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CNN TONIGHT

Video Emerges of Trump Meeting with Russians Involved in Son's Email Scandal. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 12, 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] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: CNN Tonight. I'll see you tomorrow.

DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: The president likes to call the Russia investigation fake news. Well, Mr. President, there is nothing fake about this. Exclusive video obtained by CNN shot in Las Vegas. This is on June 15th, 2013, the night before the Miss USA pageant owned, at the time, by Donald Trump.

Showing the future president at a dinner with Aras Agalarov, a billionaire with ties to Vladimir Putin and his son, Emin, a Russian pop star. Also at the dinner, their publicist, Rob Goldstone, who, by the way was a judge at the pageant. Yes, that Rob Goldstone, the very same man who set up that infamous meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and a Russian lawyer.

The one that blew up in the face of the White House this week. The meeting laid out in black and white in e-mails released yesterday by the president's own son and namesake, e-mails showing the Trump team was ready and willing to work with the Russians to hurt Hillary Clinton and to help Donald Trump.

But the president tried to tell you today, it's not black and white. It's fake news, a witch hunt. So if black and white was not enough, here they are in living color. Everyone looks pretty chummy, don't they?

Let's take a closer look, a little closer here. Right there is Michael Cohen, the man insider he's called president's pit bull, Donald Trump's personal attorney who now has a lawyer himself and who says he will testify before investigators.

Wining and ding with this family few of us had ever heard of until now, but the president had. Listen to what he said the night after this dinner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are the most powerful people in Russia, the richest men in Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Well, he said the most powerful, not quite the most powerful.

Case in point. But certainly one of the most connected we should say. That very night the future president of the United States announced he was bringing an even bigger event to Moscow, the Miss Universe pageant.

The Agalarovs paying nearly $20 million to license it. The president pretty stoked tweeting later that week, "Do you think Putin will be going to the Miss Universe pageant in November in Moscow? If so, will he become my new best friend?"

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Let's get started. CNN global affairs analyst David Rohde is here, chief political correspondent Dana Bash, and senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson. Good evening to all of you. You can't make this stuff up.

David, in living color, what do you think of that CNN exclusive video and everyone who is in it who the first family says that they don't really know that well but they hang out with, it seems like some, or maybe a lot.

DAVID ROHDE, GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, CNN: Look, at best what this is, is an intention ever to distract, to sort of make all this sort of, you know, wild accusation, wild denials to sort of change the tone of the story. But I don't understand it. They dig deeper and deeper, you know, today at the White House press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying that this White House has done its best to be completely transparent.

You know, it's again, maybe it's a distraction, you know, and we'll see, you know, what the American public thinks and voters thinks, but they keep doubling down on the strategy and I'm not sure it's working.

LEMON: Maybe Nia, if they want to be completely transparent, they would have the White House briefings as they traditionally are on camera at least, you know, a couple times a week. All of the ones they have are on camera.

But listen, I want to play something for you because the president is fighting back against this Russia story that has engulfed on Washington and his family. He continues to call it a witch hunt despite some -- even his staunch of supporters like Congressman Trey Gowdy or his nominee for the FBI director, we saw that today, Christopher Wray taking a different view. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TREY GOWDY, (R) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Here we are beginning another wee week, this one in July, with a new revelation about Russia. And then the third, which is more of a medical issue, is the amnesia of people that are in the Trump orbit.

Someone close to the president needs to get everyone connected with that campaign in a room and say from the time you saw Dr. Zhivago until the moment you -- until the moment you drank vodka with a guy named Boris, you list every single one of those and we're going to turn them over to the special counsel because this drip, drip, drip is undermining the credibility of this administration.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI NOMINEE: I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. That was Trey Gowdy. I mean, Nia, he led the Benghazi hearings and investigations. He's out here saying, guess what, this is not a witch hunt.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, CNN: Yes. And he's saying someone close to this president and someone connected to this president needs to get everybody in a room and get this all out in the open. The problem with that is that the person who could do that probably most likely would be Donald Trump himself, the President.

But the president, of course, insists that this is a witch hunt, that Robert Mueller is on, that it's essentially an illegitimate inquiry into something he denies ever happened, any sort of collusion or connection with the Russians.

[22:05:10] So that's probably not going to happen. I mean, sort of the messaging from this White House is very much top down messaging. It's been consistent, it's been all about witch hunts and fake news and hoaxes from the democrats. That has been their insistence all along.

But you do, I think for Trey Gowdy is essentially voicing what republicans say privately, right, this frustration with this drip, drip, drip out of this White House with no real strategy, with no real kind of proactive approach to what is going on in terms of this Russia story, and it's hobbling their, if not their agenda then certainly their ability to drive a message.

They'll figure out independently what they're going to do with health care, what they're going to do with tax reform if they're going to have a vote on any of those things. But in terms of being able to brand this party as competent and giving any sort of messaging to Americans, that makes the party and the president's agenda looks good, they're not able to do that with this Russia cloud.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: The White House is, yes, the White House is doing it quite the opposite.

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Right.

LEMON: And that, you know, Nia, what you're talking about republicans that's outside the White House and Dana, I hear you're agreeing. But inside the White House, I mean, the president's loyal foot soldiers defending the president and his family. Deputy assistant to the president, Sebastian Gorka spoke to Anderson earlier tonight. Watch this, Dana. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEBASTIAN GORKA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know why the president's discretion of the witch hunt is accurate, because there never were any witches, and there never was any collusion. It's bogus. The DNC -- the DNC...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I just want to -- you're claiming that Donald Trump Jr. was transparent from the get-go.

GORKA: Donald Trump Jr. is transparent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: OK. Dana?

BASH: Well, you know, we don't know if there will be a witch at the end of the day in this, to continue on his analogy.

LEMON: He's never seen a witch, he's never been in Louisiana, I'm just saying, you know, I grew up there.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Or Delaware.

LEMON: I can tell you there are some witches. But go on.

BASH: But look, I mean, at the end of the day, this is their message, this is their deflection, this is their -- the way that they're continuing to sort of stoke the base of their party because this worked for the president, then-candidate, in the primaries, in the republican primaries.

It worked for him, excuse me, mostly in the general election, and he didn't just win with kind of the base of the party at that point, he won with a lot of people who were just sort of sick of politics as usual in Washington. So that is, I'm not saying it's going to work now, but I'm just saying that is the lesson from which he has taken how to deal with things that confront him as a politician.

LEMON: Yes.

BASH: And so the difference is this is not, you know, Access Hollywood, a tape like that, this is the President of the United States in an actual FBI investigation. I mean, if he thinks this is a witch hunt, then he should take it up with the FBI, take it up with the Justice Department and the deputy attorney general whom the president himself appointed who then said there needs to be a special counsel.

LEMON: Yes.

BASH: So that is the reality of this. And you know what, going back to my original point, the messaging of this, calling it a witch hunt, blaming the media, deflecting saying, what about the DNC, that is not going to change. That is their M.O. because it is fundamentally what the president believes, that this whole thing is about trying to delegitimize his election to the White House and everything stems from there.

LEMON: Oh, boy. OK. Well, let's move on. So you guys you know about that there's been lots of criticism from the president's supporters saying, you know, President Obama said, "cut it out," and that was that he wasn't strong enough with Vladimir Putin.

But I'm wondering, David, what the difference is between cut it out and I said, did you do it. Because this is what he said. He told Reuters, he also told Reuters that his first 20, 25 minutes of this controversial G20 meeting with Vladimir Putin that was on the subject of election meddling, it went like this.

He said, "I said, did you do it? And he said no, absolutely not. Absolutely not. I then asked him a second time in a totally different way. He said, absolutely not."

So, is he taking Putin's word over his own intelligence officials here in the United States?

ROHDE: I mean, it sounds like he does. This is just back to the confusion, you know, when he proposes that they're going to create this impenetrable, you know, cyber security unit with the Russians who American intelligence agencies y say are the biggest offenders in terms of a state backing, you know, hacking in the U.S. election but just hacking in general.

[22:10:06] So, the story keeps changing. And I agree with Dana. This is a tactic and it works with his base, but whether he's talking about did he threaten Vladimir Putin or any fact he changes his...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But that doesn't even sound like a cut it out, right?

ROHDE: No.

LEMON: Let's say that the former president did say "cut it out." And that this is accurate that he say, did you do it? Absolutely not. What was his response? You're lying? OK, brother, I believe you, good. Then, what?

ROHDE: But the initial description the meaning was that he said, let me get this out of the way. I want to talk about this first. That's not like -- that's not like a warning from the president of the most powerful nation on earth.

LEMON: Yes.

ROHDE: To another head of state. You know, this is deadly serious and it just seems like he was sort of trying to get it out of the way and again, we just get constantly different descriptions of basic events, basic statements from basic facts from this White House.

LEMON: Yes. This is a little bit I want to play for you. This is the Christian Broadcasting Network. The president sat down for an interview with the CBN, the Christian Broadcasting Network. And incredibly he is still denying that Russia wanted to help him despite his son's crystal clear e-mail exchange, you know, the one that says the government support for your father. He says Putin preferred Hillary Clinton. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're the most powerful country in the world, and we are getting more and more powerful because I'm a big military person. As an example, if Hillary had won, our military would be decimated. Our energy would be much more expensive. That's what Putin doesn't like about me, and that's why I say, why would he want me?

Because from day one I wanted a strong military. He doesn't want to see that. There are many things that I do that are exact opposite of what he would want.

So when I keep hearing about that, he would have rather had Trump, I think probably not because when I want a strong military, you know she wouldn't have spent the money on the military. But when I want a strong military and when I want tremendous energy, we're opening up coal, we're opening up natural gas, we're opening up fracking, all the things that he would hate, but nobody ever mentions that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, but just a couple things there. He's big military, right? He said his big military. Most of people in charge of those intelligence agencies that said Russia meddled in our election, they're what, they're generals. They're military.

So, Nia, you know, all this anger over Russia calling this this thing a witch hunt, continually pointing his finger at Hillary Clinton. What's going on here?

HENDERSON: Yes, I mean, I think it's just distraction in deflection, and we heard it from Sarah Huckabee Sanders today when she was asked about a collusion. She turned to the DNC in this whole notion about the DNC or an aide from the DNC talking to the Ukrainian embassy and maybe giving some of that information to the Hillary Clinton campaign.

So this is what they do. And this is, you know, as Dana talked about, this is the base strategy and this is what we've seen from this White House from day one in terms of where they want to rally support, where the president feels comfortable. It's essentially the same that we saw him on the campaign trail all those many months.

So that's what they're going -- that's what they're going to do. They always need some sort of -- I mean, they need to be the victim and they need to point the finger at someone else, and sometimes it's Obama, oftentimes it's Hillary Clinton.

LEMON: Dana, what did you want to say?

BASH: Well, I was just going to say actually I was pretty struck by that argument from the president on why Vladimir Putin would have actually preferred Hillary Clinton. Putting aside all of the sort of, you know, evidence based on the intelligence community that the Trump campaign -- excuse me, the Russians actually wanted to help the Trump campaign just because they despised and Vladimir Putin despised Hillary Clinton so much.

Just on through the raw politics and the messaging in this. This was a new line from the president, and I thought it was fascinating, and it's kind of -- it dovetails with the whole thing that he said on the campaign trail. We're going to have a strong military and we're going to -- we're going to deal with energy.

What's missing from that argument in terms of who Vladimir Putin would want better is human rights, is, you know, threatening to expand NATO, what about him, Vladimir Putin, trying to unsuccessfully expanding to Crimea and elsewhere. So there are other things that Vladimir Putin would be much more upset about if Hillary Clinton were in the White House.

LEMON: OK. Quickly, David. I need to run.

ROHDE: Just 90, I believe it's 96 or 98 senators voted for tougher sanctions against Russia to punish them for the election meddling. The Trump White House has stopped that process in the House. Watch what they do. They're holding up tougher sanctions on Russia, period.

LEMON: It's very -- it's very easy, especially if you don't have to be a P.R. strategist to realize that they need an enemy. So, either enemy is the press whenever it's convenient, or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

ROHDE: Well, it's not Russia. Based on their policies and actions, it is not Vladimir Putin.

[22:14:59] LEMON: Yes. It can't be, because as everyone has said here, he believes it undermines his win as President of the United States.

Thank you. I appreciate it.

BASH: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, the story and the strategy behind this photo. There it is. Why President Trump had a prayer meeting with a group of Evangelical pastors in the Oval Office.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Tonight President Trump saying that he only learned a few days ago about his son Don Jr.'s controversial June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer.

So let's discuss that now. Frank Bruni is here, New York Times op-ed columnist. Good to see you, sir.

FRANK BRUNI, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Good to be here.

LEMON: I read your column yesterday and I was like, my gosh, why don't you tell us how you really feel. I mean, it was a fascinating column in the New York Times and it was called "Mini-Donald's Major Fail." Where you said that Donald Trump Jr.'s sharing, the sharing of an e-mail between him and Robert Goldstone with the press, was a very bad move.

In the article here's what you said. "It was for my money the most jaw-dropping development yet in an already surreal presidency."

BRUNI: Absolutely.

LEMON: Why did it change, why was it so jaw-dropping?

BRUNI: Well, I mean, for starters one of the things I was referring to there is the fact that we got these e-mails through Twitter. We're all sitting there yesterday morning and all of a sudden Don Jr. tweets out, he says, here are the e-mails. And you think, wow, they're going to exonerate him in some way and they're going to prove that the New York Times reporting was wrong.

No, they proved that our reporting was absolutely correct. They were unbelievably self-incriminating e-mails. It's clear why he released. He was thinking if I get a step ahead of the Times publishing them I will at least look less like I have something to hide.

[22:20:05] But I mean, that was a stunning. In the span of just a couple minutes they're on Twitter stunning sequence of events.

LEMON: Yes. It was interesting because we were having an editorial meeting and someone said, Donald Trump Jr. has release the e-mails. And then just a half a second later the alert from the New York Times came out and as I read a fully, you know, written article, I said, he must have been trying to get in front of the Times story.

BRUNI: Right. Absolutely. But the moment you heard he released the e- mails, did you think, well, maybe they're not so bad then?

LEMON: No, but as I read them I was like, why would he release this?

BRUNI: They're terrible, yes, right.

LEMON: So, but I mean, I guess he had no choice if the New York Times is going to -- let's read more on your article, OK? You also say this about the e-mail controversy.

"This erodes whatever credibility President Trump and those in his inner circle had left, which wasn't much. Adamantly and incessantly, they have characterized questions about the Trump campaign's possible cooperation with Russia as ludicrous, a witch hunt, in their preferred parlance. And yet, here in a document showing that the notion of such a concerted effort was dangled before the eyes of Trump's eldest son."

BRUNI: Right.

LEMON: "Fake news and witch hunt." Right? That's what they have been calling it. Is this going to fly, is this going to continue to fly? Because he brought this on himself.

BRUNI: No, I think -- I think they're really in bad streets right now. I mean, to go back to your network there's that moment it's been played a lot. We embedded it online in my column where Jake Tapper, in July, a month after this meeting. This meeting that was taken after the person offering the meeting said information incriminating to Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

A month later, Don Jr. is on CNN talking to Jake Tapper saying, that this is so phony, so disgusting, the mere notion that there could be any effort from the Russian government and that the Trump campaign could be aware that they're involve in it.

Had he forgotten that e-mail chain? Had he forgotten that meeting which was disappointing because there was no dirt? I mean, he was taking such offense, he was showing such outrage, and we know now in retrospect pure, pure theater.

LEMON: Because if it was it wasn't such a big deal as he said and it was nothing, why would he invite Jared Kushner and then Paul Manafort that ...

(CROSSTALK)

BRUNI: Why didn't Jared Kushner not mention it when he was getting his security clearance? There are so many questions here, and that's important because we've not come to the summit. This is going on and on.

And we're six months into this administration, and there is nothing I see that suggests to me that six months from now, at the year mark, we're not still going to be rummaging through all this. They cannot get this behind them and that means they can't move forward to do any of those things that one is supposed to do when one's governing.

LEMON: Yes. So listen, speaking of transparency and my show is on in the evening well after the White House briefing has taken place. And I can only imagine for journalists who are on the air at that point, it would be so frustrating to me because it seems like, one, they're trying to hide something. Two, we've gone back to the dark ages where we got to turn the videotape and the film around, so everybody stand by. We don't live in that era anymore.

BRUNI: No.

LEMON: Right. You can broadcast it out which traditionally they have done. But CNN has been reporting, our reports show that since June 1st, they have banned cameras for the White House briefing more than they have allowed cameras to roll during the White House briefing. And then during this off-camera briefing today, this is Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Every day we do our very best to give you the most accurate information that we have. Our goal is to be as transparent as humanly possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Were you a White House correspondent for a short time?

BRUNI: I was.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Is this transparency?

BRUNI: No, and I listen to do that when you first broadcast it earlier today, and I obviously read the introduction that Don Jr. put on Twitter to the e-mail, saying this was my effort to be transparent. And I have been living my whole life with the wrong dictionaries because I misunderstood the word transparent in its entirety.

I thought it meant you were really telling the truth, that you were showing people everything you had to show, that you were hiding nothing. Don Jr. used that word transparent after days of shifting explanations about what that meeting was about. This administration has completely cheapened language to the point where it doesn't have any weight anymore. Transparency is not what we've gotten.

LEMON: So let's talk about, so let's talk about the messaging here and the effort to change the messaging and to appeal to the base. I want to ask you if this is about appealing to the base, because they put this out today. This is over a group of Evangelical pastors, it's a photo, if we can put that up.

It's been making the rounds on the internet. I wonder what you think of the strategy behind this, because it comes right as he did the interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network and a slew of only Fox News interviews. What do you think?

BRUNI: This is Donald Trump trying to appeal to and shore up his base. His base is really all he has at this point. It has been -- it has been weeks, months now, where if you look at his approval ratings, he's lost or is rapidly losing the last of the people in the middle of the people on the fence.

And so the way this administration is talking, the way they're governing the images they're putting out, it's entirely about holding on to that base and hoping that that base's fervor will overcome the fact that it's not nearly 50 percent of the American public.

[22:25:01] LEMON: It's interesting because they like to talk about ratings and that sort of thing, and I wonder if they've seen their own ratings.

BRUNI: Sure, they have.

LEMON: What would you rather have? You know, they say, CNN, you're somewhat 10th and 13th. I'd rather be 87 percent than 36 percent.

BRUNI: He sees his ratings but I honestly believe Donald Trump always lives in this sort of self-validating bubble where there is always an explanation that has nothing to do.

LEMON: With anything.

BRUNI: With anything that he's at fault for.

LEMON: Thank you, sir. Always a pleasure.

Just ahead, our republican source telling CNN the White House is paralyze with reports of finger pointing and blaming among staffers. The president out of sight this week, his mood ranging from furious to frustrated. Is even the vice president taking a step back from his boss? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Revelations about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer last year leaving the Trump administration in turmoil. Paralyzed, a source tells CNN. Well, tonight we're going to look at how this bombshell is impacting the president and the people close to him, his family, and his staff.

And before leaving tonight, before Paris, the president was out of sight for four days, huddling with top staffers. His mood said to range from defiant to furious to frustrated.

I want to bring in now Ron Klain, he's a former chief of staff to vice president -- Vice President Joe Biden and Al Gore, and Mike Shields, CNN political commentator and former chief of staff to Reince Priebus at the RNC, and Peter Wehner, a former adviser to President George W. Bush who worked in the last three republican administrations.

[22:30:07] Good evening, gentlemen. I'm so glad to have you all on.

Peter, I'm going to start with you, because the New York Times just publish -- just published another article on this troublesome meeting with the...

HERE

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[22:30:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: ... President George W. Bush who worked in the last three republican administrations.

Good evening, gentlemen. I'm so glad to have you all on.

Peter, I'm going to start with you, because the New York Times just publish -- just published another article on this troublesome meeting with the Russian lawyer, and I want to read a bit of it and get your response.

It says, "Also under scrutiny is how forthcoming Mr. Kushner was with his father-in-law about the nature of the June meeting. He met with Mr. Trump to discuss the issue around the time the e-mails setting up the meeting were discovered, according to advisers to the White House and Mr. Kushner. And Mr. Kushner updated his federal disclosure form to include Ms. Veselnitskaya's name on a list of foreign contacts he was required to submit to the FBI to obtain a security clearance. Mr. Kushner downplayed the significance of the meeting and admitted to details according to two people who were briefed on the exchange."

He said, "Mr. Kushner informed the President that he had met with a foreign, a Russian foreign national, and that while he had to report the name, it would not cause a problem for the administration. Another official said Mr. Kushner's assurance to the President was based on the fact that nothing came of the June meeting."

Did he mislead the President? What do you make of that?

PETER WEHNER, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, he may well have misled the President. The question is, how big has been obviously with Watergate, what did the president know and when did he know it? But that's not the only question. The question is also what did top White House people and Trump administration people and family members know as well?

But look, this is a scandal that's consuming the White House, and we have now built a bridge, and that bridge went from the concerning allegation of collusion to the de facto prima fascia evidence of collusion. That's extremely serious.

I mean, when you're talking with a hostile foreign power to support an American election we know what happened. Now the question is how much more happened? I suspect there is a tremendous amount here and we're just beginning to pull on the thread. Eventually the sweater is going to come apart. So this is a huge deal for the White House, and I'm sure it's creating tremendous problems within the White House and the staff.

LEMON: Because I want to ask you, because this is around the time the e-mails were discovered. Does this contradict what the President said? Because the President is saying, I only learned about it just a few days ago. It appears to be a contradiction. Am I reading that wrong?

WEHNER: No. I think -- I think that's right, but of course finding out that Donald Trump is a liar is like saying that the sunrises in the east and sets in the west. I mean, that happens all the time.

But look, I assume that Donald Trump knows an enormous amount that went on here. His, all of the data points that are coming out, there are now probably a dozen and a half, what is the common denominator on all of them? They're all centered on Russia and there is just a lot more here. We don't know yet what's all here but the Russians do.

LEMON: OK.

WEHNER: And I think eventually Robert Mueller will know and then so will the rest of us.

LEMON: Ron, what do you think the fallout will be from all of this?

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENTS JOE BIDEN & AL GORE: Well, I think the fallout is going to be very significant. I mean, right now as the New York Times said you got a White House with a tremendous amount of in-fighting and you saw this weekend White House staffers telling people that Donald Trump himself had signed off on Donald Jr.'s first erroneous statement, the thing you just reported that basically has the White House reading out a private conversation between Jared Kushner and Donald Trump.

I think to work in a White House where you have staffers ratting out other staffers, people reporting these very, very controversial and significant things including private conversations with the president, that has to have everyone on pins and needles.

LEMON: I was just going to say watching our own air last night, I think to Jake Tapper and Jay Sekulow denied that the president has signed off and it came from Donald Jr.'s attorneys. I'm just saying that's what I heard in our air.

KLAIN: Yes.

LEMON: That's their explanation for it. Mike, what's your reaction to this?

MIKE SHIELDS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, look, first of all, I disagree with whoever said the White House is paralyzed on this. You have private lawyers that are taking care of these private issues so that the rest of the White House can get down and do in their job. And their job is the buzz on Capitol Hill today is that the Senate health care bill looks like it's back moving forward.

You know, The house health care bill got passed in the middle of all this stuff and it still went on. With the President just negotiated a ceasefire in Syria in those largest hot spot in the world. We have record employment in the country right now.

We see that 500 V.A. people have been fired for misconduct out of the V.A. Eighty seven nominations just got sent up to the Senate in the month of June alone. So the White House is doing its job.

So in the meantime there is this issue of absolutely zero evidence, actual evidence of a collusion whatsoever and a lot of stories that keep coming up about Russia this, Russia that without any actual evidence of it.

So I think it is difficult for the White House to keep focus sometimes when there is a constant drumbeat of zero evidence but stories in the media, but somehow they're managing to do it and they seem to be doing a pretty good job of it.

LEMON: Listen, I got to be honest with you, Mike, when you read a laundry list like that, it may, you know, you may be misleading viewers and people watching because in all of that even though the health care has not resulted in any actual legislation. [22:35:05] The White House is behind on filling key positions. So those 87 positions that you mentioned from most people's account would be late. Its six months into it.

SHIELDS: Well, this White House has faced obstruction by the democrats and their nominees unlike anyone in history before. I mean is they're doing their job and they're not paralyzed by this. They're actually...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Mike, you don't think the Obama administration faced the same thing with people openly saying...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: With a filibuster.

LEMON: ... we're going to make him a one-term President? Every White House feels they're facing...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Well, exactly. You can look it up. You can actually look up the facts on this one, Don.

LEMON: But don't you think every White House feels that they're facing opposition like that? That's part of the job.

SHIELDS: Sure. But you can't say...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But how can you feel like you're facing opposition when you have a republican Senate and a republican Congress...

SHIELDS: Well, Obama had -- Obama had a democratic Senate and a democratic House in the first two years when he was filling his cabinet, and the point I'm making is you can't say he's not getting his job done and that he hasn't filled key positions and ignore the actual historical fact that can be researched that this President is facing obstruction unlike any that have ever been before when it comes to the timing of how things are getting through the Senate. Those are just facts that I'm putting out there.

LEMON: Yes. I don't -- I have to fact-check that.

SHIELDS: Yes.

LEMON: I don't think it's any -- I would probably think that it's not -- this is just me saying -- no different than any other administration. But go on, Peter, you wanted to weigh in?

SHIELDS: Well, Don, I...

(CROSSTALK) WEHNER: I just wanted to weigh in on this issue of collusion saying that there is no evidence other than an e-mail to Donald Trump Jr. I mean, that is, on the face of it, an effort...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Where is the collusion in that e-mail? Explain to me where the collusion in the e-mail. There is an attempt of someone giving him information and then nothing happened. So an action has to have taken place for there to have been collusion, and this type of reaching a conclusion by people in the media is exactly what the problem is. There actually was no evidence of collusion. There is an e-mail, there is something to be investigated.

WEHNER: No.

SHIELDS: Donald Trump Jr. said he would go testify.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Mike, I think you're right. I think you're right that people shouldn't jump to conclusions but we don't know what the outcome of that meeting was. So you don't know if there was...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Then we should say we don't know and that's fine. I have no issue with saying we don't know. But we just saying there is collusion, there's evidence of it, that's just, you're now putting stuff out there that's not correct to the public.

WEHNER: You can filibuster an argument but you can't make it. And here is what we know what happened, which is there is an e-mail in which Donald Trump Jr. received information that the Russian government, a hostile government, had dirt on Hillary Clinton and that's the reason that he met and he pulled in two of the highest ranking people.

The fact the information wasn't given doesn't mean collusion didn't take place. That's the reason that Donald Trump Jr. -- wait, wait. The reason Donald Trump Jr. agreed to it is precisely because he thought that a hostile foreign country would give information that would serve them in an election. That is there was the relationship, and if you think that this is the only meeting that took place, you're naive about that.

LEMON: He did say that it was a waste of time because there was nothing in it so he thought he was going to get something out of it.

KLAIN: Well, you know, that's what he says. By the way, he's also changed his story about the meeting three times, and so, you know, I think we need to see more about what happened.

LEMON: But what I'm saying is we do know he's going to get dirt and he didn't get any dirt. And so he says because of...

(CROSSTALK)

KLAIN: Well, we don't know they didn't get any dirt, Don.

LEMON: No, no, listen. You're arguing something that I'm not arguing. And because he didn't, he's saying that the meeting was nothing and that nothing -- but it doesn't matter, the intention was the same whether something came out of it or not. That's what I'm saying.

KLAIN: Yes. I mean, both the intention was bad and something may have come out of it. A few days later, Donald Trump gave a speech saying he would have a bunch of dirt on Hillary Clinton to announce, and then he started calling on the Russians to release the e-mails, and then obviously WikiLeaks did.

So, you have a lot of things happened here, and one place where I agree with Mike, there is a lot left to be known, but what we do know is Donald Trump Jr. took a meeting that was proposed to him to have information from the Russian government come to the Trump campaign. He said, "I love it," so you know, that's a pretty bad fact.

And now there are more facts that need to come out over the course of this thing. And back to your other point, Don, the Trump administration is certainly un-delivering. They promised by 100 days there would be a health care bill, there would be an infrastructure bill, there would be tax bill, there would be an outsourcing bill, there would be a child care bill, and none of those things have passed. Most of them haven't even been sent to Congress yet.

So they are way behind in their work and this is one of many reasons. Again, they have the choice to send these things to Congress. If they're not even sending them up there, they really can't blame that on the democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But to Mike's point, Mike said he's facing obstruction unlike any other administration or president has. Mike, go on.

SHIELDS: Well, I was specifically referring there to his nominees. My point was that there are 87 nominees that went up in June alone. But look, this we have record employment in the country. The administration is doing the things that it's supposed to be doing, focused on the economy, slashing regulations that have been hugely, hugely helpful to this economy even while they're facing this sort of this narrative out there that there is a problem, that there has been zero evidence presented anywhere.

[22:39:59] And that the administration has said they will comply and will actually speak in hearings and testify in. So, you know, I'm only delivering what I believe -- people can go look on the internet and see there are facts about what the administration has accomplished.

We have the highest unemployment literally by the number of more people are employed in the country right now than ever before.

WEHNER: Mike, is there anything -- is there anything about the e-mail that took place that Donald Trump Jr. received? Anything that bothers you about that?

SHIELDS: Well, he said himself he wouldn't do it. I mean, obviously...

(CROSSTALK)

WEHNER: And why, what bothers you about it?

SHIELDS: Look, let me try and explain something to all the viewers out there. I'm going to answer your question.

WEHNER: OK. Go ahead.

SHIELDS: I had a front row seat to the campaign. I didn't work on the campaign. And I may offend a few people that worked on the campaign by saying this. The Trump campaign could barely collude with the RNC. The Trump campaign was run by one person, Donald Trump. He was the strategist, he was the communications director, he was the campaign manager, and he won the election from his charisma and his vision and his message. There was a lot of sloppiness that went on the campaign. I believe that Russia was trying to do...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So you're saying -- what you're saying they're incompetent, Mike?

SHIELDS: I'm saying that the campaign was a person unlike any campaign you've ever seen before.

LEMON: So if it was a person...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: And so, that you...

LEMON: Wouldn't that person know about the meetings?

SHIELDS: No, because it's not as if this campaign had the proper bureaucracy that looked like exactly other campaigns with an org chart. I mean, when those three people went to this meeting, they were probably like 10 percent of the senior staff of the entire campaign at the time.

And so I think that for the Russians to have colluded, I believe they would have had to have come, set up a leadership structure inside the campaign and created this grand conspiracy and then colluded with that group of people that wanted to talk back to them.

LEMON: I mean, I ask you about the copy.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: To think that that would be possible...

LEMON: But it sounds like you're saying they were incompetent. But, even, OK. So, go, but you didn't answer his question about what you thought of the e-mail and the meeting.

WEHNER: Don, let me just jump in since he didn't answer.

LEMON: No, let him answer. I want him answer. He said he would.

WEHNER: We'll see if he can get a second swing at it.

SHIELDS: I don't believe that people should take meetings with foreign governments who are getting involved in elections.

WEHENR: Why not?

SHIELDS: Because I think personally that we now know -- we didn't know this back in June. At the time, by the way, there was a scandal about the Clinton Foundation and people were probably thinking they were going to get information on it. Now we know that the Russian government was trying to have some kind of impact on our elections and there is an investigation about that.

WEHNER: And Don Jr. knew that, too.

LEMON: OK. All right. So, listen, let me ask you this.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: So I think, and Donald Trump, Jr. By the way, he said, I shouldn't have done this, I wish I had done it differently and I will go testify about it and here's all the e-mails.

LEMON: Would you have taken a meeting like that back then?

SHIELDS: The idea that...

LEMON: Would you have taken a meeting with a foreign, someone who is going to...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Well, I've been working in a campaign for 20 years and so there are meetings that I have taken where in the middle of a meeting, I've said, wait a minute, let me go get my counsel. Or let -- now when I realize what's going on.

But in the flurry of June of an election here where you have the convention coming up, you just become the nominee. People like -- they are very close family or having to take meetings and be a part of the campaign. This is not the kind of campaign that you've seen before because this was a campaign about Donald Trump where he was the candidate. He won it on his own.

(CROSSTALK)

WEHNER: That's true enough.

LEMON: OK. So listen, Ron, I want you get in because I know you haven't spoken as much. But I mean, so then it does bother you that the meeting took place, but yet, Mike, I mean, honestly, you appear to be defending it saying that you don't think he did anything wrong.

SHIELDS: Because he's being accused of collusion with the government when there is no evidence of it. I can tell you that I don't think someone should have taken a meeting, and Donald Trump Jr. said he shouldn't have taken the meeting and not taken it so far.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You don't think it shows that he wasn't willing to work with the...

SHIELDS: People are saying there's clearly evidence of collusion.

LEMON: You don't show -- you don't think it shows that he's willing to work with a foreign adversary to dig up dirt during an American election which foreign -- foreign countries or adversaries or otherwise are not supposed to have any influence in our electoral process, in our election process?

SHIELDS: yes. I think that's a mistake. I don't think you should do that.

LEMON: OK. All right. Ron, I'll give you the last word.

KLAIN: Yes. So, look, this again, this one e-mail is just part of an overall picture that includes Trump's going on TV and saying, hey, the Russians, find these e-mails, turn them over. The story from McClatchy today about coordination between the Russians and the technology company that powered the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica.

You know, questions about how the WikiLeaks got out, and where they got out and all these things. So, you know, this one e-mail is horrible because it is proof positive of at least attempted collusion, and then we have all the other things surrounding it that fill in the details that I think are going to start to unfold more and more devastatingly in the weeks ahead.

LEMON: Fascinating conversation. Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

Coming up, sources indicating the Trump team is paralyzed by controversy. But what role is the family playing? We'll take a closer look.

[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Donald Trump's meeting -- Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer leaving the Trump White House in turmoil, but what about the Trump family?

I want to discuss now with William Cohan, he's the author of "Why Wall Street Matters," CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, the author of "Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America," and CNN contributor, Emily Jane Fox.

Good evening. Emily, I want to start with you. We talked about the staff, now let's talk about the family. What are you hearing from your sources about how they're dealing with the fallout from this Donald Jr. E-mail?

EMILY JANE FOX, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: Well, I think Eric Trump said it best himself on Twitter yesterday when he said our family is incredibly close now. His justification for bringing that up was a little bit different. But I think what you see when times are tough for this family is that they are brought closer and closer together, and I think it's a very us against them mentality and we're seeing that now as we've seen that for years and years and years.

What you have to remember about this family, particularly the children, is that they have been in the public eye their entire lives and they have been in the papers their entire lives, and so I think that they know how to band together when they feel like their dirty laundry is being aired or when they're being talked about in the press for something they don't necessarily want to be talked about.

But, again, as this is raging on in Washington and people are reacting all around the country you see Ivanka Trump getting on a plane to Sun Valley to go to a conference with business leaders with technology leaders, and so it may be effecting the rest of the family but she is going on business as usual.

[22:50:11] LEMON: Douglas, President Trump tweeted earlier that he has -- this is a quote. "Very little time for watching TV." But sources tell CNN the president spent much of yesterday obsessed with watching TV, huddled with top advisors. And how does a scandal like this deepen the divide among -- the divide among his family and his staff?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, CNN: I don't believe it divides them between his family. It probably does make them stronger. But for White House staff this is just a disaster. I mean, people are going to want to start heading for the hills pretty soon. Donald Trump just can't seem to be able to shake this Russia probe. Every day it's a drip, drip, drip. Something bad is happening.

I think the bull's eye and the family right now is on Jared Kushner. The fact that he is in government that he is in the White House as you have been talking about, Don, is problematic. I think he's going to at the very least have his security clearance, you know, revoked. And I think he should step down. I don't believe he's trustworthy anymore. I thought it was fine.

I didn't care about the nepotism laws of having Jared Kushner in the White House but it seems to me now that if a soldier did what he did or a civil servant or a federal government colluding or trying to collude with Russians in such a fashion and not revealing it when he's been asked over and over again, it's time for him to go and I think that would be good for the Trump family.

LEMON: So William, that's -- he set you up because there's been a lot -- we've been focusing on Donald Trump Jr. But Jared Kushner really, he also attended the meeting. This is the third meeting that he didn't disclose, third meeting with that Russians that he did not disclose.

You have this interesting theory. You think that Donald Trump Jr. is taking the fall for Jared Kushner because Donald Trump Jr. doesn't work in the White House, right? And so people -- he may have no exposure working in the White House. Jared Kushner not disclosing these meetings.

WILLIAM COHAN, "WHY WALL STREET MATTERS" AUTHOR: To me it would be a much bigger scandal. That's a big scandal. Or it's developing into be a big scandal. It would be an even bigger if Jared Kushner was in the center of this instead of Donald Trump Jr.

So I think, you know, they made it seem like this was all Donald Trump Jr. who got the initial contact. Donald Trump Jr. stayed as a courtesy to an acquaintance, he said. The other guy were sort of, you know, got up and left or did their e-mails or whatever it didn't last long.

I think they're making Donald Trump Jr. who is, you know, basically just an executive at Trump organization here in New York take the fall for this whole mishegas, if I'm going to use this because that's basically what it is at the moment, instead of Jared Kushner who of course would be in a situation with a much bigger scandal.

LEMON: And then you have an editorial in the New York Post which has been very friendly to the Trump administration...

(CROSSTALK)

COHAN: I think that's part of the deflection of attention away from...

LEMON: But it's flat out calling him, it says Donald Trump Jr. is an idiot. I mean, there it is.

COHAN: But I think this is part of the effort to try to deflect the attention away from Jared Kushner by making Donald Trump Jr. be the big bad idiot who's going to take the fall for this and doesn't matter.

LEMON: Interesting. Emily, I understand that you have some sources. Sources are telling CNN, not yours, but sources are telling CNN that Melania is borderline irritated that she's being tied to this West Wing staffing dispute. Are you hearing anything more about that?

FOX: You know, what I've heard is that she obviously is sticking up for her husband. That she's sticking up for her step children and I'm sure it's annoying to all of them to be involved with this, but I hate to break it to them. This is something that they've chosen to be involved with.

This is not something that any of them shied away from. They're enjoying all the benefits from it, and so if there are consequences to their actions, that's kind of part and parcel of the whole thing.

LEMON: Yes.

COHAN: Can I jump in. I think a leading indicator of what might be happening here is Gary Kohn who is the national economic advisor. From Goldman Sachs, a former COO, chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs. He is positioning himself as the head of the search for the new chairman of the Fed to take over from Janet Yellen who Donald Trump has said he wants to not renew her term.

I think Gary Kohn is looking to position himself to get away from the White House to go over to the Fed to be chairman of the Fed to not have his reputation continuously tarnished by what's going on in the Donald Trump White House.

LEMON: That's a very interesting bit of news. Douglas, did you want to weigh in on that?

BRINKLEY: Well, I just think that there are a lot of people that are working for Donald Trump now that are almost embarrassed to have it on their resume, meaning that they work for somebody who seems to be involved in scandal all the time.

[22:54:56] I mean, you have to go back to like, Warren Harding and when early scandals of Teapot Dome and Nixon was in for a long time before those kinds of scandals really kicked in. But with this scandal a day going on, it's a White House in disarray.

You have a kind of Mafioso, the families in charge only and we keep it in our clan together and some people find that honorable but when it starts damaging the United States at home and abroad and having somebody like Jared Kushner just over and over again mislead people, spending taxpayer's money, people are trying to understand what's going on about our election hacking.

And here is somebody Kushner is supposed to be coming to negotiate peace in the Middle East according to Donald Trump when he's taking meetings with rogue Russians in such a fashion.

So it's a White House right now that's disassembling and Donald Trump I think would serve people well to do what Reagan did in Iran-Contra try to talk honestly to the American public, not just to Fox News or Christian Broadcasting Network where he feels he's got friendly people doing the questioning.

LEMON: I got 10 seconds. You want to do it quickly. What do you want to say?

COHAN: I would just echo what Douglas is saying. I think he needs to do a reset and start again.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, all. I appreciate. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow. White House in Crisis with Jim Sciutto and Pamela Brown next.

[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)