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Allegations to a Predecessor; Travel Ban Part Two; Obamacare Light. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 6, 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, CNN HOST: That's all the time we have, thanks for watching. Time to hand it over to Don Lemon for CNN Tonight. I'll see you tomorrow night.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: It would be an absolutely stunning charge if it were true.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
President Trump doubling down on his Twitter charge that former president Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of his phones during the campaign with absolutely no evidence. No evidence to back it up, a source saying FBI Director James Comey was, quote, "incredulous" over the president's allegations and had his staff reach out to the Department of Justice, asking them to knock down the whole thing.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer tonight, ducking the question of whether the White House has confidence in Comey. But is all this just a distraction from the real issues facing the administration, and the country?
I want to do something that I don't normally do, I want to say a few things before we get started tonight. What happened over the weekend from the President of the United States is not politics as usual. It is not normal. And none of us in the media or at home should pretend that it is.
This is at best a clumsy attempt to dangle a shiny object, change the subject from Russia and throw us off the track. It is at worse an angry president trying to make someone or something else a scapegoat for the problems of his administration.
President Trump said that former President Obama wiretapped him. Former President Obama, not the Obama administration, no one in the administration, but the former president wiretapped him. We have no evidence of that, zero, and no one in the administration has provided any. None. Only spin.
James Clapper was the Director of National Intelligence when such alleged wiretaps would have happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president or the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: And at this point you can't confirm or deny whether that exists?
CLAPPER: I can deny it.
TODD: There is no FISA court order?
CLAPPER: Not to my knowledge.
TODD: Of anything at Trump tower?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: FBI Director James Comey incredulous the president would say such a thing. Former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden give this blunt explanation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: The president of the United States put his own reputation, the reputation of his predecessor and the reputation of his nation at risk to get at least a draw out of the next 24 hours of news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: If Hayden got it right, if President Trump risked all that to distract and deflect from the real story which is Russia, by the way, then we Americans should not allow that to happen. We have to follow the truth, wherever that leads.
Now, let's get started. Let's go to our senior and CNN senior political analysts, Mark Preston is here, senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, global affairs analyst, David Rohde, senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, and senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, I'll get to the news first, what's going on here, Jeffrey Toobin?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I don't know. I actually don't agree with what you said, that this was somehow an attempt to distract. I think this is just the way Donald Trump is. I don't think he's playing some careful four dimensional chess, I think he sees things on Breitbart, he sees things in right wing social media.
LEMON: I didn't say strategic. I didn't say it's strategic. TOOBIN: Well, you said it was an attempt to distract.
TOOBIN: I think he's just angry, he's angry about how it's going in his administration, and he sees an explanation here on the internet, and he tweets about it. I don't think it's any more complicated than that.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: I think regardless of what the reason is, I think it's incredibly reckless. I mean, let's assume there was some validity to it. To have the President of the United States make that charge against his predecessor at 6.30 in the morning, 7 o'clock in the morning on a Saturday. It seems like his staff was caught off guard, they weren't able to answer the question.
And let's assume that it's not true at all because there is no evidence, then doesn't it bring his credibility, you know, into question. And quite frankly, what does that do for the American people when they look at the President of the United States and wonder if they can trust him.
DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think it shows how bitterly divided we are. The CNN poll today said 71 percent of democrats are very concerned about the reports of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. Fifty four of percent of republicans are not concerned at all about those contacts.
So, he's playing to his base, that may backfire in the long term, but I think he believes it, and people who are reading those right wing sites believes it.
LEMON: The person who has, who should have access to the best intelligence, the most intelligence out of anyone on the planet, believes it and there is no -- there's no credible evidence for it?
ROHDE: You have Steve Bannon, you have the far right and the far left blaming a deep state. I have covered that deep state, I've got a leak myself that's under investigation for a story I wrote. I think these are, you know, generally public servants, and they're concerned and that's why they're leaking this information. But a huge segment of the American public believes that it's a...
[22:05:06] LEMON: Let's just say -- let's just say -- let's say it's true. Which most people, with any knowledge of it, would say that it's not. Let's -- but as the President of the United States, wouldn't you say here's my evidence? Here's how the Obama administration, or the president wiretapping? I'm showing you this. The American people, I've gotten this information, this is what happened? None of that has happened. PRESTON: No, no, no. In the real world it wouldn't be the President
of the United States that would come out and actually make this accusation. It would be the press secretary, it would be perhaps the attorney general, it would be his lawyer, the legal counsel that would come out and do it.
You wouldn't see the President of the United States come out and make a charge in any other world than the Trump world we're living in.
LEMON: So let's talk about the FBI Director James Comey now saying that this was incredulous over President Trump's tweets. And now seems like the people closest to the president are scrambling to back up the president's baseless claims. What's the latest from the White House, Jeff Zeleny?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, look, the president was far more definitive about these statements and claims on Saturday than his aides have been. We've heard words like if this happened, or maybe this happened, we should look into it, his aides were absolutely defending him, and saying that there should be a congressional investigation.
But don, I was struck by one thing here today at the White House, we did not see the president or have an opportunity to ask him a question or anything. It was the first weekday in his seventh week in office, where he did not have a public press event, he generally signs executive orders with the press there.
He signed a very important executive order today, it was close. So I think that the White House clearly does not want him talking about this. Tomorrow he may be talking about this. But look, Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary also had a press briefing off camera, then he did talk to our Sara Murray later in the afternoon.
But he did talk about the FBI director, there are deep divisions there, there's frustration there, James Comey trying to defend his bureau, but this is what Sean Spicer said about the FBI.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES PRESS SECRETARY: We've only heard unsubstantiated anonymous sources make those claims, I don't think Director Comey has actually commented on anything that he's allegedly said, so I'm not going to comment on what people say he might have said, I think the director is more than capable of speaking for himself.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But what about the president's view of the FBI director?
SPICER: Well, I haven't even asked him that yet, I think obviously he's focused today first and foremost on this effort to keep the country safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ZELENY: So just a bit of context there, Sara Murray was asking Sean Spicer if the president stands by or has confidence in his FBI director. And the White House press secretary you could hear him say right there, he said he hasn't talked to him about that yet. So we don't know that he does not have a confidence in him. If that's true it certainly did not sound like a huge vote of confidence right there, Don.
LEMON: Nia-Malika I want to bring you in. Now the White House and their officials they can try their best to back up the president. But the bottom line is, there is no proof of what the president dashed out on Twitter. It was an extremely serious allegation, about the former president, saying specifically that the former president was wiretapping him, had wiretapped him.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, and this of course came in a series of tweets early in the morning, 6 or 7 tweets, making these a bombshell allegations, I mean, this would be one of the biggest stories in the last 50, 60 years of American history, if this were true.
And you would imagine if you were Donald Trump and you had this evidence as he suggested he did, you would want to hold a press conference. I know Mark said it wouldn't be the president who would do that. But my goodness, a man who's so concerned about our ratings, this would be a very highly rated press conference, right, if he were to come out and lay out all the evidence.
I think the fact is, at least at this point there doesn't seem to be any evidence to this, so you have his aids so far, Sarah Huckabee- Sanders, Kellyanne Conway going out and trying to defend this. And Donald Trump essentially hiding behind Twitter.
I mean, remember, when he tweeted that out in the morning, 6 or 7 tweets about this, his final tweet was about Arnold Schwarzenegger' ratings in the "Apprentice." So that I think in some ways suggests that the level of seriousness in terms of his approach to this, on the seriousness of the evidence behind this is very much lacking.
And again, I think we had the conspiracy theorists candidate and now we have a conspiracy theorist president in many ways, someone who gets some of his information from Breitbart, from conservative talk radio, and doesn't use the power of the White House, where he can summon any and every one to ask questions, he doesn't do that.
HENDERSON: He just reads and he tweets stuff.
LEMON: We're laughing, it's not funny, it's laughable. I can say that it's laughable. But listen, I have to...
PRESTON: Interesting distinction. Not funny, but laughable. LEMON: Yes. You know, Jeffrey, I'm glad -- I don't want everyone to
agree -- you don't think - with me. You don't think that it was him changing -- I do, I think it was so much negativity, so much negative press coming out about Russia, that he's just, oh, my gosh, what am I going to do, how ma I going to handle this.
[22:10:08] But to Nia-Malika's point. And this is first to you, Jeffrey, and I want Mark to tackle this as well. The conspirator in chief that she mentioned, he fueled birtherism, he implied that Ted Cruz' father was involved in JFK's assassination. He claims that millions of illegal votes were cast against him. The inaugural crowd size, and the list goes on.
So if it's not to change the narrative, or if it's not something that many people may be afraid to say, then what is it?
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, I think -- you have to keep in mind, he said all these false things. He was found...
LEMON: It was rewarded for.
TOOBIN: Admitted -- you know, admitted assaulting women, and what happened to him?
LEMON: He became...
TOOBIN: He got elected President of the United States. So, some of this stuff is working pretty well for him. I think he feels like he's an authentic personality, that he doesn't have a sensor, he's not politically correct the phrase he loves to mock. And I think this is just who he is. Also, it's worth keeping in mind, he's 70 years old, I don't know about you. But I don't know a lot of 70 year olds who change their personalities when they get a new job.
LEMON: He's never going to change.
TOOBIN: I mean, I'm 27 and I'm never going to change.
TOOBIN: That's an alternative fact.
LEMON: Yes, that's a really alternative fact. But I mean, you and I sat here this entire time even before the campaign and we talked about birtherism. We knew that was completely not true.
LEMON: But then we gave credence to people when many people believe. Just because many people believe, just because there are false reports that are written and poorly sourced reports, does not make it so.
PRESTON: No. And you know, to David's point, so he has got his base, right, and he's playing to his base. And the numbers were not necessarily eroding around the base. Where they eroding, though, is we're seeing an erosion with independents and what have you. And that's just the beginning now.
You know, for Donald Trump, so far, he's been successful, I've said this time and time again. Because he's been able to govern through executive order. It doesn't mean he has to go to Congress to get anything done. It's basically, he says I want this done, signs a piece of paper, it happens.
Those executive orders run out. Then you have to govern, and this is where I think that he runs into trouble. He's not going to get away with this type of stuff that he did on Saturday when he's not able to deliver on the campaign promises that he said he would for his supporters, and then I think that's when you're going to see the erosion from republicans.
TOOBIN: But republicans have...
LEMON: I got -- Jeff, can you hold that thought. TOOBIN: Sure.
LEMON: Hold that thought. We're going to talk about that soon, and we'll also talk about the travel ban, and there's also other news.
There's also Obamacare, the repeal and replacement of that. There are big issues to get and Russia. And Russia, we're staying focused on that. We'll be right back.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We're back now with Mark Preston, Jeffrey Toobin, David Rohde, and Nia-Malika Henderson. David, I'm going to ask you this, John Kelly, the Department of Homeland Security spoke to Wolf Blitzer earlier, here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I don't know anything about it, other than when I was sitting here in the studio at CNN, if the president of the United States said that, he's got his reasons to say it, he's got some convincing evidence that that took place.
OLF BLOTZER, CN HOST: What possibly could that convincing evidence be?
KELLY: I don't -- I don't pretend to even guess as to what the motivation may have been to the previous administration to do something like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROHDE: Look, writers in my news agency, we spent all day trying to get something clear about this. And there is no evidence that we were able to find to back up the president's claim. It appears to be based on this, you know, the Breitbart news report and the other sort of right wing news reports, and that's all we have at this point.
So, it's back to people's personal belief and the president himself, and whether he would say something that was false and reckless.
LEMON: They want to investigate this, I mean, are they going to get -- they have to get around to investigating the three million people who voted illegally? I mean, when are all these investigations are going to take place.
TOOBIN: And when are we going to keep up the heat, I mean, that's the question.
TOOBIN: I mean, you know, we get all outraged, he said there were three million people who voted illegally, and we're all outraged for a night. And then the circus moves on and it went to another story.
Now this one may be big enough that people would stick around for a while. And it is related to the Russia issue.
TOOBIN: Which clearly is not going away. But I think, you know, we're responsible here, too, for allowing this stuff to go on without accountability.
LEMON: As I said at the top of the show, which I'm sure you'll agree with this, Jeffrey, that the shiny object, right? We get distracted by the shiny object. And many times we don't follow where the story leads because we move on to the next case.
PRESTON: You know, can I just say one thing about the shiny object? You know, the difference between -- and I agree with Jeffrey. The difference between him thinking that three million people, you know, as far as inauguration, or him accusing the former president of spying on him is that this shiny object that he put out there Saturday is very sharp.
LEMON: Very sharp.
PRESTON: It's very, very sharp and it cuts.
HENDERSON: I also think in terms of the shiny object, I mean, if you talk to Pam Brown, if you talk to Jim Sciutto, if you talk to our fabulous reporters here, they aren't distracted by the shiny object. They are doing fantastic reporting on this White House.
People at the Washington Post, people at the New York Times, Greg Miller at the Washington Post, I don't think is distracted by the shiny object, he's breaking all sorts of stories as our reporters are at the CNN -- at CNN as well, Jim Sciutto, Pam Brown, and Evan Perez. And also I think...
LEMON: Fair point. It's just so many things that are coming down, it's like an avalanche. So you keep reporting, so fair point. I understand what you're saying, Nia.
But I want to ask you this, let's move on. Speaking of changing the subjects, let's move on and talk about the revised travel ban, shall we? It's down to six Muslim majority countries. It no longer includes Iraq. It removes language that indefinitely banned Syrian refugees, language that prioritizes religious minorities.
And now this one exempts permanent residents. So it was signed behind closed doors, without the press. Just a photo handout. What's happening, that is a first usually if you come back on camera, it is this with a bunch of people behind him and he goes -- right with the thing.
LEMON: And then he look at and he reads it, then he says, you know, this is a -- it's not a Muslim ban, we got to -- we got to keep the bad dudes out. So what's going on here?
HENDERSON: Well, I think he did not want to have to answer questions today about his tweets, and about his bombshell allegations against the former president. I mean, that is why we have not seen him on camera today with any reporters near him. That's plain and simple what is happening today, and why Spicer didn't give an on camera lengthy briefing, it was off camera. The president is in hiding. And we will see how long this last.
[22:20:07] LEMON: Will this hold...
TOOBIN: But to be fair, I think this executive order is a far more professional, far more fair document than the first one. It's much more likely to be upheld by the courts, and the argument that this is a Muslim ban is going to be much tougher to make.
So, you know, the professionals got involved. This wasn't a White House in the middle of the night. This was, you had quite a show of force, you know, the president wasn't there, but you had the secretary-general, you have the secretary of state, secretary of homeland security all throwing their weight behind this. It was I think, you know, for...
LEMON: This was a long way to go on and a hard lesson to learn.
ROHDE: Yes, but I want to say though that the message to the Muslim world remains that this is still viewed as a ban. I think the facts don't -- this ban is not going to make the country safer, it will make Muslims, you know, less likely to want to allow themselves in the United States. It doesn't change that basic dynamic, so it's better legally.
But again, studies, you know, the new American Foundation found there were 400 people charged with terrorism, nearly half of them were U.S. born native citizens, only, you know, maybe 3 percent of them were refugees. So, it's a lot of politics here that this is going to make the country safer according to all statistics I will tell.
LEMON: To my point. And this proves me right, Nia. But I want to give this to Mark. Now we're going to talk about the repealing and replacing of Obamacare. They just made it public, the republicans did, that they want to repeal the individual mandate, maintain coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, allows children to stay on their parents plans until 26, it replaces subsidies with tax credits and allows state Medicaid expansion through 20.
OK. So, everyone's has been wondering, this is Obamacare light, no?
PRESTON: Well, it is Obamacare light. We've already seen some republican, or I should say more conservative republican opposition to it saying it doesn't go far enough. You know, one thing we didn't see today. While they did release this bill, and we've seen some details on what they're going to do is that we didn't see how they're going to pay for it.
And we also saw that they're going to roll back, you know, when you take away the mandate, and you take away the money that went along with the mandate, right. So, you know, that's out the door. And they're going to roll back the taxes on many programs, such as the medical device tax is going to roll back, the prescription drug tax, the over-the-counter medicine tax. So we don't know exactly how much it's going to cost.
LEMON: Thank you all. Great. I enjoy this conversation. I appreciate it.
HENDERSON: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Thank you. Just ahead, President Trump telling a close friend he is confident he'll be proven right about his wiretapping claim. We're going to talk to that friend next.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his phones during last year's campaign but offering no evidence.
I want to bring in now, a man who knows President Trump well, Christopher Ruddy, he's the CEO of Newsmax and Newsmax TV. And I'm so happy to have you here because you know the president well, you've been friend to him for a long time. You met with him, you saw him twice this weekend.
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, NEWSMAX CEO: I did.
LEMON: So, what did he say about this wiretap story. RUDDY: Well, I saw him a few hours after he did those tweets, he had just come in off the golf course and he really wasn't aware of the news implications. I think or hadn't heard. And he asked me what was going on. And I said it's a big story.
And he said, ask if I was covering it on Newsmax, I said it was our lead story and he was angry. He was saying this is really bad. He said this is McCarthy-like stuff, this was Watergate, and he went through the process on the FISA court. He details some of that to me.
LEMON: What did he say?
RUDDY: So, well, he said the first judge rejected it and then he went back another time, another by the Apple, we had a little discussion about this.
LEMON: Did he have evidence of that because that's from a -- that's from a news report that has not been substantiated and there is no evidence to...
RUDDY So, I'm not -- I wouldn't say that he got it from that news report. He was pretty confident about it. He did not disclose to me, nor did I ask.
LEMON: Do you think he has intelligence?
RUDDY: I think he's aware. You know, I have -- I believe and I've talked to a number of people through the Trump campaign through the whole election period and after. I think there's almost 100 percent consensus among people at the highest level said that they were surveilled at one point or another.
Whether that was done at Trump tower or associates of the campaign where the period, or what the purpose of those surveillances were that they were -- they were done.
LEMON: OK. Do you think so?
RUDDY: And I believe that.
LEMON: But that is not what the president said. The president said the former president wiretapped him at Trump Tower, right?
RUDDY: Right. So, let's just be clear. I'm not here representing...
LEMON: I know, isn't it?
RUDDY: And I'm not speaking on behalf...
LEMON: But I just want to be clear for the audience. RUDDY: Right. And I am accepting what the president -- I say let's give him the benefit of the doubt. He said to me later that night on Saturday. I said, look, there's a lot of denials coming out. And he said, "look, they're going to investigate this and when they do to find out it's true and I will be proven right." That was his quote tome.
So, I think he's very confident about it. Obama does not do wiretap so the legal process, so we know that when he said Obama ordered it this may have been behind the scenes. This is the same administration that targeted conservative groups through a political unit at the IRS that we're seeing the non-profit groups.
The lady in charge of that was over at the White House two dozen times. She took the fifth amendment...
LEMON: Was that found out -- was that found out not proven true.
RUDDY: Well, my point is -- well, they never appointed special prosecutor on it.
RUDDY: So, my point is, the Obama administration had politicized the IRS. I don't think anybody questions it except the media doesn't want to talk about it.
LEMON: So don't you think we need a special prosecutor now then if you want a special prosecutor for that?
RUDDY: So, Don, the President of United States had two phone calls with heads of state, and with several hours of that those super-secret transcripts, secret conversations between the head of our country will leak to the Washington Post undermining the credibility of the United States.
You at CNN, and no one in the media talked about having a special prosecutor about those criminal leaks.
LEMON: So what are you talking about?
RUDDY: I'm talking about the leaks of the transcripts of the private conversations that Mr. President have.
LEMON: But between who and who?
[22:30:00] RUDDY: Well, between him and the president of Mexico, and then him and the prime minister of Australia, do you remember that story?
LEMON: Yes, but that...
RUDDY: So, my point is, we're picking and choosing the stories we like to cover...
LEMON: But those weren't leaks from the wiretaps. Those are recorded. He's -- you're in the Oval Office and you're talking to leaders, there are people there and there are transcripts of those things. And they're to giving top secret information. They're not giving classified information.
RUDDY: there's nothing more secret than the conversation between the president and another head of state. That's super classified.
LEMON: So, investigate the leaks but not possibility of bad behavior?
RUDDY: No, my point is that this president has been under siege from the minute he walks into that office. That the bureaucracy of the Obama holdover were leaking classified discussions that the president had almost within hours to embarrass the president and nobody is talking about this.
LEMON: So, I'm not saying that, Christopher -- Christopher Ruddy, you know -- you know, I mean, I do, I love you and at CNN I think you're a good man. But I think every president who goes into office is under siege, every president is under a spotlight. There is no difference between this president...
RUDDY: I would disagree. I don't think.
LEMON: You don't think President Barack Obama was put in the spotlight.
RUDDY: I don't think his group did that. There were no special prosecutors for anything and no calls for a special...
LEMON: Perhaps he didn't do anything that would draw the attention of people like having people in this campaign have conversations...
RUDDY: So let's go through go the list. Peel the onion...
LEMON: ... with Russian, people known to Russian intelligence.
RUDDY: Don, let's peel the onion on this, OK? You keep saying that's deny, deny, deny. Who's denying that there were surveillance at the Trump campaign. Almost the whole weekend every denial has been that Obama did not order it. OK. Well, we know it was a technical, a technically he does not order those types of things.
And then Clapper came on, but Clapper doesn't run the FBI. And then there's FBI coach you had it earlier in your program, but Comey has never said anything officially on this. And was he talking about a FISA warrant to the New York Times or none of his sources from his group there. I mean, this is an FBI, let's not forget. The FBI has wiretapped previous campaigns. Somebody wouldn't say this is unprecedented. We know in 1968 Lyndon Johnson ordered the FBI and they wiretapped the whole Nixon campaign...
LEMON: So, let me give you, let me give you all of that, fine. It is no secret that Kislyak who is a Russian Ambassador that Russian ambassadors their phone calls are monitored. That's how Flynn got caught.
LEMON: I mean, that's how -- that's some of the information that's being recorded, now being twisted to say, the Obama administration was monitoring Flynn. No, they are monitoring Kislyak who is an agent of the Russian government.
LEMON: So, it is not the Obama administration or the FBI or the NSA or the CIA monitoring Donald Trump or someone who its...
RUDDY: Look, I'm not...
LEMON: That's how he got caught from the person who works for Russia.
RUDDY: That's the claim.
LEMON: And so that's the twist that these groups or media or whatever you want, that's how they're twisting but that's not necessarily true.
RUDDY: I think that Donald Trump has a low threshold to be proven right here. I do -- there's a lot of people that believe among his group...
LEMON: That the former president of the United States.
RUDDY: That there was surveillance of the campaign. Now President Obama is going to deny any knowledge of it if that is -- if it did take place. We had Clapper out yesterday, right? This is the same man that testified under oath before Congress that said the NSA and the government was not collecting data on millions of Americans and as known revelations came out they proved that he had lied. He had to backtrack completely.
RUDDY: So, I mean, we keep seeing -- I would say give the benefit of the doubt to the president. Let's wait before we keep saying he is wrong, all I'm saying is... (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: I'm not saying he is wrong. I'm saying he has shown no evidence that the former president, which is what he said in no uncertain terms in six weeks. He didn't say the Obama administration, he didn't say the FBI, he didn't say the NSA, he didn't say the CIA, he said the former president.
And he said it was -- he was sad and it was -- I forget what the quote was about. I called it sad and like a bad guy and it was like -- it was like Watergate.
LEMON: That is a horrible assertion, a very serious assertion to make about any, well, that's...
RUDDY: To make about...
LEMON: So do you think that at least, at the very least that the President of the United States should be a bit more careful about who or what organizations he makes accusations about?
RUDDY: Well, I think he should be serious about it and I think he should present some evidence overtime and he told me that there will be an investigation or he wants an investigation and he said he would be proven right.
I'm not here to say that...
LEMON: An allegation, I understand that.
RUDDY: ... the allegation is true. I'm here to say let's give him the benefit of the doubt. We keep quoting all weekend anonymous. If you look at what the Obama people keep saying is the president didn't order the surveillance. That's basically what...
LEMON: Because that's what he said.
LEMON: That's what he accused of ordering the surveillance.
[22:35:00] RUDDY: Well, there's two parts to it. Do you think you've been around...
LEMON: If he had said the FBI...
RUDDY: Don Lemon, let me ask you.
LEMON: Now hold on, Christopher. If he said the FBI...
LEMON: ... wiretapped Trump tower no one would say anything about the former president. Because he would -- and so we would be asking if the FBI and what was and what proof did they have, and what judge gave them a FISA warrant to monitor the tower.
RUDDY: Well, we know there was a FISA warrant, the attorney general or the deputy general would have had to sign that.
RUDDY: It could have also been the title 3 warrant which would have been a little different under a criminal probe of Russian ties with the Trump campaign. Either way, do you can really believe that they -- if an agency surveilled the Trump campaign that they would not have informed the White House or the president about this. Not that they needed approval to do it.
But do you really believe as matter of way -- the way as Washington works he would not have been knowledgeable about it.
LEMON: It's not what I believe. It's what the evidence shows.
LEMON: So far there is no evidence that shows any of it. And every person, even the person who would have had knowledge of those warrants, of any type of wiretapping has come out and said very plainly, at least any agencies that he's run that there...
RUDDY: Look, I'm totally on the same page with you.
LEMON: And if you're the -- I know that you're friends with the president. But if you're the president of...
RUDDY: I'm friend with you, too.
LEMON: You're the president of the United States, Christopher, right?
LEMON: Your words hold power.
RUDDY: Donald Trump is the President of the United States. LEMON: Right. That's what I'm saying. If Donald Trump is the President of the United States, instead of going off bombastically on Twitter and making accusations and giving no evidence for that, don't you think that he should not do that, back up his information, and then once he has it -- because it puts our country in jeopardy and it undermines our democracy.
RUDDY: So, two parts to that. The jury is still out on whether those allegations are true or false. And I'd like to see the evidence.
LEMON: But that's my whole point. Why say he did it and not show evidence and then you're saying the jury is still out.
RUDDY: Well, I can tell you that he was very confident in the allegation that he made. Let's give him time. But secondly, I do think he should re-adjust the Twitter usage, there should be a process for this, it is very important and it's important for the image of the -- he's only in there a little over 30 days. And I think...
LEMON: Yes, 45 days.
RUDDY: My experience with Donald Trump through the years is he does adjust, he improves.
LEMON: We're waiting.
RUDDY: Well, I think we've seen a big improvement in the messaging.
RUDDY: He had a great week last week. That speech before Congress was terrific.
LEMON: Listen, there are lots of things that, you know, you could use. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt. When you look at the list of things that I read off earlier, from Ted Cruz's father.
RUDDY: You have a long list.
LEMON: I have a long list, and that was just -- that was just a short thing.
RUDDY: Well, a lot of things were said in the campaign.
LEMON: From ted Cruz's father, the birtherism that issue for years, millions of illegal votes, the size of his inauguration crowds, and on and on, these are conspiracy theories.
RUDDY: Well, I wouldn't say they're conspiracy theories.
LEMON: But in reality though.
RUDDY: Well, he's always said that he overstate his positions as a negotiating position. He like to do that. So when he says the press is the enemy of the people...
RUDDY: ... he really says he feels the press is out of line and he wants to negotiate with you guys. So, I wouldn't -- he has a long history of being in show business and he has a great success with Twitter. I think there needs to be an adjustment on it.
LEMON: I got to go.
RUDDY: But I also think you guys need to be more fair.
LEMON: Well, he loved us.
RUDDY: If you're more fair maybe I'll ask you.
LEMON: I think we're -- I think we're extremely fair.
RUDDY: He doesn't like going on CNN. He keeps telling me why am I going on CNN.
LEMON: Because we can have conversation like this. He's welcome to come here and go back and forth and prove me wrong if he would like or all of us wrong. We're not out to do get him. We're just...
RUDDY: You're not?
LEMON: Basically, no I'm not. We're reacting to what he did. We're investigating where the story goes.
RUDDY: But I would like in fairness to go after why leaks of the president's super-secret conversation, and you guys don't cover that. That's not like -- that's another story.
LEMON: We don't have investigative powers, right.
RUDDY: But you can say they just broke the law by releasing his confidential coverage...
LEMON: We say -- fine. They broke the law.
RUDDY: Yes. But we know...
LEMON: but we know that - no, no, no, I can't say that they broke the law. Let me take that back. I don't know if there's laws were broken. And there had been many whistleblowers. And if you ask, you know, Carl Bernstein, he'll tell you, he's got a great story to tell you, you ever hear about Watergate?
RUDDY: I heard a lot about it, yes.
LEMON: OK. Then that's it. Thank you. And please come back. And he is welcome here any time if he wants to come on.
RUDDY: Well, just invite him. He will surprise you.
LEMON: I'll be extremely fair. He loved us before, and then once the heat turned up, when he got to that chair or close to it which happens to everyone, then he's like, wait a minute, you're not fair just because he didn't -- he doesn't like the heat.
RUDDY: Well, I think he like -- he's able to take the heat. He's taken a hell a lot of heat.
RUDDY: And he's been pretty successful of taking.
LEMON: Yes. All right. I got to go. They're yelling in my ear, we got to go, we got to go. Thank you. I appreciate it. Christopher Ruddy, he's nice.
President Trump compares the alleged wiretapping to Watergate. When we come right back, I'm going to talk to the man who saw that scandal from inside the Nixon White House. John Dean will join us.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Wiretapping, White House leaks, all of this may sound a bit familiar to my next guest, he is John Dean. He's a former Nixon White House counsel. Also joining us is presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, author of "Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America."
Douglas, I'm sure this sounds familiar to you, as well.
Good evening, gentlemen. Thank you for joining us. John, to you first. OK, so, President Trump's unfounded claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama rocked the political world. Really rocked the world, people were wondering, what's going on.
Here's what he said. "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon Watergate, bad or sick guy."
Well, John, who better to ask about Watergate? What do you make of the president's charge?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, I think it's way off base. It shows, first of all, that Trump may not even understand Watergate, he seems to be conflicting the act of the wiretapping, which never happened. In fact, it was a bungled effort, they went in to try to repair a bungled bug, and Nixon really had nothing to do with that. He's confusing that with the cover-up, which he seems to have a little more understanding of.
[22:44:59] And maybe he's projecting himself into that very situation. It's kind of a very curious way he does when, for example, Hillary accused him of being a Putin puppet, he turned around and accused her of being Putin's puppet. He does this sort of thing with tagging the other, with whatever label seems to fit him.
LEMON: Well, a couple things there, you mentioned the cover-up, I want to ask you about that worse in the crime. But you're saying he doesn't understand Watergate, do you think he doesn't understand when he says the president wiretapped, you know, the former president wiretapped him, he doesn't understand how wiretaps work, and FISA warrant and that sort of thing?
DEAN: I'm not sure he does. And Nixon did authorize a number of wiretaps.
LEMON: But they changed that in the '70s, right? Because of that.
DEAN: That's when the law changed, shortly before the Watergate bogging's or attempted bogging's. And he had, Nixon had actually called for surveillance of some 17 people, newsmen, a number of people on the NSC staff, and one of his own speechwriters, so Nixon did issue directions to the FBI to wiretap.
LEMON: Douglas, is a cover-up worse than the crime?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes, definitely, and, you know, H.R. Haldeman used to talk about the drip, drip, drip going on.
LEMON: You think there's a cover-up here, though?
BRINKLEY: Well, there's not clarity being given out of the White House on Trump's relationship with Russia. Everybody's confused, there are all these puzzle pieces that are getting connected. It would seem to me to be using up to get to the bottom of it. We might have to have a Senate select committee or a special prosecutor, independent commission to find out what's going on. I mean, Jeff Sessions just had to recuse himself.
You know, I mean, there's a lot of story gone here. And I think what Donald Trump is, is Nixonian in the sense of using the media to lash out at them, blame them, and then derail the attacks on himself by putting it on the opposition. Sometimes it's the press...
LEMON: But that puts -- that makes the story bigger about Russia, because it puts the focus right back on Russia, right, Douglas?
BRINKLEY: Yes, but there's so many stories now going on with it, and it puts it also back on Barack Obama. I think Trump screwed this one up badly, because he accused the president -- the former President Obama of a felony.
And, you know, it's libelous what Trump said to him. And I heard in your interview with Christopher Ruddy, a kind of beginning, a very beginning of back stepping that it wasn't Barack Obama who did the wiretapping, but it might, that somebody else in the Obama administration, but nevertheless, that's a smearing of Barack Obama that Trump did.
And Obama left the White House with a pretty good record, he has to live off of his integrity, and he's being accused of a felony, by the sitting president of the United States, and I think it's pretty extreme, and President Trump needs to get an apology underway very quickly, towards Barack Obama.
LEMON: John Dean, do you agree with that, do you think that -- it is libelous, right?
DEAN: It is libelous. A president has remarkable civil immunity, he could not be sued for libel while president, and the statute of limitations would certainly run before any private action, post presidency action can be brought. He can't even be criminally prosecuted, Don. He's immune from that.
The only remedy is impeachment and removal, and then after removal, a president can be criminally prosecuted, but he has remarkable immunity in that high office. And I think he does owe an apology, because he's really -- it's unfair, he can pick up the telephone and get the answer to these questions as to what did or did not happen.
Rather he went to his Twitter section of his phone rather than calling somebody who could give him the answer which is right there for him. He's one of the few people that could answer this question.
LEMON: And not have to take the public through an investigation if that does happen? And also, the money that it's going to cost for such alleged investigation, if that ever happens.
He could -- all of this, this is a self-inflicted wound. But let's talk about this, you know, the people -- republicans, or at least Donald Trump supporters seem adverse to leakers, right. Because they don't think, you know, they think it's illegal. But people have remarked on how leaky this White House is. So speak to us of someone who is the part of White House has been under siege, where do leaks come from, and why do they happen?
DEAN: Well, I actually predicted that there would be untold leaks in this presidency long before he arrived in the Oval Office. And it's just evident because first of all, he was really picking a fight with the intelligence community throughout the later stages of the campaign and during the transition as to whether or not Russia had indeed been involved in helping Hillary -- hurting Hillary and helping him.
He was just -- he's also insulting a lot of the federal bureaucracy. He just set himself up to be the target of leaks. People who didn't agree with his policy. [22:50:02] And this happens to every president. It happened to Nixon.
In fact, one of the reasons that Watergate happened, is because of Nixon's effort to deal with leaks.
Earlier in your program in an earlier segment, you addressed this partially, but it was Nixon's effort to plug leaks that really led to Watergate.
DEAN: So that's how -- this is a dangerous game that Trump is playing.
LEMON: Yes. Our time is short, but I said to, you know, Donald Trump from Christopher Ruddy from Newsmax, that every White House feels like they're under siege. This is not new. Donald Trump feels that -- that President Trump feels that his White House is under siege, but this is nothing new. Every White House does.
Gentlemen, I'm sorry. Our time is short. Yes. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.
LEMON: Do unanswered questions about Russia just fuel conspiracy theories?
Let's discuss now with Evan McMullin, the former CIA operative and 2016 independent presidential candidate, and Steve Hall, retired chief of CIA Russian operations.
Gentlemen, good to have both of you on. Good evening. Evan, you say the fact that we still don't have a sufficient investigation into Russia's efforts to influence our election, and the Trump administration's ties to Russia, it makes it easier for the president to spread unfounded theories. What questions do you want answers specifically?
EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, there's so many questions, I'd like to know about the history of Donald Trump's relationship to Vladimir Putin and other Russians, but I'm really more focused on the structure of the investigations.
Right now the investigations in Congress are housed in the two Intel committees in the Senate and House. But it's too easy, I think to control and limit and keep these investigations away from the public. Now some of this, some of the work needs to be done in a classified setting, but we need much more complete staffing and resources dedicated to investigating the Russia's influence in the election, and then any Trump or Trump campaign ties to the Russians that may be relevant.
LEMON: Yes. If there are any legitimate ties, and so no one is -- no one is saying that there's a legitimate -- that they know for sure, but they should be investigated?
MCMULLIN: Well, I think there's plenty of -- there are plenty of facts that indicate that there are plenty of ties over time.
LEMON: There's a lot of smoke?
MCMULLIN: It's the question of complicity. But that's an important thing too, it's an important clarification, because I think when people think of complicity, they're looking for some smoking gun that says -- that says, you know, for sure that there was an exchange of planning and intentions related to the election.
That's not necessarily what you would find even if there is complicity. It's more just an understanding that Russia was influencing our elections and encouragement through friendly contacts and maybe a little bit more than that.
[22:55:01] LEMON: Steve, you want to weigh-in on that?
STEVE HALL, RETIRED CHIEF OF CIA RUSSIAN OPERATIONS: Yes, I mean, Evan is absolutely right on all of that. I think what I would add is that, although there's no perhaps no smoking gun yet, and of course we will not know until there actually is some sort of investigation, preferably an independent one.
What I can tell you from my experience, of course we're working with Russians target is that, so we know that the Russians did indeed try to tip the scales during the presidential election, the intelligence community has said that.
But I can tell you that the Russians no doubt would take it as far as they absolutely could, were they provided the opportunity, and if somebody or some group of people inside the Trump camp were interested in having that cooperation or that collusion.
Again, we don't know this. But I can tell you for sure, the Russians would have been looking for that, they definitely would have been pushing for that. And I have to also say that right now in Kremlin, in the Kremlin, this is -- this is, for Vladimir Putin, this is the gift that keeps on giving. The amount of...
LEMON: I was thinking that today, this is exactly what he wants, right?
HALL: Yes, absolutely.
LEMON: That, you know, Americans are fighting, the presidential candidate. You know, two former presidents are, you know, at odds and, well, one.
HALL: Now we have it.
LEMON: Yes. Because the other president is not really going at it, he's just laying low, and you know, kite surfing and you know, being cool and tan. So, I want to -- this is what -- here's what General Michael Hayden, he's the former director of the NSA and CIA had to say this morning. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, let me go very, very dark and you make it, all right. The president of the United States put his own reputation, the reputation of his predecessor and the reputation of his nation at risk to get at least a draw out of the next 24 hours news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He wanted to take the focus off of Russia at least, and do you agree with that, Evan?
MCMULLIN: I do. President Trump...
LEMON: And that's a huge statement for him to say that. He said he put the country at risk.
MCMULLIN: Yes, it is a huge statement, but I just think it's patently clear at this point. Look, President Trump as a candidate, as president-elect, and now as president, has proven himself to be very skilled at shifting the focus of the media, especially in moments where the story line, the narrative is very damaging politically or even worse legally to him.
So that's exactly what I think he's doing, and there may be a motion involved, there may be rage, he may be upset. That may be true too, but I do think there is a method to his madness.
LEMON: Yes, all right. Steve, I'll give you the last word. I have 10 seconds, if you will.
HALL: You know, again, the only way we're going to stop, you know, going around and around and around about this, is if we get an independent investigation. We haven't had -- it's been said a lot. But that's really the only way to get to it.
LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. I'll see you soon. We'll be right back.
LEMON: Incredulous, a source says, that's the reaction of FBI Director James Comey to President Trump's outrageous Twitter charge.
[23:00:02] This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
The president claiming that former President Obama ordered a wiretapped of his phones during the campaign without the slightest bit of evidence.