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Trump Attacks Sessions; Russia Probe Questions Manafort and Kushner; Salute to a True Hero. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired July 25, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: That's all the time we have. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon for CNN Tonight. I'll see you tomorrow.
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: President Trump tells a cheering crowd in Ohio this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With the exception of the late great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office. That I can tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: This is CNN Tonight. Sorry. I'm Don Lemon.
But how presidential is he really. President Trump starting his day at the crack of dawn, where else? On Twitter. Target? Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Quote, "Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign quietly working to boost Clinton. So where is the investigation, A.G.?
And then this, "Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a very weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes? Where e-mails and DNC server Intel leakers?"
Mr. President, those e-mails and the servers did Hillary Clinton no favors during the election. She lost in part because of that. You won. We all know that. We've moved on. Shouldn't you?
Then in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the president downplayed then-senator Sessions' valuable early endorsement saying it was really all about the crowd size. And here's a quote. "He was a senator. He looks at 40,000 people and he probably says what do I have to lose? And he endorsed me."
Well, here's the truth. Sessions' endorsement came at a critical time two days before Super Tuesday in the republican primary when candidate Trump was being hammered by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: We need to make America great again.
I am pleased to endorse Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That was then, this is now. Quote, "So it's not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement, but I'm very disappointed in Jeff Sessions." And just in case people weren't getting the point, this during a joint press conference on the Rose Garden when a reporter asked why Sessions is left twisting in the wind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Thank you very much. Well, I don't think I am doing that but I am disappointed in the attorney general. He should not have recused himself. Almost immediately after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior taking office. And I would have quite simply picked somebody else.
So I think that's a bad thing, not for the president but for the presidency. I think it's unfair to the presidency. And that's the way I feel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Mr. President, this isn't a good thing for the presidency either. Neither is it for the country. The attorney general is the American people's chief law enforcement officer. The people's chief law enforcement officer. He's got a job to do. He's not there to be bullied into quitting because you don't like that he did the right thing, followed the rules and recused himself from the Russia investigation.
Serving in Washington, serving the American people is not about settling personal grievances. It's about doing the right thing even when it's hard. That's actually what Jeff Sessions did when he recused himself back in March and it's what another one of your former targets about did just today.
You know the one you said wasn't a real war hero because he was captured but you called him brave today when you got the vote you needed his vote that you needed to move that stalled healthcare bill forward for debate.
Senator John McCain walking out onto the Senate floor against his doctor's orders just 11 days after brain surgery casting his crucial vote on healthcare and bringing a message for his colleagues in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCCAIN, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: I hope we can again rely on humility on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That's a true American hero. Captured or not, a real American hero.
Now I want to bring in CNN political director David Chalian and legal analyst Laura Coates. Good evening to both of you. So glad to have you on.
David, you first. Another extraordinary day in politics. Who is more allies right now, President Trump or Attorney General Jeff Sessions?
DAVID CHALIAN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, CNN: Actually if you look at the statements of support that Jeff Sessions has been receiving from his former colleagues in the Senate, none of them are not supporting is Donald Trump. They -- he can probably -- they can probably count on the same people as both their supporters.
[22:04:55] But what I find interesting is that you have Senators like Thom Tillis of North Carolina or Mitch McConnell, the majority leader in the United States Senate not only saying what a lot of senators are saying that Jeff Sessions is a man of integrity, that Jeff Sessions is a good guy and look forward to still working with him as A.G.
But they go as far as to say that he was right to recuse himself which is what Rudy Giuliani also told CNN yesterday. So Donald Trump is on a bit of an island at this point in terms of thinking that Jeff Sessions was wrong-headed in recusing himself.
And that is -- that gets to the fundamental concern about what the president was tweeting about this morning, Don, because he clearly, if you read his tweets as you just did, he clearly doesn't see the attorney general as a position that should have independence from him and fewer fealty to the rule of law.
He sees it as somebody who serves at the pleasure of the president who should be doing the bidding of political protection and legal protection of the president of the United States.
LEMON: Interesting. It may in private business, yes, but not as president of the United States. Laura, you know, this president before he was president, he, you know, coined the phrase love to say you're fired. So if he is so disappointed in Jeff Sessions, why doesn't he just fire him?
LAURA COATES, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: It's a very simple reason, Don, because he doesn't have the leverage that he needs to do so. Remember, it's very different than firing someone like James Comey or firing Michael Flynn. Neither of whom had served in the Senate and had the support of other senators but also you have the idea when you fired James Comey, there was this nebulous kind of cloud about why did he so.
Was it because he usurped the role of Loretta Lynch, the then-Attorney General when he held a press conference condemning Hillary Clinton but saying that she should not be ultimately prosecuted? Did he do that, was that wrong?
Remember, Rod Rosenstein and actually Jeff Sessions both came forward to say that that was incomplete insubordination that justifies the firing of James Comey. And so you have the escape route for the President of the United States to say I wasn't trying to obstruct justice, I was simply trying to ensure that the head investigator of the United States is actually somebody who won't be insubordinate.
But now you've got Jeff Sessions entering the arena and you have a very clear interview with the New York Times on tape in an audiotape confirming that he is dismayed to say the least that he will not drop this Russian investigation and is not over -- is not overseeing it in a way that he actually could effectuate any type of change.
But now you've got that nebulous clouds on and now the only person in Washington, D.C. who is a political appointee to have leverage over the President of the United States is the one man who can make him call his bluff and that's Jeff Sessions.
If I were Jeff Sessions I would say to the president, if you want to fire me, go ahead. But you invite obstruction of justice charges almost immediately.
LEMON: Now just think, David, if you're a, you know, a republican lawmaker in Washington and many of whom are not Trump loyalists but they did end up supporting him because he's a republican and they wanted to get their agenda across.
And you consider that Jeff Sessions was the first senator to go on the Trump bandwagon really out on a limb and this is how the president is treating him, what does this say to republicans? Is this a red flag for them?
CHALIAN: It's a red flag but it's not a surprising one. I think anybody that has followed Donald Trump's career would not all of a sudden say wow, this is not new information. Donald Trump may actually throw people under the bus that he doesn't see serving his interests at the moment.
I mean, look what happened to the House health care bill. All those republicans that voted for the healthcare bill in the House and then the president had a celebratory session with them in the Rose Garden and then he went out and called the bill that they just vote for mean and took credit for that as his words.
So, clearly anybody observing President Trump any republican members up on the Hill are not ever thinking that he's going to have their back at all cost no matter what. They know that's not how this very transactional president operates.
COATES: But you know, quick. I just want to add a message too if I can just jump in. MACDONALD: Yes.
COATES: It sends a message to people who are, who may be in line as a successor if Jeff Sessions were no longer to be the attorney general. If you've got the President of the United States who I agree with David has been very transactional and the loyalty he expects really is a self-interested one, well, anyone who may be in line to try to replace the attorney general if he either resigns or is fired has got to be shaking in their boots saying to themselves, it's the very first person to be loyal and to endorse you against all odds and actually with more of a risk to themselves than for you, then why would you be loyal to me in the long run?
Will my tenure be even shorter, not only with James Comey but the six- month tenure that Sessions that has had to date. That's who taking -- that is who is taking notice and pause right now of the president's actions.
LEMON: David, I'd like to change course now and talk about healthcare. It's so important for so many Americans. The Senate advanced the healthcare bill with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie. But it's really, it's so they can start the discussion.
[22:09:58] But Senator John McCain's dramatic return on the Senate floor after his brain cancer diagnosis, that is the moment to watch today. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Very nice moment, David. Walk us through what we witnessed tonight.
CHALIAN: It's an amazing moment. Obviously, as you mentioned the dire diagnosis that he received, he comes home to a hero's welcome as he deserves in the floor of the United States Senate.
What was so amazing right after this moment, Don, was that Senator McCain went back to his desk and nearly every member of the Senate walked over to him and started greeting him individually including a whole slew of democrats nearly all of them coming over from their side of the Senate to greet him.
There's no doubt also that McCain's return had a psychological impact on the vote you were talking about. Obviously, arranging with Mitch McConnell to come back here for this key vote certainly had helped the effort to get the final last folks who may have hurdled to jump over to get there to get to 50 votes and allow Mike Pence to cast the tiebreaking vote.
On the matter of healthcare, as you noted, this is now just the beginning. They get onto a bill and start debating and we're already seeing that the ideological divide inside the republican conference that has proven so impossible for them to overcome in terms of coming up with a replacement plan still remains. That divide remains, that gap is unfilled. And they still don't have a consensus plan on what to do once they repeal Obamacare.
LEMON: And here we go again. It's not even groundhog's day. I don't know what to call it. Thank you, David. Thank you, Laura. I appreciate that.
I want to turn now to Congressman Tim Ryan, a democrat from Ohio whose district includes Youngstown. Congressman, so good to have you on. Despite the growing Russia cloud in Washington, President Trump had a good crowd in your neck of the woods tonight that is rallying in Youngstown, Ohio. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Sometimes they say he doesn't act presidential. And I say, hey, look, great schools. Smart guy. It's so easy to act presidential. But that's not going to get it done.
In fact, I said it's much easier, by the way, to act presidential than what we're doing here tonight, believe me. And I said, with the exception of the late great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Congressman, you saw the enthusiasm for him in that rally like what they see. They like what they see what, they're getting from this president. His support has not wavered. Are they wrong?
TIM RYAN, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Well, he had 6,000 or 7,000 people in the Cavell Center in Youngstown, Ohio, which I don't think is unusual for a sitting president to be able to draw that many people in a community center like that. I don't think that's out of the ordinary.
What the people of Youngstown, Ohio are going to be looking for are deliverables. And he made -- that was a campaign speech. There's no doubt about that. But it was similar to a lot of the speeches that he made when he was in Ohio earlier, Don, in the last year and a half.
He promised to expand Medicare. He promised to protect people against pre-existing conditions. He promised a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill. He was going to open the steel mills and the coal mines. Absolutely none of that has happened.
He promised to address the opioid problem that we have in Ohio which is very severe. Hasn't done anything, in fact, he's gone backwards on those promises supporting bills that throw 20 million people off of their healthcare and a lot of those people who receive Medicaid get treatment for opiate addiction.
So he's gone backwards or stayed neutral and not even offered a jobs program for people in Youngstown. At the end of the day, while they may not have left him yet, they're going to be watching than they want him to deliver.
LEMON: Why do you think he continues to give these campaign-style rallies and really should democrats be paying more attention? Because you listen to it. He's saying it with a degree, tongue in cheek. He's laughing. And so, we're -- we get a little bit of a chuckle out of it. But it gets folks riled up. And one wonders, should democrats really be paying more attention to this?
RYAN: Well, I think he needs it. And you know, I don't hold that necessarily against him. I think any president that sits in the White House and does this job, it's nice to go out and be with people who support you, who stroke your ego, who clap. They laugh at all your jokes. They think you're, you know, the best thing God ever created.
[22:15:00] Any president is going to have a certain amount of those people. And I guess it would be nice to go out and get that every now and again.
But again, democrats need to stay focused on what our plan is to help those people because we do have a plan on how to grow the economy, how to lift up wages, our healthcare bill covered 20 million more people. While the Obamacare we passed isn't perfect, we need to fix those things. We want to fix it and figure out how we can cover more people.
The republicans are trying to throw 20 million people off of healthcare. So we need to talk about what we're for in order to get those voters to come back home. And while they may not come back home tomorrow, there's an election in 18 months and another one in 2020. We'd better be well positioned with a good brand to reach out to those folks and bring them back home.
LEMON: Let me ask you about Jeff Sessions because you've seen what the president has been tweeting and saying about him. They say politics makes strange bedfellows. Do you support the continued attacks against Attorney General Jeff Sessions or do you think he should just be left alone to continue in his job?
RYAN: Well, look, I thought Sessions should have resigned a long time ago. But I thought it was a noble act for him to step aside and say look, I cannot in good conscience conduct this investigation or oversee this investigation and so he stepped aside.
But in typical Trump fashion, I don't think it surprises anybody to say, you know, I want to fire you. You're not doing exactly what I say. Even though the law says something different, you should do exactly what I say. I think that's troubling. But at the end of the day, it's between him and Sessions and they've got to figure out how to work it out.
LEMON: You know, President Trump knocked democrats for not helping to repeal and replace Obamacare. He also listed a bunch of states where he says Obamacare is hurting Americans. He pointed to Alaska, he pointed to Missouri, Pennsylvania. He did not mention Ohio. Why do you think that is? And what will happen in your state if repeal or replace goes through? RYAN: Well, there are areas where it's not working like it should.
And we need to fix those problems in high risk areas where insurance companies can't make money. We were actually trying to help insurance companies stay in those areas to cover people so we would give insurance companies payments. Otherwise, those people wouldn't get any health insurance.
Republicans are unwinding that. So the insurance companies are losing money. So the insurance companies pull out of those high risk areas, those risk corridors and then they turn around and say look, Obamacare is not working.
They're undermining this at every turn. Let's fix those things where there are high premiums, let's fix that. And let's figure out how to get more people in the pool to drive down costs. Those are appropriate things for us to do.
But here's the bottom line, Don. In both the House republican version and the Senate republican version, Congressional Budget Office which is a neutral analysis of the bills, say 22 million Americans will get thrown off their healthcare. That if you're protected by a -- from getting thrown off your insurance because you have a pre-existing condition, the insurance companies will be able to do that again.
The democrats covered 20 million more people. And we got between the insurance company and the patient where you would think you had some coverage on a policy and then you got sick and you went to get coverage and the insurance company said, we're not going to cover you. We don't cover that.
We made sure that no matter what policy you bought, maternity care was covered, addiction and treatment was covered, emergency room visits were covered and a slew of other things so that if you were paying for insurance, you would actually get insurance coverage.
The republicans are repealing and rolling back all of those provisions and Trump is supporting them, Don. And then he turns around and comes to Youngstown and says, we're going to make it better. This healthcare thing is great. You may have heard today it passed with 51 votes.
That is destructive to people in my congressional district where 200,000 or 300,000 people use coverage to get opiate treatment.
RYAN: Senior citizens, all the rest. He's throwing people off of healthcare and he campaigned that he was going to expand healthcare coverage for people. I mean, so people got to pay attention to what he's doing, not the sideshow, not the circus, not the red meat, not that he's better than Abraham Lincoln or he's going to be on Mt. Rushmore, but that -- but that what are his policies and so far, zero legislative initiatives have passed.
LEMON: And the American people need to see what's in -- people in Washington don't even know what they're voting on when it comes to this. But we hope within the next couple days they will and we'll get a better handle on exactly what they're voting on and what could happen when it comes to healthcare.
Thank you, Representative Ryan. I appreciate it.
[22:19:57] When we come back, a former CIA and NSA director joins me. I'm going to ask him why he says the now notorious Don Junior meeting at Trump Tower was likely a Russian Intel operation.
LEMON: Big developments in the Russia investigation. President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort met behind closed doors today with the Senate intelligence committee but he will not be compelled to appear tomorrow before the judiciary committee.
Meanwhile, the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner was back on Capitol Hill today questioned by the House intelligence committee.
Joining me now, CNN national security analyst, General Michael Hayden, he's a former director of both the CIA and the National Security Agency. Man, a lot to get to. Maybe a little bit confusing to viewers. The Senate intelligence committee, the Intel, House Intel, and all of that.
General Hayden, where is this Russia investigation heading? Because President Trump who repeatedly denied any contact between the campaign and Russians was contradicted by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Kushner had four meetings with Russians. What's your take on what we've learned?
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA & NSA DIRECTOR: Well, first of all, President Trump, the Trump campaign, the transition team, Don, just took an absolutist approach to any suggestions of contact with the Russians. And they just simply said there weren't any. They didn't do any homework. There wasn't any great care, just kind of indicative of a lot of things that have been said by the administration.
And now as you begin to peel this back, there turns out to have been an awful lot of contacts which may lead nowhere. I mean, we've got to let the investigation take its course. But it certainly puts the lie to the claim that there were no contacts.
[22:25:04] And frankly, the more you learn, the more you're forced to conclude that at a minimum, Mr. Trump's campaign was naive in terms of its view towards the Russians.
LEMON: It certainly doesn't help them on the credibility level. You know, you told Ryan Lizza that everyone you're speaking with thinks that Don Junior, that Don Junior meeting at Trump Tower was a Russian Intel operation. Why do they believe that?
HAYDEN: It's classic trade craft on the part of the Russians. First of all, it's called a soft approach. You don't use people whose business cards say we're part of Russian intelligence. So it's an indirect soft approach. You learn a lot. If you're the Russians, you learn a lot from the meeting no matter what it is the Americans think is going on. Number one, you learn that the Trump campaign will take the meeting.
And number two, you learn that even after the meeting, they don't report it to federal authorities. They don't report it to the FBI because the Russians are good enough that they would have noticed an increase in FBI surveillance had that been the case.
And then finally, if you're the Russians, you begin to believe that the campaign is comfortable enough with the relationship with the Russians even one premised on the suggestion that the Russians will offer information in return for something the Russians want perhaps sanctions relief.
And yes, Don, one more thing.
HAYDEN: You've already put the first down payment on what the Russians would call kompromat. You've already compromised yourself by accepting the meeting and not reporting it.
LEMON: I also want your take on the president's public attacks. I've been wanting to talk to you about this, attacks against the Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Here he is just today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I want the attorney general to be much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies which are leaking like rarely have they ever leaked before at a very important level. These are intelligence agencies. We cannot have that happen.
You know many of my views in addition to that, but I think that's one of the very important things that they have to get on with. I told you before I'm very disappointed with the attorney general. But we will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The president has been talking about leaks from day one, but in this case, is this really about the leaks or is it really about trying to stop the Mueller investigation?
HAYDEN: Well in, my view, it's about the latter, not the former. A couple of other observations, Don. Number one in my old profession, 39 years in the American Armed Forces, what you just saw there would be called undue command influence on a judicial process.
Number two, I know Senator Sessions. I don't agree with him on everything, but that man has treated me with nothing but respect and dignity in my relationship with him. So this is a great sadness.
Then finally, Don, and this is probably the most important point. You have the president attacking his attorney general because in the eyes of most people, the attorney general did what was expected of him for the ethical demands of his profession. Now, Don, if I'm the director of national intelligence, if I'm the
director of the Central Intelligence Agency, I'm going to school on this episode. And trying to figure out what it means for me when I've got to go in and tell the president something he definitely doesn't want hear.
LEMON: Yes. It has been, general, 259 days since President Trump won the election. He hasn't eased off the gas when it comes to fiery campaign rhetoric. I mean, just the past few days, he shot off 3multiple tweets calling for Hillary Clinton to be investigated on Russia, on e-mails. Is this behavior you think damaging to the presidency and ultimately to the country?
HAYDEN: Look, as a citizen, I think it is. It is unpresidential. It is distracting. What we need to do as a nation, Don, is simply get to the bottom of this whole Russia thing. Get it behind us. And I fear the president is getting in the way of that.
And to give a little bit of human understanding to the president, I mean, a lot of Americans are using this episode to challenge his legitimacy as president. The American intelligence community isn't doing that.
HAYDEN: The I.C. simply wants to make America better defended and we can only do that if we get to the facts of this case.
LEMON: Yes, which is interesting because I mean, he's got the ultimate, he could say the Intel communities are not saying that I'm not legitimately the president. But I want to investigate this to make sure that our elections aren't compromised. I mean, I think that's really the ultimate.
HAYDEN: That would, Don, that would be classic. I am the legitimate president. This is a serious matter.
[22:30:01] LEMON: Right.
HAYDEN: I'm going to go to Camp David with my intelligence community chiefs. We're going to get to the bottom of this.
LEMON: Yes. I know you were at the Aspen security forum last week. And I want to get your reaction to some of what we heard there from the current directors of the CIA and the DNI. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES CIA DIRECTOR: I am confident that the Russians meddled in this election as is the entire intelligence community.
LESTER HOLT, ANCHOR, NBC NEWS: Can you just tell us is there any dissent within the intelligence community that you oversee on the question of whether the Russians interfered with the American election? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no dissent and I stated that publicly and
stated to the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So we learned last night from the new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci that the president -- that President Trump doesn't accept is the intelligence conclusion on Russia. President Trump is taking Putin at his word.
HAYDEN: Yes, and that's kind of scary. This is a high confidence judgment, Don. And from my generation that had its judgments about Iraq weapons of mass destruction this community doesn't go the high confidence anymore unless it really has high confidence.
You've got both the current and former director of national intelligence, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, secretary of homeland security, and the homeland security adviser to the president current and former all saying the Russians did it.
And yet, for whatever personal reasons, the president can't accept it. That's a little scary going forward because it suggests there might be other circumstances in which the president for his own reasons rejects what his intelligence community is telling him.
LEMON: Always, always a pleasure to have you on. General Michael Hayden, thank you.
HAYDEN: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: When we come back, the president lashing out at the Russia investigation as it progresses. Is it Trump being Trump or is it the pressure that's getting to him?
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: As the president lashes out at his attorney general and the special counsel, members of his inner circle are answering questions from Congress.
Let's discuss now. Richard Painter is here, he is a former White House ethics lawyer, John Flannery, a former federal prosecutor from the southern district of New York, and Matthew Whitaker, executive director of Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, he is a former U.S. attorney.
Gentlemen, so good to have you on. Matt, I'm going to start with you. We learned just a short time ago that the subpoena for Paul Manafort to appear before the Senate judiciary committee tomorrow that has been dropped. That the two sides are still talking about an appearance should Manafort have to testify publicly, you think?
MATTHEW WHITAKER, LEGAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, Manafort is going to have a very interesting story to tell. And it's going to be the first time that we're going to be able to compare the stories that we heard from Jared Kushner and Donald Trump, Jr. and to see if he had the same version of the meeting and what actually happened after the meeting.
Because that's the most important fact is the meeting happened. And I think the general right before us explained really well what the risks are, but it is what happened after the meeting. Was there any follow- up and was there any deliverables.
LEMON: Yes. So do you think he should, Manafort, my question was, should he have to testify publicly?
WHITAKER: You know, I don't think he should have had to testify publicly at this time. But eventually, the American people do need to hear this.
LEMON: John, Manafort did appear earlier today before the Senate intelligence committee, provided documents to them and then he answers some questions about Russia. And for the second day, Jared Kushner talk to investigators about his Russia contacts and that June 6th meeting.
Both men went to where the Russians connected to the Kremlin promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. You know, the one that was set up by Don Junior. What are investigators likely drilling down on?
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER NEW YORK CITY FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think that we have an interesting development with the son-in-law basically talking and pushing back the dates to April of 2016 when Mr. Trump gave a speech at the Mayflower hotel arranged by Jared. And what he leaves out in his statement is not only that he, Jared, meet with the ambassador from Russia but so did Mr. Trump.
And Mr. Trump had the ambassador sitting in the first row as he said he was going to ease the tensions against Russia. Why shouldn't old enemies become friends? And that's an important meeting. And it's in the same month that we're told the Russian hackers went into the DNC.
So he pushed the date back, and Mr. Trump who said he never met with the Russians specifically met with the Russian at that time, shook hands with him and he sat in the first row as Trump gave a speech probably written by Paul Manafort or maybe even by (Inaudible) who heads up the center for national interest originally called the Nixon Center.
LEMON: Richard, as the investigation grinds on, we're seeing the president lashing out, today his outburst started on Twitter at 6 a.m., saying, "Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a very weak position on Hillary Clinton climbs. Where are e-mails and DNC server, and Intel leakers?"
I mean, he's calling Sessions weak but also he's resurrecting this idea of a criminal pursuit of Hillary Clinton. Is that possible and what would the fallout be?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, it's just one more Twitter attack from the Twitter in chief I guess. But this idea asking your attorney general to investigate your opponent who lost the election and prosecute your opponent, we don't do business that way in the United States. We don't prosecute the person who lost the election.
And you know, that type of abuse of power is exactly the type of thing that ought to lead to impeachment of a president. If that order were carried out.
Fortunately, we have an attorney general who is not going to be so stupid as to go after Hillary Clinton over some, it was investigated at nauseam over several years. But President Trump picking a fight with Jeff Sessions and trying to humiliate Attorney General Sessions publicly with these lashing out at Twitter, its losing a lot of friend for the president in the Senate.
Because Jeff Sessions has a lot of friends over there, particularly among the most conservative members of the Senate. And to see him give up his Senate seat to go work for President Trump and then be humiliate this had way only six months into the job, you know, a think a lot of those senators are thinking that's what loyalty gets you.
LEMON: Can I -- can I ask you guys, something...
PAINTER: And ask yourself twice.
LEMON: ... before you jump in, John, do you think that is -- I mean, he's putting the focus when is he does this on Russia in a backhanded way. But do you think this is maybe he's trying to divert attention from Russia, from healthcare, knowing full well he's never going to fire Jeff Sessions and Jeff Sessions is just taking the incoming so that he can divert attention away from that and they can do what they want with healthcare and people aren't talking directly about Russia as much in the news?
[22:40:13] WHITAKER: Well...
FLANNERY: No, I...
WHITAKER: Don, I don't -- I'd be surprised if that's the strategy here. I think this president talks off top of his head. It's whatever is happening today in his life and whatever he sees on the news and wants to respond to.
And so, I take him at his word when, you know, when he says that he thinks that Sessions is weak or when he says that time will tell. I think that's at the moment what he's thinking. And I don't think there's a bigger strategy to distract and you know, I mean, the Senate voted with him and did his bidding today, 50 of the 52 republican senators. So I mean, it seems like that he's not turning that many people off yet.
LEMON: So, thank goodness for John McCain who by the way he said wasn't a real war hero because he got captured. If John McCain didn't come through with that particular vote, then who knows what he would be saying today. So, listen, even with all the Russia questions, Richard, swirling
around the White House, we learned that the president's nominee, the head of the Justice Department's criminal division, Brian Benczkowski, he disclosed business ties to a Russian bank, that Alpha Bank. Can't they find anyone for any of these top jobs who doesn't have a tie to Russia?
PAINTER: Well, it seems like they're all in with the Russians. But at least I believe he was truthful about that. The thing that's troubling about this administration is so many of them are lying about their contacts with the Russians. Starting with General Flynn, running all the way on through the most recent communications from Donald Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner.
And that is very troubling when they won't tell the truth about their contacts with the Russians. And I think the confidence in the House and the Senate is eroding. They just had a procedural vote today on healthcare but then they voted down this crazy bill they had and they got actually to come up with a law. And that's a lot harder.
And you're not going to get legislation through when people don't trust you. In order to get people to trust you, you have to tell the truth. And they've been doing a lot of lying.
LEMON: Go ahead, John.
PAINTER: And it's not working.
FLANNERY: Pardon me.
LEMON: Go ahead, John.
FLANNERY: Even this -- even this nominee though, and I think what we're saying is true. But even this nominee is refusing to disclose what he did for the Russian bank where the conflicts would arise. It's not enough to tell us that you're working for a Russian bank. We can disclose certain things but we're not going to tell you what we were doing.
And I think if a person is in that position and has that obligation not to disclose it, I don't think they should be considered for the position, particularly given where we stand today with all the Russian influence that compromises our national policy.
But the, you know, as for the -- as for Mr. Trump's tweets and stuff like that, I think you're absolutely right. I think it is his device, sort of like a trapped animal in a net to strike out by trying to distract us, but there's a method to his madness. And the method is he doesn't want to fire the attorney general. He wants him to resign under pressure and under humiliation. And I think that he's looking probably to do the same with the acting deputy attorney general.
Because that's his path. He thinks, to obstruct the investigation even his talk about pardons I think is part of his policy not for us to think about would he do it or not but it's like reassuring the people, the dwarfs out there who might put him in the cat bird seat are encouraged to believe that if they get close they don't have to worry, that Mr. Trump will take care of them, which is hard to believe given how disloyal he's been to so many people over so many days since he's been the president.
LEMON: John, Matt, and Richard, thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
When we come back, Senator John McCain returning to the Senate only days after major surgery in a cancer -- and a cancer diagnosis. We're going to show you his emotional speech that has everyone talking.
[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: An emotional moment on the Senate floor today. Senator John McCain returning just 11 days after brain surgery to cast his crucial healthcare vote. And he had a powerful message for his colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCCAIN, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Let's trust each other. Let's return to regular order. We've been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That's an approach that's been employed by both sides mandating legislation from the top down without any support from the other side with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.
We are getting nothing done, my friends. We're getting nothing done. And all we've really done this year is confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Our health care insurance system is a mess. We all know it. Those who support Obamacare and those who oppose it. Something has to be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Here to discuss former Congressman Steve Israel, a CNN political commenter, also Ana Navarro and Scott Jennings, both political commentators.
Good evening. Ana, your reaction to Senator John McCain's emotional return to the floor?
ANA NAVARRO, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Look, it was emotional for me. I spoke to John a couple of days ago last week, and I knew he wanted to get back in the game. I think it was a very well thought out speech. I understand a lot of people are very disappointed with the way he voted, wish he had voted differently.
That being said, I asked him to take a look at his words. Because I thought his words were particularly significant for republicans. For me, where the part that stuck the most was when he reminded republicans that they are not subservient to the President of the United States. They are equals to the President of the United States. An equal branch.
And I think it's, you know, it's a very powerful moment when 80-year- old John McCain gets up from his sick bed after surgery, after receiving a scary, scary diagnosis, and gets up and goes to give this call to action to his colleagues. His defense of the institution, his defense of going back to regular order and doing things in a bipartisan way of finding compromises.
I found his words to be very, very powerful. I am hopeful that John will make a difference in this process of this bill and make this bill better.
LEMON: You're right about his words because even the people who were as you said disappointed, and some people were disappointed in the way he votes, some people.
[22:50:00] But his words were very important. Because his return was an important one. He said, Scott, it's an important step to proceed on this. But it was clear that he wants, he said he wants to see changes in this bill. He said he wanted to bring democrats on board. Other senators share similar concerns.
So do you see him rallying the troops and bringing republicans back together and also getting republicans to work with democrats?
SCOTT JENNINGS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I think republicans would love to work with democrats. I just have a hard time believing that you're going to find enough democrats in the U.S. Senate who want to do anything other than move us towards single payer which no republican wants to do.
The things is, we have very divergent views on healthcare inside the United States Senate. We have some divergent views inside the republican conference. But Chuck Schumer reveal their plan this week. They want to go to single payer. Bernie Sanders wants to go to single payer and so they have a lot of daylight there.
LEMON: OK, Scott. We're not talking about the democrats. The essential part of my question is, do you think that -- and I'll read it for you. Other senators share similar concerns. Do you see him rallying the troops and bringing republicans back together?
JENNINGS: Well, sure. I think John McCain is a powerful unifying voice inside the republican conference and I think his words about the need for bipartisanship struck a powerful note today.
I'm just pointing out that on the policy of healthcare where most conservative republican senators are and most democrat senators are very, very far apart. A lot of daylight in those positions. And so, I think, you know, san you bring enough people together to do a bipartisan fix on this? I'm dubious of that but I like the concept of people trying.
LEMON: All right. Steve, McCain was the 50th vote on the motion to proceed. They got 51 votes with the vice president. They made the vice president help them out. What is the strategy of the democrats now? You heard what Scott just said there. He doesn't think the democrats are going to come on board. Democrats want single payer. They don't want anything the republicans want.
STEVE ISRAEL, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, you know, I respect Scott, but he's wrong. Democrats have said consistently, they said today they continue to say and believe that there can be fixes to the Affordable Care Act. We want to do it, we're willing it do it but we have a republican Senate right now that has said that they're just going to forge ahead, just bulldoze ahead on a bill.
And what you're doing, what you saw today and what you're going to see over the next few days, Don, is a Senate that is flying by the seat of their Senate pants. They are doing these amendments but they don't even have a bill to amend. They don't know where they're going to end up, when they're going to end up, how they're going to end up and by the way, this is just pre-game.
You think this is interesting. Wait until they pass something. We don't even know what that something is. But even if they pass something, it goes back to the House of Representatives and that gets very interesting. We're going to be in deja vu on top of deja vu. We're going to be right back to where we were a month ago in the House of Representatives. If there's a House and Senate conference in this debate between the freedom caucus and the moderates, which tells you that this is just chaos. It's irresponsible. John McCain is right.
LEMON: Congressman, is there -- is there any way...
ISRAEL: We need to get people to get constructively.
LEMON: Is there any way that you will work with republicans as repeal and replace, is it off the table if it's repeal and replace that you will work with republicans?
ISRAEL: We don't want to repeal the entire thing. We don't want to these massive cuts in Medicaid. We don't want to tell people with pre- existing conditions they can't help.
LEMON: So it's on the tape.
ISRAEL: We're talking about over 20 million people off their insurance. So, we'll meet in the middle. Absolutely, we will meet in the middle.
LEMON: Do you care what it's called?
ISRAEL: But we need somebody to meet. I hope John McCain can help.
LEMON: Do you care if it's called Trump care, or do care if it's called whatever, the American... ISRAEL: I don't care what it's called as long as the American people are able to get healthcare that is quality, affordable. And doesn't discriminate against them if they have things like breast cancer.
ISRAEL: Who cares what it's called?
LEMON: OK. All right. Thank you for that.
NAVARRO: Let me tell you, Don.
LEMON: Quickly, Ana, because I want to move on.
NAVARRO: It's very easy to -- it's easy to posture when you think you can get your way. When you realize you can't, you know, that's when -- that's when compromise happens. And so, if people stick to the position of John McCain who bellowed today against the process or lack thereof of getting his bill passed. The fact that it had been done behind closed doors, the fact that there had been no amendments. If enough republicans stick to that, we might at some point have a compromise.
LEMON: Go on, if you guys having a say...
ISRAEL: I agree.
LEMON: ... to a conversation about this. Go on, if you want to continue. Do you want to respond to that, Scott?
JENNINGS: Well, look, I actually think we've seen some bipartisanship in the Senate lately. Look, the Russia sanctions bill was a very bipartisan bill. It also tagged North Korea and tagged Iran. So the Senate has come together on other issues, not healthcare, but on other issues. They've shown they can come together and so things.
So, bipartisanship isn't totally dead. The issue on healthcare, though, is you've got republicans who want nothing to do with the core democratic idea and you've got democrats, as you just heard Steve say who I also respect very much, who don't want to repeal and replace Obamacare. They largely like and think Obamacare is working which republicans of course don't believe.
And so, finding compromise in there, I think that is -- this is the one issue where you're going to have the broadest differences. I think even on tax reform, you're going to have more people with stuff in common in both parties and healthcare.
[22:55:07] LEMON: Congressman, do you largely believe Obamacare is working. Because if you look at the CBO and if you look at the studies, it will, the studies many experts have said Obamacare is not dying under its own weight but there are republicans who believe that. Do you agree as Scott said that you...
(CROSSTALK) ISRAEL: Look, I don't -- President Trump says its killing people. He says its killing people. It's a disaster. I believe it has flaws like many well intended laws, it has flaws. And democrats and republicans have responsibility to fix it.
I had breakfast yesterday with a republican member of Congress who said to me that in quite rooms without cameras, without sound bites, he believes that they can get to a responsible compromise. And so maybe what we need to do is let those members of Congress have those quiet conversations and produce an alternative compromise that works for the American people outside of the kind of theatrics that we witnessed in the United States Senate today.
LEMON: All right.
JENNINGS: What Steve is eluding to, though...
LEMON: Thank you.
JENNINGS: ... maybe this may wind up in a conference committee and that's exactly the kind of process Steve is talking about at quite room with the members in both parties.
LEMON: Thank you. I got to go. I got get to the top of the hour. Thank you. I appreciate it.
When we come back, how is the president doing so far? Here's what he says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: More next.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)