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The Controversial Documents; Back to the Probe; No Hitler Comparison. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired April 11, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Thanks for watching 360. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts right now. See you tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This CNN breaking news.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news. And it's a CNN exclusive.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
Democrats and republicans who have seen the intelligence reports at the center of the Devin Nunes controversy tell CNN those documents show no evidence of wrongdoing by the Obama administration, contradicting President Trump's allegations that former National Security Advisor, Susan Rice broke the law.
Plus, more info about the investigation into Trump team connections to Russia. Details about surveillance warrants against one of the president's campaign managers and why the FBI thought that adviser could be acting as a foreign agent.
Plus, it's the first rule of politics. Don't compare anybody to Hitler. I guess nobody told Sean Spicer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We didn't use chemical weapons in World War II. You know? You had a -- you know, someone went as despicable as Hitler who didn't sink to the -- to using chemical weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: We've got the latest on the attempts to clean that up and whether that will be enough for President Trump.
But we want do get start right now with our breaking news on the Trump administration charges of improper surveillance by the Obama administration. CNN is learning now about the claims of House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes that members of the Obama administration improperly requested the identities of Americans appearing in intelligence reports.
Now, just to refresh your memory, here's what Congressman Nunes has said previously.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEVIN NUNES, (R) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: There's some information in those documents that concern me and the reports that I read that I don't think belong there. It would make me uncomfortable.
Some of it I think it bothered me enough that I went over to the White House because I think the president needs to see these reports for himself. I was concerned about Americans identities being either not masked properly or, in fact, unmasked in intelligence reports.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Congressman Nunes also said that he would share what he saw with other committee members. Well, he has. And CNN's senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is learning more about that. Manu, what are you hearing?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, tonight both republican and democratic lawmakers and aides are casting new doubt on those claims that Devin made that Obama administration officials had improperly requested the names of U.S. individuals who had been redacted in intelligence documents.
Now CNN sources say these lawmakers have now seen the same intelligence documents that Nunes reviewed last month. And tell us that they see no evidence that the Obama administration officials did anything out of the ordinary or certainly nothing illegal as the president himself has alleged.
Now one congressional source described the request as, quote, "normal and appropriate," Don.
LEMON: So, you and Jim Sciutto have talked to sources, Manu, who have actually seen these documents. What are they telling you about their contents?
RAJU: Well, one congressional source tells me that, quote, "there's absolutely no smoking gun in these reports." As Devin Nunes have suggested and the fact, this person is saying that the White House should declassify these reports to make it clear that there's nothing alarming in it. And of course, they are now currently classified documents.
But a lot of questions have been raised, Don, around the role of Susan Rice that former Obama national security adviser and whether she acted legally in requesting the names of Trump officials who are incidentally collected in these intelligence reports.
Now, President Trump himself said last week that she may have broken the law, but, Don, multiple sources who have reviewed the documents that Nunes saw finally say they do not back the president's claims that she may have broken the law. Now they are saying that these are routine requests that she may have
made. Now, the president himself, Don, has not yet revealed what intelligence he has been relying on to make that assertion, that Rice broke the law and the White House has not yet provided that either.
LEMON: OK. So Manu, even if the Obama administration acted properly, explain to us, what are the rules for actually making and granting these unmasking requests.
RAJU: Well, they were set by the intelligence community, certain senior national security officials can make these requests. The intelligence agencies principally the National Security Agency, decides whether to grant these unmasking requests.
But we are told that typically the requests of senior officials are rarely denied, and now despite in the judgment of the people who have looked at these reports that these Obama officials requests were within the law and appear to be common practice.
Some members of Congress do have concerns about the justifications that were given to unmask these individuals and the standards from the intelligence agencies to grant these requests.
[22:05:01] So, expect that both the House and the Senate intelligence committees to look into this matter as part of their broader investigation into Russia, Don.
LEMON: Manu, as you know and as you've been reporting, Chairman Nunes was forced to temporarily recuse himself from the investigation and is in fact, being investigated by the House ethics committee because of his handling of the documents. What's the status now of that investigation?
RAJU: It appears to be moving forward, Don. Right now the House on a two-week recess but behind the scenes there is an agreement on the list of witnesses. But even though there's a -- they do know who they want to interview going forward, there actually is a clear divide.
Sources are telling us that the republicans mostly want to interview people who have leaked classified information believing that that is where the real crime is and democrats are looking to hear testimony about any of those ties between Russia and those Trump associates and they do want to talk to those key Trump associates.
Expect that committee to try to interview all of those folks that democrats want to talk to and republicans want to talk to, including Susan Rice who will have to defend what she did in requesting the identity of those American citizens. And she'll have to do that not just before the house panel, Don, but also the Senate intelligence committee which wants to hear from her as part of their own Russia probe, Don.
LEMON: Manu Raju, reporting from Washington. Manu, thank you very much. I want to bring in now CNN's Jeff Zeleny. Hello to you, Jeff. This isn't good news for the White House, of course. Everyone all the way up to the president made a big deal about Susan Rice's role in allegedly unmasking the names of Americans whose names had come up in incidental collection.
The president told the New York Times that what Susan Rice did was going to be one of the big, big stories of our time.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did, Don. Good evening. And the president also told the New York Times in that interview about Susan Rice that she was guilty of some type of a crime. Of course, that's not for him to necessarily decide here.
But look, this is something that the White House has been trying to not talk about this week, actually. They have the Syria strikes, other things. But you know, this Russia investigation is still hanging over this administration. Still hanging over the White House here.
And Manu's reporting about the house intelligence committee, the republicans and democrats, looking at this. I mean, that is very significant here. Because the White House is repeatedly said, look, this is in the hands of the House and Senate the committees here, so what they're finding the information that they have, you know, certainly is going to guide this investigation as well as the FBI separate investigation here.
So the White House again is keeping one eye on this, Don. But real world challenges have sort of interrupted, you know, this whole back and forth over Russia here. So that's been the focus this week.
LEMON: And now it's coming back up. Jeff, I want you to stick around.
LEMON: Because I want to bring in now Adam Entous, he's the Washington Post national security correspondent and he joins us by phone. Adam, we appreciate you joining is. This is a very important story you're reporting tonight. The FBI obtained a FISA warrant on Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser. What more can you tell us about that?
ADAM ENTOUS, WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: Yes. So, basically, you have to understand the context and basically over the summer, the intelligence community was getting information about Russia trying to meddle in the presidential election and they were -- you know, as we learned last month, Comey, the FBI Director, had initiated a counter intelligence investigation in July.
And based on our reporting and interviews with multiple officials, law enforcement and otherwise, what the FBI did was obtain an FISA warrant to basically monitor the communications of Carter Page who had been identified by Trump in March as one of his foreign policy advisers.
And from there that warrant which typically lasts 90 days was renewed at least once if not multiple times.
LEMON: And in order to do that, one would assume that there must be some information in order for them -- there's reason for them to continue to renew it because if no information was found you would assume that they wouldn't continue to renew the warrant. ENTOUS: Yes. Certainly they had to establish what's known as probable
ENTOUS: That they thought that there were connections between Page and the Russians that crossed threshold, that made the FBI believe that he could be acting as an effectively a foreign agent.
And so, once they had made that case and it's a very -- the threshold is rather high to make that case, to target an American, they basically -- they went and sought a FISA judge concurrence and got the order to start the monitoring.
What they've obtained from that monitoring we don't know. We don't know if they heard anything in those first few months that prompted the judge to decide to continue the monitoring or if it was maybe they did hear something that the judge thought was interesting and warranted continuing it.
[22:09:57] So there's obviously a lot more reporting that needs to be done to get at what was learned as a result of this monitoring.
LEMON: And I have no doubt that you will do it as well as other news organizations. So in your article, I want to read some of it and then get you to respond to it.
You said, "The government's application for the surveillance order targeting Page included a lengthy declaration that laid out investigators basis for believing that Page was an agent of a Russian government and knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow. Officials said."
You report that he tried repeatedly to gain access to President Trump. Did they meet?
ENTOUS: We don't -- we don't believe that they did. And I believe Page himself in a PBS interview just recently in February made a reference to not getting a meeting with Trump, a one on one meeting.
You know, it appears from talking to former transition campaign officials that Page was really pushing hard to try to be active, preparing papers for the campaign and so on. It's not clear to us, it's more ambiguous the degree to watch -- to which the campaign was reciprocating.
You know, certainly after he did a trip in July to Russia and it began to get controversial, there was less -- you could tell from the campaign they really wanted to put some distance between the campaign and Page.
And you see that today even more so where the White House really wants to try to make it look as if Page was very much not involved, and so it's hard for us to assess. How did Page end up on that list of advisers? That's something we still to this stage don't really understand even though it's over a year ago now. LEMON: The White House is saying, of course, he had an attenuated
role with the campaign. He did however attend. You report this, a meeting with then campaign adviser, then-senator and campaign adviser Jeff Sessions now the attorney general.
ENTOUS: Right. So, you know, he had some meetings that he took place and there were some regular dinners and meetings that were taking place here in Washington. And my understanding is Page would attend at least some of those meetings that took place between other campaign advisers.
He did also attend the Republican National Convention where according to members of Congress he had a meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. The nature of that contact and as we know, and as reported previously, Sessions also had a meeting during the Republican National Convention with Kislyak which he did not mention when he was asked about such contacts in his confirmation hearings to be attorney general which prompted later he ended up recusing himself from this investigation.
So, there's a lot of kind of curious connections and you can what this new detail what we have tonight about the FISA warrant, it's a piece of that puzzle in trying for us to understand how the FBI is approaching this investigation and how are these individuals all connected with each other.
LEMON: And Adam, I have to ask you this just for context for our viewers here. Give us some context on Carter Page. What else was going on in his life at the time in terms of --in terms of his connections to Russia? Why did they think that he was engaged knowingly in clandestine activities?
ENTOUS: Well, there was an earlier case in which Page came to the attention of the FBI. I believe it was 2013. And in which he was basically engaging with what he thought apparently was a Russian diplomat who, in fact, was a Russian intelligence officer.
This is in New York. And there was an exchange of information where he provided, Page provided to this Russian operative documents related to the energy field that he was working on. And so, this is one of the items that's listed in the application that the FBI filed with the FISA court to get this warrant to go up on his communications.
So in other words, there's a history of contact there that the FBI was able to cite and then, of course, you know, when you look at Carter Page's history, he's -- he spent several years in Russia, working for Merrill Lynch and has frequently returned, you know, and that is obviously something that doesn't necessarily mean anything because a lot of American businessmen, investment bankers and so on, have dealings in Russia.
But this also added to the suspicions on the part of the FBI which then they had to present to convince a FISA judge to allow them to monitor his communications.
LEMON: Adam Entous is a national security correspondent for the Washington Post. Adam, thank you.
[22:14:58] If you don't mind, can you stay with us on the phone? Because I want to bring some of our own people back in here and then you can check and we may need to get you to put a final button on this.
So, I want to bring Jeff Zeleny back. Also joining us is CNN's Nia- Malika Henderson, and legal analyst, Laura Coates. Good evening to you, Jeff. Thanks for joining us again.
Laura, the Post is also reporting that the 90-day warrant has been renewed more than once. So what does it tell you that the FBI would have to prove if they were getting somewhere to get it renewed? Why would they do that kee renewing?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it could mean one of two things. Either, one, they did not acquire enough information to go forward with actual criminal charges and they needed to have more time to do so. That's one explanation.
The other one is that they have not gotten enough but they have received some. Enough to warrant additional causes for probable cause. Probable cause, of course, the courts are saying, is there some basis? Is there a reason to believe that there's a national security risk at our -- at the core of your request to investigate an American citizen?
And if there's continuing information that is coming in that encourages the FISA court, this is an appropriate invasion, and they will continue to grant and continue as an extension. And that's what they've done here.
Remember, it's very important what we just talked about in that you have somebody who was on the radar at the FBI back in 2013 involved with somebody who, as we talked about last week, Don, was just deported after being released from prison four months before the end of his term, so that the connection that may have been made between the person -- I believe his name is Buryakov who is posing as a bank employee of VEB, a Russian-owned bank.
Now that link in the chain is missing since he's been deported. But you still have the FBI is saying we have more than smoke. We've got probable cause that there may have been, in fact, a crime. Give us more time and the court said whatever we saw, yes.
LEMON: Interesting. So, Nia, you now. The Post reports that Carter Page was suspected of being a foreign agent and actively sought meetings with President Trump. And tonight, Page issued a statement and I'll read part.
He says, "There have been various reports about FISA docs and FBI surveillance of him but I was so happy to hear that further confirmation is now being revealed. It shows how low the Clinton/Obama went to destroy our democracy and suppress dissidents who did not fully support their failed foreign policy. It will be interesting to see what comes out when the unjustified basis for those FISA request are more fully disclosed over time, including potentially the dodgy dossier, a document that clearly is false evidence which could represent yet another potential crime."
Now, I'm sure, you know, there are going to be many, many more questions about Page and other Trump associates. What do you take from his response there?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. It's fairly nonsensical. I mean, it's -- this sort of allegation about the deep state and Clinton and Obama as the bad guys who are somehow pursuing him illegally.
I mean, the point of the matter here is that the FBI is looking in to Trump associates, obviously we heard Comey say that in his testimony before the Senate Intel committee a couple of weeks ago but, you know, Carter Page has been out there on any number of occasions talking about this and you had Trump on an interview with the Washington Post at some point name Carter Page as a foreign policy adviser.
It's unclear as Adam was saying how close he was to the campaign, how much he was in the inner circle in terms of foreign policy. But I think, again, this puts this investigation about Russia front and center at a time. I think when we had the Trump administration really for the first time from this administration really talk tough on Russia and really basically try to get Russia to do something different and called them out in terms of Syria.
But again, this constant sort of trickling out of information about this investigation not helpful to this administration.
LEMON: Jeff, I want you to take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard you might be announcing your foreign policy advisory team soon if there's anything you want to share on that.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to be doing that, in fact, very soon. I'd say during the week we'll be announcing some names. It will always grow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything you can start off this morning with us?
TRUMP: Well, you know, I hadn't thought in terms of doing it but if you want I can give you some of the names...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd 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 counter- terrorism expert. Carter Page, Ph.D.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: So that was March 21st of 2016, Jeff, of the Washington Post.
Both Adam with the Washington Post and Nia-Malika with us, both mentioned that exchange. Has the White House ever really explained how Carter Page ended up on the list of foreign policy advisors?
[22:19:57] ZELENY: Don, I haven't extensively. I mean, look, that's back when Mr. Trump was emerging as the likely or potential republican nominee. Just a little over a year or so ago. And quite frankly, he didn't have much of a big apparatus of advisers around him.
He was, you know, a very lean campaign but he was sitting down with the editorial board there of Washington Post, that was the publisher of the Washington Post asking him questions there and he did say that Carter Page was one of his advisers.
Now he was never a central player in the rest of the campaign. Certainly like a Paul Manafort, you know, who as Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary from this podium here at the White House said, he basically not involved in the campaign. Well, that's not true.
But Carter Page does fit into more along the lines of those descriptions here. He was never a central player in terms of the campaign apparatus but he did have meetings and he was, you know, in the inner circle and the president there, you know, was saying that he was one of his advisers here.
So look, as this plays out, it is getting closer and closer to the inner circle here and this FISA warrant, you know, that the Washington Post is reporting tonight, you know, is something that Trump team and campaign will have a hard time blaming that on Susan Rice or others.
I mean, this is a court of law, a judge that decides this here. So, still a lot of questions about the exact involvement of Carter Page, how close he was to the inside of the Trump campaign but it doesn't necessarily matter because he was an adviser to this president. We heard him say it right there. So if he was sort of number one or number 10, sort of irrelevant at this point, I think, Don.
LEMON: Jeff, Nia, Laura, of course, Adam Entous, as well, and our Manu Raju, I appreciate it.
We got a lot more to come on the Russia investigation heating up again tonight.
Plus, Sean Spicer has made a few blunders as White House Press Secretary but this one is big. How he's facing the fallout from his shocking Hitler comparison.
[22:25:00] LEMON: New questions on new reporting tonight on te Russia investigation.
I want to bring in defense attorney, Alan Dershowitz, the author of "Taking the Stand, My Life and the Law," Nia-Malika Henderson is back with me, and we're joining -- now joined now by CNN political analyst, April Ryan, and political commentators David Swerdlick and Ana Navarro, and former Congressman Jack Kingston, a former senior adviser to the Trump campaign.
So we're talking Russia again, Jack Kingston. By the way, welcome, everyone. Thank you for coming on tonight.
Russia back in the front and center tonight with more questions about the investigation and about a FISA warrant against Carter Page. Does the White House have some explaining to do?
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: You know, I really don't think so. Jeff, I was just watching that -- excuse me, I was just watching Jeff Zeleny saying it doesn't really matter if Carter Page was the tenth adviser or the third down. He wasn't even close to it.
This is a guy who never went to the headquarters. He did not have a pass to go to the headquarters. He had never met Donald Trump. Nor had he met people like Jason Miller and those of us in the communications side. He did not know the strategy people.
And so, for the FBI to even be investigating him is odd to me but I can tell you in terms of his proximity to Donald Trump or his proximity to the decision makers or the inner circle, there was absolutely none.
LEMON: David, does that matter, whether he met someone or not, or because the president did mention him?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look. At that point in time, as Jeff pointed out in the last segment, I think President Trump then-candidate Trump was throwing out names. I mean, he had an assortment of people in there who really are not, you know, key figures at this point like Walid Phares. There were so many he didn't name, Sam Clovis, who was one of his policy advisers then.
But the fact that Carter Page on his radar, the fact that Carter Page continues to come up, I do think this is something that the administration -- again, no crime has been allege but they do have to have a better way of explaining what these contacts were all about as we move forward and shift away from maybe the Syria story and back toward this investigation in the coming weeks.
LEMON: David, quickly, I just want to ask you again, the president and the White House throw up a smoke screen with this issue of unmasking and Susan Rice? Because our reporting is that she did nothing wrong and that there was at least now from the reporting there's -- there was nothing illegal about it. No illegal activity here. Did that smoke screen work do you think?
SWERDLICK: Well, two things, Don. One, with regard to Ambassador Rice, she gave that interview to Andrea Mitchell last week. She didn't stutter she didn't hesitate. She said very unequivocally I leaked nothing to no one or words to that effect. And she just claimed any kind of illegal or inappropriate activity
acting in her role as national security adviser for a sitting president to look at some of that material and at least internally has some of that as I understand it...
KINGSTON: But that...
SWERDLICK: Those names unmasked I will say, obviously, there are going to be people who don't believe Ambassador Rice. And maybe they have reasons for not believing her. But I don't think there's any way to interpret her response to this as suggesting any second guessing on her part.
The other thing I just want to throw in there real quick, Don, is this idea that, look, whatever else happened, those four tweets that President Trump sent five or six Saturdays ago, it does not seem to me that he was aiming at Susan Rice at that time. It was sort of like they found something to pin this broad allegation on as they dug into the material that was available.
LEMON: This is not a justification for the president, none of this, even if the whole Susan Rice thing if it wasn't just a smoke screen.
Alan, we now have reporting from the Washington Post that the administration got this FISA warrant against Carter Page because they believe he was acting as an agent of a foreign government, of a foreign government which is Russia. What's your reaction to that?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Of course, it's very easy to get a FISA warrant. They accept almost every request for a FISA warrant. And let's remember the presumption of innocence which doesn't only operate in the courtroom but operate in the court of public opinion.
Each party is prepared to forget the presumption of innocence when they accuse the other party and then when somebody on their side is accused they suddenly grant, my God, presumption of innocence. Let's keep the presumption of innocence for both parties.
So far we have a little bit of smoke but certainly nothing coming close to a fire.
LEMON: Ana, we also know that Michael Flynn had to retroactively declare himself an agent of a foreign government, Turkey, during the campaign. What was going on with the campaign that they had people working for President Trump but also for foreign countries?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think part of what was going on was frankly, that the best brains and most experienced veterans, seasoned foreign policy heads of the Republican Party were refusing to work for President Trump.
And I think part of the problem that this administration has is the drip, drip, drip. Right? You've got Michael Flynn. You've got Carter Page. You've got Paul Manafort. And maybe, maybe, maybe. You know? At the beginning they hadn't stood there on that podium and said to us Paul Manafort, who? After we know the guy was the campaign manager.
[22:30:02] The guy ran the republican convention. Maybe then we could, you know, this idea that Carter Page, who would be believable. But it's just, you know, the story is getting a little too overused, a little too old, a little too stale.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: April, how do you expect the White House to handle these new developments? Secretary Tillerson is in Moscow as we speak.
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they're going to have to go step by step as everything seems to be going step by step. But I want to go back to something and this is kind of poignant and pulls in also from the issue of Susan Rice into today.
I talked to former Homeland Security head Jeh Johnson last week, and he said this unmasking things is typical when you're in the midst of trying to find intelligence and he stands by Susan Rice for one. And but when you go into this new age, this Trump era, just within 82 days, they are playing defense, they're trying to, again, look like the fine-tuned machine that the president said that this administration was during the first press conference.
But at the same time, they're on the defense. But they have to answer these questions, again, focusing back on Russia. It's not smoke and mirrors anymore. Everything is in the open and we are seeing what's going on.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I don't think so anymore. I think that the break between Russia and the United States caused by Syria is going to make this story go away. What people were afraid of is that President Trump may be beholden to Russia. He's demonstrated unequivocally that is not the case so this is now an old story, not a current or future story.
RYAN: No, no, no.
LEMON: You don't think that -- go ahead. Hold on. Hold on. April first. Go ahead, April.
RYAN: Thank you, ladies. Because of the elections. I believe this story will not go away because of the ramifications of what could have happened in or what is thought to have happened in this past presidential election and what it could lead to in the next elections to come, 2018 and 2020.
So, there are very serious issues on the table. It's not going away.
LEMON: Nia, can you -- Nia, button this up for us, please.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, it won't go away partly because there are investigations going on right now, right? There's a Senate intelligence committee investigation. The House, as well as the FBI.
So as a story, and as a sort of a news topic, perhaps it will come and go. But as an investigation, it will go on until they reach any sort of conclusion.
DERSHOWITZ: But any theory to accuse that...
LEMON: I've got to go. I've got to go. Sorry about that. And we're going to continue to discuss Russia and we're going to talk about Sean Spicer's blunder today and apology.
April was in the briefing room when it happened. We'll be right back.
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer apologizing tonight and taking full responsibility for saying wrongly that Hitler never used chemical weapons during World War II.
Back with me now, my panel. And I'm sure people, the reaction is going to be unbelievable. April, you were there in the room. Big backlash for the comments by Sean Spicer comparing Hitler and Assad. Let's listen to the full clip. First he makes a statement and then he tries to clarify it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We didn't use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had a -- you know, someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to the level of using chemical weapons. So you have to if you're Russia, ask yourself is this a country that you and the regime that you want to align yourself with.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Quote, "Hitler didn't even sink to the level of using chemical weapons." What did you mean by that?
SPICER: I think when you come to Sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. I mean, there's clearly -- I understand your point. Thank you. I -- thank you. I appreciate that.
There was not in the -- he brought them into the Holocaust center. I understand that. But I was saying in the way that Assad used them where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent -- into the middle of towns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: You were in the room. What was your -- what was your reaction?
RYAN: I was actually writing and I was listening, and when he started making the statements, I was -- it was -- it was an impacting statement something that you're not -- he touched a third rail. And I quickly lifted my head and I heard audible gasps in the room. I
heard people saying things and I kept turning and looking. People were very upset, particularly many of the Jewish American reporters that were in the room.
It was -- it was not a shining moment for him to make that statement. You never compare Hitler with anyone. You don't even bring Hitler up. It was just a very bad moment.
LEMON: Nia, I mean, Holocaust centers. I mean, it was -- you know?
HENDERSON: Yes. No. I've never, ever heard that phrase I guess in that particular moment he meant gas chambers. And what I was looking at Sean Spicer up there and we know Sean Spicer, obviously. And he's been in the job for 82 days now and you could sort of tell that he knew that he was getting into territory and comparisons that might not exactly be helpful.
And you can sort of see in the room there, April was obviously there, it seems like the reporters are trying to help him out to get to a place where he can clarify and make good and make some sense with this statement. But he was never really able to do that, and of course, he released the third statement.
LEMON: Let me read that statement.
HENDERSON: But it didn't help either. Yes.
LEMON: He releases a statement. He said, I, in no way was trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust. I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable."
But then Ana, as mistakes go, I mean, this was a pretty big one. So much so that Sean Spicer...
NAVARRO: I think the word you're looking for is huge.
LEMON: Yes, huge. He apologized to Wolf Blitzer. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: I was obviously trying to make a point about the heinous acts of Assad he'd made against his own people last week using chemical weapons and gas and, frankly, I mistaken used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust for which frankly, there is no -- there is no comparison. And for that, I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:40:02] LEMON: So he's add an adversarial relationships since he's been in that role with CNN he choose, but usually he goes on Fox News and friendly territory, this time he went on CNN with a reporter who -- with an anchor who has connections to the Holocaust. Was this a big enough blunder for that? Why did he feel he had to come on and then to go with Wolf Blitzer? I'm glad he did choose Wolf, but it certainly saying something he didn't go to Fox News.
NAVARRO: Well, look, let me say this. I knew Sean Spicer before he overdosed on orange Kool-Aid and he is not an anti-Semite. He is not a bad guy. He is a decent guy who I think is trying to do his job. I don't think the things he said with malicious intent. He is not a Holocaust denier.
That being said, you never, ever make comparisons with Hitler, you never ever make comparisons with rape. Not in politics not anywhere not on TV.
I think Sean realizes he made a very big mistake. The problem of Sean has is that he's been on the job 82 days and it's about time he starts getting his footing.
I think he's, you know, developed an adversarial relationship with the press. He's become a running joke on late-night comedy shows. That is a problem for the White House press secretary who speaks on behalf of an administration and who is supposed to have a level of credibility. And let me tell you. I think April Ryan, man, girl, you should have been shaking your head at this point.
LEMON: OK. Listen.
RYAN: Ana, stand up.
LEMON: Alan, and Alan is sitting here. Alan is biding his time and Alan, I want to get your perspective on this. Steven Goldstein, who is the executive director of the Anne Frank Center issued this statement as scathing.
He said, "On Passover, no less, Sean Spicer engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death" said executive director of the center Steve Goldstein in the statement.
"Spicer's statement is the most evil slur upon a group of people we have ever heard from a White House press secretary."
Do you think he was engaging in Holocaust denial?
DERSHOWITZ: No. And of course, what this guy who claims to be the head of the Frank Center who is a total phony, there's no such thing, it's a minor institution, it has no credibility within the Jewish community.
He's constantly trying to get headlines by overblowing everything. What happened here is the guy screwed up. And he apologized. He apologized from his heart. And I'm prepared to give him a pass on this. I'll tell you I'm not prepared to give a pass on this.
The Democratic National Committee, that is immediately decided to politicize this and send out a media tweet saying we can't tolerate anti-Semitism even a whip of anti-Semitism. This is the Democratic National Committee who has its co-chairman Keith Ellison...
RYAN: This isn't political. This is -- this is not...
DERSHOWITZ: Let me finish. Who didn't recognize...
LEMON: Let him finish.
DERSHOWITZ: ... the fact that he was working for an anti-Semite Farrakhan. This is just hypocrisy. And I think we should not make politics out of this.
LEMON: Alan, I understand that this is something...
DERSHOWITZ: The democrats the republicans not...
LEMON: It's very emotional to you because when there was an issue, especially when it comes to politics you bring that up.
LEMON: And you even threatened to -- you said you were going t...
DERSHOWITZ: That' right.
LEMON: ... leave the Democratic Party.
DERSHOWITZ: I would have.
LEMON: If they elected Keith Ellison.
DERSHOWITZ: That's right.
LEMON: I understand. So, you know, maybe they have issues, but this is something different. This is something that happened today.
DERSHOWITZ: This is something that ought not to be politicized.
DERSHOWITZ: It was a mistake. You don't make analogies to Hitler. He apologized profusely and from the heart. Let's put it behind this, let's not let the Anne Frank people take advantage of this. Let's not let the democrats take advantage of this. Let's understand that it was a mistake. He apologized and let's move on.
LEMON: OK. Hang on. Shouldn't the person who was speaking for the highest person in the land have a grasp of history?
DERSHOWITZ: Of course.
LEMON: Everyone makes mistakes and I've heard people today make excuses for this by saying, everybody makes mistake. Yes, we all do. But not everybody is speaking for the President of the United States.
DERSHOWITZ: I agree but let's remember, too, this is one of the rare occasions where anybody in the Trump administration has made a full throated, complete apology. Let's praise that when it happens to encourage it more and more.
LEMON: Go ahead, Jack. Is this a liability for...
RYAN: That's not true. That's not true.
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: No, it's not.
RYAN: Ben Carson made an apology for something, too.
KINGSTON: I think that, you know, those of us who have known Sean for many, many years know that there's not an anti-Semitic bone in his body. He's a very decent, honorable guy in an extremely difficult job.
I mean, how would you like a, you know, two-hour pop quiz every single day with a bunch of people who say, I got you on the slightest mistake. And I'm not saying that this was that case. I'm just saying on anything he slips on, he's got to walk on a tight rope every single day. But those of us know who know him know that it was an aberration. This is not -- there was no intent here. He wasn't trying to be clever, he wasn't trying to be sarcastic. He -- and any apology...
LEMON: I think that -- I think that, Jack, I think that people are not -- I don't think that people are saying that. That Sean Spicer is an anti-Semite in any way. I think they're talking about his obfuscation and his deflection and his lack of grasp on basic history.
[22:45:04] After all, I think most people in the -- even a grade- schooler can tell you about the Holocaust and say it was gas chambers.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure.
LEMON: Which is a chemical weapon. And if you're the person, again, who was speaking from the podium in the White House briefing room, and you say that Hitler didn't gas people or use chemical weapons, that is just -- that's a complete blunder and listen.
LEMON: OK. He apologized but still you cannot say that this was not a blunder.
SWERDLICK: Of course it was a blunder.
KINGSTON: Well, it was a blunder an I'm giving all that. I would say, you know, as I listen to it, my interpretation, and I would -- I agree with all of the above, by the way.
But I would say, well, he said didn't use chemical weapons in that manner meaning use it in barrel bombs or, you know, whatever from the sky. And, you know, it was a stupid thing to say everybody acknowledges that. And I think if he have had tried to defend the statement or, you know...
LEMON: But now you're saying you're trying to defend the indefensible. Because even he is saying that what he said is indefensible. But now you're trying to defend it.
KINGSTON: No, I'm not. I'm actually saying I agree with the above. If I was going to defend it, that's what I would have said. But you know, I mean, to me, I understand for perhaps what he was trying to get to. And, you know -- listen.
LEMON: But, Jack...
SWERDLICK: But, congressman. Wait, congressman...
LEMON: Even he doesn't understand what he's trying to get to. He's saying there's no excuse for what he said. Go ahead, David.
SWERDLICK: I was just -- look, Congressman, I see what you're saying, and I, too want to say that I think that Sean Spicer deserves credit for coming out before the cameras and apologizing right away today. And it seemed sincere and full throated.
That being said, though, Congressman Kingston, you, a minute ago, you were talking about this idea that he's got a tough job and he's getting his footing and how would people like to go out there. He knew what he signed up for when he became the press secretary for President Trump.
SWERDLICK: President Trump is a shoot from the hip guy and Sean Spicer knew full well what he's getting into. They got this war of words as going in between...
KINGSTON: And you know what?
SWERDLICK: ... us and the Russians and he let his rhetoric get ahead of what's going on in the world... (CROSSTALK)
KINGSTON: Which is not his rhetoric.
SWERDLICK: Wait, just one more thing. The press (Inaudible)...
KINGSTON: That was to response the question.
DERSHOWITZ: Let the democrats criticize him for making a mistake. But it's wrong...
SWERDLICK: But this is a democrats criticizing.
LEMON: I mean, I understand what you're saying.
RYAN: Can I -- can I...
SWERDLICK: I'm criticizing him for the way he's doing his...
LEMON: Hold on. Hold on.
RYAN: Why does it have to be political? Why does it have to be...
LEMON: Hold on, everybody. Everybody, one at a time. April, go ahead.
RYAN: OK. Why does this have to be political? As someone who sits in that room...
DERSHOWITZ: Exactly right.
RYAN: ... and asks Sean questions and, yes, I have known Sean for a while. He was given a question and he stepped in to his own hole.
RYAN: No one gave him that hole.
KINGSTON: Well, April, let me...
NAVARRO: He stepped in more than -- a hell of a lot more than a hole.
DERSHOWITZ: That's not what the democrats accused him of. The democrats said we don't tolerate...
RYAN: OK. But wait a minute. But this is not...
DERSHOWITZ: ... with anti-Semitism.
RYAN: Can we -- can we deal with this.
LEMON: No. People aren't taking a partisan tone on this panel, Alan. You're doing that. And the press...
DERSHOWITZ: I'm doing that because the democrats...
LEMON: April is talking about the press -- the press people in the room and how the country has...
LEMON: ... reacted to it.
RYAN: I'm talking about -- I'm just talking -- I'm just trying to get to the issue of what happened in that room.
LEMON: OK. Right.
RYAN: I'm not bringing politics in it. I'm talking about this statement happened during Passover. A holy time for a community that was the but of an atrocity. A community, six million people. This is -- it's not about politics it's about people who were hurt. Sean went out there...
KINGSTON: OK. Let's say it's not about politics, Ana. And let me say this.
LEMON: That's not Ana. That's April.
KINGSTON: Above politics but you're not...
RYAN: I'm April. This is April. I'm sorry.
KINGSTON: I'm sorry. I can't see who's talking. I apologize.
NAVARRO: Not all colored girls are the same, Jack.
KINGSTON: Well, I'm sorry about that but I'm not looking.
LEMON: They're both wearing yellow.
LEMON: Quickly. I got to get to the break.
KINGSTON: Here's the point. You might not be criticizing him because you're a democrat. You're criticizing him because you don't like Trump. That's what I would suspect.
RYAN: I've never said I was a democrat. I've never said I was a republican. You don't know my politics.
NAVARRO: She is a journalist!
LEMON: OK. Listen, I got to run. I got to run. Let me say this. I've got to run.
HENDERSON: I'm a democrat.
LEMON: I have to run.
RYAN: That's -- now he just went to a whole another -- so I'm a democrat because I'm black?
KINGSTON: It's OK to admit it.
LEMON: No, no.
NAVARRO: No, you're a democrat because -- he's saying you're me. That's the problem he's having.
KINGSTON: Boy, that was a short one. That was really quick one.
LEMON: I tried, producer.
NAVARRO: Jack, do me a favor. Quit while you're behind.
DERSHOWITZ: Let's just not politicize the Holocaust on either side.
HENDERSON: Don, you're going to wrap this, Don, right?
LEMON: OK. Alan, I understand what you're saying. We shouldn't be politicizing this. And no one should be politicizing this. The only thing is that, quite honestly, when I heard this today, I thought about all of my Jewish friends like you and I was...
LEMON: I shouldn't say I was offended but it was hurtful.
DERSHOWITZ: It was hurtful.
LEMON: Especially to have someone who...
DERSHOWITZ: To get someone to ask.
LEMON: I understand that. When I saw Wolf interviewing him, I actually had to congratulate him for going on Wolf's show and I thought Wolf did a very good job.
DERSHOWITZ: He did. Absolutely. LEMON: And you know, if someone gives you an apology, accept it.
DERSHOWITZ: But criticize.
LEMON: Know what you're doing when you're the White House press secretary.
LEMON: Thank you, everyone.
[22:50:01] NAVARRO: Thank you.
SWERDLICK: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
LEMON: We're back now. Sources are telling CNN tonight that there's no smoking gun against intelligence report no evidence that Susan Rice broke the law by requesting the unmasking of U.S. individuals identities.
Let's discuss now with Fareed Zakaria. Hello. I peep him there as he's coming on. Fareed Zakaria is the host of GPS here on CNN. Can we talk about Sean Spicer and the Hitler comparison today? You have a -- you have a, you think you know the reason why.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Well, it's not the reason. I think Sean Spicer made a mistake, it was absolutely clear as he said it, it was a foolish thing to have said, he tried to deflect it and defended for a bit and then realized it was too foolish and stupid to defend.
But what this comes out? If this comes out of the fact that Sean Spicer has to spend two hours every day defending the series of outlandish acquisitions, crazy talk, lies that the president have put forward for, you know, for the 75 days that he's been president.
The size of the crowd, everything that the president has said Sean Spicer that is to find some justification, some rationale and clearly the orders he's been given are, you know, it's that old intelligence line, deny everything, admit nothing and counter punch, you know. And counter punch with very little regard to facts. So that's the...
LEMON: So he's not there to remind it when he's up there.
ZAKARIA: Well, that's the atmosphere which is he's been told attack, attack, and facts don't matter, just, you know, get them on the defensive. In that context, could you tell he was clearly just making stuff up as he was going along to make his point in a White House in which, quite frankly, facts don't matter.
LEMON: Yes. And if he went -- if he didn't have to worry about all that obfuscation and, you know, deflecting he could be clear minded about what the actual truth is and what the policy is coming from the White House and they would all be on one word, but still.
ZAKARIA: If he works for a president who made it very clear if you get something factually wrong, if you tell something that's untrue I would be mad as hell. I don't think Sean Spicer would have done this. I don't think he works for that president.
LEMON: I want to get your reaction a quote from President Trump tonight. This from the New York Post, Fareed, talking about the in- fighting between senior strategist, Steve Bannon and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, his son-in-law.
He said, "I like Steve but you have to remember he was not involve in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors and I didn't know, I didn't know Steve.
[22:55:04] I'm my own strategists and it wasn't like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary. Steve is a good guy but I told him to straighten it out or I will."
Is he throwing Steve Bannon under the bus here?
ZAKARIA: Well, he sounds like it. I have to say this is one more reminder, we have never seen anything like this. We have never seen an administration where the President of the United States reveals his White House personnel strategy to the New York Post. It's just, you know, you couldn't make this up in a movie.
LEMON: So you think Bannon is on the outs?
ZAKARIA: I think Bannon is clearly on the outs. I mean, rule number one especially if you're dealing with a clannish real estate mogul for whom family is everything, don't mess with the family. I mean, you know, this would seemed like you should have watched the soprano or something.
ZAKARIA: It would like, somebody attacking Michelle Obama in the Obama administration. There are obvious places not to go. Ivanka Trump is the blue-eyed, you know, daughter and Jared Kushner is her husband.
LEMON: Yes. I'm so used to people misconstruing things I already know where things are going to go when for those of you who may be looking to make hay of this. There are two definite clan with a c, not clan with a k.
LEMON: C, l, a, n, there's a different meaning.
ZAKARIA: Yes. LEMON: I know where that's going to go already but it came you already know. So, I want to ask you about this. This is about Bloomberg reporting tonight that Tillerson asked foreign ministers discussing Russia's intervention why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in the Ukraine, do you think that this is a sentiment most U.S. taxpayers have? Why is this a big deal? This is a big deal, right?
ZAKARIA: I don't think U.S. taxpayers have it but I do think U.S. taxpayers have to be led by leaders. You know, you could have made that argument throughout the Cold War. Why is the United States defending Europe, why is the United States defending all these countries around the world?
You need leadership. Leaders that tell that explain to Americans that part of what the United States has done ever since the 1940s is try to construct a peaceful world order in which the United States can survive, world trade thrives, and U.S. economy grows. It is something that Presidents from Franklin Roosevelt have explained to the American people and they've supported and gone along with it for decades. You know, it's eight, nine, ten decades.
But if leaders start questioning the value of this and start saying maybe America needs to be isolationists, maybe America needs to just narrow this up. Yes, I mean, Americans will start -- Americans on foreign policy, I find follow the lead of the president, the secretary of state.
They don't lead. They understand it's a complicated world. If you tell them this is important, I mean, people say Americans don't have staying power and stamina because we're kind of a fickle democracy.
We have been on the banks of the River Ryan defending Germany for decades. We've been in Korea. In Japan. Americans are willing to do this. But you have to be led.
LEMON: Is there some justification about whether their -- hey, let's give Ukraine to Russia. Is this -- is this?
ZAKARIA: I hope not because frankly that would be terrible bargain. I mean, we get Syria and Russia against Ukraine. The Ukraine is the centerpiece of keeping Europe united. That's the -- Ukraine is not important quite as Ukraine.
What's important here is that western countries have made a commitment that on their borders you cannot have a land grab like this. That really does remind one of the 30s and of Hitler. That is, you know, someone going in, snatching a piece of another country without any justification.
Europe has stood up to that. The United States had stood up to that, they put sanctions in place to start weakening that really questions the unity of the west. And I hope that that's incorrect reporting because it will frankly be a very foolish for Tillerson to have said.
LEMON: Thank you, Fareed. Much appreciated as always. We'll be right back.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)