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Former FBI director James Comey released his opening statement for tomorrow's hearing; Aired 11:00-12:00mn ET

Aired June 7, 2017 - 23:00   ET


[23:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Also Scott Jennings is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush.

So we are walking through James Comey's critical February 14th oval office meeting with the President. Comey says President Trump asked him to let Flynn go. He is a good guy. FBI director Comey now had a difficult decision. Should he report this conversation with the President to the attorney general?

The FBI leadership team agreed with me, he writes, that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President's request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that given that it was a one on one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to attorney general Jeff Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigation. He did so two weeks later.

The deputy attorney general's role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States attorney, who would also not be long in the role. After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed. The investigators moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team members or the deputy of the department of justice lawyers supporting them aware of the President's request.

Shortly afterwards, I spoke with attorney general Jeff Sessions in person, to pass along the President's concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the attorney general to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what has just happened -- him being asked to leave while the FBI director who reports to the AG remained behind -- was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply.

For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBI's potential investigation of General Flynn.

Let's discuss this part. Nia, you first, should Comey have told attorney general Sessions about this conversation, about the investigation of General Flynn?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, I think that is going to be a big question that folks have for him tomorrow. If he thought this was such a big deal, why didn't he immediately talk about it if he thought it was a potential obstruction of justice, why didn't he talk about it then? So in this passage, he says that he was sort of saving it. He was taking all of these notes. And he obviously told some people about it, but wanted to see where this investigation was going.

But then again, you know, you have Sessions there again not really doing his job, right? Not interfering when he is asked to clear of room and he is having this one on one, Trump and Comey is having a one on one. And essentially, you have Comey pleading with Sessions to do something and maybe essentially gives him no reply. So I imagine Democrats are going to have a heyday with that and want to know more.

LEMON: Van Jones, on May 12th, after Comey himself was also being fired, the President tweeted this. He said James Comey better hopes that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press. What is the President saying here? Is this a threat? And are there tapes?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't know if there are tapes. But that does sound like a threat. But let's just pick a couple of other threats here.

It is weird, Sessions is bizarre in this scenario. You have your subordinate, your direct report, who is sitting there in a meeting with you. The President tells you to leave. Leaves your direct report sitting in the chair. What's the very first thing you do when your direct report leaves? You say, hey, what the heck did the President talk to you about? What is going on? Why did he do that? Let's have a conversation. He doesn't even ask. That's weird.

Then when the subordinate comes begging, pleading, don't make me go through that again, sir, there's no response. There's no reply. That is weird.

A lot of this stuff is just weird. This is why I don't watch "Scandal" because you have these scenes that had never happen in real life, but it's happening in real life.

LEMON: Scott, is that a real concern?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, look. I think Jeff Sessions and Don McGahn are honorable people who are trying to do a good job. And if they had to do it over again, I'm sure they would have stuck around in the oval, come hell or high water, because this point in the Comey testimony is really the key point for tomorrow's hearing. But we have to remember a vital piece of information that no one has brought up. It's not in Comey's memos, but it is true. We are talking about the President's state of mind.

He stated to Comey, according to Comey, that Flynn did nothing wrong in his phone conversation with the Russians. Why did he say that? Because on January 23rd "the Washington Post" reported, I think on the front page that the FBI had reviewed Flynn's phone calls and found nothing illicit. So not only did Donald Trump know that, the entire world knew that. So if you are looking for some evidence about the President's state of mind and why would he have said that Flynn did nothing wrong? It's because he read the FBI had already decided that Flynn did nothing wrong in the "the Washington Post." So I think state of mind is important to talk about. I think the context in the news consumption of the President is important to remember.

[23:05:018 LEMON: I thought "the Washington Post," David Gergen, was fake news, no?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. We have heard a lot about that, haven't we?

Listen. If the President had nothing to hide, he would have asked the general counsel, the White House to be there with him when he sat down with James Comey, to protect himself. So there would be a witness to this.

What I think is now going to be interesting is -- we need to hear from several people. We need to hear from the top leadership at the FBI. Is this indeed what happened? Did Comey share it with you? Because if they say he did, that strengthens the veracity or the belief.

We need to hear from the attorney general. Why did he not do these things? The very question around (ph)? Most of all, we need to hear from the President of the United States after this. You know, what is his version of this? And is he willing to do it under oath? Is he willing to state it under oath? Because that's extremely important.

LEMON: I want to hear about the legal aspects. Michael, what do you think of this?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think that there is no real way to get around the fact that what this conversation was about was an effort to influence an investigation. I just don't see how you analyze it any other way. Whether it rises to a prosecutable level of obstruction of justice remains to be seen by other facts.

But the clear fact here is that the President is saying something which I don't think actually is true, that Flynn did not wrong. If he is having a conversation about the lifting of sanctions with the Russian officers at that time, I think that's an inappropriate call. It may not be illegal, but it is wrong. And I don't think there's any way that you can rationalize that behavior. To say for the President he did nothing wrong at this point to me is just an incredible blunder of analysis.

LEMON: I'm wondering, Ana Navarro --

JENNINGS: He had read that in the Post. He had read that in "the Washington Post." The Post did report it that the FBI had found nothing illicit in Flynn's conversation. So that's your analysis, but the FBI had already leaked out to the post he had done nothing wrong.


LEMON: Let Michael respond.

ZELDIN: He is the President of the United States. And if you are telling me that his state of mind is driven by a newspaper article in a newspaper that he doesn't even credit as being a valid newspaper, I just don't buy that. I just don't think that's inacceptable explanation for the President's state of mind.

LEMON: Ana Navarro, I have to ask you. Have we just become too desensitized or at least sensitized at all to the President's actions? Because when you see it in full context as I'm sitting here reading this, and you know, just what James Comey is saying, what he put down on paper in all of these meetings and the President's words, it does seem inappropriate, especially considering how few meetings he has had with the former President and other heads of FBI, the FBI have had with former Presidents.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think we have become desensitized at all. If anything, I think America is incredibly sensitized. I think that the viewership for tomorrow's Comey hearing is going to be through the roof. Everywhere you go, people are talking about this. People that you think are unusual suspects. I'm not talking about political wonks. I'm talking about everybody in every supermarket and every gas station in America wants to talk about what's happening.

And I saw today something that I had not seen as much in previous hearings. Today, we had that hearing with Dan Coats, with McCabe, with Rosenstein. And I saw Republicans, remember, this was supposed to be a hearing about section 702. And I saw Republicans go and hone in on the Russia investigation. Move from the germane subject that was supposed to be the subject matter of the hearing and focus instead on the Russian investigation. People like Marco Rubio did it, who had dinner with President Trump last night. John McCain did it. The chairman allowed it. And you know, if we are now quoting "the Washington Post" as evidence, it's because "the Washington Post" said today -- had today on its front page that Donald Trump had asked Coats to intervene with Comey so that Comey would drop the Flynn investigation. That is such a key piece of information to know.

David Gergen says we need to hear from a lot of people. We need to know that particular answer. And I thought the timing of the release of the Comey statement today was a dramatic (INAUDIBLE) position to what happened in that hearing where we had these four law enforcement- intel chiefs refusing to answer the questions that is not classified for which they had no legal basis. They just didn't feel like saying the answer.

[23:10:04] LEMON: That is certainly was interesting. David Axelrod, I want to hear from you now.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, look. I want to be a little bit of a contrarian here. I think these facts are deeply worrisome. And the Flynn pieces I said earlier I find particularly baffling. But I also think that even as people will be watching in large numbers this testimony tomorrow, because it promises to be dramatic. What is clear too is that a lot of Americans are just trying to live their lives. It hasn't penetrated yet.

You know, the President is still bumping along in the sort of the mid to high 30s in his approval rating. His base is intact. Yes, Republicans are beginning to ask more questions as Ana suggests. But the truth is his support among Republicans has been pretty firm so far. It's eroded very little.

So I think, you know, someone once told me a wise old politician told me that Washington is always the last to get the news. I think that it's also true that people out in the country have a different perspective on all of this, and it's very much more focused on their lives. So we should just keep that in mind, even as we talk about this issue, as we will I'm sure for the next so many hours and through tomorrow and tomorrow night.

LEMON: And definitely for the remainder of this.

Van, I will let you jump in on the other side.

Stick around. When we come right back, one really uncomfortable phone call. The President - President Trump calls James Comey at the FBI and tells him he had not been involved with Russian hookers.


[23:15:23] LEMON: We are now just hours away from James Comey's testimony to the Senate intelligence committee. Tonight we are reading and analyzing his opening remarks released earlier.

My panel is back with me now. So let's pick up.

So it was March 30th. Ten days after Comey testified to Congress that there was an ongoing investigation to the Trump team and Russia including possible collusion. President Trump calls his FBI director to ask what he could do to lift the cloud and bring up the unconfirmed salacious allegations in dossier. The President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as a cloud that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and then always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to limit the cloud. I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit if we didn't find anything to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then reemphasized the problems this was causing him.

So back now with my panel.

Van, I'm going to start with you because I promise. It sounds like this dossier was on the President's mind big time, doesn't it?

JONES: Yes. Actually this part in some ways is the most understandable. It's not understandable that you clear a room, you send everybody out and you talk to the FBI head, and you want to talk to the FBI head because you are concerned about ISIS or you are concerned about -- no, you are concerned about Mike Flynn, some like loser weird dude? That's all bizarre.

This part in some way makes a lot more sense. He feels that he is being persecuted by the media. He feels that there's a big misunderstanding out there. He has seen Comey jump up and give press conference and do all kind of weird stuff out of the Obama administration, you know, trying to say Hillary Clinton had been cleared, she hadn't been cleared.

So this part is the only part of the whole memo that at least makes some kind of sense. And it also -- I also don't think it makes Comey more credible, because everything that Comey is saying Trump said sounds like the stuff that Trump has been saying. And if Trump now wants to say that Comey is a liar, he has got to deal with the fact that at least in this part he seems to be true to Trump's concerns and he is putting Trump in a reasonably understandable light given the crazy circumstance we are in.

LEMON: David Axelrod, what do you make of President Trump calling the Russia investigation a cloud that impairs his ability to act on behalf of the country? Didn't he bring this cloud on himself?

AXELROD: Well, I mean, there's no question about it. And even this week, you know, with not just on this investigation, but in other ways, he keeps digging holes for himself.

But I agree with Van in that, you know, he seems obsessed with this, the salacious element of this report. But I think that if you are told by the FBI director and you want to interpret it more broadly than he means it, that you are not under investigation and the impression is that you are, then you know, your frustration is why can't you just say I'm not? And I think that that is shot through this.

I think the, as I said, the Flynn stuff is different because clearing the room out, asking for him to go easy on a guy, in the context of everything else he did for Flynn, including delaying his firing for 18 days after discovering he had lied, all of that is suspicious. But it's not unreasonable for him to say, I want to get this behind me. I want you to say I'm not under investigation so that I can move on with what I want to do.


Michael, President Obama's White House ethics czar Norm Eizen (ph) said earlier today that this is the equivalent of the Nixon tapes. Do you agree with that?

ZELDIN: No. I think that's a bit overstated. And I do understand how one could say that this cloud is something that the President would like to get behind him so he can move forward with his agenda.

The problem I think is that when you move forward a little bit in the presentation you will see that on April 11th, he is saying the same thing. What are you going do to get rid of this cloud? Then you have to remember ultimately, where this cloud and failure to remove it ends up is with the firing of the FBI director.

And so there's a growing frustration. And again, I look at these things only in legal terms, right. I leave the politics to David and others smarter than I in that area. But when he is talking about clouds, interfering with his presidency, and he raises it again, he calls Comey, even though by now he should know that he shouldn't be calling him, and reiterating, I want this thing taken care of, get rid of it, and when it's not gotten rid of, he fires him. That all puts, you know, putts all these things together in a way that makes an arguable case for obstruction. I don't know if they are there. You got to hear from a lot of other people. But it doesn't help the President that he is badgering the FBI director to end this investigation, essentially lift the cloud, let me get on with my life.

[23:20:40] LEMON: Nia, what do you think?

HENDERSON: I think that's right, you know. He frames Trump there as calling him, maybe first thing in the morning, I think he says, on the morning of March 30th. And remember, this is after Comey's testimony, right, that so upset Donald Trump, right? He was upset that Comey wouldn't back him up on his claims about President Obama supposedly wiretapping him which of course was a lie, was not true. He was upset also that in that testimony James Comey for the first time basically said, yes, there is this criminal investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump associates.

So I mean, sort of the aggregate of this, it's this again this kind of steady courtship, this obsession with turning Comey, with making him loyal, in almost Trump seeing the FBI as an arm of his White House, as an arm of sort of the political aims of his White House.

And so yes, I mean, I think you know, sort of the way he lays it out, and we will see what happens tomorrow and the questions, the more questions that come up here and the things that he says. He says things aren't in this memo, right? There are nine instances and conversations that happen I believe in this there are only five, so what has been left out?

LEMON: Yes. He said he didn't add all of it. But when you look at the totality, you wonder if he's trying to co-opt, certainly looks like it, the FBI director.

Go ahead quickly, David.

GERGEN: Sure. The big difference with Watergate is when the tapes came out there and there was a smoking guns of people on both sides of the aisle understood it's over. In this case, there is going to be a lot of dispute. He said/she said about what happened in the meetings. And you can already see the Republicans as we are seeing tonight, are going to defend the President. It's not as clear-cut as it was in Watergate.

LEMON: All right. Stick around, everybody.

Coming up, President Trump says it would be good to find out if some of his associates did anything wrong. What did he mean by that?


[23:27:03] LEMON: Tonight, we are reading and analyzing James Comey's opening statement to the Senate intelligence committee. It was released ahead of his testimony tomorrow.

Joining me now is CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, the author of "Rightful Heritage, Franklin V. Roosevelt in the land of America."

I'm so glad you could join us here. It is interesting that we are talking about this beforehand, because he hasn't even said it yet. But Douglas, what are your first thoughts about what is clearly going to be explosive testimony from the former FBI director tomorrow?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, first off, there is no question we are on a kind of rolling freight train that's leading us into obstruction of justice territory. This is a dark day in my opinion for President Trump, but it's really the beginning. It may be the beginning of the end of Trump.

Tomorrow, I think you are going to have -- what -- I was surprised that the seven-page letter came out today, but then it started making sense. But I think tomorrow, they are going to be talking about that May 9th letters that Trump wrote to Comey firing him. And I would be curious to find what Comey thinks about his own firing. That was not in today's letter. So we will have to watch and listen to that tomorrow.

LEMON: You think what was written in this -- what wasn't written in the letter is just as important, if not more than what was written in this letter?

BRINKLEY: Absolutely. There could be a lot of follow-up questions. He did the senators a favor by putting this out early in a sense because it allows them to figure out the follow-up questions otherwise if we heard this the first time tomorrow, it would have been -- you wouldn't have had as good of questioning. So I think it was a shrewd move by Comey. It shows that he is really trying to cooperate.

LEMON: The President asking Comey for loyalty, is this new territory? Have you ever heard a President asking something like that from an FBI director? And, you know, having the dinner alone, meeting with him in the oval office alone, calling him up, you know, at will, have you ever heard of anything like this?

BRINKLEY: No. We are in a real low moment in U.S. Presidential history. Today in many ways was sad that we have a President operating in such a fashion. It did ring the bell of June 23rd, 1973, that famous moment on the Nixon tapes when you hear that they are trying to say, can we get the FBI -- I mean can we get the CIA, Nixon said, to somehow undermine the investigation of the FBI? So the reason why Nixon is in the air so much is there - there are some striking similarities.

And also Don, keep in mind, what I'm waiting for -- and I saw today Republican senators are starting to get ticked off at Donald Trump. Marco Rubio I thought was quite fierce today. And it would be interesting to see if there does become a gang of eight or ten Republican senators that are really going to hold the President accountable for his actions. So I think that you might see that hopping was Barley Goldwater among

many other Republicans who nailed Nixon.

[23:30:08] LEMON: It does seem that every question from President Trump to Comey is really based on self-interests. And, you know, he is trying to clear his own name. Doesn't appear to be concerned that much about people around him. And that would mean, you know, other Republicans.

BRINKLEY: Well, that's right. The big thing here is Donald Trump only cares about himself. But I have been listening to your show, and David Axelrod keeps making very important point. What is going on with Mike Flynn? What is this guy up to? Why is he, you know -- I mean, I think the big question is going to be, does, you know -- he didn't respond to a subpoena. He has pleaded the fifth. But will Flynn eventually if he gets an immunity deal really explain what happened?

At this point in time it sort of reminds me of Iran/contra in a way. Oliver North got into all sorts of hot water. But, you know, Flynn could be looking at a prison sentence coming up. And I will be curious to see in the coming weeks where that ends up with Flynn.

LEMON: All right. Thank you very much Douglas Brinkley. I always appreciate your insight.

I want to bring in my panel now again as we continue reading through Comey's testimony. It's also striking how in this March 30th phone call President Trump told Comey there could have been satellite associates who did something wrong.

So here is what he said. He said, then the President asked why had there been a congressional hearing about Russia - about Russia the previous week at which I had as a department of justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign? I explains the demands from the leadership from both parties in Congress for more information. And that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of a deputy attorney general until he briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump.

I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me we need to get that fact out. I did not tell the President that the FBI and the department of justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct should that change.

The President went on to say that if there were some satellite associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out. But that he hadn't done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren't investigating him. Back with the panel. David Gergen, what do you make of the President

alluding to other associates of his who did something wrong or possibly did something wrong.

GERGEN: I think the President is beginning to recognize, and he said similar things in public here recently that, look, even if they were yet some people like Paul Manafort and others who he might call satellite associates, interesting phrase, that Comey has said to him three times that we are not investigating you. So he may be able to separate out on that issue that, you know what's been said here in public today actually helps him in trying to defend him self-on the question of whether there's been collusion involves not only the associates but the President himself.

He has been hurt in trying to protect that investigation, though, he has brought on this whole second line of questions and the second charges building up in order to get the investigators to go away. You are not obstructing justice. And the second one may be what gets him.

LEMON: Michael, from a legal perspective, how telling is a conversation like this?

ZELDIN: Well, I think it is very telling. And it again speaks to the state of mind of the President at the time, and is one which says I'm concerned about me. Everybody else is, you know, collateral damage, which is perhaps why you are having a lot of problem filling positions in the law enforcement community.

So I think that there's a lot of concern here that the President raises and that will have to have, though, director Comey fill out, because it's just not clear yet what it is that has startled him so that he put it in the opening statement here when he has left other things out that I think are just as important.

LEMON: Well, let's remember that President Trump has said several times in public that there has never been collusion from him or anyone on his team.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The entire thing has been a witch-hunt. And there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign. But I can only speak for myself and the Russians.

There is no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians.


[23:35:02] LEMON: So David Axelrod, those were from the President's appearances in May. Doesn't this contradict what he told Comey about satellite associates? Is that not a problem?

AXELROD: Well, he did in that one clip say, you know, he brought it back to himself, I can only speak for me kind of. And I thought this was an interesting part, maybe an underreported part of the Comey memo, because here he seemed to be throwing some people under the bus, saying, yes, there may have been something going on there, but I had nothing to do with it.

And now at the risk of being -- and this horse may have left the barn a broken record. Why did he throw those people under the bus and go to such extraordinary lengths to try and save Flynn?


AXELROD: And it may be that just that he has deep affection to Michael Flynn. But that's not really his MO. And it just raises more suspicion in my mind about why Flynn was treated as a special case in the President's mind.

LEMON: Is this the closest thing that we will get to President Trump possibly admitting that a Trump associate may have been colluded with Russia, Van Jones?

JONES: Well, he is beginning to open certain doors to give himself some wiggle room here. And you know, this give him the benefit of the doubt. I think some people have come to a conclusion about what's going on here. Let's just give him the benefit of the doubt.

Suppose he is as innocent as the day is long. He is just a nice guy trying to make America great again. And it turns out that for some reason the FBI is going after, you know, folks, and he thinking to himself, well, I don't know every single person in this campaign. Maybe there's someone out there that, you know, did some naughty things, but not me.

OK. Listen, I look at that and I say to myself, yes, that makes some sense, except the behavior around Mike Flynn. It is the Mike Flynn obsession that puts this entire thing in a completely different light. And to Axelrod's point, he is saying I am going to the matt for Mike Flynn. Yes, he lied to me. Yes, he is doing these weird meetings. But I'm going to literally clear the room to try to save Mike Flynn. But these other people? I don't know. Get rid of them.

And so I do think you are in a situation now where everything he does to try to exonerate himself, (INAUDIBLE), becomes incriminating. He is a bad criminal. If this were a guy in your neighborhood trying to run some neighborhood hustle, he would be terrible at it. He can't keep his mouth shut. You have a crew leader in the hood who can't keep his mouth shut. He had - he makes terrible decisions and then goes down to the precinct and tries to get himself out of trouble. This is the - he was a bad, bad guy. He is the bad guy.

LEMON: Stick around, everybody.

Coming up, what the President says about the FBI's Andrew McCabe.


[23:42:23] LEMON: We are hours away from James Comey taking the center stage in the senate. And tonight, we are reading his entire opening statement. Now we have more on the President's March 30th phone call with Comey.

Back with me now, my panel.

Former FBI director James Comey has written testimony about that March 30th call. Also details when Comey called to report President Trump's actions.

And he writes. In abrupt shift, he turned the conversation to FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, saying he hadn't brought up the McCabe thing, because I had said McCabe was honorable, though McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and had given him, I think he meant deputy director McCabe's wife campaign money. Although I didn't understand why the President was bringing this up, I repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honorable person.

He finished by stressing the cloud that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out, that he wasn't being investigated.

I told him I would see what we could do and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could. Immediately after that conversation, I called acting deputy attorney general Dana Boente, AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia-related material, to report the substance of the call from the President and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the President called me again two weeks later.

Nia-Malika Henderson, Comey says -- go on. What do you want to say?

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, even at the end of that sentence, I didn't hear back from him before the President called me once again two weeks later. I mean, he was the president and this memo seems to be blowing up James Comey's cell phone.

I think what is interesting in this passage is also the way he captures the way Donald Trump clearly speaks and sometimes in word salad, bringing up random things.

LEMON: Make deals for the country.

HENDERSON: Yes, make deals for the country. So yes, I mean, that is going to go with his reliability and his credibility. And there are some poll that is subject lying 25 percent of the public doesn't really trust Comey on this. And that was "the Washington Post"/ABC poll. And that's probably about -- that 25 percent pretty much represents the hard-core support that Donald Trump has. But in terms of Trump's credibility on Russia, well over half the country doesn't trust his version of events in terms of Russia.

LEMON: So Nia, can I ask you? He says he called the acting deputy attorney general Dana Boente to report the substance of this call from the president. What does that tell you?

HENDERSON: Well, again, I think that there had been so -- the criticism from Republicans is that James Comey just essentially sat on this information. But here he is saying no. He went to at the time the acting AG to report this. And again, they didn't say anything. And this I think again, it echoes him trying to talk to Sessions and say, listen, Sessions, please don't leave me alone with Donald Trump, and Sessions essentially offering crickets to that request.

And so, again, I think they are all - I mean, this thing is really masterfully written. It is so scenic. It is so easy to understand. It has all of these sort of echoes and framings. And just - I think really you see this kind of building obsession that Trump has with Comey. And the through line, of course is this initial obsession with Michael Flynn. And no one knows why.

I mean, we read so many stories about Donald Trump and he is throwing this person under the bus. He is throwing Bannon under the bus. He is upset with Sessions. And here he is going through so much to throw Michael Flynn a lifeline, to protect him.

And then there is this unknown thing where he says he has this other concerns about Flynn that we don't know what those concerns are. They seem to be beyond what the, you know, some of the initial concerns more about his conversations with the Russians.

[23:46:23] LEMON: Yes.

Scott, Van Jones made a similar point earlier, not on the same -- why did he keep sort of throwing a lifeline to Michael Flynn. And I think you were shaking your head. Do you disagree with his assessment?

JENNINGS: I don't see this as an obsession with Mike Flynn. And again, there were evidence out there that the FBI looked at the phone calls and judged those to have been not illicit. So I think that could have been in the President's mind.

But let's talk about the greater backdrop of what is going on here. It must be enormously frustrated. You get elected as President. You have a big agenda. And then all of a sudden, this thing sort of takes over Washington. And in the President's mind, he is preventing him from getting anything done despite the fact that he knows he has been told but he is not personally under investigation. Because that has been reported publicly, you have Democrats every day of the week in Washington running down to the floor of the House claiming that he is, claiming he should be impeached, jumping in front of every television camera every day and twice on Sunday to imply that the President is under investigation. Trump knows that he's not, because Comey told him that he is not.

So he is clearly enormously frustrated. I don't see it as an obsession with Flynn. I see it as a frustration with the fact that he knows there's truth and that he is not being investigated and he can't get it out. And it is stopping him from enacting an agenda that he was clearly elected to enact.

LEMON: Stick around, everybody.

Coming up, what happened the final time the President Trump talked to James Comey?


[23:52:07] LEMON: James Comey's statement on his contact with President Trump full of revelations. And we have more. Back now with my panel.

So now, we are talking about April 11th. It is the last time -- the last of the nine contacts Comey has with the President. Here is how Comey, former FBI director James Comey details his final interaction with President Trump.

He writes, on the morning of April 11th, the President call me and asked what I had done about his request that I get out, that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the acting deputy attorney general, but I had not heard back. He implied that the cloud was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the acting deputy attorney general. I said, that was the way his request should be handled. I said, the White House counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.

He said he would do that and added, because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal. We had that thing, you know. I did not reply or ask him what he meant by "that thing." I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House counsel call the acting deputy attorney general. He said that was what he would do and the call ended. That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.

What do you think of that, Michael?

ZELDIN: Well, it's interesting to me that the paragraph before he says, you know, there is this McCabe thing and I didn't raise it, meaning I'm not going to hurt your friend McCabe. Then he says, I want - I have been very loyal to you. And I, therefore, expect you to do stuff. So you have this whole loyalty and obligation to him. It's almost like a shakedown of Comey saying, I'm not going to raise this McCabe thing. I have been loyal to you, but I'm not going to do that much longer if you don't get this thing out about me. That to me is inappropriate behavior, whether it adds to the mosaic of obstructionism, we will see, but it's just not seemly.

LEMON: David Gergen, because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing, you know.

GERGEN: That thing, whatever that thing may be. Listen, the next thing that happened after this, May 9th, Comey gets fired by Trump. There is an arc here from Trump demanding loyalty at the beginning of his conversations, I need your loyalty, all the way to firing him because he didn't do what he wanted. He didn't show him the loyalty that Trump wanted.

LEMON: David Axelrod, Comey's remarks on January 6th, January 27th, and March 30th, Comey told President Trump he was not under investigation. This was also came up a fourth time during a conversation between President Trump and Comey on April 11th. Do you view these as assurances the President was citing?

AXELROD: Yes, I think they probably were. And clearly what Comey wasn't willing to do was, as he said, make a pronouncement that the President wasn't under investigation because the investigation was ongoing and he wasn't willing to say the President wouldn't be in the future. But the President wanted that line -- the thing references one that is bizarre. Maybe it means more to the President than Comey. Maybe Valentine's Day meant more to the President than this is.

[23:55:23] LEMON: Ana Navarro, the President outside attorney says that President Trump feels completely and totally vindicated. Has he been?

NAVARRO: No. And you know, if the outside attorney is listening, I just read that President Trump's schedule has no events tomorrow through noon. So, that outside attorney should be sitting in the oval office and have his hand on the twitter because if not, if Donald Trump is live tweeting tomorrow like Shonda Rhimes used to do with "Scandal," it really is absolute negligence.

And listen, let me just finish by saying this. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the tip of the iceberg. There is no doubt in my mind that we are witnessing history. And I just want to remind Republicans as they go into the questioning tomorrow, there is still so much to unpack and this is just the beginning. Their duty is not to protect anybody. Their duty is not to cover up for anybody. Their duty is not to help anybody. Their duty is to get to the truth because Americans deserve the truth and this is a time to put countries over party, to put truth over anything else.

LEMON: That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. Thanks to my panel. I will see you right back here tomorrow. As the clock says, ten hours left until Comey is on the screen live. Have a good night.