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Former DBI director Robert Mueller Named as Special Counsel Russia Investigation. Aired 11p-12mn ET

Aired May 17, 2017 - 23:00   ET


[23:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Our breaking news tonight the Trump White House in turmoil as the justice department names a special counsel in the Russia investigation.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

The former FBI director Robert Mueller, James Comey's predecessor taking over the federal investigation to possible collusion between Russia and President Trump's campaign. Surprise move coming just eight days after the President fired Comey by his own admission over the Russia investigation.

And now, the storm clouds are gathering around the White House just four months into the Trump administration.

Let's get right to CNN's justice correspondent Pamela Brown.

Pamela, as I understand, you have some new information that you need to report just this evening. Then bring us up-to-date, please.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Don. So the big question in the wake of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general announcing special counsel is how much this revelation of former director Comey's memo had to do with his decision. And we are told through a person familiar that former director Comey didn't share his memos with top DOJ officials including Rod Rosenstein. And as of last night he had not seen those memos.

It is unclear though how much the revelation of the memos in the "New York Times" and then CNN and elsewhere factored into his decision to announce that Bob Mueller would be taking the reign of the Russian probe.

We can also tell you as of last Friday, he was telling people close to him that he did not think it was necessary to appoint a special counsel unless the FBI investigation was in peril. And then of course there was this revelation yesterday. So it certainly raises the question about how much that factored into his decision.

LEMON: So he never read Comey's memos before deciding for special counsel?

BROWN: We can tell you as of last night he did not read those memos. Former director Comey had not share those memos with him. Now, today, it is unclear if the handful of people who had possession of these memos shared it with Rod Rosenstein. But as of last night he hadn't seen them. And director Comey, as we can report, got a close hold on them, only sharing it with his close circle of associates and senior FBI officials, Don.

LEMON: So here is - Pamela, here is part of the department of justice's press release tonight. It says deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein today announced the appointment of former department of justice official and FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to serve a special counsel to oversee the previously confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 Presidential election and related matters.

So Pamela, how important is that last line, efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters?

BROWN: Well, it is certainly a big part of the Russia probe. And what the FBI has been focused on as you heard and the testimony from former FBI director Comey back in March, that that is a key element in all of this, looking into possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and Russians.

And with Bob Mueller now special counsel, he can really take this investigation where he wanted. He can look at matters relating to that. You never know where the facts will take you. And so, that certainly indicates that it will still be a focus under Bob Mueller as well, Don.

LEMON: All right. Pamela, I want you to stick around because I want to bring in now CNN national security analysis Matthew Rosenberg. He is also a correspondent for the "New York Times" and he has more on the breaking news.

Matthew, welcome to the program. You worked the "New York Times" article tonight, breaking the news that lieutenant general Flynn told the Trump transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation. What else can you tell us about that?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So what we have been told and what we understand is that General Flynn is notified in late November, early December that the justice department is looking into the work he had done as a lobbyist for the Turkish government and had not declared and at that point wasn't known publicly.

That developed into an investigation. On January 4th, he called the White House or then the Trump transitions, sorry. He called them up, said hey, look, this is going on. You need to know this. His lawyer then followed up with a phone call. And that was, you know, we are talking 16 days before the inauguration. And the Trump transition need though as an investigation and they still went ahead and decided he would keep his job, remain his job.

And in any other administration where he would take the new job as national security advisor, in any other administration this would have been an automatic disqualification. The job he was taking the national security advisor obviously has every - ready access to the president, has access to almost every American secret, has a huge role in shaping American policy. But the Trump transition seemed unconcerned with it.

LEMON: So here is the question. David Gergen asked earlier as well, was the President aware of this or the President elect aware of this?

ROSENBERG: You know, that is a tougher one. And if this were an ordinary kind of standard transition I would say absolutely. I can't imagine he wouldn't be. In this case, I don't know. We certainly had a White House official trying to suggest us that was the case. But it's really hard to tell. I mean, there's been such chaos.

LEMON: So who knew, Matthew?

[23:05:01] ROSENBERG: Well, the transition lawyer Dan McGahn who is now the White House counsel, other lawyers there did. Presumably they told the rest of Trump transition team and now the White House staff.

LEMON: And the head of the Trump transition team was Mike Pence then?

ROSENBERG: Was Mike Pence at the time? Yes.

LEMON: So what does that mean?

ROSENBERG: I mean, it means that they knowingly brought in somebody with access to almost every American secret and have a major role in shaping American policy. The news under federal investigation and they knew had secretly without telling them worked with an agent of a foreign government in this case Turkey, for the final months of the campaign.


So listen, let's talk about what we learned from McClancy. Matthew, I want you to respond to that because McClancy is reporting, they say that -- says that national security advisor (INAUDIBLE) that says before the inauguration Flynn made a decision on behalf of the Trump team that benefited Turkey. And Turkey had paid them upwards of half million dollars as a lobbyist. What do you make of that?

ROSENBERG: You know, I'm just seeing that. And that -- it's both astounding and yet goes straight to the problem of bringing in people who would throughout the campaign lobby on behalf of the foreign government is that they are now going to be able to make decisions to benefit people who in this case two months before that decision was made was his client. He was paying him half million dollars for 90 days-worth of work to represent their interest in this case try and lobby against an opposition Turkish opposition leader business states.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Don, can I ask Matthew a question?

LEMON: Yes, go ahead. Jeffrey Toobin is here by the way who is our senior legal analyst.

TOOBIN: I mean, you know, this is yet another terrific story, Matthew (INAUDIBLE). It's all about why -- what was it about Michael Flynn that everyone in the Trump orbit wanted so desperately to have him in the administration? All of the stuff that was, you know, would be disqualified. Why did they keep him?

ROSENBERG: You know --.

LEMON: That's a good -

ROSENBERG: I wish I knew the answer it to that.

TOOBIN: I mean, I don't mean to put you on the spot. Maybe you don't know. But I mean, it does raise that question, right.

ROSENBERG: It's a great question. Look for Trump he was loyal. He was one of the first people to sign up with Trump and he stuck with Trump through the whole campaign. And I think they really kind of -- there's a weird kind of connection between those two. They both seems (INAUDIBLE) outsiders who made it and established in their respected fields, never really accepted. And they were going to shake up Washington together. And you know, he would get up and lead chants and lock her up during the campaign. And I think Trump really, he wanted to reward that. He said this is my guy.

TOOBIN: Trump is not someone who is known for extending himself for other people, yet, not only, you know, is your story, but the whole story from yesterday, Michael Schmidt story about how Trump tried to get Comey to shut down the investigation for Michael Flynn. I mean, this is perhaps the most damaging story about Trump and it's for the benefit of Mike Flynn.

LEMON: Hang on. Before you answer that let's - instead putting Matthew on the spot, let's bring in our senior analysts, Jeffrey Toobin who is here, senior political analyst David Gergen, legal analysts Laura Coates and senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson. And then we can get more on this reporting.

So as we all digest, as we - we are going to keep Matthew as well.

Matthew, as I understand, you had, in the course of your reporting you also reviewed some of the subpoenas that have been issued in the Flynn investigation. So what can you tell us so we can all discus this?

ROSENBERG: So as grand jury in eastern district in Virginia that issuing subpoenas. It is subpoenaing anybody who kind of did business with Flynn, or his company, the Flynn intelligence group, they are asking for all the records of any work they did with these guys.

There's something important here though is that if this was a mere violation of what this called far of his registration as a lobbyist, those cases tend to be handed out of Washington by a pretty sleepy part of the DOJ. This case is being handled out of court in northern Virginia and being run by a guy name Brandon (INAUDIBLE) who is a senior veteran counter espionage prosecutor. And it, you know, it looks like these investigations as part of a web of investigations into a number of Trump associates. And look how they all intensifying if they step up. We don't know if there are other grand juries out there, but they do seem to have become more active in the last--.

LEMON: I want to get - two quick things, before I bring in the rest of the panel back in. You spoke to people close lieutenant general Michael Flynn. How he responding to this? How does he viewed the investigation?

ROSENBERG: Our understanding in this is that he sees this as part of continual effort that began immediately after the election to keep him out of the White House. He had been fired by President Obama. Flynn had ran the defense intelligence agency and was fired by President Obama in 2014. Obama warned Trump and just November 10th or 11th, about Michael Flynn not being suitable for the job being a national security advisor. Said his temper most of like for it. And that didn't pursued Trump. And so, in Flynn's view, the investigation was another attempt by Obama loyalists to keep him out of the government.

[23:10:13] LEMON: OK. And then the White House, had they responded tonight?

ROSENBERG: They have not. They declined to comment for our story.

LEMON: OK. So now, let's bring the panel. Jeffrey Toobin, and that is the question that we all have. Why would this President be so loyal or take up for Michael Flynn and put his job as president in jeopardy by trying to get him out of trouble reportedly with Comey saying can you just back off this investigation? That is the million- dollar question.

TOOBIN: It certainly is. And you know, I don't pretend to have the answer. I mean, there's certainly some possibilities. I mean, the fact that he was an outsider, the way Trump was. The fact, you know, he was so sort of reckless and angry in his denunciations of Hillary Clinton, you are famously leading the chant of lock her up at the Republican national convention.

You know, he also had some Russian connections, perhaps --

LEMON: Turkey?

TOOBIN: Turkey, obviously. We know he was getting a great deal of money from Turkey. You know, he had that meeting. He went to Russia at the instigation -- he was paid by Russia today, the news outlet where he sat next to President Putin. I don't know.

LEMON: But what's interesting is that there's so much exposure, Nia- Malika Henderson, to the White House and you have this new reporting by Matthew. And then - that he notified the transition team, right. And the vice President Mike Pence in charge of the transition team.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. And who else is on that transition team? Steve Bannon is on that transition team. Donald Trump's three oldest kids also on that transition team. And that transition team, of course, in-charge of vetting and in-charge of trying get the government up and running so the President will be ready on day one. So he could be surrounded by good people and informed as to what's going in all the hotspots and you know, both domestically and internationally. And the fact, you know, either the warning didn't get up to Donald Trump or he didn't heed the warning. The fact that his children were on that transition committee and Steve Bannon, who knows what they did? I mean, that is the thing. We really don't know.

And again, we just don't know why Donald Trump can't seem to quit Michael Flynn, right. Why did every a point there his warning about Michael Flynn. In some ways, I think, you know, we talked about him being loyal to Michael Flynn. And is quietly, he has said before when he has been asked, you know, why he have you - why use the oil or why didn't fire him over 18 day period? And some of his answers have been well he is a general, right. And we know that Donald Trump reveals the military. He talks about general Pen as being one of the people he idolizes. He talks about my generals, the people in his administration.

And so, I think that's part of it too. There's something in Donald Trump's view it seems to be that inherently good and inherently worth defending if you get them the label general.

LEMON: But this particular general, this particular general, David Gergen, as so many people have pointed out here, was a general who did the lock her up, he was a birther. He had so many things that were just untoward that people thought were just not - but just below of what even a civilian should say or a behavior from a civilian rather than a general. It makes one wonder why this President stood behind him, had so much respect for him or loyalty for him.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Totally agree. But can we get one factual question settle. I would be Matthew or Jeff Toobin. This grand jury that is subpoenaed Michael Flynn's records and that sort of thing, that grand jury is in northern Virginia. Does that grand jury now fall under Mueller? And is Mueller the overall person in charge or is that something separate?

TOOBIN: `Well, I think the answer will be Mueller will have to make that choice. He will undoubtedly, as part of his information gathering tech in a process, learn of what that grand jury is doing and then decide whether he wants to take that over. Matthew would you say that's right?

ROSENBERG: That seems right. I mean, we don't know for sure. Buy obviously, he has got appointed. But it is going to have to --.

GERGEN: But otherwise -- but somebody else in the justice department otherwise has to make a decision in whether to prosecute or whatever to do with Flynn out of northern Virginia.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, let me weigh in, if I could. Interestingly enough the person who oversees the east district of Virginia, the one you are talking about is Dana Boente who remembered replaced Sally Yates when she was fired by the Trump administration for refusing to implement or try to enforce and defend the travel ban. So that's an interesting link that protected right there.

But remember, as special counsel now and special prosecutor, Robert Mueller has the advantage of being able to decide when and who he would like to tell at the DOJ about his findings and investigation. He has the prerogative to withhold information or be forthcoming as it serve the investigation. This is happening with Flynn would fall under the scope of the overall investigation as his marching orders are dictated by Rod Rosenstein at this point. So it will be all encompassing. But he will have the opportunity that others have not had which is to be silent. And of course, he could, since he has been under the direction of Rosenstein, Rosenstein can overrule his statements or overrule his decisions, but he has to go to Congress let them know that. He has a big advantage to EDDA and to his own marching orders.

[23:15:00] LEMON: So you asked - David Gergen. You ask because?

GERGEN: Well, because I think it was just curious how the pieces are going to sort of tied together. And what, you know, Mueller I would assume, would have not taken this unless he had control of all the pieces. And I wouldn't think he want to have the Flynn investigation going on as a side show that he doesn't want to control. Because the information there may be very relevant to the information he is collecting.

Because listen, Don, I just don't believe that the Trump team sat there when their first -- from the time they were first told that he was under federal investigation until the time he was forced out of the White House, I think it was about 40 days. That is a long time. He wouldn't be forced out when it was right now if was new story that broke, you know. So they kept him a long time.

I don't think Donald Trump would simply keep someone because he liked him or because he was -- they shared views on Steve Bannon. You have to believe there's something more serious and the question becomes was there a flow of money of some sort that Flynn was involved with and it is very much in Donald Trump's interest. It may not hit him personally but it may be somewhere in his organization that he is concerned about what will happen with the money? Is this a bigger thing he's that he trying to protect? Because he knew or I think you can safely agree -- believe that when he called Comey in and had that conversation one-on-one and said why don't you drop this? He knew what he was doing. He knew what the stakes were. But it was worth it.


And Matthew, you seen the subpoenas. The subpoenas they say that they are looking for bank records, correct?

TOOBIN: Yes and any other records of financial transactions.

LEMON: All right.

So Nia, here's a question then. We have Matthews's reporting in "New York Times." We got the McClancy reporting. And then, have you heard, Nia, Jim Acosta's reporting about what was happening as this came down where he that they were - saying that well, it takes a lot of the politics away. They were sort of saying that it was sensitive unity in the rooms. We are all in this together. But it takes a lot of the politics away. If you look at all of this reporting that's happened since then, it takes none of the politics out of this. HENDERSON: No. And it certainly doesn't take the spotlight off this

at all. Initially, you mentioned that's what Donald Trump wanted to do. He felt like if he could get Comey out, you know, out of the picture that somehow he would be in a better position. And of course the White House finding out tonight the hard way that they are probably in a worst off position than they were when Comey was head of the FBI with this special counsel now in place.

So this idea now that the White House and those White House aides who are over worked and have in many ways have been thrown under the bus by their boss, you know, they sort of have no choice but to say we are all in this together because they might be implicated in some of this, right.

And when you have this special sounsel who can subpoena anything and can figure out what these aides knew and when they knew it, and if there's text messages or emails they might have to lawyer up in a way that the President at some point might have to lawyer up, too. So, you know, this kind of moment they had tonight they kind of spree de core, you know, once the questions start coming at them, I imagine they are going to feel very differently.

TOOBIN: Nia, makes a very like real point here. You know, you are talking about, like, real human beings, whether you like the Trump administration or not. And many of them are not very wealthy. And you know, if you have to hire a white collar crime lawyer because you have been subpoenaed to the grand jury, even though you are not a suspect, haven't done anything wrong, you know, you are probably talking about $20,000 just to show up with you at the grand jury. That's a lot of money.

LEMON: The President is a billionaire.

TOOBIN: He can afford it.

LEMON: He may be able to help them out. At least that's what -- we don't know. We haven't seen his tax return.


COATES: If I could. Let me just add, you know, Nia, you are actually right that the President is in exponentially worse state than he was prior to having a special sounsel. When Jin Comey was in office, remember, he was essentially not well-employ. Even in his letter where he sent back to his staff and colleague, he talked that about the President could fire me for any reason or no reason at all.

Well, there are protections in place now for Robert Mueller. And those protections are in place. If he were to be fired, it would have to be a personal action of the acting attorney general Rod Rosenstein. If Rod Rosenstein, of course, he can be fired by President Trump but it has to be a good cause. They are actually now protections in place to say you don't have that at-will status. And there could be congressional hearings and investigations into whether or not the firing itself of either those individuals would be a good cause. This has set up a battle that he has put in an immeasurably worst state. [23:20:42] LEMON: Who was that, Matthew or David, to want to get in?

Go ahead, Matthew.

ROSENBERG: I have a question for David, Jeffrey and everybody else. How did Clinton staffers, when they had a special investigation - special prosecutor, how did they pay for their legal fees? I'm kind of curious. That occurred to me just now.

LEMON: Very good question.

ROSENBERG: The Trump staffers are going to be facing a lot of - I mean, tens of thousands of dollars at least.

TOOBIN: George Stephanopoulos wrote about this in his book "All Too Human." You know, he was, I don't know. He was like barely 30 years old in those days. And you know, some of these people went into them hack. I mean, they borrowed money. Some, you know, some warriors wanted to do it because it was a high profile assignment. But I mean, they borrowed money from their parents, some of them. I mean, they scraped money together.

LEMON: But isn't that the reason for that, you know, that famous quote from Hillary Clinton that - hang on, David. That famous quote from Hillary Clinton where she said we were dead broke when we left the White House. They are broke because of legal fees.

TOOBIN: Correct. And you know, for them it wasn't 50,000 it was $5 million that they owed to (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Go ahead, David.

GERGEN: Well, I came in to the Clinton administration and had to hire a lawyer because I had to testify and things that happened before I came to the administration. It was quite incredible. But what is, is their life has changed so much that I saw young person after young person in the Clinton years that I thought was very unfair to them. The system was very unfair who had to lawyer up. And I think that the Trump team is going to find a number of young people are going to be put into terrible situations in which I had though, you know, they were just there. They were witnesses to whatever and will have to hire lawyers and is going to be a very expensive proposition. Jeffrey is absolutely right about that.

LEMON: Matthew, I mean, what else you got? You have been here. There is got to be something breaking. You have been here for about 20 minutes. You have anything for me?

ROSENBERG: I do have a thought in all of this, is that you got the special sounsel now but there is still a ton of, I guess, I don't want to call it investigations but saying intelligence question going on. Remember the investigation involved things on the other side of the world. And those kind of apparatus, those agencies are still controlled by the White House, by Trump appointees.

So I mean, I think there is the White House I imagine has to understand they do still have a lot of authority in this country. And that this is hardly something they are powerless over. And that we have seen no evidence yet of (INAUDIBLE) of saying anybody in the CIA saying don't collect on Russia, don't look at this, but you know, we don't know that to be the case entirely and certainly will be something we will be looking out for.

LEMON: Thank you all. When you want to be President of the United States, careful what you ask for.

When we come back more on our breaking news. What will happen with the Russian investigation now that Robert Mueller is taking the reign?


[23:24:26] LEMON: Our breaking news, amazing developments tonight in the Russia investigation, the justice department appointing former FBI director Robert Mueller as special sounsel to oversee the probe.

I want to bring in now Nick Akerman and Jill Wine-Banks, both were assistants Watergate special prosecutors.

Thank you so much for joining us. You were listening to the conversation earlier and, you know, lots to talk about special prosecutor, about the other breaking news we have tonight from "New York Times" and from McClancy. What's your response?

NICK AKERMAN, ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: I mean, it's just amazing. I mean, I have never seen anything like that since Watergate basically. I mean, it has been one revelation after another. And I think it is a good thing that Mueller has been appointed. I mean, every revelation that comes out, really kind of just solidifies the fact that we really need somebody who is independent that can actually investigate this matter.

[23:25:12] LEMON: So dig deeper. What do you think the move? What do you think this move means?

AKERMAN: I think what this move means is that there are going to be subpoenas that are going to be issued. That people are going to be called into grand juries. They are going to have to give evidence and testify. And there is going to be a real independent investigation and digging in to the facts.

LEMON: And not notifying the White House in advance, does that send a message?

AKERMAN: Absolutely. I mean, I think the whole thing sends a message. I mean, obviously, having a special sounsel now in place shows the absolute seriousness of this matter. It is not like we are just set up with various Senate and House committees and they are kind of muddling along. We have somebody in there that you really trying to dig into the facts now that is going to get subpoenas out there. It is going to be working with the FBI regardless of whether Comey is there. They are going to be directed. They are going to be supervised. And I think we are going to see action. We are not going to see it, but it is going to happen.

LEMON: Before we talk some of the specifics, Jill, let's talk about just your overall. What do you think of this?

JILL WINE-BANKS, ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: I think the appointment is a brilliant idea. It is exactly what we needed. There has to be an independent investigation. I hope that the scope of the appointment is broad enough to encompass all of the potential crimes and to even encompass the possible endangerment of national security by leaking code name information to our adversaries.

LEMON: Does this investigation now Trump, no pun intended, Trump all other investigations going? I mean, how does it impact the congressional investigations?

WINE-BANKS: It should be unrelated to the congressional investigation. They are looking forward to what laws they can change to prevent there being a reoccurrence of this kind of behavior. Whereas the criminal investigation of the special prosecutor is looking at whether there are actual violations of existing law that people should be held accountable for. And that could include the President. The question then is whether the President would be indicted or impeached. And based on Watergate experienced, I would say that impeachment is the proper procedure once a crime is uncovered.

LEMON: Jill, the President said tonight that he looks forward to this matter concluding quickly most people would say that it is probably not going to be that quick. But our analysts say that this investigations, again, it is going to take months and likely to take years possibly, just like Watergate took years from start to finish. What impact do you think this is going to have on the administration and on the country and on Trump supporters?

WINE-BANKS: First of all, I just want to point out that the Watergate prosecutor was appointed in May of 1973, the President resigned in August of 1974, just over a year later. And the trial and the convictions were in January of 1975. So in less than 18 months, we went through the entire investigation, the tapes hearing, and by the way, there's an 18 minute gap in the tapes and 18 day delay in firing Flynn. We went through the Supreme Court to get the right to have the tapes and listen to the tapes. And we sent a road map to the Congress for impeachment and then had trial and convictions. That was all in a year and half. That compares very favorably to Ken Star's investigation. And I would hope that Mueller was closer to our timeline.

LEMON: Eighteen months from now would be November of 2018. That's right during the --.

AKERMAN: But don't forget that Watergate break in took place in June 1972. So there was a year before cox was actually appointed. So I mean, this doesn't happen in a short time it will take some time.

LEMON: It is interesting when I - because I hear, you know, young people say this is crazy. This is crazy. I can't believe this is happening. And then I remember that when I was a kid our President having to leave the White House on a helicopter, right. Like can fly. That is crazy. Do you think that this, looking at the evidence that we have now is that, is that a possibility?

AKERMAN: Absolutely a possibility. I mean, you got a primefacia (ph) case really obstruction of justice. I mean, it is not just that Comey memo, it id the firing of Comey. It is the pretext in firing Comey. It's the fact that Flynn was kept in for such a long time before he was finally fired. Then the next day Trump goes and talks to Comey and gets rid of the attorney general and everybody else and has a private meeting where he says to him, can you do something, stop this investigation with Flynn. It's an intent crime. It's a question of what was his intent in what he was doing. Did he have a corrupt purpose to try and basically get rid of this investigation?

I must say on national TV with the interview that was done last week he pretty much admitted that he had the Russian investigation on his mind when he got rid of Comey. I mean, that almost does it right there. But all of the circumstances certainly lead to a conclusion that there is, at minimum probable cause of obstruction of justice.

[23:30:19] LEMON: Jill, do you agree with him?

WINE-BANKS: I agree complete. I wrote an op-ed piece last Friday in which I said that this was an unimpeachable offense and that was a possible road to impeachment right now. And I still believe that I'm saying that it is a legal matter. The question is whether Congress has the will to do it. And that may depend on public reaction. In Watergate, the Saturday night massacre left such an outpouring of distain for the president by the public that he was forced three days after he fired Cox to hire new special prosecutor and to release the tapes. So I'm hoping for the public to pay attention to this and get behind the special prosecutor and get the information and facts out.

AKERMAN: And I think that is really going to happen once Comey testifies in public.

LEMON: OK. All right. You guys say that. But if you sit and, Jill, I'm sure you - if you sit and you watch the news, most people want to have news that resort of reinforces their own beliefs, right, and that's what they watch. If you watch some conservative media, this is not a big story or they are not even covering the story. I watched couple of the main networks last night and there was one person, you know, doing something on a chipmunk or something, one because he serve network (ph). And everybody else is covering the breaking news. If those people who are whatever 30, 35 percent of the country who voted Donald Trump if they are not getting the news, if they are not seeing this, then what is it matter to them? It may - it does not exist.

AKERMAN: Yes. But I still think it's sort of building. That people are being educated on this.

LEMON: How could you be educated if you are not even paying attention to it?

AKERMAN: Well, I don't think you can. I don't think there is any choice but to pay attention to this for the most part, especially when Comey testifies. I guarantee you that's going to be like the John Dean moment of this matter. When he comes out and he goes through the memos that he did, he goes through the description of what he had to do in speaking to Trump what Trump said to him on those three occasions when he asked him am I under investigation. I guarantee you once that comes out that is going to be absolutely riveting and it is going to change a lot of people's mind.

LEMON: How will it make a difference, Jill, if you are not being served by the so-called news organization that you may be watching or reading or the commander in-chief is telling you it's all fake news yet people are being fired, special prosecutors are being, you know, appointed around you, people are being dismissed, you know, yet it's fake news, how can that happen?

WINE-BANKS: Well let me point out that Richard Nixon actually won in a landslide unlike President Trump who did not carry the popular vote. President Nixon did. And despite that and despite very strong support for a very long time, the facts reached all those people who supported him. The facts reached Congress to the point where senators Goldwater and Rose went to him and said you have lost the support of the Congress. If you do not resigned you will be impeached.

And I think that I'm hopeful that Congress people despite the results of a terrible gerrymander situation where nobody has to compromise, and you are right, nowadays there are far more media outlets and so that you have people who can't agree the table is square. You can debate what a table means if you agree on the facts of the table. And you are right. That is a serious problem. But I ultimately have great faith in the American people to really find out. And even if it is only because they have now lost their health care or they are hurt because of the new tax proposals. Eventually the people who supported him and it's not the majority of the country will turn against him as will the Congress.

LEMON: Jill and Nick --.

WINE-BANKS: I was just going to say we have a Dow Jones crash today. And that may reach Republicans in ways that Donald Trump's activities don't. So hopefully the truth will come out.

LEMON: Yes. It is always the money. Floor the money.

Thank you, Jill. Thank you Nick. I appreciate it.

When we come back much more on breaking news Robert Mueller named special sounsel in the Russian investigation. Why he is being called incorruptible?


[23:36:25] LEMON: So we were just discussing before the break how conservative media is covering the story. I want you to take a look at this. This is Brietbart news making it look an awful lot like President Trump appointed the special sounsel. It says President Trump reaffirms no collusion between my campaign and a foreign entity, appoint special sounsel to lead the investigation. He didn't appoint the special sounsel to lead the investigation my point exactly during the last segment. Let's discuss now with Jeffrey Ringel and Stuart Kaplan, both former

FBI agents.

Stuart, I'm going to you first. How -- if you are no the being informed to serve by your news organization, and that's all you're reading, then how are you going to know the truth when it comes to your President.

STUART KAPLAN, FORMER FBI AGENT: Well, you know, the interesting thing is with the appointment of former director Robert Mueller, you know, the twist here is he is a very low-profile guy. Not a guy who is going to be out there giving up updates or sitting in front of the media. In fact his reputation was always a very low key guy. No entourage and kind of always took, you know, just a different approach than I think we saw more recently with director Comey. A very effective leader. In fact if you recall he moved into the FBI headquarters just about a week before September 11th. He hadn't even unpack his office. And then immediately had a scramble and really brought the FBI together.

LEMON: So you are saying that he ultimately serve the American people and they will find out the truth regardless of the headlines. I'm trying to help you out here.

KAPLAN: And that is exactly my point. He is not going to be someone that is to sit in front of the TV cameras. He is going to do a very thorough and complete investigation. And when he thinks he has got it right he is then going to report to Congress.

LEMON: Jeff, you want to the weigh in.

JEFFREY RINGEL, FORMER FBI AGENT: Well, I got to agree with Stuart in that director Mueller is a great choice. He's got stellar reputation and he is somebody who is going to drive to get the truth.

LEMON: Yes. And both Democratic and Republicans are applauding his decision, you know, applauding Rosenstein's decision to appoint Robert Mueller.

But Jeff, I want to you. How will this investigation now? How does this going to work within the FBI? He is going to have to start this investigation from scratch, correct?

RINGEL: I think he is going to take it where the investigation is now. He is going to, of course, review the investigation, see what's been done and then either put it in a new direction or continue moving in direction they have been going.

LEMON: Do you think that the administration now is seeing it as a big mistake, Stuart, for the President to have fired James Comey?

KAPLAN: I mean, no question about it. I think if you had to choose director Comey versus former director Mueller I think the President now has to be somewhat concerned. Director Mueller is going to get to the bottom of it. Regardless of what the outcome may be or what the implications may be, the truth is going to come out and he will report based on the evidence he develops. And the American people should be and should have the confidence that when he speaks, that is the complete truth and we can be satisfied we got to the bottom of it.

LEMON: There's lots of talks about memos and possibly tapes of interactions. Do you think the special sounsel, Jeff, will be able to get his hands on White House tapes if they exist?

RINGEL: I would hope so. If they do exist than the White House will have to respond.

LEMON: Yes. I want to talk about the FBI rank and file, so much has been made of them and how they are dealing with this and will their own investigation continue alongside this one or not. Will it Stuart?

[23:40:09] KAPLAN: Well, keep in mind, you know, Robert Mueller is at the, you know, helm here. So he has complete autonomy to decide what direction and who he is going to utilize. Just as my colleague suggested, my guess is that he is going to sit down with those agents who have conducting the investigation to date. He is going to be brought up-to-date very, very quickly. And my guess is he is going to rely on continuing to utilize those individuals to continue forward. And I would not be surprised as early as this evening as he already met with the FBI agents who have been conducting the investigation has already been brought up to speed and has already given them directions as to what they should do next.

LEMON: Dana Bash, a GOP source said who said to her that Rosenstein had thrown the President over a President Trump overboard by appointing the special sounsel. Do you agree that Stuart?

KAPLAN: To some extent. You know, that's a difficult question to really respond. I'm going to pass on that one.

LEMON: Jeff, you want to take it on?

RINGEL: Well, I just think anybody who is in the department of justice or in the FBI, their loyalty is to the constitution and to the rule of law. And so, you know, again, I think it is a tough question but that is where the loyalty should be.

LEMON: I want to talk about some of the other candidates. The President met with four candidates in the FBI director position -- Joe Lieberman, Andrew McCabe, Oklahoma governor Frank Keating and Richard McFeely. What do you make of those candidates?

RINGEL: I don't know much about all of them except for Andrew McCabe who he and I served together here in New York many years ago. I think that, you know, being the deputy director now, the acting director, he knows what is going on in the FBI. He know where he can get his support from, but I think it's very tough to move from it within the bureau up to that top spot.

LEMON: Do you know, you said you know McCabe, right? Does he have a relationship with Mueller?

RINGEL: I would think so. I think he has been down in Washington long enough.

LEMON: Stuart, what you make of this? Do you know any of these potential, any of these candidates?

KAPLAN: Not those. There were other individuals that apparently were on the short list that I actually had the privilege of. Actually, one of the candidates who has been reported Mike Anderson who is the SAC in Chicago. I had the pleasure of actually going through the FBI academy with who my understanding was on the short list and very dear and close friend who I think is very qualified is assistant director Paula Bate.

I do know those two individuals as well as I know Ray Kelly, the former New York City police commissioner. His name has been thrown in. I think though and I think my colleague would agree that I think that the FBI would be better served at this point to have someone from the outside come in and do some housekeeping and really renew the confidence not only for the American public but also within the FBI. I think there needs to be some new blood brought in.

LEMON: He is shaking his head in agreement.

RINGEL: I agree with that.

LEMON: Jeff, Stuart, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

When we come back more on our breaking news, the special sounsel will now oversee the Russian investigation after a week of bomb shell reports. How will Russia react?


[23:45:20] LEMON: We are back now of the breaking news, the former FBI director Robert Mueller named as special sounsel on the Russian investigation.

Let's discuss now. Max Boot is senior fellow at the sounsel on foreign relations and the author of "Invisible Armies." Also Jonathan Sanders of Stony Brook University school of journalism and the author of the "Russians Emerge."

So good to have both of you on.

Max, I'm going to start with you and get your take on the breaking news on Robert Mueller.

MAX BOOT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS SENIOR FELLOW: Well, obviously, this is not good news for Donald Trump. I mean Robert Mueller is a straight ahead investigator and he has a case that should not be that hard to crack. You remember that up until about eight days ago there was a very hard case to make against Trump which was that you had to prove that he was absolutely colluding with Russian and interfering with our election. And that he had something illegal in the course of doing that. I think that would have been very difficult to prove even though there was evidence that that some of the low-level people in the Trump campaign were in contact with Russians. It wouldn't hard to prove that Donald Trump himself was in- charge of all that.

But now, in trying to stop that investigation, Donald Trump has created a world of trouble for himself, a world of hurt because he fired James Comey and now we are seeing all of the evidence that Comey is going to bring forward in his memos of obstruction of justice.

LEMON: And this is all of his own doing?

BOOT: This is entirely Trump's doing because his hand and effort to block this investigation and he is basically proving the old Washington adage about the cover up is worse than the crime.

LEMON: Was it right move from Rosenstein?

BOOT: I think Rosenstein is the only thing he could have done to regroup his reputation after having used as a decoy by Trump to fire Comey. He either had to appoint a special sounsel or step down. He appointed a special sounsel. And you know, I would say the bottom line here is that the odds of Donald Trump serving out all four years of his presidency have now markedly diminished.

LEMON: Jonathan?

JONATHAN SANDERS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM: Well, Don, I watch Russia more than I American politics but I have to tell you that I see the news God's giving you and every other newsmen, newswomen, a great amount of things.

What's interesting is the Russian perspective on this and it's just beginning to come out. The Russian newspapers today, one of them called a witch hunt going on in the United States. Another on just gloated saying, well, you know, a meeting with our ambassador in Washington and Sergey Lavrov has kicked off this intense debate about whether they are giving secrets to us. And Mr. Putin said that it was political schizophrenia that had Americans blaming the President of the United States for giving secrets, secrets to the Russians.

Well we don't know what the Russians got but we do know that Putin is having a good time, kind of being (INAUDIBLE) in saying if you guys want we will give you notes of what went on in that meeting kind of the way they said, you want pictures of the meeting that didn't happen because you couldn't take picture, we will give you pictures.

LEMON: And so, are you saying that they are laughing at us?

SANDERS: They are getting a good, I wouldn't say they are having a chuckle because the people who are serious in Russia like stability, like predictability and this is very unpredictable. It also goes with the rule of law which they are not entirely used to. Bur, you know, are they taking some joy out of our grief and our confusion and their ability to put one over. I mean, what they did with the (INAUDIBLE) photograph which just gamesmanship 101.

[23:50:03] LEMON: Are they playing President Trump?

SANDERS: No, I don't think they are playing President Trump. I think they are dislike for the Clintons is so very strong and was so very grounded in some real political controversy, that they have been hoping that Trump would break through the consensus, maybe the only consensus that exists in Washington, D.C., that being hostile to Russians is a good thing, and a second cold war is something we all embrace.

LEMON: Max, I mean, you write something, an opinion piece. You said about President Trump's sharing of classified intelligence to the Russian diplomats, Donald Trump's blunder is horrifying. Tell us about that.

BOOT: This is unprecedented to have a President just have cavalry sharing code word secrets, some of the most highly classified information that the U.S. government possess. And by doing that, conceivably blowing up a source of information that we rely upon to tell us about ISIS plots.

But you know, to step back in a broader picture, Don, I think this is part of the horrendous, calamities, no-good, terrible seven days that Donald Trump had from last Tuesday, in fact, eight days from last Tuesday to this Wednesday because that was only one of the blockbuster stories that emerged this that time period, along with the fact that he fired Comey, that he asked Comey for a loyalty test, that he asked Comey to end the investigation of Mike Flynn. And now, of course, the final bit of bad news, that a special counsel is being appointed.

I mean, if you step back, the entire picture I would say of the Trump presidency has changed completely within the course of a week. Remember, at the beginning of May, we were talking about the 100 day mark. And a lot of people were saying he is normalizing, he is becoming more of a mainstream President. That he is not as crazy as he used to be. And now people are seriously talking about impeachment that is become a real possibility.

This is a completely different presidency. It's been utterly transformed. Donald Trump has been tremendously weakened. We will see if it is fatally weakened, but definitely tremendously weakened. He is exposed to obstruction of justice charges, which a veteran prosecutor I think will be able to prove. And Robert Mueller is certainly a veteran and experienced prosecutor who knows what he is doing.

LEMON: Jonathan, your thoughts on this? Do you think that the Russians have shared maybe with Iran or someone else the information that they gleaned from the oval office, from the President of the United States, sharing classified information with them?

SANDERS: You know, Mr. Putin comes out of the spy racket, compartmentalization is very important to them. I'm going to tell you, Don, my take on this is a little different. First of all, maybe it's just selfish. I fly Russian airlines. I want to be safer. Some of the leaders of ISIS are people who have come from the former Soviet Union. They have got more to fear in Moscow with ISIS and its success and the cadres that are getting trained in ISIS that could come back to haunt the Russian motherland than we have. And you know, the last big story I covered for CBS News was the best swan school hostage crisis where they took a thousand people hostage and killed 188 children.

They know what terrorists can do and they want to do something about it. They want to protect their people. And we have good reasons to try, no matter what's going on in this country, to beat down, in little ways, the walls of the cold war that are growing up, that keep us from cooperating with the Russians.

BOOT: OK, let's be realistic. None of that is a justification for Donald Trump taking code word secrets that were given to us by our Israeli intelligence partners and willy-nilly sharing them with the Russians. Because remember, the Russians are also very close to the Iranians, very close to the Bashar al-Assad regime. That places at risk the sources and methods that the Israelis have developed. And places at risk the United States, because he is compromising American security by doing that.

The Russians -- yes, it's true that we do have some overlap of interest in some areas with the Russians. But they are not our friends. They are the people who interfered with our election and undermined our democracy and are committing war crimes in Syria.

LEMON: I got another group playing. This got to be the last. But thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. Thank you both.

Now I want to bring Adam Entous, the national security correspondent for "the Washington Post" also CNN political commentator.

Thank you both for joining us.

You broke the news in "the Washington Post" today. So tell us what you learned.

ADAM ENTOUS, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: Well, what we learned was that there was a meeting in June 2016 of the Republican leaders. It was a meeting that took place after the Ukrainian prime minister had met with these same leaders that had described Russia's interference in Ukrainian politics. And that led Kevin McCarthy, the majority leader on the House side, to basically make a comment, an extraordinary comment, which was basically that he thinks that Putin pays two people here. Dana Rorbacker, a congressman from California, and Trump. And then when there was laughter from some members in the room, McCarthy adds "swear to God."

[23:55:20] LEMON: Let's listen to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He begins by saying, I will guarantee you, that's what it is, the Russians hacked the DNC and got the op-research that they had on Trump. And then McCarthy laughs. McCarthy then adds, there's two people I think Putin pays, Rorbacker and Trump. There's laughter by some of the lawmakers in the room. And then McCarthy adds, "swear to GOD." Ryan then interjects and says quote "this is an off the record, no leaks, alright?" Ryan then adds, this is how we know we are a real family here.


LEMON: So Adam, that was a concise way of putting in. I just wanted to get that in. That was you who is citing it from the "Washington Post." So what happened afterwards? Did you attempt to get a response from anyone that was there about this conversation? And if so, what did they say?

ENTOUS: Yes. So we went to Ryan's office. We went to McCarthy's office. And we basically said that we were going to report this dialogue. They came back to us and said that it never happened. That there was no such conversation. They said it was fiction. We went back to them a second time and we said, we are going to report that the actual -- we're going to print the actual transcript which you just had me read from, to which they said that it was a made-up transcript, that it was false. And then we went to them one last time and we said to them, we are actually going to be saying that we listened to the audio of this and verified it to which they basically said, yes, this conversation happened. We take back the earlier denials. And that McCarthy was -- it was a bad joke on his part.

LEMON: Yes. So again, that's what -- put this tweet up, that said this was an attempt at humor gone wrong. No surprise, "the Washington Post" tried to contort this into breaking news. But you heard the actual conversation. Do you think that he was joking?

ENTOUS: Well, frankly, I mean, certainly the conversation is very serious until that point. I'm not sure exactly where McCarthy decides to say what he says. But when he says it, he says it very seriously. There's the laughter, then he says "swear to God" that do I think McCarthy believes that Trump is getting paid? I don't believe that he really believes that. Do I think McCarthy's point is basically that he thinks there's this very strange affinity between Trump and Putin? I think that's probably what he meant, and he turned it into kind of this strange comment.

LEMON: OK. So --

ENTOUS: I think Ryan's comment is the most interesting, why does he choose to shut it down?

LEMON: Alice, why did the spokes people lie when there is a recording of the conversation?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think we are in a different era, we are in a different time where so many things are being recorded and a lot of folks aren't aware that they are being recorded. But I think more than anything, I think it was a good scoop.

LEMON: They said the conversation never happened.

STEWART: Right. Well, I think more than anything, what Ryan wants to do and McCarthy wants to do is not pretend as though it didn't happen. They want to move past that. They want to get past that. And Ryan made a good point about that today is we need to get focused on the issues that the American people are concerned with and not these types of conversations. And I think what is going to happen, we are going see Ryan and McCarthy the GOP focus on issues that the American people want to focus on and let the special counsel now do its investigation. As Ryan said today, the GOP can walk and chew gum at the same time. They would be best, and the White House would be best served --

LEMON: Alice, you are not condoning a lie there, are you?

STEWART: Absolutely not, no, Don, I'm not doing that whatsoever. I think right now what the GOP is trying to do and focused on is not get sidetracked by these stories that once again I say it was a good scoop on Adam's part. But what they want to do is be tight lipped and not have conversations and not further a news story about these types of conversations and focus instead on what the American people want, and that is tax reform and health care reform and issues that got them elected in the first place.

LEMON: But don't you agree that there is a credibility issue? If there's going to be credibility - and I really have 20 seconds left here, credibility on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue?

STEWART: The main thing is, any time you are in a situation like this and you have a reporter like Adam coming on a story like this. You don't want to continue to feed that story. So you're not going to discuss it, not going to give additional information on it, and hopefully the story dies down. In that way, you can focus on other issues.

LEMON: I've got to go. Thank you. It's the end of the broadcast.

Thank you both. Thank you Adam. Thank you Alice. I appreciate it.

That's it for us tonight. Thank you so much for watching. I will see you right back here tomorrow night, everyone.