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White House Rocked By Bombshells, Hicks Resigned, Kushner Downgraded, Trump Slams Sessions; Trump's Original Inner Circle; Trump Backs Obama Gun Control Ideas; POTUS Holds Bipartisan Meeting on Guns with Lawmakers; Longtime Trump Aide Hope Hicks Resign; Its Midnight, Happy Birthday Don. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired February 28, 2017 - 23:00   ET



[23:00:25] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: This is CNN tonight. I'm Don Lemon, it is 11:00 p.m. here on the east coast, live with breaking news tonight. The bombshell resignation of one of President Trump closest aide Hope Hicks. Coming just one day after she admitted she told lies that she characterized as white lies, but lies nonetheless in the service of President Trump. A source telling Erin Burnette that Trump berated Hicks for admitting she lied and ask her how she could be so stupid. It's hardly the only sign of chaos in the White House. Source says the president's top adviser Jared Kushner feels everyone is out to get him after losing his top secret security clearance in the middle of the pitched battle with chief of staff John Kelly. Plus President Trump holds a live televised meeting on guns with Republicans and Democrats sending off an awful lot like a Democrats calling for a ban on bump stocks, strengthening background checks, and raising the age of gun purchases from 18 to 21 and shockingly saying this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Take the firearms first, and then go to court. A lot of times by the time you go to court it takes so long to go to court, to get the due process procedures, I like taking the guns early.


LEMON: So let's discuss this as much as we can in the time that we have. I want to bring in CNN political commentator Scott Jennings and Amanda Carpenter. Good evening to both of you. Scott you first. What do you think the real reason or reasons are behind Hope Hicks announcing her resignation?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I feel bad for Hope Hicks, because she has had a heck of a few weeks, the Porter scandal that hit the White House was hard on her. Obviously she had to testify before congress. These jobs are very hard. She has been in the White House over a year. She was on the campaign. She has had a grueling experience for the last three years really. And so eventually fatigue and anxiety and stress catches up with everybody in these high-level positions so I suspect it was a combination of that finally convinced her it was time to do something else.

LEMON: But why do you feel bad? She signed up for it. Listen you get a lot of criticism. I get a lot of criticism. This is what we signed up for. But, I mean do you think the reason is that she had a lot of stress? That is the reason for the resignation.

JENNINGS: I think she has been doing -- she has been functioning in a high-stress environment not one year, but three years. I've been there. When she did before congress in that committee is not easy and very stressful. Being under investigation, part of an investigation that is a high-anxiety lifestyle on top of a high stress the job already carries. So I'm not surprised that people won't last all four years in the first term when you live with that much mental anxiety.

LEMON: Amanda I want to get your response. When you hear the CNN's reporting that President Trump berated her yesterday for admitting to House investigators that she sometimes tells white lies for the President. What do you think?

AMANDA CARPENTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let's connect the dots here. Yes, the stress could have caught up to her or the lies did. We know that she told America that there was no communication between the Trump campaign and any foreign entities, i.e., the Russians during the campaign. She was interviewed by congressional investigators and Mueller about campaign contacts with Russia. That is, you know, part of what this whole investigation was about. Nine hours yesterday. And then suddenly there is a news report that says Hope Hicks sometimes tell white lies. Then Trump berates her for going to the press and letting it be known that she admitted telling white lies. What was she probably telling white lies about? Which I don't think was a white lie at all but a giant steaming massive lie about Russia. So all of the sudden in a very short amount of time she is in a very difficult place where her boss wants her to effectively continue lying to investigators about Russian contacts, or you know potentially going to jail. And then poof, she leaves. You know, I think that is pretty clearly what happened. We'll need more reporting to bear it out. But if you want to connect the dots there, you can get a marker out and draw them.

LEMON: Scott, how big of a blow is this to her resignation to the President, who relies on her so much and in an ever shrinking inner circle now. It seems the only people left he really trusts in the White House are his family.

JENNINGS: Yes, I think it's a big blow. I think the other person he relied on a lot was his former body man Schiller who resigned a few months ago. Now Hope Hicks is leaving in the next few weeks. There aren't that many people left in the White House that I think the President brought in from the campaign that he really feels close to.

[23:05:08] And so we will have to see how the next round of advisers that the President may not have as close as a personal connection with end up functioning with him interpersonally. We can see today that he is having some issues with other people like Jeff Sessions. He tends to get upset with advisers that he doesn't have that close personal connection with. I'm fearful that the White House may be -- feel a little more chaotic without the stabilizing influence that Hope Hicks brought I think to the President's mind every day.

LEMON: Even more chaotic, right? So Amanda, just look at all the breaking news story. That is why I said more chaotic, this is just in the last 48 hours. Just to name a few, Hope Hicks, the resignation. The Ivanka-Kelly feud. Trump attacking Sessions. Kushner being stripped of his top secret clearance. The post story that four countries are looking out ways to manipulate Kushner. Admiral Mike Rogers saying that he isn't getting authority from the President needed to disrupt Russia's attempts to interfere in our elections. And that is just a partial list.

CARPENTER: Yes and then you can throw out the gun legislation meeting today, which was a total mess. I mean, I watched that and I kind of stepped away and said, ok if you're a Republican Senator in a red state like even my former boss Ted Cruz. Trump is effectively asking you to choose between him and the NRA, when it comes to many of these upcoming discussions. Trump was all over the place. What was really disappointing to me is I think there is a lot of traction in conservative circles for the gun violence protective order where a family member could report someone to the authority and say listen he is a threat to himself and others, can you take his guns away and have a due process element so that person could go to court and have a fair hearing. And then Trump trashed that all over the place essentially saying let's just take the weapons. You know, this is -- I mean and that is just one thing aside from all his internal conflicts, what you mentioned yesterday with people asking for help in regards to Russia meddling in future elections. Things are spiraling out of control. I would hope that members of congress could be a steadying force. But by all appearances everyone is just -- in duck and cover mode.

LEMON: Yes. Amanda, Scott, thank you, I appreciate your time.

CARPENTER: Thank you.

LEMON: I want to bring in now Mr. Fareed Zakaria, the host of CNN Fareed Zakaria GPS. Good evening, you heard me read off the list, I mean this huge news stories and that is not all of them. These are self-inflicted wounds. I know the White House and folks say this is fake news. But everything we reported has had a consequence. Jared Kushner's security clearance. You know, Kelly and downgrading and changing the way security clearances are given. Hope Hicks and her relationship with Rob Porter, and you know what she said to the committee. White lies. Now she is resigning. What do you think of all this?

FAREED ZAKARIA, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS SHOW HOST: Well, it has always been clear to me that Donald Trump was not a particularly good manager. I mean, you could argue he was a good salesman, brand builder. But he had never really run anything of size and scale. The Trump organization as far as one can tell, you know, 50 people, most of whom report to him in a chaotic haphazard manner it's a court with a lot of trust in old relationships and buried secrets. Look at his lawyer Michael Cohen who is willing to claim that he spent $130,000 of his own money to pay off, a certain woman. That doesn't translate well to the federal government which is a very large institutionalized rule-based system. And you know, what you see in all the cases is the institutions being disregarded. The rules, the processes being flouted. And the theory was well we are different we can do all that. But as you say, it's all had consequences. We have another really stunning report out about Jared Kushner and loans made to the Kushner Company.

LEMON: His company, yes.

ZAKARIA: After meeting with people in the White House. And the central issue there was every President in the modern era has taken great pains to separate themselves from their businesses such as they existed. And it's not true that no President had a business before. Herbert Hoover was a very successful businessman. George W. Bush had a business. But all of them cordoned it off. Here you have the totally bizarre situation with the President and his closest aides are operating -- owning and largely operating businesses while simultaneously.


ZAKARIA: They are running the White House.

LEMON: Even Jimmy Carter divested himself of his business.

ZAKARIA: Yes. Exactly.

LEMON: I want to get back more to Jared Kushner. But quickly because I want to move on, Hope Hicks what do you think of her resignation.

ZAKARIA: It's exactly as you said. I think this was the one person -- I think she may be the last person who comes from the original group who actually predates the campaign. So there is probably a lot of trust, a great deep personal relationship. Why she chose this moment to resign, none of us know.

[23:10:00] But it clearly -- when you compound it with all the things that you talked about, it's a bad week. It's a sign of a certain degree of chaos and lack of discipline. And I would add to the list you mentioned by the way, the fact that Trump is now openly at war with his own Attorney General is particularly -- again, there is so many of the things we see. The word unprecedented is now losing all meaning.

LEMON: Admiral Rogers yesterday saying.

ZAKARIA: Right. And the Trump administration -- every day we have another unprecedented event.

LEMON: Let's put the last graph back up of people -- so the really -- Hope Hicks and Keith Schiller they were the originals. Of course Ivanka Trump and much longer than Jared after he married her. But those were really the original three, right there.

ZAKARIA: Right she comes out of the real estate business.

LEMON: Right.

ZAKARIA: She knows him before he was a candidate.

LEMON: Right. And Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn came on. And Dan (inaudible) was the communications online media person, whatever. And Kellyanne Conway came in late towards the end. She was there really from the beginning. Almost like a threshold.

ZAKARIA: Sometimes what happens when administrations face crisis what you tend to see is hunkering down to the core associates, to the old soul mates. What's happening here is the opposite. Those people are leaving. And what you're left with are people with whom Trump has no real relationship. McMaster, Kelly. These are not people Donald Trump trusts deeply. You can see that with Sessions his earliest political ally.

LEMON: Right.

ZAKARIA: So clearly there is no personal trust.

LEMON: Right.

ZAKARIA: SO, it must be a tough time for Donald Trump.

LEMON: I'm not sure about (Inaudible) it may go back longer than I said there, but listen I want to get your reaction, this is a Post story it is about Jared Kushner's security clearance and how four countries China, Mexico, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the UAE were discussing way to exploit his vulnerabilities, his business debt, his lack of political experience, what do you make of this, what's the end game here do you think.

ZAKARIA: I think it's important to understand all governments are always trying to influence and manipulate key figures in the White House. So that is not new. And those particular four it strikes me as plausible they were doing that. And people do that all the time. They try to identify ways to do kind a do end runs around the bureaucracy and get to the President. Again, the difference here is because the President and Jared Kushner, and the family of the President as it were, have not really distanced themselves from the business activities, have not created an iron or Chinese wall, have not created a real separation. There is the -- there is this opportunity to engage in this kind of, you know, essentially bribery. I have a Chinese friend who said I know what the Chinese government is going to do. He said they do this with the Vietnamese. They do this with the Filipinos, with the Malaysians, basically they find clever ways to bribe politicians. I never thought I'd see them be able to do this with the President of the United States. That is the difference.

LEMON: In terms of exploiting Kushner's vulnerabilities. I mean it's interesting -- Israel one of those countries. Because I remember in the Netanyahu family, friends with Jared Kushner's family. Netanyahu even slept on Jared's bed. Israel is trying to exploit his vulnerabilities. And he is good friends with it.

ZAKARIA: The Israelis are trying to pursue their national interest as aggressively as they can. Nobody should fault them for that. Nobody should fall the Mexican or the Chinese. The problem is again why do you have these vulnerability? Why not do what every modern President has done which is to not simultaneously -- the Philippines ambassador to America is Donald Trump's business partner. So you have a guy in Washington who is representing -- who is writing checks to Donald Trump. I mean, how could that not be seen as problem?

LEMON: Because I think congress or the people --

ZAKARIA: There are no thing in the president has this very special status in the American system which is why great Presidents have always been defined by the restraint -- from George Washington down. The point is you have the special status and special powers. You are extra careful to follow not just the letter of the law, but the spirit to follow norms and conventions. There was no new two-term limit when George Washington decided that he would not run for his term. It was a norm, it was behavior that he thought would set a standard.

LEMON: Yes, an honorable person would be in the position. Thank you, Fareed Zakaria. Don't miss Fareed Zakaria GPS, Sunday at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Eastern. When we comeback Hope Hicks refusing to answer questions yesterday about the misleading statements on Trump junior's meeting with Russians and a statements she was involved in cracking on board air force one. But now, now that she is resigning, will that change?


[23:18:25] LEMON: The latest White House bombshell Hope Hicks announcing her resignation one day after she admitted to telling white lies in the service of the President. I want to bring in now CNN contributor John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel and also Jack Quinn former Clinton White House council. Good evening to both of you. John, Hope Hicks is out today one day after the appearance before the house intel yesterday. What's your read on this?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I'm not sure the reason she is out. Obviously it's been a rough time for her. I've read the explanation that she was contemplating this for a while, the stress at issue, all that. But also the fact that she was read the riot act by her boss could have triggered -- as said in the last segment, could have triggered the departure.

LEMON: You and John -- Jack, you and John have both been White House counsel. So how does this work, is it routine that anyone testifying on the Hill or before the Mueller team comes back to the White House and he debriefs the White House.

JACK QUINN, CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT AL-GORE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: You know, when Ken Starr interviewed people ordinarily they would have their own lawyers. But the President's lawyers would communicate with those lawyers, because we had, you know, a client that had something in common. And in our case, you know, we had the President had outside lawyers representing him in his personal capacity. And we were there to represent him in his capacity as President or, in other words, to represent the office of the President and protect as best we could the prerogatives of the presidency. [23:20:10] LEMON: So John, Hicks was a key figure on the air force

one, the trip when the President and aides drafted that misleading statement about Don Jr. and Jared, Steve Bannon's meetings with all those Russians. He refused to answer questions about that yesterday. Does the departure mean she will have to be more forth coming about the role in the White House or not.

DEAN: It could well. Executive privilege is not really a legal privilege. It's more political than legal. There have been legal enforcements of it. But for example when Nixon refused to turn his tapes over to congress, congress never got the tapes. Only the courts got them with the Supreme Court decision based on executive privilege. So Hope Hicks is in a situation where so long as she wants to claim it, she could probably get away with it. But if she doesn't want to claim it, there is no way that Trump can enforce her to say I invoke executive privilege. Particularly now that she doesn't work for him.

QUINN: I would add.

LEMON: Go ahead, Jack.

QUINN: I would add simply that if the congress stands up for itself it can force the issue. There were.

LEMON: With contempt.

QUINN: I'm sorry?

DEAN: With contempt.

QUINN: Yes. Absolutely. Congress moved to hold people in our White House -- myself included, in contempt. Now it never came to that. And it was a bargaining chip, if you will. But, yes, congress has the ability to do that, to force the issue. They're not going to do it here. In this circumstance you are quite right. But one of the things that is abundantly clear is that Mr. Mueller is not going to roll over the way the congress will. The congress is not standing up for its constitutional prerogatives. That much is clearer. But Bob Mueller I think is not in any way shape or form going to accept the idea that an individual, who is not the President, by the way, asserts executive privilege, because he or she has been told by someone at the White House to do so. The executive privilege is the privilege of only one person in this country, and that is the President. He has to invoke it, not any of his aides.

LEMON: So, John, tonight the "Washington Post" is reporting that Robert Mueller is investigating President Trump's apparent effort to oust the Attorney General Jeff Sessions last July. Why does that interest Mueller?

DEAN: Well, again, it's not unlike the Comey firing. It could raise the possibility of obstruction of justice. What was his intent when he was doing this? While he has the constitutional power to remove anybody who is serving at his pleasure in all of his cabinet members do. If he does it with the intent to defeat an investigation by the special counsel that raises a whole separate issue whether he is doing so to obstruct justice.

LEMON: Paul Manafort was in court gain today pleading not guilty to fresh allegations of money laundering, conspiracy, making false statements about foreign lobbying. The charges are piling up here really. What do you think Manafort's strategy is to get out of the trouble that he is in? Jack, what do you think?

QUINN: Paul Manafort has three path ways. He can go to trial. I certainly wouldn't take that on a contingency fee. He can hold out and hope he gets a pardon. I think that a pardon is becoming increasingly dangerous for the President. And he is unlikely to see it happen.

LEMON: Why is that dangerous? Why is that becoming increasingly dangerous?

QUINN: Well it goes to the point John just made. It could be evidence of the President's intent in connection with an obstruction case.

LEMON: Got it.

QUINN: So I would think that the President's personal counsel would advise him not to do that, because it does add to this pile of evidence on that matter. And then, you know, the third choice of course is to plea. And I think in fact that the most likely thing here -- and what clearly the special counsel is driving toward, is putting sufficient pressure on Paul Manafort that he will plead to some of the charges against him, as did his long-term assistant Rick Gates, who, by the way got a very generous deal. And as you suggested, the charges against Paul Manafort, when you put the charges pending in the District of Columbia and Alexandria, Virginia, together I think they're in the mid-20s already.

[23:25:05] LEMON: Wow!

QUINN: He is facing the rest of his natural life in prison unless he makes a deal with the special counsel.

LEMON: What do you think Manafort's strategy is to get out of the trouble that he is in, John?

DEAN: Well I can't be sure at this stage. Some speculation has been he is more afraid of the Russians and Ukrainians at this point than he is of going to jail for the rest of his life. So who knows what motivates him totally. His wife is with him still. We know from the extensive number of texts that he got -- he lost between his daughters a lot about his frame of mind. He actually threatened to commit suicide in the past over his marriage. So I have no idea how to get into his mind or what his strategy could be. The simplest solution and the honorable thing to do at this point would be to turn himself in and say here is what I know.

LEMON: Tell the truth, yes. Thank you, John, thank you Jack. I appreciate it.

QUINN: Sure.

LEMON: When we come back the President meeting with lawmakers about guns today shocking pretty much everyone by seeming to embrace some of the same policies President Obama put forward. So will new laws actually be passed? I'm going to ask congresswoman who represents Sandy Hook Connecticut. She attended the meeting today.


[23:30:45:] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: President Trump holding a meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House to see if they can reach a consensus on gun legislation. I want you to listen to this exchange with Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty whose district includes Sandy Hook.


ELIZABETH ESTY, (D) SANDY HOOK: And I was sitting with new member training when I got calls and texts about a school shooting what turned out to be 20, 6 and 7-year-olds. I haven't had a day I don't think about that, Chris and I don't think about it. That is been our nightmare for the people we represent it's now Ted's nightmare and it is now your nightmare.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why didn't they do something about it when that happened? I mean when you look at Columbine, you look at so many of this horrible events why didn't they do something about it? Why didn't this group of people plus others and some have gone and some will be here.

ESTY: We tried. I think people tried. But I think your point is this we're at a tipping point at a tipping point and which why we are I don't know. But I think it's --

TRUMP: Elizabeth you know why we are, because about a week will go by, another week another week, another week, and all of a sudden people will be on other things, we can't let that happen.


LEMON: We're happy to have the Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty here now. She joins me now. Thank you so much for joining us. I watched your facial expressions all day. I watched you make the case for what you wanted. The President was taking a jab at previous administrations making a point that he thinks they didn't do enough. Do you think that he -- that he actually has a full grasp how the legislative process works, especially with this issue, an issue that is so contentious?

ESTY: It is incredibly contentious, but I think he surprised a lot of us today by saying he is willing to take on the NRA, and specifically called out Republican leadership for being afraid of the NRA. A lot of us have been saying that for a long type. Frankly the students have been saying that in Parkland. It's possible he does get that part of it. Now -- but words are pretty easy to say. The real proof will be does he line up? Does he lean in and push to make this happen? And that gets what we're all waiting to see now.

LEMON: And pushing back on some of the Republican members who were there.

ESTY: Absolutely.

LEMON: With some of the issues they wanted, right.

ESTY: He was. Steve Scalise, the majority whip, who shot in the last year repeatedly asked for having the concealed carry elements included. And the President looked him right in the face twice and said, no, that shouldn't be in these bill. You don't have the votes.

LEMON: Yes. He said if you want to do it separately then do it. I have a lot to get to Congresswoman but then again I am so glad that you are here. Let's run through some of this. At one point the President said he is ban bump stocks basically saying executive order. Do you think he will follow through on that?

ESTY: I'll wait and see. I'd love to see him try. I have to say President Obama tried to do it and was told by the Department of Justice that he didn't have congressional authority to do that. So I think it is going to take congressional authority. But I welcome anything this President is willing to do or any President is willing to do to save lives. I'm going to help to support that.

LEMON: The subject of mental health came up several times. Here is the President.


TRUMP: To go to court would have taken a long time. You could do exactly what you say, but take the guns first, go through due process second.


LEMON: Were you surprised to hear the President say that, that the President has been taking a great deal of heat over that from the base on the right.

ESTY: Well the fact you do need to have due process. I'm one of the co-authors of a bill we just introduced that would have one of the gun violence restraining orders, GVRO's, that in extreme cases like in Florida, would empower local officials to actually remove weapons before anybody hurts somebody. Well that is really important. They don't have that law in Florida. Every state should have that law. But you got to have due process. And, frankly, not to have due process would be wrong. You're certainly going to run in a buzz of all kinds of people if you don't do that.

LEMON: The NRA is saying great TV bad policy.

[23:35:00] ESTY: Well, again, I want to see real legislation that makes a real difference to save lives, the right kind of gun violence restraining order has done that, done that in my state of the Connecticut and the Vice President's state of Indiana. So there are state that are doing this now, every state should have it.

LEMON: At one point while discussing CNN Joe Manchin and Senator (inaudible) proposal on gun background checks, the President brought up the idea of raising the age of all gun purchases from 18 to 21. Listen to this exchange.


TRUMP: It doesn't make sense that I have to wait until I'm 21 to get a handgun but I can get this weapon at 18. I don't know, I was just curious as what you did in your bill, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't address it, Mr. President.

TRUMP: You know why because you're afraid of the NRA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No the NRA -- it never came up.

TRUMP: It's a big issue right now. A lot of people are talking about it.


LEMON: That is exactly what you said. He pushed back and said no you're afraid of the NRA. Do you think the President will stand up to the NRA? Words mean one thing as you say, but actually action is quite different.

ESTY: We'll see. You know, we'll see. But you know what, he likes to be a disrupter. And people elected him to be a disrupter. And if he will actually stand up to the NRA, and get other Republicans to do so, I'm going to applaud that. I've been fighting this for five years. In that time 150,000 people have lost their lives to gun violence in this country. A 150,000 these kids know what's wrong. They're speaking up. Truth to power. And the President actually is aware of their power.


ESTY: I think that is part of what we are seeing now.

LEMON: very good. Let's hope he can do something and you guys can as well. Thank you so much Congresswoman, I appreciate it.

ESTY: Thanks so much appreciate it.

LEMON: When we come back much more on the top story tonight. Hope Hicks resigning as communications Director. The Trump White House already holds the record for highest turnover in any modern presidency. Highest turnover in any modern presidency. Who takes that job next?


[23:41:22] LEMON: White House communications Director Hope Hicks, one of the President's closest aides, the latest through the revolving door at the executive mansion. One day after telling a congressional committee that she sometimes tells white lies for the President. Let's discusses CNN political commentator Peter Beinart, Angela Rye and Alice Stewart.

So listen, Peter, Hope Hicks is one of the president's trusted adviser has resigned -- the turnover there in this administration is the highest for any presidency in decades, I think in modern history. What do you think the root cause of this is?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She supposedly didn't like Washington. I don't think working for Donald Trump is a whole lot of fun. But I think the important story is she didn't really answer the questions out of the house committee. She knows a lot reportedly about the firing of Comey. And also was involved in drafting the statement about Trump junior's meeting with the Russians. She wouldn't answer the questions the house committee asked. They should subpoena her.

LEMON: They should subpoena her.

BEINART: Right, the Republicans are blocking it, but she should be subpoenaed.

LEMON: Maybe that will happen now she can't claim the privilege.

BEINART: That would be a good thing coming out of this.

LEMON: Alice, Hicks said to be always by the President's side, that she was his emotion support, but also she is one of the best people giving the President bad news. Who is going to do that now?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He has Ivanka to help provide that information for him if need be. He has other folks that are going to have to fill the role and fill the void. Look, you asked the -- how did this come about? Look, the original sin was Hope Hicks denying that their campaign had contacts with Russia. And that in the face of credible evidence to the contrary gave credible cause for this to be looked into further. And the reality is moving forward in that role, any communications professional is only as good as their credibility. And when you are on record saying that you've told little white lies, that is a big fat problem moving forward. So I think that in addition to probably a stern -- a scolding from others at the White House after her testimony yesterday, it's a lot, not to mention the huge legal bills that she has as a result of this. And you know, I -- I can't say it's a surprise that she needed to go out and make money to help pay for that.

LEMON: What do you think, Angela? What do you think the root cause of her resignation is?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do think the white lies thing is a big problem. It's actually a big problem throughout this White House. We know that Donald Trump from the moment he wakes up in the morning to the moment he lays his head down at night is telling stories. Stories are lies, are fibs, alternative facts, which of course was branded also under this White House. So I think there are many challenges that exist. And Hope Hicks is the latest fall gal. And she definitely fell on the sword yesterday before the House Intelligence Committee, testifying before -- more than nine hours is no easy feat. But she also was very forth coming. I understand base on Jim Acosta's reporting what she was saying before the committee is now being looked at by the Mueller, the special counsel investigation. There you have it.

LEMON: So the President wants to take your guns away. Who am I talking about, everyone?

LEMON: This President -- this President? We'll be right back.


[23:48:41] LEMON: President Trump holding a live televised meeting at the White House on possible gun legislation and shocking members of his own Party by sounding more like a Democrat. Back with me, Peter Beinart, Angela Rye, and Alice Stewart. I stumped you guys before the break, and now I'm going to explain to you what I meant. I want to play this clip of the President in a bipartisan White House meeting about guns today.


TRUMP: To go to court would have taken a long time. So you could do exactly what you're saying, but take the guns first. Go through due process second.


LEMON: What was that face you were making? Ok. The President just said he is in favor of taking guns away from Americans without due process, an extraordinary statement coming from a Republican President. What's your reaction, Peter?

BEINART: If Barack Obama said that, all hell would be breaking loose. I think we have to take this with a grain of salt. Remember what he did in that bipartisan televise meeting about the dreamers. Democrats were there. He said, I love them so much. I'm going to take care of them. Oftentimes Donald Trump doesn't actually realize what his own Party's position is, because he is so ignorant. Then people come in and whisper in his ear and say, you know what? We actually believe this other thing. Then he usually moves in that direction. That is what he do in immigration.

LEMON: Alice, is that what happened here?

STEWART: I think this is part of the art of the deal. I know that -- I've spoken with some Senators and members of the house who do have a problem with that aspect of it. It's basically, you know, take them away and then basically ask questions later and they have concerns over that.

[23:50:06] But I think every option is on the table. I think this President clearly has made it quite clear with conversations he is had and today, he is ready to take some action on this. And it's not necessarily about the guns. It's about other aspects. It's about the point of purchase, raising the minimum age up to 21, expanding background checks, making sure you have incentives for people to put information in the system so when they go to check people's background, they have the pertinent information that can help them make the decision. And he is not going to back away from his commitment to looking at hardening schools and arming teachers that are adept and trained at firearms to making sure we have no more gun- free zones. So all options are on the table. I don't think we should paint him in a box on anything. But it's clear he is not going to shy away from the NRA to get something done.

LEMON: Yes, that whole arming teacher's thing, I mean geez.

RYE: It's horrible.

LEMON: What do you think? I mean Peter brings up a good point, Angela. What if the Obama administration had said something like, we're going to take the guns, and then we'll worry about due process, whether the person deserves to have their guns taken away or not?

RYE: Let me give you some comfort here. Despite Donald Trump's many attempts to question and undermine President Obama's ability, his resume, where he went to school, he was a constitutional law professor. So what he would not ever compromise is due process. So let's take that right off the table. No matter how many times the NRA said that Barack Obama wants to take your guns away, the only President in recent history who has said that is, ta-da, Donald Trump, the person they gave $30 million towards -- I'm sorry, more than $30 million towards his Presidential election. And so the reality of it is, I know Alice is saying we can, you know, basically bank on his words. Yes, I thank you for that graphic exhibit a right here. We can count on his words, but we really can't. We don't know where Donald Trump stands, and I think to Peter's point, he doesn't know where he stands. This is no art of the deal. He says whatever is politically expedient, and then he has to backtrack from it moments later. And unfortunately right now, this is when lives are on the line, and it is poetic justice today. You know why? We're talking about teachers being armed. There was an armed teacher today, and what a disaster that was. You cannot have people who are not properly trained with weapons in schools. Kids are going to schools to learn, to become their better selves. This is not any type of boot camp where they need to be in fear. It's ridiculous.

LEMON: So the NRA put out a statement tonight, and it's pretty -- you know, makes it pretty clear they did not like what they heard at this meeting. Do you think that it will be the end of it for President Trump and the Republicans? The NRA is not happy about it. They said it was good TV, I think, but bad policy.

BEINART: Look, I don't think the Republicans in congress also generally reacted negatively. I think their view basically about Donald Trump is he pops off. He doesn't know what he is talking about. But we are going to stick with the NRA, because we're dependent on them. They get us elected. They give us money. And they're going to wait this thing out. And I think ultimately, look, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have not even said they will hold a vote on any of these measures that the NRA opposes. So I still think the chances sadly of something getting through are slim.

LEMON: Alice, I want to ask you about this, talk about the Republican Congressman Don Young from Alaska. He suggested that more Jews would have survived the holocaust if they had been armed with guns. What's your reaction to that?

STEWART: I think it's an idiotic thing to say. I think it's completely inappropriate, not to mention it's not just true. I've been to Auschwitz before. I've seen what they went through, and I can assure you that nothing would have saved those people. So I think that is just an idiotic statement. You know, he certainly needs to apologize for that. But let me make one other point when we're talking about the NRA. None of the members of congress get enough money and contributions from the NRA to sway their vote. They get that money, because they are second amendment supporters. They support second amendment rights. That is what --

RYE: That is not true, Alice.

STEWART: That is true. That is true.

RYE: That is not true.

STEWART: I've talked with many of them.

RYE: They lie.

STEWART: They're going to stand up for that. The NRA wants to have change, wants to have expanded background checks. They want to do something that will put an end to this violence, but this is about taking all guns out of the hands of some people and not some guns out of the hands of all people.

LEMON: Angela first. Go ahead.

RYE: Just stop the NRA TSA for a second, because we have an obligation to spread truth and facts on this network. I would just say that is fundamentally not fair and true. I think on a bipartisan -- hell, even a non-partisan level we can just acknowledge there's far too much money in our politics. And we know that people who can pay a higher price get their issues heard, their voices heard, their issues legislated and written into, in carved out form in bills. Let us not pretend --

[23:55:10] LEMON: And discounts on airlines.

RYE: I mean come on. Let's be very honest about this. That is not true. This isn't about being a second amendment supporter. This is about carrying the water of the NRA for far too long. And even your President today, Alice, said that these are folks who are scared of the NRA. So he act like he will be tomorrow.

BEINART: To be fair, it's not just the money. They also have a much mobilized group of the supporters. But the idea that they're defending the second amendment, as if preventing an 18-year-old from getting an assault rifle is actually seriously threatening the second amendment -- this is not about the second amendment. The second amendment will be fine if these very modest gun control measures go through.

LEMON: Ok. Thank you.

STEWART: Health care and pharmaceutical lobbies are much more powerful in terms of money than the NRA.

RYE: Come on Alice, shame on all of them.

STEWART: I think it is important to take a look, this is about supporting second amendment rights. It's not about being beholden to any group.

RYE: This is about kids dying. That is what it's about. And it's about Don's birthday in a few minutes.


Happy birthday.

LEMON: I'll be 25 again. It's like groundhog's day.

RYE: And you've still got it, Don.

LEMON: Wakanda forever, Wakanda forever.

RYE: Yes.

LEMON: Let me see Wakanda Angela.

BEINART: Donald Trump did that.

LEMON: The President is now going to see Black Panther tomorrow.

STEWART: That will be a great birthday present.

BEINART: He is a big fan.


LEMON: Bye all, thank you. Good night everybody.