Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Says Major Conflict with North Korea Possible; Michael Flynn Investigation Heating Up; House Postpones Vote on Health Care Plan; New Interview with President Trump Sounding Nostalgic about His Life as Real Estate Mogul. Aired 11:00p-12:00mn ET
Aired April 27, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:19] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, are we on a verge of a major, major conflict with North Korea that's what the President says.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
That, plus a new Russian investigation. (INAUDIBLE) former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn is the target. We will get to that in a moment.
But I want to begin with breaking news on North Korea right now. Joining me now CNN chief national correspondent Jim Sciutto, also Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason who reported this story.
Good evening to you. Thanks for joining.
Jeff, I'm going to start with you. You interviewed President Trump today at the White House. The President is telling you that we could see a major conflict with North Korea. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, there's a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Jeff, tell us more about this interview? What's he talking about? Military engagement here between the United States on the Korean peninsula?
JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Well, he didn't get specific about what that meant, but he indicated the seriousness of the conflict with North Korea. And he certainly made clear that military options are things that Trump administration is considering and considering seriously. And that comes in the context of this week having said that they are going to work on diplomacy. And the president did say that would be their preference. But in the interview with me and my colleagues, Steve Averns (ph) and Steve Holen (ph), he said that it's difficult and it clearly is. LEMON: Yes. And you mentioned he does prefers, he says he prefers
diplomatic outcome but did he give any indication how that could be accomplished?
MASON: He didn't. But that's clearly something that the administration is working on. And he mentioned, we had a discussion about President Xi of China who President Trump has given a lot of credit for for helping on North Korea helping but he has put a lot of pressure on him for helping with that. So that's certainly part of the diplomatic path that he also hoping will be successful.
LEMON: Jim Sciutto, are you surprised to hear the President speak this way on North Korea?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen. Not necessarily surprised because we heard the President speak in somewhat aggressive terms, you might say, about a number of very sensitive conflicts. The question is it truly intentional, is it part of a serious message that the president of the United States is trying to send to North Korea.
It is interesting that you have something of a good cop, bad cop thing going here. The president making a comment like that saying that the military options are on the table as previous Presidents have. We know that Rex Tillerson, for instance, the secretary of state in an interview he has done with NR which is going to come out tomorrow. In that, he said the U.S. is willing to sit down and speak face to face with North Korea.
So you have, you know, the diplomatic path, the preference, the U.S. President in effect reminding North Korea that we have military options that we are considering. The difficulty is, and I speak to diplomats who dealt with very difficult issue of North Korea from both administration, from both Republican and Democrat, and I say that this is a volatile regime and that you don't want to add the danger of escalation, right, and public comments from the U.S. president can be misinterpreted.
LEMON: So the question - there are so many questions here. So how do you think North Korea is going to see the president? How are they going to react to the President's comment and what would a conflict look like?
SCIUTTO: Well, in terms of reaction, I mean, if it stays to past behavior, it would be something along the lines of their own fiery rhetoric and North Korea has a habit of doing that. You might see a headline and the North Korean party -- newspaper tomorrow saying, well, if there's a conflict we would win and (INAUDIBLE) et cetera, that kind of thing. That is for public consumption at home and to some extent abroad.
The difficulty is, does or I suppose the danger is, does North Korea feel truly threatened to the point where they feel the need to show some sort of actual demonstration of force, right. And this is something North Korea has done in the past. I mean, they fired artillery shells at South Korea. They sunk a South Korean navy ship. I mean, these things are real dangers from the regime like this.
LEMON: You know, I heard from others on this and they are saying they believe that the President is being somewhat hyperbolic about this. Is he aware of the way that his words on the situation - on situations like this?
SCIUTTO: It's a question we would need to ask him about situations with North Korea, or Afghanistan or Iran or Canada, right. I mean, in terms of NAFTA you have public comments that are incendiary. And you know, if you read the art of the deal, maybe this is about a negotiating position. I suppose the danger is, and don't listen to me, listen to the folks who negotiated with North Korea face to face, the danger is, this is a dangerous regime with serious and weapons. And if you miscalculate or if a message from the U.S. president is misinterpreted or overreact to, there is a danger of escalation.
[23:05:07] LEMON: And Jeff, you spoke with him about that regime, didn't you?
MASON: We did. And in fact he has somewhat brace comments for Kim Jong-un. We asked him, number one, if he felt that the North Korean leader was rational person and he said he really had no real opinion on that. And in fact, he went on to say that it was very difficult for a 27-year-old to take over a regime as he did when his father died.
LEMON: Let me put up what he says and then I want your respond, sir. He says he is 27 years old, his father dies, took over a regime, so say what you want but that's not easy, especially at that age. I'm not giving him credit or not giving him credit I'm just saying that is a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he's rational, I have no opinion on that. I hope he is rational.
Go on, Jeff.
MASON: Well, that's right. And I had asked that at one point of that interview, are you trying, wanting to give him credit. And that's when he said I'm not giving him credit or not giving him credit. But clearly, he is not made the analysis that Kim Jong-Un is somebody who can't at all be dealt with despite the challenges that he clearly sees with North Korea. He couldn't really be drawn on a specific analysis about this person.
LEMON: Yes. There's no argument from most about whether he is rational or not most leaders. They don't believe he is rational, Jeff.
MASON: Well. And so, that's why we were curious if he would give a little bit more insight about what he thought and perhaps what he seen from his own analysis from intelligence that he now obviously has available to him as the President of the United States. But he was careful there. I think you are right though. I think there are many people would not be quite as careful when describing the North Korean leader.
LEMON: Jim? SCIUTTO: Listen, it sounds like the President is almost describing,
you know, someone who took over the family business, right. You know, you got to give him credit for taking over the family. I mean, this is not taking over a real estate empire. This is North Korea. It is a dictatorial regime that is heredity. He took over his father's, his father took over his father. And he didn't do that to clever business deals. He kills relatives with anti-aircraft guns in public stadiums, you know. He killed a half-brother with a chemical weapon in an airport in Malaysia, right, this assassination a month ago. So, you know, it's not a stretch to say it's an improper comparison to sort of effectively praise him for, you know, the achievement of successfully taking over a hermit state that your father ran. I mean, it is just an odd comparison to make.
LEMON: Out other breaking news tonight is that President Trump's former national security advisor who really served a very short term under investigation from the defense department and yet another investigation. What is the focus of this one?
SCIUTTO: So what's new is now that the defense department is investigating him not only for possibly violating U.S. army regulations but violating the law, the (INAUDIBLE) clause. Of course we heard from the constitution, but for breaking the law for not reporting that he received a foreign payment in the amount of tens of thousands of dollars from a foreign government, in fact, a hostile foreign government. And that is significant.
In addition it to that some of these documents released by the Democrats on the House oversight committee today bely past explanation that's Michael Flynn has given for these payments, saying, well, I kept the DIA defense intelligence agency, that he was the director of on the Obama administration, I kept him informed. In fact the House oversight committee wrote to DIA. The DIA says we have no record to show that he informed them of this in advance.
So the story in his continually changing story about the speech and money and who he told seems to be falling apart under examination by the White House oversight committee.
LEMON: And the White House is pushing back on this blaming the Obama administration.
SCIUTTO: Well, listen. It is a pretty big stretch, the argument they are trying to make is that they are trying to say when he worked in the Obama administration, was director of the DIA, and Obama gave him security clearance so therefore it is kind of the administration's fault that this was missed. Have listen to what Sean Spicer had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So the issue is, you know, he was issued a security clearance under the Obama administration in the spring of 2016. The trip and transactions that you are referring to occurred in December 2015 from what I understand. So obviously there is an issue that as you point out the department of defense and inspector general is looking into. We welcome that. But all of that clearance was made during the Obama administration and apparently with knowledge of the trip that he took.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: You know, rich is a word, so it's pretty rich explanation for this. Yes he got a clearance in the Obama administration, was then fired from that position and then he became a campaign advisor and very public supporter of President Trump who chose him as his highest ranking national security advisor. And when you bring someone in that level, it is your job to vet that person. It's on the Trump administration. He is their hire. They own this hire.
[23:10:15] LEMON: Jeff, and closing in on the 100-day mark, did you get a sense that all of this is weighing on the President. We have Syria, Afghanistan, now North Korea, the health care they are not going to vote on repealing and replacing Obamacare and so on. And his relationship with the media.
MASON: Well, it's a good question. We did ask him towards the end of our interview a little about his feeling about the first 100 days he was actually a little bit wishful about his pre-white days. He said that missed driving. That he felt like he was a little bit of a cocoon in the bubble that is the White House. He didn't talk about all these things necessarily weighing on him but he did say that he thought that the job would be easier, and he expected it to be easier than his previous life and that was not the case.
LEMON: Interesting that you would think being a leader of the free world would be easier than running a real estate company.
Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate.
MASON: My pleasure.
LEMON: When we come back, more on our breaking news. The president's warning that a major, major conflict with North Korea is possible.
Please, the Michael Flynn investigation heating up tonight. Why one top Democrat charges the White House is covering it up.
[23:15:06] LEMON: Here is our breaking news. President Trump warning what he calls a major, major conflict with North Korea is possible.
Plus Michael Flynn, the investigation is heating up. The Pentagon investigating the disgrace former national security advisor and the top Democrat on the House committee -- oversight committee charging the White House is covering up for Flynn.
Joining me now, Congressman Raja Krishmamoothi. He, one of the democrats on the oversight committee.
Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. Good evening.
REP. RAJA KRISHMAMOOTHI (D), ILLINOIS: Good evening.
LEMON: Let's talk about the breaking news. What do you make the President's comments on North Korea? He says there could be the chance that we would end in a major, major conflict with North Korea.
KRISHMAMOOTHI: You know, I believe that this is a very serious situation. I was part of a classified briefing yesterday that the vice President along with secretary of state, secretary of defense, the chairman and joint chiefs and the director of national intelligence provided. And I agree it's a very serious situation.
I just hope we can lower the temperatures a little bit and not rattle too many savors. You know, we have to be prepared. We have to deescalate this conflict in a peaceful way as much as possible and we have to hope that we can work with China to exert any and all leverage over the North Koreans to basically deescalate the tensions right now.
LEMON: He does say in that interview that he would like to solve things diplomatically but says it would be difficult. Do you think there's a strategy behind the president's remarks?
KRISHMAMOOTHI: Possibly. But I think that right now we have to avoid all tweets. We have to avoid provocative measures. Especially with someone as unstable as the North Korean leader, you know, on the other side. I think rather than engaging in provocative measures or rattling savors, we have to intensely pursue a peaceful solution through diplomacy.
LEMON: Congressman, he did say in that interview he wasn't sure if Kim Jong-Un was stable or not, said I'm not giving an opinion about that. What do you think about that?
KRISHMAMOOTHI: Well, look. I think that -- I too hope that this North Korea leader is rational. If he's not, we have a whole other problem on our hand. But right now we have to assume that he is rational. And that we have pursue all diplomatic means to deescalate this conflict.
LEMON: Congressman, let's talk about the other breaking news that we have tonight. House Republicans have delayed a vote on Obamacare, the repeal. They will not vote this week. Meaning that mostly likely will have no votes and he won't get this credit for the first 100 days. What's your reaction on that?
KRISHMAMOOTHI: You know, I don't think the American people really care about whether, you know, he gets this American health care act passed in a hundred days. I think what they care about is making sure that we have the best health care system possible. We have challenges under the affordable care act and we need to work together in a bipartisan fashion.
LEMON: You think it means that he doesn't have a votes on it and that's why he is not doing it. That's why they are not doing it.
KRISHMAMOOTHI: Yes, he didn't have the votes three weeks ago. He doesn't have the votes now. And that's why they are not even bringing it to a vote. But again, I think that we have to work in a bipartisan fashion to improve the current affordable care act. And you know, I think that the fact that for a second time they are not able to muster votes on the Republican side to bring their proposal to a vote, you know, means that, you know, hopefully, they will come to the table and we can actually work together to improve the current system.
LEMON: What is that say to you if they have a Republican House or Republican Senate or Republican White House and they can't - and they have seven years of trying to repeal or replace Obamacare and they haven't been able to do it. What is that say to you?
KRISHMAMOOTHI: I think that what it says to me is that it's a lot easier to say no as they have been doing for seven or eight years in terms of not wanting to improve the current system. But now that they are in charge, they have to own up to the responsibility of improving it because too many lives depend on it. We have received literally thousands of letters and phone calls detailing very moving stories of how people's lives have improved significantly under the affordable care act. At the same time, they point out some of the challenges and that's what we have to work on together to improve.
LEMON: All right. And more developing news, as if we didn't have enough. But I want to talk about the President trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn under investigation from the defense department. He didn't get permission to travel to Moscow. He was paid by the Kremlin back news, station RT. Allegedly didn't disclose that and he was warned about accepting payments from foreign governments. Do you think Michael Flynn broke the law?
[23:20:04] KRISHMAMOOTHI: Well, I agree with the chairman Chaffetz who said yesterday that we haven't seen any evidence that he complied with the law. Just to alert your viewers, the law is very clear. A retired military officer must get permission from the American government if he or she is to accept any foreign payments or payments from any foreign governments. That is a warning given to every military officer before they leave the service. Michael Flynn did receive that warning. There's no evidence that he did comply with that law. And now we know the army inspector general is investigating these violations just as the oversight committee is.
I had a chance to reviewed classified briefings yesterday, classified documents yesterday. And they raised the same questions that we are seeing raised in these documents today. We are seeing a lot of smoke here. It's time to get to the bottom of this. We got to press this investigation further. The White House must turnover any and all documents related it to this issue.
LEMON: With that said, in a short time we have left, I want to play this because Congressman Elijah Cunnings, your colleague is basically, he is saying that this is a cover up slamming the White House refusing any documents related to the investigation. Let's play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: I watch Sean Spicer make all kinds of excuses about how hard it would be to comply with our request. Come on, man.
I honestly do not understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn. I don't get it. After the President fired him for lying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So if he didn't comply with the law one would say that is the same thing as breaking the law. Do you agree? Is this a cover up?
KRISHMAMOOTHI: I don't know whether it's a cover up. What I do know is they are not producing documents related to either the vetting of Michael Flynn or the firing of Michael Flynn. I'm almost certain that such documents exist. And I think the White House must produce these because as I said before there's so many questions at this point and there's just no answers. And at the end of the day the reason why this matters is because we need to know ultimately about the state of our national security whether (INAUDIBLE) compromised and how did we get to the position where Michael Flynn could actually become the national security advisor after having so many extensive contacts with Russia and in the process receiving a lot of money from them.
LEMON: Congressman Krishmamoothi, thank you very much. Appreciate your time.
KRISHMAMOOTHI: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, more on our breaking news. The House is postponing its vote to repeal and replace Obamacare. Plus, the President's about face I should say on NAFTA. More setbacks for the White House with the 100 day mark just around the corner.
[23:26:19] LEMON: Breaking news on Capitol Hill. House Republican leaders say there will not be a vote on the new health care bill on Friday. We also have breaking news on North Korea, the President warning of a major, major conflict with grove nation. And more breaking news on what cause the president to change his mind about one of his signature campaign pledges, to pull out of the North America free Trade Agreement or this NAFTA.
Let's discuss this. CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston and CNN contributor Patrick Healy.
It is a lot. Listen, Maeve, I want to ask you before we get started. Both of you as a matter of fact about tonight's breaking news on North Korea. The President's comments on North Korea possibility of major, major conflict.
MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I'm not sure scaring people in that respect is maybe the best approach but, you know, no one tells the President what to do, right. But I think that clearly, you know, this is a top of mind issue for him. He has got a circle of national security advisors around him now who he trusts and people say he is listening to. But still he just can't control that urge to tweet --.
LEMON: Do you think they just going to see, he just hyperbolic or does it meant to send a signal? What did you think?
PATRICK HEALY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think aggressive even violent language has been part of his political messages, since he started running for President. The way he labels people, the insinuations that he made about President Obama on down, the way he rattled the saber, whether it was NATO or, you know, range of countries, Iran, other than basically other than Russia.
I mean, this is sort of his approach is to talk very, very tough. To tweet very, very tough first. But when we see actual engagement and confrontation like we did with Syria that was relatively, and you could say that was like a relatively disciplined attack. It was a pinpoint attack. And to Maeve's point the President has people around him who I think who do reign impulses for greater and even more chaotic action.
LEMON: It makes you very grateful for - especially the generals he has because why is he filling his cabinet so many generals. But in a situation like this thank goodness the generals are there.
I also want to talk about the breaking news on health care because the vote is delayed once again. Republicans, they don't have the votes to repeal and replace on Obamacare this round two.
Patrick, he wanted to win on this one. He is not going to get. A second loss for him in this category.
HEALY: Right. It's so dangerous, Don, I mean. And he knew, and Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus knew what they were getting into here by taking try not to take a second bite at the health care apple when they knew they didn't have the votes the first time.
LEMON: They were saying - pardon me for cutting you off.
LEMON: I will let you finish. But thy were saying that they don't really care about the 100 day mark which he touted so much on the campaign trail and that's why they threw everything against the wall see if it would stick, but why do this.
HEALY: Look. This whole week, Don, has been just like a kabuki theater exercise in Washington. And now you are going to have the President who is not going to get a passage, you know, where a step forward on health care going forward, going to Pennsylvania on Saturday to give his speech on his 100th day in which he will suggest there's been all this action and activity there. You know, he gave a speech in Pennsylvania in October where he laid out his 100 day agenda and he is going to try to reclaim that now. And meanwhile in D.C. you are going to have the White House correspondent dinner and Samantha B show and everybody sort of ripping him apart.
LEMON: Maeve, to his point, how do you, you know, you say we wanted to accomplish or we have accomplished all these things when really it's mostly been executive orders many of which have no teeth, some of them do but one of them was to study sort of the effects on NAFTA and whatever.
[23:30:04] RESTON: Yes, you know. That is sort of the equivalent of a blue ribbon commission. You know, a lot of them had that effect.
LEMON: Is it style over substance? Do you think --?
RESTON: I think that, you know, I think that the President clearly did not understand the kinds of obstacles that he was going to face when he came to Washington, you know. With the health care bill for example, there were a lot of people who told him not to go with the health care legislation first to do something more bite-sized, that was manageable, doable in the Congress, and he chose to, you know, to go for that.
LEMON: That infrastructure which everyone is on board.
RESTON: Right, right. And so you see here them putting out all these executive orders as this huge flurry of activity that they have done. And it's a very mixed bag. You know, some of them don't really have a major effect. Others could be major regulatory roll backs down the line and that will certainly make his base happy. But that is going to be an interesting rally in Pennsylvania.
HEALY: Yes. I think the traditional wins that a President likes to point to in first hundred days usually one big bill through Congress, some legislative win whether it has to do with the economy and foreign policy. I mean, he has got judge Gorsuch to point to. But really, that said a lot of it is paper.
LEMON: But isn't that Mitch McConnell?
HEALY: It is Mitch McConnell.
LEMON: Yes. Then it is the nuclear thing.
OK. So listen, Maeve, the "Washington Post" spoke with the President tonight and I had the reporter on earlier. And he told then - I'm sorry that was Reuters. "The Washington Post" also spoke to the President tonight and he told them this about NAFTA which he elected not to terminate when he spoke to the leaders of Mexico and Canada. The president said I was also to terminate and looks forward to terminating. I was going to do it. And according to the "Washington Post" he changed his mind because (INAUDIBLE) who is the agriculture secretary showed him a map, a map of how many communities in Trump countries would be hurt by the loss of business. Did he not, should he have understood that before.
RESTON: I think this is so representative of his style. It is so similar in a way to the Syria situation where he went out there with all this campaign rhetoric, you know, about America first and not getting involved abroad but then he felt, you know, personally moved by pictures and then went in and did Syrian airstrikes after the chemical attacks. In this situation again he is getting new information, absorbing it,
changing his mind. He has talked about being flexible and being proud of that flexibility. I'm not sure how it will go over with his supporters down the road, but that is what we have seen throughout this first hundred days.
LEMON: Can you imagine all those 17 people who have up on stage with him or how many it was, who were giving these sort of rational responses saying, well, you just can't do that and explaining to the American people how it's done and he is saying like no can't do it that way. Are they sitting at home now going, we told you so? And I don't mean Hillary Clinton. I'm talking about Republicans.
RESTON: Right. I mean, I think a lot of them probably are. But this is the most interesting thing about the Trump presidency is that he is so unpredictable. He is not ideological.
LEMON: You say unpredictable, but does that mean just not knowledgeable? Because we say he is unpredictable. But that unpredictability has been, I mean it has resulted into not having knowledge of a particular issue and then -- coming out a different way.
RESTON: But I don't think any President goes into that office knowing about all of these different issues. I mean, clearly it was going to be an education on Donald Trump.
LEMON: Of course it is.
HEALY: Usually, there are some level of all Presidents have sort of like a big ego. There's some level of sort of humility about kind of knowing what you don't know, turning to advisors, wanting to get a lot of advisors in your cabinet, in your national security council who are going to be able to give you more information.
This President has such enormous self-confidence whether it is well- placed or not. He believes that when he is able to sort of make, when he makes these comments about NAFTA, about North Korea, the way it's going, there just is not a lot of neurotic self-doubting that is going on. At least, you know --
LEMON: Boastful and hubris, that is different from self-confidence because using the word self-confident had a sort of quiet power about them instead of being outwardly.
But listen, Maeve, I want to ask you. You wrote a piece about first 100 days in CNN digital. So many colorful anecdotes about coming and it comes guys a warning about language so what the heck is going on in the White House.
RESTON: Well, I think it's a very colorful White House and they use a lot of colorful language in there. This is a tic-tac of the first hundred days that looks actually at the evolution of Trump that is publishing tomorrow morning with our CNN digital magazine.
LEMON: It's new digital magazine. RESTON: It's called state.
RESTON: And you know, I think what it is so interesting to kind of watch his evolution through this whole process. But there were certainly many moments of anger and frustration within those walls that we delve into.
[23:35:06] LEMON: Is there a certain sense of you don't know what you don't know? What do you get out of this first 100 days?
RESTON: I mean, I think that's a good point that you don't know what you don't know but that he has really absorbed a lot, learned a lot, that people think that the White House in some respects is maybe beginning to find its footing a little bit on some of the mechanics. I would spent a lot of time on the hill this week and some of his harshest critics said that. But we are still seeing a lot of turmoil and flurry of activity around there. See how it goes.
LEMON: Yes. I got to run. But I thought it was interesting the Reuters' reporter said they asked him about the first 100 days and he said he didn't realize that this would be so hard. He thought it would be easier.
RESTON: Yes. I mean, that's a fair statement.
HEALY: Fair statement.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you both. I appreciate it.
RESTON: Thank you.
LEMON: We come back, more on the investigation into those payments from Russia that general Flynn failed to disclose. I'm going to ask former inspector general for the defense department what this investigation could reveal.
[23:39:43] LEMON: Newly revealed documents show that fired national security advisor Michael Flynn was warned not to accept payments from foreign governments a full year before taking money from Russian for a speaking engagement. The Pentagon now investigating that.
Let's discuss. Gordon Heddell is a former inspector general of the department of defense. Michael Isikoff, a chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo! News and CNN national security analyst Steve Hall, retired chief of CIA ration operations.
Thank you for joining me, gentlemen.
Gordon, you first. As a former inspector general for the DOD, talk to us about the rules that Michael Flynn broke here and how serious of a charge is this? GORDON HEDDELL, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL OF THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
Don, of course the rules regarding the (INAUDIBLE) clause and violation involving payments from foreign government are serious. And of course, general officers typically know what they are doing. They know their business. They know when they have done something right or wrong. And we don't know yet whether lieutenant general Flynn did anything wrong but if he did not comply with the rules. I believe the inspector general will determine that and of course the report will go to the secretary of defense and then to the Congress. And if there's criminal violations then those reports go to the justice department that will review them and take action. So yes this could be a serious matter if in fact he did violate the (INAUDIBLE) clause and in fact he engaged with foreign government officials without authorization.
LEMON: Steve, I want to ask you because as we saw earlier Sean Spicer defend the administration's vetting process of Flynn telling reporters that his security clearances were approved under the Obama administration that there was no need to rerun a back ground check but at least in the Obama administration, the White House council conducted its own background investigation of candidates even if it already had security clearance. So what do you make of this defense from the White House?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: To be honest, Don, I think it is (INAUDIBLE). You know, there is - I guess there is different types of vetting. You know, there is certainly security background investigation that happened, but you would hope that there is an additional level of facts that the White House conducts its own vetting perhaps. Perhaps from a more political perspective.
But you have to remember on the issue of background investigation so much often times depends upon the subject themselves of the investigation. You know, if Flynn didn't mention, as we know guys like Jared Kushner also left some stuff out, then that does a lot of harm in terms of the ability to investigation and to get their security clearances at the end of the day. And perhaps even more important I think, you know, security clearance in the big picture is not -- from a counter intelligence perspective I guess is the best way to say this, not that critical of a thing. I mean, some of the biggest damages that was done to U.S. national security guys like, you know, Alder James and Robert, those guys had great security clearance all the way up, you know, through top secret level. So there's a lot more it to it than just clearance and vetting. There is what these people actually did and that's what need to be taken a look at. And I think that's what the FBI is doing from counter intelligence perspective.
LEMON: Michael, I want to ask you because according to Gordon he said, you know, once you get to the level of Michael Flynn he is saying, I don't want to take you out of context Gordon, but it sounds like you are saying you should know the game, you should know the score, you should know what you have to disclose and what you don't have to disclose. Is that not correct?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Yes, no, look, first of all, I mean, Michael Flynn was the chief of the defense intelligence agency. The chief intelligence officer for the department of defense. That's no small thing. And you would think somebody at that level would know the rules.
Look. I think this is actually a pretty significant development today. The acting Pentagon inspector general who is doing this investigation, Glen Fine is one of the most experienced widely respected inspector generals in the government. He was at the justice department for years did a lots of hard hitting very aggressive investigations. He knows how to do them. And this is the first indication of a U.S. government agency that is actively investigating a piece of the whole Trump-Russia puzzle that we have all been talking about for months.
So I think that's a very important milestone and development. As far as where it goes, look, I interviewed Michael Flynn at the Republican national convention in July and asked about this Russia trip and who paid for it. And he, at first, said I can tell you I didn't take money from Russia, if that is what you are asking. And then I said well, who paid for the trip? He said my speakers' bureau asked them.
The house over sight committee reviewed that interview and decided to take Flynn up on his offer and went after the documents got them from the speaker's bureau, showed that RT, the Russian propaganda network had reached out to him directly on email. So there's no question he knew where the money was coming from. But he was making this bizarre distinction without a difference I got the money from my speaker's bureau. I didn't get it from RT. I don't think that's a kind of defense that is going to hold up very well.
[23:45:27] LEMON: Gordon, I wonder how often someone like General Flynn or someone at this level gets referred to the inspector general for investigation. I mean, is this common for this to happen?
HEDDELL: Yes, Don, actually it's more common than you would expect. We are talking about senior military officials here. In this case lieutenant general Flynn was a three star general officer. No, it's really -- it's not that our military is running rampant, don't believe that for a second. I can tell you for the most part we deserve the reputation of having the finest military in the world.
But the fact of the matter is general officers know the rules. I have no doubt that three star and four star, every general officer rank in the books knows the rules here and a lot of this is a matter of common sense. If these rules were violated I can tell you it's either a matter of not having common sense or being arrogant. I'm not suggesting that we know what happened in the case of lieutenant general Flynn yet. But if it turns out that he has done what we are investigating, and again I agree Glen Fine is going to do an excellent job because he has the resources, skills, the knowledge, and the people to do this. If it turns out, it will be a matter of arrogance or lack of common sense, I can tell you that, with respect to the general.
LEMON: Generals - I mean, gentlemen, excuse me. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
How often has this President admitted he didn't know something? Well, he finally did and you'll hear from him after this.
[23:50:55] LEMON: Breaking news. A new interview from President Trump sounding a little nostalgic tonight about his life as real estate mogul. Let's listen to he tells Reuters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, I loved all my previous life. I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. I actually, this is more work than my previous life. I thought it would be easier. I thought it was more of a -- I'm a details oriented person. I think you would say that, but I do miss my old life. I like to work, so that's not a problem, but this is actually more work. And while I had very little privacy in my old life because, you know, I have been famous for a long time, I really -- this is much less privacy than I've ever seen before. I mean, this is something that's really amazing. At the same time, you are really into your own little cocoon because you have such massive protection that you really can't go anywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So here to discuss CNN political commentator Jason Miller, former senior communications advisor for the Trump campaign Karine Jean-Pierre, national spokesman for moveon.org and CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers, and Andre Bauer.
(INAUDIBLE) This is the toughest job in the land. So listen, the President said that he didn't -- I'll start with Jason because you know him very well. He didn't think the presidency would be so hard. What do you think of that?
JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's an honest answer.
LEMON: It is honest. But it is surprising to hear from him or from anyone. Because most people would say, my God, I don't want that job because it is hard. It is so hard. I can't imagine anything that's harder.
MILLER: Well, It's a tough job. I would be surprised if there's any President who has said - something different at any point. But as we have seen so far, I think the President has done a good job of stepping up and filling the role and doing a good job. But, yes, it is tough.
And you know, one of the things I would be remiss if I didn't make the comment if the Republicans on Capitol Hill would get their acts together, that maybe it would be a little easier. Maybe we could see speaker Ryan step up and get this health care bill done.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, MOVEON.ORG: I think that both Republicans and Donald Trump are realizing governing is hard and being the party of no is just not working when you have the house, the Senate, and, by the way, the presidency.
And so, yes, you know, Donald Trump is learning that health care is complicated. He is learning that the history of North Korea is complicated and now he is missing his old life. And so, it is not surprising --.
LEMON: It's only been 90-some odd days and 97, 98 days.
JEAN-PIERRE: It is not surprising because he was just (INAUDIBLE). I mean, he really wasn't serious about this from the beginning when he was running.
LEMON: Andre, what do you think?
ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think we are fortunate to have folks that are willing to run for this office. I sure wouldn't want it. But if you look at President Obama, President Bush, it takes a toll on anybody. If you look at how much they age in those few short eight short years. Donald Trump is off to a test start. He got a lot of things happening, but I'm enthusiastic about the fact that we have people willing to serve in this capacity. And I'm sure his life was better before, but he has got this job. He asked for it. So I'm ready for him to buckle down and tackle some very tough issues this country has to deal with.
LEMON: Bakari Sellers?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, I think that we are seeing is that Donald Trump, who inherited his wealth from his father, who had four bankruptcies, you know, who most people when you begin to pull back the onion saw that it was a house of cards, his business career now becomes President of the United States and has failed most of his own standards he put forth in his first 100 days.
I think the hope that we have for the country, the hope we have for the United States of America, is someone who has the absolute lowest approval rating of any President we have had through this 97-day, 100- day period, does some self-reflecting as he was doing in this interview and ask the question how can I be a better President and not just for myself, not just for the Trump family, but for the United States of America. I don't know if they will ask that question, but I hope he does over the next 100 days from now.
LEMON: I want to move and talk about the new polls now that we have gotten that out of the way. There's a new poll that was just released. It shows that half as many Republicans now see Russia as unfriendly as they did in 2014.
How do you explain this? Half of the Republicans have completely changed their minds about Russia because of President Trump. You, Andre?
[23:55:13] BAUER: I think the news can take any country -- I mean, if you look just the short news we have seen over North Korea, a couple of days of news stories can change a lot of folks feelings about where we stand on any country. And right now we are hoping that Russia is going to help us in some of our own problems we have taken on. And so they are becoming at least a partner, maybe not a friend, but a needed partner around the world with so many problems right now.
And so, you know, I don't think it's just that the Republicans say, oh, well, now, you know, Trump has had some type of contact or someone did his administration has with Russia, but in fact they are a partner we drastically need right now.
LEMON: Yes. Democrats have not changed their mind about Russia and the threat of Russia.
JEAN-PIERRE: No, as they should not. I mean, we just came out of an election where our democracy was undermined. And honestly, this should not be a bipartisan issue. We need to get to --.
LEMON: Is that number surprising to you, that Republicans are -- and the power of this President to get people to change their mind.
JEAN-PIERRE: Right. And there's the question from the CNN poll that asked, you know, do we think that Russia, you know, played a role in the election.
LEMON: So we can put that up. It says 72 percent surveyed believe it is extremely likely, very likely or somewhat likely that Trump campaign and Russians had improper contact, 27 percent believe it is not too likely or not at all likely, so.
JEAN-PIERRE: And that's an overwhelming number. And I think this is why we need to get to the bottom of this and it shouldn't be partisan.
MILLER: I think one of the thing that was interesting with the poll if you broke down the percentage of who actually defined Russia as an enemy, which was 25 percent. And one of the things if you go back to the campaign trail what the president would always say is look, I'm not saying that Russia has to our friend, but they don't have to be our enemy on day one. And when you look at - so the audience he was talking to was that 75 percent. That's where most of the country is, realizing that we do need to find ways to work with other countries all around the globe whether it is defeating ISIS or other issues. So I think the President was actually much more spot on. That's a key detail to point out.
LEMON: That's all we have time for. Thank you all. I appreciate it.
When we come back, the latest on our breaking news. President Trump warning of a possible major conflict with North Korea.