and do things we don't like, but once you do something that you know is wrong, that breaks the basic tenants of civility, you apologize. And you say I'm sorry.

Look, it's the heat of the campaign, kind of like your one guest was saying. It's the night before, this is a special election, polls are tight, looks like the democrat has a chance, at least, to win this raise. I lost my temper and I'm sorry. Period, end of story, turn the page.

LEMON: But don't you think that was -- that was an appropriate question. They were saying that this reporter was asking inappropriate questions. That was a very appropriate question, considering the CBO score for the republican health care bill...

RYAN: Right.

LEMON: ... just came out today. Let me talk to you about that. Because, you know, that's exactly what he was saying, when he was allegedly assaulted. Twenty-three million more uninsured by 2026, compared to Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. It would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion by 2026. What's your reaction to this bill?

RYAN: Well, let me just say quickly, yes, a very fair question, given the fact that the actual election is right around the corner. Say, well, I'll answer that later, you know, well, the election is here. And you have to answer the question.

And I wouldn't want to answer the question, either, if I was supporting a bill that knocked 23 million people off of their health care. And it's going to tell people's moms and grandmas who are in a nursing home that they're no longer going to get help paying for that.

They're going to have to come out of pocket for that. That people that aren't healthy are going to see really high premiums. And that was also in the CBO score, that unhealthy people are going to pay a lot more for their premiums and for their health care.

[22:34:58] I think it's appalling. And I think it's very ironic that the president was with the pope today, while this number came out. The idea of, we're supposed to be our brother's keeper. We're supposed to care about each other. We're supposed to care for the least among us, especially the sick. Make sure they have success to health care and an opportunity to get a job and move along. And that's the thing, don. This is an economic issue as much as it is

a health care issue. If you don't have health care and you get sick and you go to work and you miss a day and then two days and three days, you're going to lose your job.

You know, and you may have health care and your kids may have health care, but if they go sit in a classroom with other kids who don't have health care, your kid is going to get sick.

We're all tied together on this thing. And this decimates the basic compact that we have with each other as citizens and as human beings that we're going to look out for each other, at least with basic health care.

LEMON: I've got to take a break, but if you can quickly, within 10 seconds, considering the story we just did, what do you say to voters in Montana, what do you say to the people in the country about this alleged violence?

RYAN: Well, yes, unacceptable. Do not vote for a candidate who's going to body slam reporters. Rob Quist is a good democratic candidate, very qualified, and doesn't body slam reporters.

So, I mean, you know -- we have enough of that in Washington, D.C., right now. We need level-headed clear-thinking people to help solve the country's problems and help get people back to work. And that's not someone who will body slam a reporter because he asks him a tough question.

LEMON: Well, we have to -- Gianforte has said that he is innocent and he is saying that the reporter -- he's accusing the reporter of assaulting him. Congressman, thank you. I appreciate it.

RYAN: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. When we come right back, more on this breaking news. We'll be right back.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're back now with our breaking news tonight. The alleged assault of a reporter by a republican congressional candidate in Montana.

Plus, President Trump's least-favorite topic, and that's the Russia investigation.

Let's discuss now, CNN political analyst, Carl Bernstein is here. Bill Baker is a former assistant director of the FBI for criminal investigation. And CNN's senior congressional reporter, Manu Raju, joins us.

Manu, I'm going to start with you, before I get to your exclusive reporting about Jeff Sessions, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, you are a reporter every single day. You're on Capitol Hill, chasing down lawmakers. Have you ever received, have you ever seen or heard of a reaction like the one in Montana tonight?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Never, Don. Every day, reporters like me go up to lawmakers in the hallways of the capitol. We interview them, we ask them tough questions. And some don't want to respond to us, some run away from us, some decline to comment. Others engage in the back and forth.

That is very common in the Capitol. And the most -- the closest I got was over this year when I asked Lisa Murkowski, the Alaskan republican senator, her view on the healthcare legislation. And she came and she scolded me for asking her a question twice, got in my face twice, when I was asking her view on the republican health care plan.

But nowhere near what occurred to Ben Jacobs of the Guardian tonight. A really stunning development. And something that Gianforte, if he wins this special election, he's going to have to deal with this on Capitol Hill every day, reporters asking him questions, Don.

LEMON: Yes, why are they -- they're getting really, really touchy about answering questions about the health care plan or health care bill. What's going on, Manu?

RAJU: You know, it depends on the member. I mean, this clearly is a piece of legislation that is not -- is controversial. It's not very popular in a lot of members' districts, not in some states. The senators are actually re-writing the house plan. The party is deeply divided over this issue, a central campaign promise, that they said they would deliver on, dating back from the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. And now this is decision time, for the party.

So it's a tense time on Capitol Hill, where they have to make some key decisions, as they get closer and closer to the midterm elections. And that's going to be harder and harder to deliver on this central campaign promise. And that's one reason why you're seeing some tension. But nothing like we saw in Montana tonight.

LEMON: Yes. Absolutely ridiculous. I said you have some exclusive reporting on Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Can you bring us up to date on what you have?

RAJU: Yes, that's right, Don. The Justice Department acknowledged tonight that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose meetings he had last year with Russian officials when he applied for a security clearance.

And this is the latest example of Sessions not listing contacts he had with Russian officials. Remember, earlier this year he endured very, very sharp criticism from democrats after it was revealed that he did not disclose the same contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Sessions did meet with Kislyak at least two times last year, including at the Republican National Convention, and he didn't include those interactions on the security form, which requires him to, quote, "list any contact" he had with family -- he had or his family had with a foreign government or his represent representatives over the past seven years.

And you'll remember, Don, that Sessions failed to disclose these meetings to the Senate judiciary committee and that has actually led to his recusal from all matters related to the Russian investigation.

LEMON: All right. Stand by, Manu. Carl, how serious is it that Attorney General Jeff Sessions omitted his two meetings with the Russian ambassador on his application for a security clearance?

CARL BERNSTEIN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I think what's serious is, is that the attorney general has repeatedly been untruthful about these matters. And this is the second example of it or the third example.

Clearly, there is a cover-up going on in the Trump administration about whatever it is that has happened with the Russians, whether or not it is somewhat a coincidence that Mr. Sessions has chosen not to divulge this, we'll leave to the investigators.

But what's really significant here and one hopeful sign is that we now have a special prosecutor that is going to look at Jeff Sessions, as part of his investigation.

[22:45:05] I think those of us reporting the story know that the special prosecutor intends to look at Mr. Sessions, partly because he was the national security adviser to the Trump campaign at the time that many of these events allegedly occurred with the Russians.

LEMON: So, Bill, you know Robert Mueller, do you think that this is a cover-up? And if it is, will he get to the bottom of it?

BILL BAKER, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION: Well, look, the special counsel has been selected. The best format for him to perform his duty and he is extremely capable at this, is to have less leaks. These leaks make it very difficult for him to continue his investigation, which he has to do, which the American people want.

So you have a lot of tension going on here. The media, of course, loves leaks. But Bob Mueller doesn't. And this case, this investigation, has to be done thoroughly, and he has the ability to talk to the director of the FBI, the former Director Comey.

He has the ability to sit down with Sessions and say, this happened. There's a whole unit at FBI headquarters that looks at matters that were not listed in that lengthy paper that was leaked. So, there's another side to this.

And Mr. Mueller needs to be able to really go about this in a manner which all of us who know him have seen over the last few years. He's quiet, he's methodical, he's thorough. Let him do his job.

LEMON: Yes. It's interesting that you just that -- what you just said about him, that it would keep him from doing his job, considering the leaks and all of this. Carl, also, the New York Times is reporting the Russians tried to use

then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to influence Donald Trump. I mean, this adds to CNN's reporting that the Russians tried to recruit former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn. How troubling is this?

BERNSTEIN: I don't think it's just a question of troubling. The Times story is a hugely significant story. It's a momentous story in that we now have what a lot of us have known for a while, that much of this investigation is going to focus on Paul Manafort, the manager of the Trump campaign, who had these extensive relationships with -- in the Ukraine, with people connected to Putin's administration in Russia, et cetera.

It doesn't mean that, necessarily, that he's broken any laws. That's what the investigation is for. But what we now have before us is an outline of where these investigations are going and the areas of possible collusion.

Some of the people that might be examined in terms of whether or not there was collusion, Flynn, obviously, Manafort, Carter Page. But as the previous gentleman just said, we do need to wait for the facts to come in before passing judgment over exactly what happened.

But, what we also know from great reporting in the press, is that there is a cover-up going on. We don't know what the cover-up is of, exactly. Why is it that the Trump White House and the president himself...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK, Carl.

BERNSTEIN: ... does not want us to know so many aspects of what happened with the Russians.

LEMON: That's got to be the last word.

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN: But let's wait for the facts.

LEMON: Yes. We have breaking news. Carl, thank you so much. Bill, thank you. Manu, of course, much appreciated, always.

When we come back, we're going to continue with this story. This reporter allegedly assaulted. Eye witnesss are speaking out now. And I'll read a little bit of it.

"At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him." The rest of the story, right now, we won't take a break.

So let's move on now and talk about that. And also a new report tonight on alleged Russian interference in the investigation of Hillary Clinton's e-mails. I want to bring in now Devlin Barrett, a national security reporter

for the Washington Post who broke the story. Also, Stuart Kaplan, he's a former FBI agent, and CNN national security analyst Steve Hall, retired chief of CIA Russian operations.

I'm going to speak with you guys about the Russian story and then we'll move on to our panel and we'll talk about what happened in Montana tonight.

Devlin, you have been -- you have some new reporting tonight about how a, quote -- and this is your quote, "A dubious Russian intelligence document may have influenced then-FBI Director James Comey's actions during the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation last summer." Tell us what you found.

DEVLIN BARRETT, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: So what we found is that over the last few months, various officials have suggested that part of the reason why Comey did what he did over the months around his decisions in the Clinton e-mail investigation was that they had a secret document.

And the secret document made them concerned that attorney -- then- Attorney General Loretta Lynch may be compromised. What we figured out is what that secret document is and there's plenty of reasons to doubt it, because we're told by multiple people that the FBI themselves doubted it.

[22:50:02] They view it as (AUDIO GAP) And so, what we're told is that this was a Russian intelligence analysis document that mentioned an e- mail supposedly among Americans, but it didn't contain the e-mail, itself.

And one of the things that happened is the FBI did not go to ask most of the people mentioned in that document, do you know this person, do you know each other? And when we went and did that, the people said, we don't know them, we don't know what you're talking about, this is absurd.

LEMON: Yes. Stuart, this -- do we have Stuart? We still have Stuart? Does it sound like the Russians were able to not only manipulate our election with the hacking and the fake news stories but they actually manage to penetrate the FBI with fake intelligence?

STUART KAPLAN, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, let me just comment this way. The Russians for a very long time utilized trade craft and part of their trade craft is to put out misinformation.

It would not surprise me, it is done routinely that information is sent via many different channels hopefully to influence or misdirect the FBI and other counterparts that the FBI works with, and so it's nothing unusual.

In fact, you know, my experience would be that it's something that's routinely done in an effort to gain either favor or to just misdirect what the FBI may be doing at that particular time.

LEMON: Fake Russian Intel, does this sound like something the Russians would do, Stuart?

KAPLAN: Yes, I mean, they -- part of their trade craft is misdirection. So this has been something that's what been utilized for many, many years, so if, in fact, this document does exist, if, in fact, it's been authored to mislead or misdirect the FBI, it would be nothing that would be surprising to the FBI.

It would have been properly vetted. They would have tried to authenticate the origin of the document. They would have tried to test the veracity of what was contained in the document. And, again, they don't discount anything that comes through those types of channels until such time as they're able to dismiss it as to have no evidentiary value.

LEMON: Devlin, is it fair to say that this bad Intel created a chain of events to, you know, that was outside of the ordinary? Because people say because of this document, especially democrats, that he's gone against protocol, publicly announcing that he won't recommend charges.

There was also this Bill Clinton/Loretta Lynch tarmac meeting and then, again, publicly announces he ire-opening the investigation days before the election. What do you think about that?

BARRETT: I think if you believe officials' accounts of the importance of the document, then, yes, it was very important and it was -- and it was a, frankly, a thin foundation upon which to make any decisions.

But there is the plane meeting. The plane meeting is still an important part of this, but as officials have defended what the FBI did here, they keep pointing to this document as an important factor in their decisions.

And frankly, when you try to unpack what the document actually says and what you can't substantiate from the document, it seems like a very strange piece of Intel to base, like, really momentum decisions around such as shutting out the attorney general of the United States from your charging decisions.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, gentlemen, I appreciate it. I appreciate you joining us here on CNN tonight.

OK. Let's get back to our breaking news tonight. The alleged assault of a reporter by a republican congressional candidate in Montana.

Let's discuss now with CNN political commentators, Ana Navarro, Paris Dennard, and Alice Stewart as well as CNN contributor Jason Kander.

So let's talk about this breaking news, Ana. You and I have been discussing this just moments ago. You heard what the sheriff said. The reporter, as the sheriff says, the alleged victim, is being interviewed right now. What does this say to you? What do you think happened in that room?

NAVARRO: I have no idea, but I did just read a piece that was put on Twitter and I tweeted it out by an eyewitness who happened to be a Fox News reporter who's got a line in what she tells where she says, you know, that they watched in disbelief as Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck and slammed him into the ground behind them. So, that's really...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let me read it for you, Ana, and then you can respond to it. She said, the reporter said, and this is again, from a Fox News crew says, "At that point Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man as he moved on to the reporter -- on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of I am sick and tired of this. Jacob scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith, and myself for our names in shock, we did not answer."

[22:55:02] "He said he wanted the police called and went to leave. Gianforte looked to the three of us and reported -- repeatedly apologized and that point I told him and Scanlon who was now present that we needed a moment and then the men then left."

So, her account sounds a lot like what we heard on the tape, not like the statement they put out.

NAVARRO: Right. We've got her account. We also heard on TV the account of the BuzzFeed reporter who was able to watch some of it and we've got the audio. So there's a lot of corroborating evidence for the reporter's story and the way he's telling it.

It's going to for the sheriff, the law enforcement authorities in Montana to figure it out and investigate. It's going to be for the voters of Montana to make a judgment.

But I think for those of us reading it and hearing it, the conclusion we've forgot to reach is that there was some form of assault. This guy lost his temper, completely flew off the handle.

LEMON: I want to...

NAVARRO: And instead of accepting his mistake, is trying to make up some stupid story.

LEMON: I want to get at the rest of the panel in. Alice, what do you think of this?

ALICE STEWART, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, let me just say first, I haven't seen the video. I've heard the audio. It is disturbing. I know Ben. I've work with him on numerous occasions out in the field on numerous occasions and he's one of the more mild- mannered reporters out there, very kind, very generous person.

And at times he's asked some questions we may not want to answer. But based on what we're hearing in the audiotape, it just sounds as though this -- like this person running for office went overboard and it sounds as though he took his anger out on Ben in an inappropriate manner. We don't know.

Obviously this is under investigation. There's a lot that needs to be looked at. Many questions that need to be answered.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And they are cooperating.

STEWART: Yes.

LEMON: They are cooperating with local authorities and I said and this account, again, from a Fox News crew. "To be clear, at no point did any of us who witness this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff's deputies."

Jason Kander, what do you think?

JASON KANDER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I think it's pretty clear he didn't do anything aggressive. He asked him a question. You can't hit people, you can't assault people. Not just when you're running for office. You just can't do that.

I have a son who's almost 4. You know, we tell him that he can't hit people. So I think the same standard should be applied to everybody else. In society. I think it should be applied to this gentleman and I think that if in fact he did assault him...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Why is this happening now, Jason?

KANDER: You know, clearly there's something in the vitriol, there's vitriol in this political environment but let's be really clear, Don, that should in no way excuse the behavior of this gentleman. If he in fact assaulted this young man, then he should be charged. It's that simple.

LEMON: Yes. Paris, what do you think?

PARIS DENNARD, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Yes, Don, you made a very good point in the question that you asked is why is this happening right now? There's a hilarious movie called "The Election" in where, you know, the candidate is doing crazy -- saying crazy things, he's doing crazy things.

LEMON: You don't think it's because of guy who's in office now has said very horrible things about reporters...

DENNARD: No.

LEMON: ... and has said that the reporters are the enemy of the American people?

DENNARD: No, Don. LEMON: That has nothing to do with anything? That people feel they

can get away with it? Because I don't believe that you actually believe that. There's no way you can't -- there's no way you believe what you're saying if you don't think that's true.

NAVARRO: He believes it.

DENNARD: Well, actually I didn't get a chance to say anything but I will tell you know what I think. And that is that what we have right now is a ground swelling of people who are not being respectful, who are not acting civil and people who are just saying things that are inappropriate and people are...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Why do you think that is? After a country that is, you know, hundreds of years old, where we don't have incidents like this for the most part...

DENNARD: Well, I don't -- I don't -- I don't know.

LEMON: ... and all of a sudden we're having incidents like this now. You don't think -- you think it's just a coincidence?

DENNARD: No, I think if we go back and look at history, we can see that especially in this country, we have had a lot of instances of violence with politicians and people going back and forth.

But my point is this, Don, we have an issue going on right now where people think they can do anything with their fist and with their hands like this candidate did, and we have people who think they can say...

LEMON: OK.

DENNARD: ... anything that they want to as well. They are both wrong and we have to...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And you don't -- you don't -- come on, Paris, you don't think it has anything to do with someone saying...

(CROSSTALK)

DENNARD: Don, if you're trying to make a connection or correlation between...

LEMON: I'm not trying. I'm telling you, I'm telling you I am. I'm not trying.

DENNARD: ... with that...

LEMON: I'm just saying I can't believe that you believe the words that are coming out of your mouth.

DENNARD: I do. LEMON: Because...

(CROSSTALK)

DENNARD: And you clearly don't understand the words that are coming out of my mouth.

LEMON: ... in most saying people -- I do understand. I don't think -- I know that you don't believe that.

DENNARD: Most Americans do not believe...

LEMON: You're obviously on television saying that because you feel that you have to defend everything about this particular person in office. If you actually sit there...

(CROSSTALK)

DENNARD: What particular person? What does Donald Trump have anything to do with what this candidate did? Let's hold this candidate responsible...

LEMON: Reporters, there are fake people back there, they're horrible people, they are enemy of the American people. If you think that doesn't have anything to do with it, then you're sadly, sadly mistaken, my friend. Good night, everyone.

DENNARD: Well, then call me sadly and mistaken. But you are...

(CROSSTALK)

[22:59:59] LEMON: Right. I just did. Thank you. Good night, everybody.