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FBI Has Information, Intelligence that Indicates Associates of President Donald Trump Communicated with Suspected Russian Operatives; The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Claiming He Has New Information About Surveillance of the Trump Transition Team; Paul Manafort Pushing Back On Allegations About Past Business Ties to Russia. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 22, 2017 - 23:00   ET



[23:00:43] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news on the FBI's Russia investigation.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

CNN has learned the FBI has information that indicates associates of Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign. That is according to U.S. officials.

Now, with an unexplained ties between Trump's associates and Russia, a new questions about former campaign manager Paul Manafort. The White House is scrambling to change the subject. But what will happen if Americans lose their faith in their President? Can he advance his agenda with the White House under a cloud? And could there be a deal on the GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare? We got the very latest from Capitol Hill for you.

But our breaking news tonight, CNN learning new details on the FBI investigation into potential links between individual associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Pamela Brown, Shimon Prokupecz, they join me now. They broke the story along with our justice correspondent Evan Perez.

Pamela, you first. What are you learning?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, we learned the FBI has information, intelligence that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign, according to U.S. officials we have spoken with.

Now, as you recall, FBI director James Comey made his bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign's tying to Russia. So the FBI is reviewing the information its gathered in this investigation which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records, and accounts of in- person meeting according to these officials. So the information raised suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place though officials we have spoken with caution that this information is not conclusive and that investigation is ongoing. FBI would not comment nor who the White House though Trump officials have denied there was any evidence of collusion, Don.

LEMON: Shimon, this gives us really more insight into what Comey knew when he spoke on Monday at those hearings.

SHIMON, PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Well, that's exactly right, Don. If you recall in addition to Comey saying the investigations include looking at connections to Trump associates, he also explained what it means that the investigation is being done. Take a listen.


REP. MIKE TURNER (R), OHIO: Don't you need some action or some information besides just attending a meeting, having been paid to attend a conference, or instead a picture was taken or that you traveled to country before you are open to investigation for counterintelligence by the FBI?

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: The standard is, I think there's a couple different at play. A credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe that an American may be acting as agent of a foreign power.


PROKUPECZ: Well, that's right. And one law enforcement official said the information in hand suggests quote "people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appear they were given the thumbs up to release information when it was ready," end quote.

But other U.S. officials who spoke to CNN say it's premature to draw that inference from the information gathered so far since it's largely circumstantial. The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion took place but the information suggests that collusion is now a large focus of the investigation, these officials told us.

LEMON: All right. Pamela Brown, what sort of coordination is under investigation here?

BROWN: Well, mostly, Don, the FBI is focused on the stolen published emails last July, starting last July by WikiLeaks, including the DNC and Clinton campaign's John Podesta, his emails as well. That were released through WikiLeaks. So U.S. official said that the information being investigated was not drawn from the leaked dossier of unverified information compiled by former British intelligence official that was compiled for Trump's political opponents but the dossier also suggested coordination between Trump campaign associates and Russian operative, Don.

LEMON: So Shimon, do we know exactly who is being investigated?

PROKUPECZ: So our sources would not say who connected to the Trump campaign was being investigated but do we know the FBI has already been investigating four former Trump campaign associates.

You remember some of these people. Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page. We have done a lot of reporting on these individuals. And some of the scrutiny around them that is going on now with the FBI is for their contacts with Russians known to U.S. intelligence. All four have denied improper contacts.

Don, one of the obstacles the sources say, the FBI now faces in finding conclusive intelligence is that communications between Trump associates and Russians have ceased in recent months given the public focus on Russia's ties to the Trump campaign and some of the reporting that different outlets have been doing. So it is kind of hard for the FBI to sort of now follow some of these communications because now changed it. It is not - they are communicating through the same methods as they were before, Don.

[23:05:52] LEMON: All right. Thank you Shimon. Thank you Pamela. Appreciate your reporting.

And want to bring in now John Fredericks, a syndicated top radio host and the former co-chair and spokesman for the Trump campaign in Virginia. Timothy O'Brian is here, executive editor of "Bloomberg View" and the author of "Trump Nation: the art of being the Donald," Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo! News, CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers and CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem.

A lot to unpack.

Michael, you first. So Pamela Brown, Evan Perez reporting tonight along with Shimon Prokupecz tonight that the FBI has information indicating that associates of the President communicated with suspected Russian operatives and it may have been to coordinate the release of information to damage Hillary Clinton. What is your reaction in light of everything else we have learned this week and in light of director Comey's testimony on Monday?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, look, on the one hand this is clearly serious. This is getting ramped up to extreme levels here. I think primarily because of director Comey's testimony which stunned everybody that there's an active investigation of this and it is going back to since last July, well before the election.

But on the other hand, it is exceedingly frustrating. I mean, listen to the report that Pamela just did. We don't know which associates we're talking about. We don't know what the nature of this communication -- these communications were. We don't know with whom they were communicating. So there are so many unanswered questions here that, you know, it is very hard to draw firm conclusions from a report like this.

And I think the real danger here is as we continue to report on matters such as this without hard answers, without hard evidence, you know, there's a danger that the public at some point may throw up its hands and say we don't know what to make of this. LEMON: Right.

ISIKOFF: One quick point I want to add. You know, you mentioned those four names -- Stone, Manafort, Page, Michael Flynn. All of them, now, given Comey's testimony, have grounds to take the Fifth Amendment when they are called to testify before Congress which means we may not hear from any of them. And without an actual witness to testify about what happened it's going to make it very hard to reach a resolution.

LEMON: Juliette, you heard you say many times there's often a lot of circumstantial evidence and no smoking gun and that no conclusion should be drawn from that. Do you believe that?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. I mean, and it may just be the nature how long these cases taken. They don't work on cable news time. They are like, I think patience is warranted here because the series of coincidences which are no longer coincidences. I don't think you can't say with straight face anymore that all of these different pieces can be explained away by, you know, leaks and the mean people, you know, who don't like Donald Trump.

SO just two points off of Michael very quickly. The first is yes, what he said about the four witnesses potentially pleading fifth, I think it's very likely that one will not plea the fifth. I think if one of them happened to lie to the FBI, if their story changed, if there is information about them, there will be a deal that the FBI will offer. That's often how these cases unfold. It may be Flynn, it may be Manafort, it may be Page, probably less likely Page. But we should be looking out for that. That is what I suspect is the next shoe to drop.

Another key point that came out of Monday that is relevant now to I think to the Manafort story. Comey offered voluntarily unprompted this note. He said that intelligence community and the FBI do not recognize a distinction between government and nongovernment agents in Russia. In other words they view the oligarchs all of them supported by Putin, all of them rich because of him as essentially agents of the state. So it may not be that we have ties to Russia's government but that there are ties through the oligarchy system that they are looking at.

[23:10:04] LEMON: I want to hear from a Trump supporter. Because John, you're a staunch defender of the president. Are you concerned that so many of these unexplained ties between people close to him and Russia? Do you want more answers?

JOHN FREDERICKS, SYNDICATED TALK RADIO HOST: Well, look, I think this investigation, Don, has gone on nine months. It is like having a baby. They have no information, not one scintilla of proof on anything. James Clapper already says there's no collusion.

But here is the bottom line on some of these people like Paul Manafort. When this campaign started, Paul Manafort didn't know Donald Trump. Donald Trump didn't know Paul Manafort. If Paul Manafort got into taxi cab in midtown Manhattan and jumped into Donald Trump's lap and called him daddy, he wouldn't know who the guy is. So he had no contact with any of these people. He hired him to do a job. He was with the campaign about six weeks. I can tell you that I was with the campaign, Don, from day one.

LEMON: Listen. He wouldn't hire to be his campaign manager. I mean, at some point --.


FREDERICKS: When allegations came out he fired him. And I can tell you this. I talked to Corey Lewandowski every day for 18 months. And after Manafort, I talked to the campaign Kellyanne Conway or David Bossi (ph) any day. I never talked to Paul Manafort one time. He has very little involvement.

LEMON: What does that mean?

FREDERICKS: I don't know what it means.

LEMON: He had very little involvement with you, John. But I mean, -- hold on. We can go back from interview to interview here on this network with Paul Manafort talking about influence in the campaign and Trump's people. And Trump himself talking about how influential Paul Manafort was for the campaign. I mean, maybe he didn't speak with you as radio personality or someone who in Virginia who helped with the campaign. But that doesn't mean that he didn't have involvement in the campaign and he didn't have --.

FREDERICKS: Well, Don, he was campaign manager for a short period of time. And as soon as these allegations came out, the day they came out. Trump fired him.

ISIKOFF: You sound like Sean Spicer.

FREDERICKS: Well, you know, what, because Sean Spicer is telling the truth. The Truth is going to set you free. This guy as soon as Donald Trump found out what was going on about Paul Manafort allegedly, he fired him. I don't know what else you could ask him to do.

LEMON: It did not happen that quickly. And here is Sean Spicer, what he said about Paul Manafort.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's been discussion of Paul Manafort who played a very limited role for limited amount of time. Paul was hired to oversee the campaign's delegate operation. He had played a significant role in the convention and delegate operations for previous Republican nominees. Bob Dole, former presidents George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.


LEMON: So Bakari, you were here with us for the entirety of the campaign. Did Paul Manafort serve for limited time and has limited influence in this campaign?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I appreciate not only the guest here tonight but Sean Spicer attempting to spin this. But the problem is that the evidence is mounting up in greater numbers than simply Paul Manafort.

I mean, Americans are not stupid. We know that Paul Manafort was the campaign manager. So to say that he was some incidental figure is spinning at best, and lying at worst. But that doesn't help explain Michael Flynn. That doesn't help explain Carter Page and that doesn't help explain Roger Stone.

And so, when you have all these ties to Russia when you have this mounting evidence which is - I mean, it is circumstantial to his point. You just can't ignore it, though. And I think that what Donald Trump, what his supporters, what his surrogates would actually be beneficial in doing is actually putting the country first for once. And I love when right-wing radio hosts like to talk about patriotism but they are not implement it.

I think that we need to be patriots. All Democrats and Republicans and ask for special prosecutor or independent investigator to come in and look at this. This isn't about me versus you, D versus R or white or black or anything else. This is about agents a foreign country and agents of a foreign country attempting to undermine our democracy. Nothing more, nothing less. We should take it seriously and stop playing politics.

LEMON: It is not just Manafort. And you mentioned some of the other names, Bakari. But Kellyanne Conway claims that President Trump doesn't know and didn't work with two of his presidential campaign advisers Carter Page or JD Gordon who had also been linked to Russia. Listen to this.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: He raise a very excellent point which is in the case of Mr. Page, Mr. Gordon, some others, that they really have vey attenuated contacts to the campaign that I managed for the last three months. I spoken directly with the President and other senior officials about this. He doesn't know these gentlemen. He didn't work with them. Sean Spicer, our press secretary addressed this at length in his briefing yesterday. He is absolutely right. And there are others who are more involved with the campaign who seem to be of interest but again, where is the nexus? I mean, people are so quick to make that nexus.


LEMON: But let's play what President Trump said to "the Washington Post" editorial board about his campaign advisers last March.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard you might be announcing your foreign policy advisor team soon. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to be

doing that. In fact, very soon. I would say during the week will be announcing some names (INAUDIBLE).

[23:15:06] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything you can start off with this morning with us?

TRUMP: Well, you know, I hadn't thought in terms of doing it. If you want I could give you some of the names.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would be delighted.

TRUMP: I wouldn't mind. Walid Phares who you probably know. Ph.D., adviser to the House of Representatives caucus and is a counterterrorism expert. Carter page, Ph.D. George Papadopoulos, oil and energy consultant. Excellent guy. The honorable Joe Schmitz, inspector general at department of defense. Lieutenant general Keith Kellogg and I have quite a few more.


LEMON: So, you know, Kellyanne Conway said attenuated, you know, relationships with the campaign but out of all the names, you know, he said Carter Page. This is at beginning of the interview - Carter Page.

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Yes. But, you know, I don't think that Donald Trump was ever deeply informed about foreign policy to begin with. And I think in an interview with an Editorial Board, he could have simply been pulling names out of his hat.

One of the things that we are forgetting here, however, is that a lot of this attention on Russia invited by recognize invited by the president himself. During the campaign, he invited Russian hackers to look at Hillary Clinton. Openly praised way Vladimir Putin has operated in eastern Europe and presided over Russia. It's not just his advisers at issue here but Trump's own statements invited this scrutiny. Some is because he's cavalier with the facts. Never been a student of foreign policy. And he had got in over his head repeatedly whenever he comments. But its North Korea or Russia. But place he finds himself in now, is all the grandstanding he did on Russia during the campaign has come home to haunt him. And they are going to have to answer that. His advisers are going to have to answer that and then the real issue.

LEMON: Well, and you said that because it is fork in the road. When you look at the health care bill, who knows it is going to get passed but my gut is that it will. But it is going to take a lot of deal making to do because his words have come back to haunt him. He said he was going to do one thing, repeal and replace, he is going to make it better. Everyone will be covered. So far that is not happening and people of freedom caucus, they don't like some parts of it. Moderates don't t like others parts of it. So the crowd is certain.

And if you look at the new Quinnipiac poll, President Trump's of approval rating at 37 percent. Does he understand the danger now in his presidency because of false claims, you think, in his words?

O'BRIEN: Well, I think the rubber will meet the road on his presidency around the economy and jobs. I think his base may not care a whit about Russian allegations or some of the other things that have been front and center for the media and for the Congress. But they will care about whether or not if government can deliver services they want like health care and whether or not Trump can deliver on the job promises. He is going to be swirly pressed on both counts.

LEMON: Yes. "The Wall Street Journal" has been supportive of his candidacy and agenda. Says President Trump has a credibility problem and is on the verge of being a fake President. That's from the "Washington Post."

Thank you, panel. I appreciate it. Thanks for the conversation.

When we come right back, the intelligence committee member who says we need an independent to investigate the Russian connection.


[23:21:27] LEMON: A stunning turn of events. The chairman of the House intelligence committee claiming he has new information about surveillance of the Trump transition team and telling President Trump before informing his Democratic colleagues.

Joining me now one of those Democrats, Congressman Eric Swalwell.

Good to have you, congressman. Thank you so much for coming back on.

First, I would like to get your reaction to the reporting that we have from Pamela Brown and Shimon, Prokupecz. They report tonight that the FBI has information indicating associates of the President communicated with suspected Russian operatives and it may have been to coordinate the release of information to damage Hillary Clinton. What do you make of this news?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Don, these are the individuals who we have continued to connect the dots on. Who have had deep personal and political, financial ties to Russia particularly at time when Russia was interfering with our elections. We laid all of this out in our hearing on Monday which, Don, it feels like that was a month ago now concerning all that has happened in between. But all we ask is that the FBI follow the evidence, pursue all leads and if U.S. person worked with Russia, hold them accountable.

LEMON: You are on the House intelligence committee. I want to play what your colleague Devin Nunes said today.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition. Details of those associated with the incoming administration, details with little or no apparent or intelligence values or widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting.

Third, I have confirmed that additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked. And fourth and finally, I want to be clear, none of this surveillance was related to Russia or the investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You said that the President's communications were incidentally collected but then you said that it is also possible. So was it collected or is it possibly collected?

NUNES: I just don't know the answer to that.

RAJU: But we don't know if the president's communication was incidental?

NUNES: I know there was incidental collection regarding President- elect and his team. I don't know if it was actually physically a phone call.


LEMON: So what do you think of that?

SWALWELL: He is conflicted himself out. And it is disappointing, Don, because I have always liked that intelligence committee is one where we are collaborative and we are independent. And today, the chairman betrayed the independence and collaboration that the American people are counting on us to show at such a trying time in our country. He should have told members of the committee first. He should have not told the President who is with his campaign subject to an FBI criminal investigation for what happened with Russia. And this is the reason we need independent commission to get to the bottom of what happened and how we can get out of this mess and promise Americans it will never happen again.

LEMON: Yes. There are a number of false narratives going around. If you read the information (INAUDIBLE) and also read the transcript of what he says, none of that really explains the President's tweets or the allegations or none of it says that U.S. citizens were being surveilled or member of the Trump team.

This is collateral information believed to be collected because foreign agent was being surveilled. When we have now been given a number, two different versions of the story. Chairman Nunes says that President Trump may have been surveilled. Congressman Adam Schiff says that most names were masked and then our Manu Raju reports the content of this was gossip among the transition team. So what is the real story here?

[23:25:00] SWALWELL: The real story is the President Trump was not wiretapped by President Obama and President Trump was not surveilled by President Obama. This was a stunt. This was a distraction in the middle of a week where Americans are starting to realize that there are serious questions around the President's team and what happened with Russian interference. And now we are at a point where our investigation is on life support. And the only way to really get to the bottom of this is foreign independent commission. Because look what has happened? Out attorney general, t was exposed that he lied during his confirmation hearing twice when asked about prior contacts with Russia. He is supposed to have impartiality as far as criminal investigation. He has had to recuse himself.

And now the chairman who we have worked with so far collaboratively on this, he too has rushed over to the White House, acting as Donald Trump's lawyer and has jeopardized the independence of our committee.

LEMON: Has he explained to you why he didn't come to you first?

SWALWELL: No. He really should have done. And it's really out of character for him because we passed a cybersecurity bill together under his leadership. We passed an intelligence authorization bill under his leadership. Those were his best days. Today so far I think has been his worst day. So let's not judge someone by their best day or their worst day. Let's see what he does tomorrow when we convene at a 9:00 a.m. hearing. Does he tell us the evidence he has? Does he apologize for what he has done? And can he show us that he can lead us in an independent collaborative way?

LEMON: OK. And you said that he has compromise himself out of this. You don't believe he should be part of the investigation anymore?

SWALWELL: At this point, unless he convinces us otherwise tomorrow, it's conflict of interest to go over to the White House where the President, we learned this and his team subject of a criminal investigation.

LEMON: Yes. The subject of the investigation. Which is why I think Democrats and Republicans are wondering why he would do that because it made - it looked like partisan effort, a political effort.

But can we move on and talk about health care, congressman? Because we are hearing that there's a possible deal in the works now with the freedom caucus and that the likelihood of the bill getting passed is at least in a more positive category now. What do you think?

SWALWELL: I think so far everything we have seen, this bill is bad and it is going to make people sicker and poorer and Donald Trump has threatened that people will pay a political price. And right now I'm just worried about the price people pay at doctor's office. So there's ways to improve the affordable care act. He hasn't come to the Democrats yet. He promised that he would be this great negotiator and businessman. And we are still waiting. So tomorrow, I hope it fails. And that we will have an opportunity to improve this.

LEMON: You hope it fails but do you think it will pass? Do you think that the Republican members, the GOP members will come home and, OK, we have to pass this bill?

SWALWELL: No. I don't think it will pass.

LEMON: You don't. Thank you, Congressman Eric Swalwell. Always appreciate your time. SWALWELL: My pleasure, Don.

LEMON: When we come right back, what we know and don't know about Paul Manafort and Russia.


[23:31:40] LEMON: President Trump's former campaign chairman, I should say, Paul Manafort pushing back on allegations about past business ties to Russia.

CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has the story-- Drew.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Don, these alleged Russian connections will simply not go away. Tonight another possible connection linking former campaign chief to a Russian oligarch to Vladimir Putin himself.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): The latest connection between a close Trump associate and Russia was dug up by "Associated Press." Reporting 2005 memo in which Paul Manafort already working for Russian billionaire named Oleg Deripaska, was pitching a plan to greatly benefit the Putin government. Manafort confirmed to CNN he did work for Oleg Deripaska, but he rejects the "Associated Press'" interpretation that he was pushing the political interests of Vladimir Putin including to quote "influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States."

I have always publicly acknowledged that I worked for Mr. Deripaska and his company, Rusal, to advantage its interests, Manafort told CNN through a spokesman. Adding I did not work for the Russian government. Once again Manafort writes, smear and innuendo are being used to paint a false picture. A spokesman for Deripaska told CNN Manafort provided investment consulting services but declined to provide any additional details.

Manafort and his Russian billionaire had a major falling out. Court document showed Deripaska funneled nearly $19 million into Manafort business venture registered in the Cayman Islands in 2007. They invested in a Ukrainian telegram company. But the deal went south. And according to a legal filing, Deripaska's company said Manafort simply disappeared.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer this afternoon downplaying any connection this has to the President.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He was consultant. He had clients from around the world. There is no suggestion that he did anything improper but to suggest that the President knew who his clients were from a decade ago is a bit insane. He was hired to do a job, he did it. That's it. Plain and simple.

GRIFFIN: It is just the latest Russian headline headache for the Trump administration. CNN has reported that FBI is already investigating possible connections between Trump campaign officials including Manafort and Russian officials. Manafort was fired by Trump campaign on August 19th. That was the same day the FBI announced Manafort was involved in another investigation and another possible connection to Russia.

This time his consulting work for pro-Russian former President of the Ukraine victor Yanakovich (ph) who eventually had to plea his own country seeking refuge in Russia with Vladimir Putin. The government of Ukraine opened an investigation into possible corruption and money laundering charges against Yanakovich (ph) and his political party. After Manafort's name appeared on ledger of $12.7 million in secret payments. Manafort denies he ever took money illegally from anyone in worldwide consulting business. He denies he pushed any Russian agenda while working in Ukraine. And he now denies that connection with the Russian billionaire had anything to do with the plan to enrich Russian President Vladimir Putin.


[23:35:12] GRIFFIN: Don, what is unclear right now is just how aggressively the FBI is really looking into all of this. While it's true CNN is reporting FBI is investigating communications between Russians and Trump campaign officials including Paul Manafort.

As of last month Manafort told CNN he had yet to be contacted by the FBI. Today, Manafort told us he looks forward to meeting with those conducting what he called serious investigation into this so he can discuss the actual facts -- Don.

LEMON: Thank you, Drew. Appreciate that.

I want to bring in now senior international correspondent Matthew Chance who is live for us in Moscow right now.

So Matthew, Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign manager admits that he worked Oleg Deripaska who is a Russian billionaire with close ties to Vladimir Putin. What more can you tell us about that?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Oleg Deripaska is one of the so-called oligarchs who rose to wealth and power during the 1990s after the breakup of the Soviet Union. He was second biggest at some points, the second biggest producer of aluminum in the world. And so, he has been incredibly influential and incredibly successful businessman in the Russia that formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

We have not acknowledgment, as Drew was saying, there was no hard acknowledgment from either, Rusal, which is the company owned by Oleg Deripaska or Paul Manafort that there was anything other than business agreement between them. Rusal has told CNN that it was consulting advice that was paid for from Paul Manafort, got to do with the business interests of Oleg Deripaska. There has been no confirmation that there was anything like pushing Russian policy, anything like promoting Russian interests or nullifying Russian opposition figures in the region which is what is allege in the "Associated Press" report.

LEMON: You have been speaking, I understand, to people in Moscow. What are they saying about all of these constant attention on Putin, Trump and U.S. relations?

CHANCE: I think Russians are very frustrated with it. I mean, both people you meet on the street and, of course, the Russian government. The Kremlin for its part says that it never saw the Trump administration in ti through rose tinted spectacles. It never had idealistic view of what the Trump administration can deliver. But you know, for many months Donald Trump was heralded in the Russian media or as being the kind of savior for Russia. He spoke very sympathetically about pro-Russian sort of policies on a whole range of issues. And I think there is great sense of frustration and disappointment that he has not been able to deliver on any of those sort of words that he talks about recognizing Crimea as part of Russia, cooperating with Russia and Syria over international terrorism and things like that. There is a lot of frustration.

Behind the frustration I think is a good deal of fear. That's the already rocky relationship between Washington and Moscow, rocky as it was under President Obama, is potentially not going to change and potentially get worse in the coming months and years.

LEMON: Matthew Chance live for us in Moscow. Matthew, thank you. Appreciate that.

When we come back, more and more unanswered questions about the Russia connection. But what was Moscow hoping to gain?


[23:42:03] LEMON: CNN has learned that FBI has information that indicates Trump associates communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign. That is according to U.S. officials.

Let's discuss now, CNN contributor Michael Weiss is here. National security analyst Juliette Kayyem. Jack Kingston, a former senior adviser to the Trump campaign and Russian media expert Liz Wahl.

So good to have all of you on.

Juliette, I'm going to start with you. I want to start by getting your reaction to the breaking news tonight? What do you make of it?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it confirms where Comey was essentially hinting on Monday. I mean, him recognizing and acknowledging that there was investigation of members of the Trump team is the only conclusion is there's investigation related to Russia and potential collusion. That we have to take as fact because Comey is leading investigation at this stage. So that now that others are confirming that to the media seems to me just to be able to put another marker down.

In fact, I believe that one of the reasons why Comey came out so strongly on Monday -- he didn't need to. In fact, I would admit, I was shocked. I thought it would be a nothing hearing. One of the reasons why he came out was to protect the investigation, to put a public statement out there that this thing was going on. And when you saw what Nunes, for example, did today in the House intel side, now, we know why Comey was worried about the investigation being compromised or maybe possibly others trying to stop it.

So to me, this Monday was the beginning of what I think is going to be a long series of, as I have been saying before, pieces of data that will eventually lead to and then you fill in the blank. I don't know yet. I don't know if we have collusion. But I cannot dismiss all these data points. And I don't think anyone rationally can anymore.

LEMON: Mr. Weiss, Carl Bernstein said to night that he believes that there is a cover-up under way. Do you believe there's evidence of that?

MICHAEL WEISS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, they are certainly acting like they have something to hide, you know. I mean, just based on the fact that Mike Flynn lied to the vice president about the nature of his conversations with ambassador Kislyak. Jeff Sessions and the scandal that was what, two weeks ago now. Now, one can argue that they are just doing this simply because they realized that having too much or too frequent communications with the Russians at this point under sanctions regime and this sort of cold war 2.0 is indecorous. But again, all they had to do was say, ye, we talked to Russian officials, so what? We are the incoming administration. We need to reset ties with Russian. We want to do business with them as the president-elect or now the president has said. There's no there there. But it's the lie that gets you in the end. So there is something suspicious.

LEMON: They didn't say it initially but people defending them say, well, it's within their rights to speak --

WEISS: It is within their right.

LEMON: The initial response, though, is to --.

WEISS: There is nothing wrong with seeing the Russian ambassador. The question is what are you discussion with this person and what are you offering, you know, sort of as recompense for some kind of Russian deal not to PNG American officials living in Moscow, et cetera.

[23:45:07] LEMON: Congressman Kingston, speaking of the response from the White House and Trump administration, do you believe the White House has done enough to come clean about any ties to Russia or speaking to Russia? Because today, when Sean Spicer asked if he could assure the American people that there was no one in the White House was working in the interests of foreign nation and all he could say was that I think everyone had filled out their forms and he couldn't vouch for them beyond that. Take a listen and then we will talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you say with certainty right now there is nobody working for this White House presently working in the interest of a foreign government?

SPICER: I can tell you every form has been filled out.


SPICER: Absolutely. You got -- people were filling out forms. So to sit here and ask me whether I can vouch for whatever it is, a few hundred people that have filled out everything, you know, that would be ridiculous for me to stand here and suggest that I possibly could.

What I can tell you is under the penalty of law every single person is filled out of form that is being vetted by whatever level of classification that they need to get by the appropriate law enforcement agencies or HR entities. But I can't prevent somebody from fully disclosing everything on their taxes or filling out form. What I can tell you is that if there is an instance brought to our attention war zone (ph) has misled it, either they will be referred to appropriate law enforcement agency or dismiss or appropriate action will be taken. But yes, there's no tolerance for that.


LEMON: Are you OK -- is that a satisfactory answer to you?

JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER RO THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I think it is. I don't know what more they could do. People are vetted. People are investigated when at proper classification level and fill out forms. And if they lie on the forms, and the White House is in the process of not just hiring several hundred people, but I think 4,000 patronage jobs altogether.

But, you know, I got to tell you. I got to take offense and push back on this cover-up idea because I don't see there's anything to cover- up. I mean, I know there's longing toward a good old days of Watergate with the White House is up to something and where is the missing bean and -- but I just think the Democrats are just getting themselves worked into a froth about this way too early. FBI --

LEMON: Listen. And Democrats want to pin their hopes on this, whatever then - they have got to do the work, right? They got to do the work kind of going to 2018. I understand where you are going with it. There is some truth to that. But again as -- there are a lot of people who have had communications with Russians, and all they have to do is come clean about their communications or say that, you know, there is no there there.

But I got to get Liz in.

LIZ WAHL, FREELANCE JOURNALIST, RUSSIAN MEDIA EXPERT: OK. It's beyond just having communications with the Russian ambassador as Mike had pointed out. It is what are they talking about? We know with Flynn, for example, that came out they were discussing sanctions inappropriately. He wasn't in a position at that time to be discussing sanctions at that time.

KINGSTON: We -- he didn't talk about sanctions.

WAHL: There's this pattern of those that talk with the Russian ambassador and they start talking in pro-Russian talking points essentially.

KINGSTON: I have to say, what are you talking about?


KINGSTON: Where does Jeff Sessions -- what was the pro-Russian thing that Jeff Sessions that talked to Kislyak suddenly started being pro- Russian about. And by the way, he never was asked if he met with Kislyak. He said that if there was collusion, would you recuse yourself? That's what the Franken question (INAUDIBLE).

WAHL: Yes. He actually volunteered the information and denied ever meeting Kislyak which is a sort -- so there's that.

KINGSTON: He said he would recused himself.

LEMON: Hold on. Hold on.

Michael, what did you say?

WEISS: That is not exactly what Al Franken asked. He was asked was there any contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. He did not use the word collusion. And Jeff Sessions said there was no contact.

KINGSTON: He said if there was, would you recuse yourself. And by the way --.

WEISS: No, no, no. He asked at point black, was there contact and Jeff Sessions said no.


KINGSTON: He said would you recuse - what would you do in that circumstance?

WAHL: All right. Well, let's get off Jeff Sessions, and there are so many other sketchy characters that also happened to have met with Kislyak.

LEMON: Liz, that a good point. And you will be the first one after the break to tell us about it. We will be right back.


[23:53:17] LEMON: I'm back now with my panel. And I promised Liz Wahl she will get the first answer.

So go on, Liz. You said let's move off of Jeff Sessions. That did you want to say? WAHL: Well, let's go off with Jeff Sessions because there is so many

other Trump transition official that had met with the Russian ambassador. That in of itself is not a crime. Certainly you are able to meet with Russian ambassadors. You shouldn't also, I mean, with any ambassador, but why would you cover it up and why would you try to cover up the nature of your conversations. I think that is the question. So we have Michael Flynn. We have Carter Page. We have - and JD Gordon.

KINGSTON: Hold on. Carter Page was not with the campaign --

WAHL: Hold on. And I'm going to talk about -


KINGSTON: And he was not on the transition team.


LEMON: And remember Paul Manafort had very little influence and worked for the campaign for a very short amount of time. But go on.

WAHL: He was the chairman. How much important was that of the campaign. And I understand being Trump surrogate but it's not good for America to just spit out these talking points because America wants to know the truth. And the whole point of the investigation is to figure out the set of Russian interference into our election and the collaboration between Trump officials and Russian officials. That is the story. That is the story. And I know Trump surrogates don't want to know this.

LEMON: Will you guys please stop. No one can hear when everybody is talking at the same time.

Michael Weiss says that we are missing the very simple explanation in all of this. And which is --.

WEISS: OK. People want to turn this into a partisan issue, right. I'm old enough to remember when James Comey was in that Democratic Party for giving a press conference about Hillary Clinton's emails and saying she was reckless and then announcing, the investigation is still open because of supposed emails and Anthony Wiener's (INAUDIBLE).

This is a registered Republican. But before anything else, he is a top counter intelligence official. Testifies before Congress in a very professional setting and in a very restrained matter. And says, yes, it's true. The FBI and the department of justice is investigating the Trump campaign for possible ties with agents of the foreign government, namely Russia. And that as part of a counter intelligence investigation, we are looking into any possible acts of criminality.

What that means is that people within the White House or the transition team may have been guilty of espionage. Because counter intelligence means looking at the infiltration of a foreign government into the American political system or collecting (ph) American official. That is your top line. OK.

The FBI takes this seriously enough to wage an investigation that has been ongoing since July, since technically before Donald Trump got the nomination to be the Republican nominee.

LEMON: I got 15 seconds.

WEISS: Everything else --

WAHL: And this is a bipartisan American issue. Michael is absolutely right. This is a bipartisan.

KINGSTON: Because the investigation is not over yet. How would you know this --?

WEISS: It's amazing how all the media has all these dots connected and looking at it since July.


WEISS: Says you.


LEMON: I want to know. My question is and we have to go. We are still far over is everybody wants to extremely vet all these people who re from other countries since we don't know that much about, but they can't extremely vet Americans who are going to be working on behalf of other American?

WEISS: But they got their papers all in order.

LEMON: Right.

WEISS: They did put. I might be a Russian spy on their application (INAUDIBLE)

LEMON: We will put that.

Thank you all. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. See you right back here tomorrow.