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Republicans Celebrates Tax Cut Victory; Praises for Trump Raining in the White House; Senator Mark Warner Warns the White House. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 20, 2017 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, HOST, CNN: ... gunshots on the Korean border.

Thanks so much for watching 360. I'm John Berman. Time now for CNN Tonight and Don Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

President Trump jubilant over his first major legislative victory, passage of the sweeping $1.5 trillion tax cut bill.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's always a lot of fun when you win. If you work hard and lose, that's not acceptable.


LEMON: The president celebrating at the White House with dozens of congressional republicans, back slapping and congratulating each other with some effusive praise for a president who hasn't always been so kind to them.


PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Something this profound could not have been done without exquisite presidential leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Donald Trump delivered a great victory for the American people.



LEMON: Just a big old love fest. But now comes the hard part. Convincing Americans that this legislation is good for them. And it's an uphill climb.

A CNN poll shows a majority of Americans don't like the bill and believe it benefits the wealthy more than the middle class. And that could affect the mid-term elections, which are coming up in less than a year.

Also tonight, a stern warning about the Russia investigation from a top democrat in the Senate.


MARK WARNER, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Any attempt by this president to remove special counsel Mueller from his position or to pardon key witnesses in any effort to shield them from accountability or shut down the investigation would be a gross abuse of power.


LEMON: Senator Warner also saying any interference would provoke a constitutional crisis. And he wants to make sure his republican colleagues hear him loud and clear.

I'm going to talk about this tonight with my legal experts. But let's begin with President Trump's big tax cut victory. He promised it by Christmas and he delivered.

I want to bring in now Bob Cusack, the editor-in-chief of The Hill, and CNN's senior economics analyst Stephen Moore, former senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign, and CNN political commentator, Symone Sanders.

Good evening to all of you. Let's hope I make sense. I am hopped up on so much cold medicine right now, you have no idea.

Stephen, I'm going to start with you. You were there at the White House today. There was a lot of celebrating, lavish praise for the president's role in this. What will end up being harder? Passing this bill or selling it to the American people right now who overwhelmingly don't want it?

STEPHEN MOORE, SENIOR ECONOMIC ANALYST, CNN: Well, it couldn't be harder than passing it, because, boy, this was brutal. And there were times over the last, you know, several weeks it looked like this might not happen.

And you know, the mood over at the White House today, Don, was jubilant, but there's also just a lot of relief that they finally have figured out a way to get to 50 votes.

Look, we've been debating the economic merits of this on your show and others for months and months. And I'm not going to persuade anybody at this point about whether this is going to work or not, but I'll say this. The proof will be in the -- the pudding will be in the eating, whether it works or not.

I think it will work. I think it will continue to -- we'll continue to see strong growth and strong increase in jobs, which is really what, you know, from the very beginning, when I started working with Donald Trump on this, that was the whole objective, is getting the economy moving again.

So ultimately, I think the American people, you mentioned the midterm elections, of course. That's what everybody's looking at right now. If the economy is continuing to perform and especially in those areas, Don, where Donald Trump did very well in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, West Virginia, then I think republicans will be just fine. And I think they realized it, and that's why, ultimately, the vast majority of them voted for this bill.

LEMON: Bob, the thing is, if you're a republican, you probably loved everything the president said today. But if you're sitting at home and you're a democrat and you're already fired up and then you hear the president talking about a huge tax victory, bragging that he also repealed Obamacare with this bill.

Plus, you can now drill for oil in Alaska in the Alaska wilderness. Are you even more motivated for 2018 or 20, if that's you?

BOB CUSACK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE HILL: Yes. And democrats are very motivated. They showed that in Virginia and even in Alabama, in that Senate race.

So, I think for the first time, really, since 2006, democrats are going to show up for a midterm election. Remember, republicans won the House in 2010 and they won the Senate in 2014 and democrats really just didn't show. The political winds have shifted.

But without a doubt, I mean, what helps republicans here is that there's actually low expectations for this law now that maybe if people next year they do see a difference, and most people are going to get a tax cut. Maybe they'll start to warm to it. But those numbers have to turn around. If they don't turn around, then democrats are going to win the House.

LEMON: All right, symone, let's talk about this new poll from CNN. It shows 56 percent of voters would choose a democrat over 38 percent who say they would choose a republican.

I mean, that 18-point edge is the widest democrats have held in a midterm election -- in a midterm election cycle in 20 years, for 20 years. Will that change as Stephen Moore argues, if people see more money in their paychecks?

[22:05:07] SYMONE SANDERS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: You know what, I don't think so. Because while, yes, people will see somewhere upwards of 900 to $1,800 more in their paycheck. The wealthiest folks in this country are going to see upwards of more than $75,000.

Regular, everyday Americans are going to understand that 13 million folks have now been pushed off their health care, thanks to this bill. You know, Obamacare is actually very popular right now.

So for Donald Trump to stand up and say, we have repealed Obamacare, that is not something that necessarily the wide swath of folks across the country wants to hear. Premiums are going to go up by 10 percent. That's bad. And republicans are going to have to own this.

I think we're seeing that spread in the numbers, because republicans are literally in charge. They have the White House, both chambers of the United States Congress. They have yet to get anything done. And the one thing they got done was tax breaks for the wealthiest folks in this country. That don't scream elect me again in 2018.

LEMON: Well, Stephen, let's talk about this because I know you want to respond. The one of the selling points of this plan has been putting more money in the pockets of the middle class Americans with less taxes. But in getting rid of the Obamacare mandate, making Americans pay penalties for not having health insurance, funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, which helps poor children and pregnant women, it's now at risk.

I mean, dozens of states, the blue ones on our map that you see right there are now at risk to run out of funding, and anywhere from one to three months. And even if a family, for families getting a few hundred dollars in a tax break, their health care could potentially cost thousands more. How are low-income families not getting the short end of this?

MOORE: Look, I believe the funding for CHIP will be delivered. And so I don't think that will be an issue that's on the table. But on this Obamacare issue...


LEMON: Why do you -- why do you think that will be delivered?

MOORE: I just think...

LEMON: What guarantee do you have of that?

MOORE: I think it's a popular program, and I think, ultimately, Congress will fund it. I went through a lot...


SANDERS: But it ran out -- but, wait. I want to go back to that point, because it ran out four months ago and it has not been funded yet. And so when are they going to fund it? I think the maybes and the ifs sound good to us, but what about these low-income families?


LEMON: That's right, they're just shifting money from higher-income states to lower-income states.

MOORE: Right. My only point is that early next year, they're going to resolve the budget. They've been operating on this series of continuing resolutions and it's my belief they will fund CHIP. But I think the more important point is what's happening with Obamacare.

And you know, you were saying, well, gee, the premiums are going to go up by 10 percent because of this. Well, they've been going up by 15 or 20 percent under Obamacare. So that would actually be an improvement if the premiums only went up by 10 percent.

But also I would say this, when you talk about the political aspects of what happened today, the most important thing is that now republicans have solidified their base. Their base voters are coming home big time. They're very happy with this bill. They think...


SANDERS: Where -- hold on!

MOORE: Let me just finish my point.

SANDERS: No. What numbers do you have to support that? Because I have seen polling -- tell me the numbers that you have to support that, because...


MOORE: OK. Yes. Let me give you some evidence. What happened at...

SANDERS: Yes, give me some evidence.

MOORE: OK. So after the republicans failed on Obamacare, a big republican donors and even medium and small donors stopped giving to the Republican Party. They were so upset that the republicans could not deliver on that, and they basically told the republicans this. Don't come back to us if you don't get this tax bill passed. So, from a political perspective...


SANDERS: So the donors are the base of the Republican Party? I just want to be clear. Because what I asked you was, what proof did you have that the base of the Republican Party was coming home? And you just gave me a donor example. That is exactly what's wrong with this bill.


MOORE: Well...

LEMON: I think she got you --I think she got you...

SANDERS: That's exactly what's wrong with this bill.

MOORE: Listen, I'm not to say, OK, it's a fair point.

SANDERS: Why it's not popular and why republicans are going to lose their seats in 2018.

MOORE: Because it is -- because this is very, very popular with the republican donors.

SANDERS: With the donors.

MOORE: It may not be popular with democratic voters, but a tax cut is very popular with republican voters.

LEMON: But that's not what the polling shows. That this is unpopular among democrats and republicans, Bob. I mean, isn't that what the polling shows? CUSACK: Well, I've seen some polls that it is popular with republicans, the problem is with, of course democrats and independents. But I do think that where it goes from here, there are similarities to Obamacare, which was not popular when it passed. It was not popular when it was implemented and it was popular when it was trying to be repealed. And maybe that will continue with this bill. But...


LEMON: So are you saying that come 2020 or wherever someone else...

CUSACK: Twenty-twenty-five, yes.

LEMON: When someone else is in office, this will be so popular that people can't repeal it even though they hate it.

CUSACK: Well, I think it's tough to take away benefits or goodies, I mean, it just is. I mean, that's why republicans couldn't pass repealing the Affordable Care Act. And I think, and then democrats also with the Bush tax cuts, yes, they didn't extend all of them, but they extended a lot of them because of political pressure. So.

SANDERS: But yes, but Bob.


SANDERS: Under this bill, 83 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent of people in this country. So, again, I don't understand -- I just haven't seen where someone has made the case where Joe, Susie, and Puky and Keisha benefit from this bill.

[22:10:02] Priorities USA did a survey, did a test in 20 republican House districts and when they found out what was in this bill, voters were inclined to move three points away from the incumbent. This isn't good for the republicans any way you spend it. They can say they got something done but they can't say it's for...


MOORE: Let me respond to that. You know, you made this point, while, gee, rich people will get a bigger benefit than middle-income people. What middle-income people care most about is what it's going to do to their own taxes. They don't care, you know, whether the guy next door is going to get a bigger tax cut if they get one.

I mean, the other day I was in a taxi cab and I asked the cab driver, what do you think of the tax bill, and he said, show me the money. Americans want to see more money in their paycheck in a couple of months.

And I think one of the things that has been inaccurate in the reporting is that I've heard many people on CNN say the middle class is going to pay a tax increase. That's just flatly false. It's not true that most middle class people have a tax increase. In fact, about 90 percent of middle class people will see a tax cut.

And when they see that tax cut, I think their attitude is going to be, wait a minute, people were lying to me about the reality of what this bill is. And they're going to see that, by the way, starting in about February...


LEMON: But I think that you're being a little -- you're being too cute by half there. Because the tax, these tax cuts are not permanent. So if you do it over...


MOORE: Yes, but those are...

LEMON: ... if you do it over time...

MOORE: Don, really. I mean, I was involved in the putting of this. Yes, seven or eight years from now, those tax cuts are going to go away. But does anybody think we're going to be still operating on the same tax bill, you know, in 2025, two presidencies from now?

SANDERS: Well, yes. I mean, if the tax...


LEMON: How long have we had our current -- how long have we had our current tax policy?

MOORE: We shouldn't -- this is a whole another issue.

SANDERS: Since like the '80s.

MOORE: A tax bill is on a four to five-year basis, not a ten-year basis because nobody knows what's the world is going to look like.

LEMON: I'm just saying history, you know, shows us. Bob, I'll give you the last word.


SANDERS: I just like to note the corporate tax cuts do not expire, but the individual tax cuts do.

LEMON: Exactly. That was my point.

SANDERS: So I think...

LEMON: Go ahead, Bob.


MOORE: Well, let me ask you this question. Do you think if the democrats win Congress...



MOORE: ... they are going to, are they going to expire the child tax credit?

CUSACK: I think the republicans here should have adopted what they did in 2001. Everyone, the message, they had a message, Rick Santorum said on CNN, their message was woeful. Just admit, everyone should get a tax cut, but they kept saying middle class, middle class, and then that's why they've been attacked and then open to those attacks, honestly.

LEMON: Yes, OK. Thank you, all.

CUSACK: Thank you.

LEMON: Just ahead, a leading democratic senator puts President Trump on notice, fire special counsel Robert Mueller and provoke a constitutional crisis. I'm going to discuss his warning with my legal experts.

And up next, a big win for the president on taxes gets him a whole lot of love from his party. Republicans standing by their man and they pour on the flattery.


LEMON: There was a festival of flattery on the White House lawn today to celebrate the passage of the republican tax cut bill.


RYAN: Something this big, something this generational, something this profound could not have been done without exquisite presidential leadership. Mr. President, thank you for getting us over the finish line.


DIANE BLACK, (R) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Thank you, President Trump, for allowing us to have you as our president and to make America great again.

ORRIN HATCH, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: You're one heck of a leader. And we're all benefiting from it. This bill could not have passed without you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Donald Trump delivered. A great victory for the American people.


LEMON: My God. Is that SNL? Is that real? Complimenting President Trump has become something of a ritual at the White House, but have other presidents expected such praise? Let's discuss now with CNN presidential historian, Timothy Naftali and

Douglas Brinkley. I mean, listen, you -- what is going on here?! By the way, you gentlemen look so handsome. You're such fantastic historians. I am just honored to be on television with you.

Douglas, you first. We saw an enormous celebration on the White House steps today, but you say, high fives are better done when they're out of the office, right?


LEMON: My gosh, look at them!

BRINKLEY: First off, we've got a president with a 35 percent approval rating. This is a president who hasn't been able to put up any points on the board this year. And now, lo and behold, suddenly at the end of the year, they got this through.

But it's worth high-fiving. It is an historic victory. But I think the exaggeration of having to kiss the ring of Donald Trump, it almost seems like a scene out of the Godfather we just saw, not what you would expect from the president of a democracy.

LEMON: What's happening here?

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, CNN: I haven't heard this kind of sycophancy since I listened to the Nixon tapes where Henry Kissinger is telling the president what a remarkable human being he is.

LEMON: Yes. But I mean, the president hasn't always had the best relationships with all of these people that you see there, who are praising him. Do you think this is a turning point between the president and Congress?

NAFTALI: Well, you would have to then believe that this is real and that they believe -- that they really mean...


LEMON: It happens already and I missed it?

NAFTALI: No, no. Well, who knows, but I think one of the lessons that Congress learned was that this president is insecure, and that if you want to work with this president, you have to make him feel great about himself. And they didn't do it in the health care debate. And they decided to do it over tax cuts.

And by the way, they did get a concession from Donald Trump, because he insisted on bringing the corporate tax rate to 15 percent and didn't get it and he's still applauding.

LEMON: Yes. Well, this isn't about, listen, it's a victory for them, it's a victory for the president, but this sort of, as you say sycophancy, it's really just bizarre to watch. But the bigger question here, the broader question, the more important

question, has there ever been a president who passed a piece of major legislation that would actually hurt the people in his home state as much as New York officials are saying, Timothy?

NAFTALI: Well, you know, the last time, 31 years ago, the last time we had such a comprehensive change in our tax system, it was a bipartisan measure. It was passed by a democratic House and although the republicans controlled the Senate, 33 democratic senators voted for the 1986 Tax Reform Act.

It so involved trade-offs, regional, ideological, and party trade- offs. This one didn't have any. And Donald Trump didn't care that his hometown is one of the hardest hit places in the United States by this tax reform.

LEMON: Yes. Do you want -- do you have something to add, Douglas?

BRINKLEY: Well, just that Donald Trump is now giving republicans something to run on in 2018. Now, they had nothing before this.

[22:20:00] Now it's going to be, we're the party of tax cuts. They don't have to be Trumpian now. They just have to be pro tax cuts. And so it might be seen as a unifying agent for the alt-right wing of the party or the establishment wings. And at least it gives them, for the time being, a bit of an offensive.

And you see them also taking the offense on the Mueller report. You're watching what Fox News is doing. And the echo chamber going on here, that there's a feeling now that they might be able to survive Trump. Many republicans were worried that they were headed down the tube if they couldn't produce one single major signature piece of legislation in 2017.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, this president often rattles off what he believes are his accomplishments in his first year in office. So let's take a look at the facts.

Trump says he helped to defeat ISIS. First, ISIS was on the decline when President Obama left office. Also, the idea that ISIS has been defeated is incorrect. ISIS-inspired groups have found strongholds around the world.

The president says he brought unemployment to a 16-year low. The unemployment rate has been dropping since its peak in 2009. It's true, it's at a 16-year low, but it is too early to credit President Trump's policies.

President Trump says he has created 1.7 million jobs since being elected. That number is accurate, but if you look at President Obama, he created 2.9 million jobs in the final jobs report before he left office.

Why does he feel the need to list these accomplishments? And also, the one he also credits the stock market, which is incorrect, as well, saying that he had the biggest stock market. Obama, at this time, had a better-performing stock market. The best-

performing stock market was under Bill Clinton, by the way. It's not Donald Trump. So why does he continue to do this?

NAFTALI: Well, I believe -- I mean, you would have to ask him, but if you look objectively at the American people's response to Donald Trump, most Americans reject him. His public approval ratings are lower than any modern president in his first term.

So he's not getting love and affection from the American people and that's what he needs and wants. One of the challenges for Trump was to build a unifying message. He didn't run on one. He ran on a sectarian message.

Since the inauguration, he has not done anything to try to widen his base. And that's why he's doubling down and he wants people to see that even doubling down, he's a success. It's a shame.

LEMON: Yes, Douglas, as far as approval ratings are concerned, President Trump isn't even in the same league as his predecessors. Here's what our CNN poll shows. His historically low approval rating is at 35 percent. It's lower than all of the previous president's approval ratings taken the same month of their first year in office. Is passing tax reform enough to help President Trump and republicans in 2018 do you think? You said it gives something to hold but is that enough?

BRINKLEY: No, it isn't. George W. Bush had an 86 percent approval rating at this time after his first year. John F. Kennedy, 77 percent. George Herbert Walker Bush, 71 percent. And to 35? I mean, he's in the basement right now. There's nothing quite like it.

So, of course, he's trying to say, we're tired of winning, repeating his campaign lines. What most people are going to remember from 2016, it's been the year of the women, the march on Washington that started earlier in his administration and it ended with Time magazine picking women activists, fighting against sexual harassment.

We have a president being charged galore with sexual harassment. We have the FBI closing in on a White House. He's been a president under the microscope, under investigation, almost with an asterisk next to his name for the entire year.

And getting a tax cut bill at the end of the year isn't going to cut it. Kids aren't going to be lining up at the Trump library 20 years from now to see the tax cut pen under glass. They're looking for great, big, bold presidential initiatives. Kennedy's first year of the moon shot and Eisenhower going to the interstate highway system.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, if you want the truth about the stock market, because everyone is raving about that, I would suggest that everyone go to and read how Justin Wolf responded to the president's claim.

It's fascinating. It's facts. Just the facts. Thank you all. I appreciate it. When we come back, the top democrat on the Senate intelligence committee sending the White House a stern warning about firing special counsel Robert Mueller. What Mark Warner is calling red lines and what he is urging lawmakers to do if President Trump crossing them. That's next.


LEMON: An urgent warning from democratic Senator Mark Warner today. He took to the Senate floor for a preemptive strike on the White House against firing special prosecutor, Robert Mueller.


WARNER: Any attempt by this president to remove special counsel Mueller from his position or to pardon key witnesses in any effort to shield them from accountability or shut down the investigation would be a gross abuse of power and a fragrant violation of executive branch responsibilities and authorities.

These truly are red lines and simply cannot allow them to be crossed.


LEMON: Well, the White House says it has no intention of firing Mueller, so is Warner making much to do about nothing?

Let's discuss now. Ambassador Nicholas Burns, a former U.S. Undersecretary of State for political affairs joins us now. Ambassador, thank you for joining us.

It's pretty extraordinary for Senator Warner to make these comments on the floor today. What do you think of what he said?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNITED STATES UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Well, I think he's right to issue the warning. President Trump, after all, fired the FBI director, James Comey, several months ago. So he's shown he's capable of this.

And we learned during the Watergate hearings and the Watergate drama four decades ago that no person in our society is above the law, including the President of the United States.

[22:29:59] And so this investigation has to continue. It's being conducted by one of the most reputable and distinguished and trustworthy people in our society, Robert Mueller.

LEMON: Yes. The senator also told CNN, ambassador, that he was worried that the president could move to fire Mueller next week, when members are home for the recess.

With the legislative tax victory today, do you think the president could feel more empowered and act from his gut, as we have seen him do in the past?

BURNS: Well, let's hope he doesn't. This process has to continue. The charges here are very serious. We have to get to the bottom of what Russia did both during the 2016 campaign and its major assault on our election, and whether or not there is any kind of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

That hasn't been proven. And there's always the possibility that President Trump will emerge from this without any charges whatsoever, although others who have worked with him will not, obviously. But Russia is the issue here.

And I must say, as someone who spent my life in foreign policy, that President Trump is exhibiting behavior towards Putin, I think, that's very puzzling towards everybody. There's this assault on the American election. There's Putin's invasion and occupation and annexation of Crimea.

President Trump doesn't want to go forward with sanctions. The Senate voted 98 to 2 to impose sanctions, and those sanctions have not yet been implemented by the Trump administration.

Congress makes the law in our society, not the executive branch. So the president, I think, is acting in a way that none of his predecessors would have. The first job of the president is to defend this country. There was an assault on our election by our strongest adversary in the world.

The president has to stand up to President Putin, but doesn't appear willing to do so. And that's what really, I think is, that's a national security challenge that the president has produced and it's weakness on his part.

LEMON: Ambassador Burns, let's talk a little bit more about, you mentioned people who may or may not be involved in the Russia investigation. I want to get your thoughts on what New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said in an interview last night about Jared Kushner and the scrutiny he is under with the Mueller investigation. Here it is.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I'm telling you that he deserves this scrutiny. You know why? Because he was involved in the transition and involved in meetings that call into question his role. OK. Well, then, if he's innocent of that, then that will come out, as Mueller examines all the facts. And if he's not, that will come out, too.


LEMON: Why do you think this is significant?

BURNS: Well, it may be significant because of the things that have happened in the past between Governor Christie and Jared Kushner. You know, we're not in a position to know, just listening to the press, to press reports, as to exactly what happened in the 2016 election, but there's enough smoke that warrants this investigation.

The investigation has to go on. And Director Mueller will determine at some point when the investigation is over and we'll see what the verdict is.

But until then, it's very difficult for any of us. And I think it would be unfair for me to say anything disparaging about Jared Kushner, because I simply don't know what he knew.

LEMON: Yes. Well, you're talking about the relationship between the governor and the Kushner family has been contentious, because as U.S. attorney in 2004, Christie prosecuted Kushner's father for tax evasion and other charges, served two years in prison, was found guilty.

But let's move on, Ambassador Burns, an emergency U.N. general assembly meeting is being called for tomorrow to vote on a resolution that criticizes the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Yesterday, U.N. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley tweeted this out in response. She says, at the U.N., "We're always asking to do more and give more. So when we make a decision, at the will of the American people about where to locate our embassy, we don't expect those we've helped to target us. On Thursday, there will be -- there will be a vote criticizing our choice. The U.S. will be taking names."

That's pretty strong. And earlier this afternoon, President Trump had this to say at a cabinet meeting. Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care. But this isn't like it used to be, where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars and nobody knows what they're doing.

The people that live here are great citizens that love this country. They're tired of this country being taken advantage of. And we're not going to be taken advantage of any longer.


LEMON: So, ambassador, Ambassador Haley and the president are threatening to withdraw billions of dollars from countries who vote against them. Is that appropriate?

BURNS: I don't think so. I must say, Don, I think this is extremely ill advised by the Trump administration, by the president and a Ambassador Haley. I'm kind of surprised that Ambassador Haley is doing this. I don't know if she's been ordered to do this, but it's not going toes be effective.

You know, our -- we're a great country. We're the leading, strongest country in the world. And our best presidents, our most effective presidents led with self-confidence and they led with supporting our allies.

[22:35:05] There are thousands of votes in the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council. You win some, you lose some. You can't -- you can't bully your best friends in the world, Germany, Britain, France, these are countries that have voted against us on the issue of Jerusalem.

And so I don't think it's going to work. I'm afraid that some countries will just double down in their vote against the United States because they have domestic politics too. They can't bow down publicly to threats from the President of the United States.

And let's remember, Don, what's at the heart of this, President Trump overturned nearly seven years of American foreign policy by getting ahead of the Israelis and Palestinians, proclaiming that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, no American president had done that. He's isolated on this issue, internationally, and now he's striking out. It's...


LEMON: So what's the fallout -- what fallout do we face here?

BURNS: Well, I think it casts us in the light of a bully, of threatening our friends in the world. Mark Landler wrote a really good piece in the New York Times today about this and he asked the question, so are we going to take the $1.3 billion that we give to Egypt for economic and military assistance every year away from Egypt?

Egypt is a very close friend of the United States. In fact, President Trump has very good relations with President Sisi, the Egyptian president. I don't think President Trump is going to make good on the threat. And if you threaten something and then don't even fulfill the threat, then you look weak. So I think this is an embarrassing spectacle of American diplomacy going in the wrong direction.

LEMON: Ambassador Burns, thank you for your time.

BURNS: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, President Trump's private lawyers set to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller and his team by the end of the week. What could the meeting mean for the investigation's timeline? Our legal experts will weigh in and talk about what each side may want.


LEMON: Senator Mark Warner says he made his dramatic speech today, warning against crossing a constitutional red line, because he is concerned that the president could move to fire special counsel Robert Mueller over the Christmas vacation.

Let's discuss this now with former White House independent counsel, Robert Way -- Ray, CNN political analyst, Laura Coates, and John Flannery, a former federal prosecutor for the southern district of New York.

Good evening to all of you.

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Good evening. LEMON: Robert, Senator Mark Warner, the vice chair of the Senate Intel committee took to the Senate floor this afternoon to draw a line in the sand. Here's what he said, in part.


MARK WARNER, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: The president said he is not considering removing special counsel Mueller. Congress must make clear to the president that firing the special counsel or interfering with his investigation by issuing pardons of essential witnesses is unacceptable and would have immediate and significant consequences.


LEMON: What do you think of the senator's remarks?

ROBERT RAY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don't think democrats or a democrat should be drawing lines in the sand. On the other hand, you know, Congress is a coordinated branch of government. I understand the sentiment.

I don't think the White House has any intention of issuing preemptive pardons or firing the special counsel. So, I mean, you know, I get what he's trying to say. But, frankly, it's not really -- it would be a story if a republican had that to say, not a democrat.

LEMON: The White House counsel, Ty Cobb, did respond to Warner. And here's what he said. Laura, this is for you.

He said, "If the media is going to continue to ask for responses to every absurd and baseless rumor, attention-seeker partisans will continue to spread them. For five months or more, the White House has persistently and emphatically stated that there is no consideration of firing the special counsel and the White House willingly affirms yet again, as it has every day this week there is no consideration being given to the termination of the special counsel."

Well, the media didn't call the press conference, a senator did. We're just reporting on it and asking the question. Do you think President Trump understands that what would happen -- what would happen if, indeed, he would fire Robert Mueller?

LAURA COATES, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: I certainly hope he does, but remember, it's very hard for the American public, and certainly, members of Congress, as well to take a lot -- have a lot of stock and weighed in what one person or what one member of the administration says when there's been inconsistency as to what actually happens in the long run, when the president feels different than perhaps his stage counsel.

But I think there is need to cross that red line in the sand to be drawn. Because the rumors are one thing. But if there is any intention by the president to either fire Mueller or to actually take action against Rod Rosenstein, who would be the more effective path to undermining the investigation. Remember, Robert Mueller has to report and get the advice and consent of someone like Rod Rosenstein throughout his investigation. And so, Rod Rosenstein, up to this date, has been particularly, I guess, you know, facilitating and helping out the investigation by allowing the grand jury to go forward, to allow the indictments to go forward and everything else.

So, he may be saying, I'm not going to fire Mueller, but that doesn't end the inquiry of whether he will actually undermine the investigation. Because he does have the option to fire Rod Rosenstein who really wields a lot of power in this investigation.

LEMON: Well, John, he did fire Comey and he praised Comey before he fired him.

FLANNERY: Yes. What he's doing is, it's very interesting. He says one thing, but his actions speak louder. I think in a way, Mark Warner was giving him the benefit of the doubt. Because plainly, this assault on Mueller's investigation is to soften him up to make possible firing.

And I don't think his intent has ever changed. If they would allow him to fire Mueller now, if they didn't pin him to the wall, he would be doing exactly that.

The attack on the Justice Department, the attack on the Hill, is all about discrediting and trying to dismiss or drive Mueller from office or so diminish his office that it would kill the investigation.

[22:45:08] And I think it's transparent. And that's why drawing the line he did was, in fact, being gracious. Because I think they're far passed it.

You may remember after Flynn was revealed as cooperating with the government, that's when this P.R. campaign started. They now know they're running for their lives. And they're going to pull out all the stops and the Republican Party, to my dismay, has decided to be in this death row with them, which is fine for them as a party, but it's not fine for the country that we should have this constitutional crisis, in which we have an obstruction of justice from the West Wing.

LEMON: Robert, you said that you don't think democrats should be doing any drawing of a red line, but is there anything, anything Warner and fellow democrats can do to make sure that the president doesn't fire Mueller?

RAY: Well, they can continue to talk about the fact that the person who's leading the investigation has the credibility to complete it. And that he should be given the space to do so.

And remember, you know, efforts to undermine the special counsel's investigation need to be distinguished, you know, in the political process from those efforts that might interfere with the criminal justice process.

LEMON: What do you mean by that? RAY: It's different. This has been precipitated by the fact that the

White House has raised and republicans have raised legitimate questions about potential bias within the Mueller investigation regarding an FBI agent and an FBI lawyer.

LEMON: But here's what I don't understand as I watch this. I don't get it as someone who is independent.

RAY: Sure.

LEMON: And you, so, -- doesn't every person have the right, regardless of who you work for, to have a political leaning, if you want? Isn't that part of being...


RAY: Unquestionably, and the test always is similar...


LEMON: So why are FBI agents different? Are you going to bring that into your job?

RAY: Well, the question is whether they did bring it into their job.

LEMON: But when he thought there may have brought it to their jobs and the questions about it, he fired them.

RAY: He got rid of them.

LEMON: So where's the bias, I don't understand?

RAY: And by and large, I think that's as far as it goes.

LEMON: Don't you think that's all a talking point and attacking -- let's just be honest.

RAY: Sure; But that's what I began with.


RAY: I mean, it's different now if you're talking about efforts to undermine the investigation where, you know, there's a real sense, not just in the political sense, but an effort actually to obstruct the investigation. And that's something the democrats can appropriately speak to. And frankly, the Congress, not just democrats, but republicans and democrats, have spoken to.

LEMON: All right.

RAY: The special counsel should be allowed space in order to complete the investigation. Not an unlimited amount of space, but space.

LEMON: You're going to get more time.

FLANNERY: Sure. LEMON: We're coming back after the break. Hold your horses and those thoughts, everyone. We'll be right back.


LEMON: Donald Trump, Jr. suggesting that there is a conspiracy within the highest levels of government to destroy his father's presidency.

Back with me now my legal experts.

Laura, let's post this question to you. Sources have told CNN that President Trump's legal team is expected to meet with Robert Mueller as soon as this week. What's the purpose of that meeting, a meeting like that and what do you think might come out of it?

COATES: Well, the purpose of course is that Robert Mueller his investigation is trying to be comprehensive and thorough and trying to understand if there's any person among the team in the inner circle or somebody who is an advisory capacity who may have had influence over any discussions with Russia or any impact on their investigation to collusion.

What's actually going to come of it of course, I'm sure will be the hope of the Trump team they will be full exoneration after those meetings are concluded. Bur remember, this simply a step in the process and no one should expect this to come to a swift conclusion once this meeting takes place.

It's simply a matter of the special counsel's office trying to be thorough, trying to look under every single stone and go under rabbit or go through rabbit holes. This may be one of them. It may not be, but we'll have to wait and see.

LEMON: John, comments Donald Junior -- Don Junior made yesterday to a group of conservative college students really caused some concern. I want you to take a listen and then we'll discuss.



DONALD TRUMP, JR., DONALD TRUMP'S SON: My father talked about a rigged system throughout the campaign and people, what do you talking about, but it is, and you're seeing it, there he is and there are people at the highest levels of government that don't want to let America be America. They don't want to let the little guy have a voice.


LEMON: What do you make of Don Jr.'s claim that there are people in the government who don't want to let America be a America. Well, he said, that dumb, but it should be who don't want America to be America.

FLANNERY: Well, you know... (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Does it sound like a conspiracy theory to you?

FLANNERY: Well, it sounds like insanity to me. It sounds like something (Inaudible) would say to another administration. Every Americans should be concerned about the question whether Trump and his cronies made some corrupt bargain or not with the Russians, or what it means to us.

And to be this directing the nation's attention to what they were doing here and how they got elected is a disservice to the country and to talk about phony conspiracies.

The real conspiracy is to ask, why were all the meetings with the Russians and what were all the trades made, and why do we have people leave the White House applying for government position and being removed like McFarland and Clovis because of the meetings that they never discussed that they had with the Russians and the communications they about the Russians.

So I don't think he can be taken seriously. But in almost every stage of this investigation he said something that it would be helpful. And I think that that's so transparently unreal of what he said about the secret states and those kinds of conspiracies.

Then maybe people will tweak on to the fact that this is a massive obstruction of justice. And one of the worst examples of it I think is the chairman of the judiciary committee, Bob Goodlatte, asking Sessions who himself is personally involved in this investigation who was removed from it to begin the distracting investigation...


LEMON: Trey Gowdy too with him. Trey Gowdy and Bob Goodlatte both...



FLANNERY: Yes. Exactly, right, the subcommittee chair.


FLANNERY: So I think that's a great example of a miscarriage of justice by the judiciary committee which I once served, Don as a special counsel to the committee and some similar matters.

And so I think that this is -- this is an outrage. And that's why I think we have Mark Warner on the floor of the Senate complaining about it.

[22:55:00] That we're - we have an unstable government right now because of this obstruction campaign.

LEMON: I want to -- let me get Robert in here before we ran out of time. You know General Hayden, right?

RAY: Right.

LEMON: I had him on last night. He's the former director of CIA and NSA and he -- here's what he had to say and then we'll talk about it.


MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA & NSA DIRECTOR: What it suggests to me is that in their heart of hearts they don't think this investigation is going to a happy place, at least not a happy place from their point of view.

And Don, I'm not predicting criminal indictments about collusion or anything like that. But I do think as the investigation goes on we learn more and more about the synchronization of activities of the Trump campaign including by the president's son with WikiLeaks and the action of the Russian federation.


LEMON: So he was responding to my question about Don Junior, very similar question about his comments.

RAY: Right.

LEMON: Do you agree with him that Trumps are starting to feel the heat and maybe that's why they...


RAY: Well, respectfully I don't. I mean, I understand what he's saying, I also don't think there's a dark state any more than I think there's a shooter on the Grassy Knoll.

LEMON: The deep state.

RAY: Whatever, you know, dark state, deep state, a secret state.

LEMON: Can you give me a wide shot. Thank you so much. When I hear that it's just -- it's just -- why did people come up with this?

RAY: Because they love to talk about conspiracies. Well what we have here is a serious investigation and we have the country's better interest at heart.

And to answer your initial question what's going on in this meeting? I assume the White House wants to know where is the investigation going in 2018. I think it was an unrealistic hope by the White House that this investigation would end in 2017, that's not going to happen.


RAY: The question is now as I understand Ty Cobb to say that all, you know, persons that have been requested from special counsel Mueller's investigation of the White House have been interviewed. LEMON: Yes.

RAY: You know, where are we going. Is there another shoe to drop here, is there more or are we going to wrap up the collusion investigation with hello, no proof of collusion sufficient to warrant finding that criminal law has been violated.

LEMON: But there's also -- everyone keeps saying collusion. There's more than collusion. The scope of the investigation goes beyond collusion but I'm glad you said what you said about the deep state because I watch the Trump channel all the time and that's all they talk about.

RAY: Well, but you know, the collusion part is...


LEMON: I got to...

RAY: ... everybody wants to talk about it. But the question is, were crimes committed, that's Mueller's only -- that's Mueller's only focus and that's where the investigation is going.

LEMON: We got to go. They're yelling at me.

RAY: Got it.

LEMON: Not really. They're just telling me we got to go. Thank you, all. I appreciate it.

COATES: Thank you.

FLANNERY: Thank you.

LEMON: We'll be right back.