Return to Transcripts main page


The End is Near for Mueller's Report; Interview with Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN); All Eyes and Ears on Michael Cohen; Michael Cohen to Testify Publicly Before House Oversight Committee; Alabama Woman Who Joined ISIS is Begging to Come Home. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired February 20, 2019 - 23:00   ET




Robert Mueller's Russia investigation is nearing its end, nearly two years after it began.

Sources telling CNN that Attorney General William Barr is preparing to make that announcement as early next week and to receive a report on the special counsel's findings. Sources are also saying the attorney general plans to submit a summary of Mueller's confidential report to Congress soon after the investigation ends.

But exactly what information he'll send to Capitol Hill is unclear. In his confirmation hearings, Bill Barr testified he would be as transparent as possible with Congress and the American public, but in his words, consistent with the rules and the law.

I want to get right to it now. Shimon Prokupecz is here and he joins us with more.

So, good evening to you, Shimon. The Mueller report may be delivered as early as next week. You have been saying that it's going to wrap up soon. What do we know about the timing and what might we or might not we see?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. I think it's a very good point you make there, Don, that the current Attorney General, William Barr has made it a point to say that he is going to stick to the regulations from the Department of Justice.

They do not want to be in a similar position that we found ourselves during the period after James Comey came out and released all this information about the Hillary Clinton investigation.

For right now, all we know is sometime next week, perhaps as soon as Monday, we're going to get word that the special counsel has finished their work, has ended their part of this investigation, and has handed over a report to the Department of Justice. And then William Barr and his team will get to work and try and figure out exactly what they can release to members of Congress, which is then expected to be released to the public. It could be only a few pages, it could be two pages. We don't

ultimately know what the Department of Justice is planning to do. We have some idea that they want to stick to these regulations. We don't know how long or how big the report is that the Mueller team is going to hand over to the Department of Justice, but it's expected to contain a lot of investigative detail, information you don't normally make public in the course of an investigation.

People who were in charge, people who were investigated, people who may not have been investigated. All of that is expected to be in the report and then William Barr has to decide which parts of it does he hand over to Congress which then gets handed over to the public.

It's a lot of this is up in the air, and it could be a few weeks before we see the summary from the attorney general hand it over to members of Congress.

LEMON: What's the president saying?

PROKUPECZ: So, the president sort of had a measured tone to this today. Our Kaitlan Collins at the White House today asked him about the report, and here's what he said.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Should the Mueller report be released while you're abroad next week?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That will be totally up to the new attorney general. He's a tremendous man, a tremendous person who really respects this country and respects the Justice Department. So that will be totally up to him, the new attorney -- the new attorney general, yes.


TRUMP: Now, I guess from what I understand, that will be totally up to the attorney general, OK?


PROKUPECZ: And you know, he was very complimentary of his attorney general. So, I think he has faith in this. I think the White House has some idea of this. They haven't been told that anything is coming. But I think they have some idea of the fact that this report was supposed to come in the next few days, and we'll see what gets out there.

LEMON: So, you know, of course, the Mueller investigation, Shimon, is just one of the many investigations going on. Perfect example, Michael Cohen now scheduled to testify publicly before the House oversight in just seven days. What do you think we're going to learn there?

PROKUPECZ: So, he is going to finally, he says, and the committee is saying, the oversight committee says he's coming. Next week it's going to be a busy week for us here in Washington, D.C. You know, you're going to have the Mueller report, you have the Mueller investigation ending, and then Michael Cohen is going to kind of go on a tour here on the House inside Congress.

He's supposed to appear publicly before the House Oversight Committee on February 27th, and it's expected, according to the committee, that he's going to talk about a lot about the Trump Organization, the Trump Foundation, Trump's business practices, Trump's taxes, perhaps, about his habit of paying taxes or not paying taxes.

[23:04:59] They basically gave us a whole list of things that he has been cleared to testify about. They asked the Department of Justice, the committee went to the Department of Justice and said, what kind of questions can we ask him?

What are you OK with us asking him? And they gave them a list and it really is all about the money, there are some campaign questions, but it looks like the oversight committee will be looking more at Trump's business practices and what Michael Cohen, as his former personal attorney, knows.

LEMON: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you. I appreciate that. I want to bring in now a Congressman Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat who is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much.

You know, we are in the final days of the investigation it looks like.


REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: You're welcome, Don,

LEMON: What's the minimum you will accept from Bill Barr when it comes to a summary or report on this investigation?

COHEN: We are going to have to see most of what Mr. Mueller has come up with. The American public has paid for the special counsel's work and for the report, and the American public deserves to see the product of what they paid for.

The American public deserves to know whether or not their president is a crook, as Richard Nixon said he wasn't and he was. And the American public needs to see it for themselves, and certainly the representatives that they have in Washington in Congress need to see the full report subject to redactions to save people from -- who are maybe in intelligence work and intelligence procedures, to keep those closed.

But other than those redactions on intelligence methods and of intelligence work, the American public and the Congress need to see it all.

LEMON: So as close to a full report, if not a full report, as possible, correct?

COHEN: Indeed. And I don't think we're going to see it. I think Trump realized he made a mistake with Jeff Sessions, he realized he made a mistake with the New York Southern District U.S. attorney who also had a conflict and recused himself from the investigation, and I think he found somebody that he could -- that he would know and know on the front end that would take care of him.

And I think that's what he's got, and unless I'm wrong and bill Barr wants to continue to have a good reputation, I think Bill Barr is President Trump's man and his reputation is going to be sullied because I think he's going to try to stymie the American public and the Congress from knowing what's in that report.

LEMON: So, let me ask you then, Representative. Could Congress also subpoena Mueller to testify about his report?

COHEN: We can subpoena Mueller, we can subpoena the entire report, and to have it brought in, and we'll do that. I feel confident. I have no question that Chairman Nadler is going to get to the bottom of this, and his committee will back him strongly.

We got a very strong committee that would like to get to the bottom of it, and we're not going to allow for justice to be stymied and clotured and covered up by trump's attorney general.

LEMON: OK. So, during his hearing that Bill Barr -- I just want to play something that we heard from Bill Barr at his confirmation hearing gives us a clue as to what he will and won't see, what we will and won't see. Here it is.


WILLIAM BARR, THEN-U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: If you're going to indict someone, you don't stand up there and unload negative information about the person. That's not the way the Justice Department does business.


LEMON: So, what he's saying is he doesn't want to pull a Comey, right? Democrats were up in arms when James Comey came out to say that, all the inappropriate things about Hillary Clinton that she did and yet chose not to indict her. You don't want a repeat of that, do you?

COHEN: Well, I do want a -- not a repeat, but I do want the information to come out. Hillary Clinton was involved in a presidential election. And the reasons why you wouldn't want to do that because you wouldn't want to give the advantage to Hillary Clinton's opponents.

And Jim Comey, unfortunately, did that both in the summer and then 10 days before the election. The worst part was 10 days, two weeks before the election. But in the summer, it wasn't good, either. He went totally beyond his authority.

But this is a president of the United States whose election is two years away. If he is committed to offenses that would and engaged in conduct that Congress would feel as high crimes and misdemeanors and worthy of impeachment, the Congress needs to see it. The fact is the Justice Department has a policy that says you can't

indict a president. The president said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and nobody would care.

And apparently, some people in the Justice Department and maybe Bill Barr is one of them that thinks that policy, of course, we know shooting someone on Fifth Avenue is a state crime, but that that policy is good and that the president can't be indicted.

Well, if you can't indict the president but he commits high crimes and misdemeanors, the founding father said the remedy for that was impeachment, the remedy for actions that might not be criminal per se but are injurious to the government functioning in the way it's supposed to with an executive who is doing his job on behalf of the American people is impeachment.

And if you have information that would lead a reasonable person to think that the president should be impeached, Bill Barr has a duty to turn that over to Congress.

[23:10:04] LEMON: Let's talk about Michael Cohen. I want to ask you about that. Finally, he's going to testify before Congress --


COHEN: No relation, no relation.

LEMON: Yes. I get your point. But he's going to testify before Congress next week, the House Oversight Committee, to be specific.

Speaker Pelosi tweeted this. Here's what she said. "Michael Cohen will come before the House oversight and House intel committees next week. Congress has an independent duty under the Constitution to conduct oversight of the executive branch and any efforts to intimidate family members or pressure witnesses will not be tolerated."

That is a pretty strong message from the speaker tonight. What do you say to that?

COHEN: Nancy Pelosi is a strong speaker and she's right. The President of the United States nor anyone else should be intimidating people from testifying before Congress. And that's what President Trump tried to do, to intimidate Michael Cohen by talking about his father-in-law and suggesting that there's something to be known and then trying to suggest that if possible, his Justice Department could go after him.

That's not the way the Justice Department is supposed to operate. And I didn't get his bizarre comment today, I guess, referring to McCabe as being like J. Edgar Hoover. I mean, J. Edgar Hoover did a lot of things I didn't like, and J. Edgar Hoover, I didn't think, represented America as it has been since Jim Crow.

He had some intolerant attitude towards African-Americans and gay people, but J. Edgar Hoover for those reasons should be questioned, but not for his work in much of the ways he went after trying to root out corruption and crime in our country, which is what Andrew McCabe did. I don't know where Trump is coming from.

LEMON: Congressman Cohen, thank you for your time.

COHEN: You're very welcome, and I'm happy everything came out good with the Baltimore FBI that saved us from another tragedy, and Phillip Mudd is right. There are a lot of wackos out there and all of us need to be concerned.

LEMON: Congressman Steve Cohen, we appreciate it.

The end of the Mueller investigation definitely doesn't mean the end of legal trouble for the president. We're going to talk about that next.


LEMON: So, there is a major development in the Russia investigation to tell you about. Sources are telling CNN that the Attorney General William Barr is preparing to announce as early as next week that the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is complete.

Now at the time Mueller is required to submit a confidential report to the A.G.

So, I want to talk about this now. Elie Honig is here. Susan Glasser, Max Boot. Max is the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right."

Good evening. Let's get right into it.

After a year and nine months Robert Mueller's special counsel appointment is about to finished as soon as next week. How important will these finding be, Mr. Boot?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, obviously, they're going to be hugely important, Don. The question is how much are the findings are we going to find out? I mean, this is, I think this is the mystery that all of America has been waiting almost two years to find out, which is, you know, what did the president know and when did he know it, what did he do wrong, if anything, what can be proven?

I mean, these are monumental questions. This will determine in many ways, I think, the fate of the Trump presidency but only if we get the full story. And I think that's the big mystery. You know, we don't know how much of it is going to be released by Attorney General Barr, and he has a lot of discretion under the regulations to release very little of it, and I hope that we would press everybody -- the entire country would press him to release as much as possible because I think we need to have that information.

And it goes well beyond the question of who Mueller has decided to charge or not charge. There are basic questions here about the integrity of our political process that need and we desperately need answers to those.

LEMON: Elie, were you listening to Congressman Cohen who was on earlier?


LEMON: I mean, lawmakers are demanding that, you know, all of this report or most of it be made public, right? And you heard what the attorney general said during the hearing. He also he sided the DOJ practice of saying little or nothing about the conduct that it doesn't lead to criminal charges. What happens if William Barr authorizes little or nothing of this report to be made public?

HONIG: You're going to see the House Democrats go crazy. Right? You are going to see them take out their subpoena power. You are going to see them do everything that they can. Adam Schiff has already said that he will do everything possible to get their hands on that report.

I do think, a couple of things that I think are important here. Transparency is in everybody's interest. Everybody should want this report to come out as fully as possible. Does national security and classified information need to be redacted out? Sure.

But if we get into further game playing, taking out what I think are weak claims of executive privileged information, if we start taking out grand jury materials, and there are ways that you can disclose that, we're going to have an incomplete report and nobody is going to be satisfied.

No matter what side of the aisle you're on, no matter what your view is, everybody should want to see all the facts.

The other thing that jumped out of me is I hope William Barr does not get engaged in the circular reasoning as follows. DOJ policy, currently as it stands, prohibits indict -- or advises against indicting a sitting president, and we also have this policy that we don't put out derogatory information about people who aren't to be indicted.

By that logic, it sort of circular and you can't say anything about the president. I think this report needs to be straight on, factual, whether it's good information or bad information whoever it may help or hurt, but we all need to see it.

LEMON: So, I'm not sure how to ask this. Because Susan, I'm wondering if the report doesn't show, if it shows no criminal conduct. But there have been so many indictments and so much that has come out of the Mueller investigation already.

How much political damage -- maybe if there's no smoking gun or anything that directly ties the president to it, how much political damage could be done here?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, first of all, as to the question of what standard is applicable to a Justice Department investigation of the president, we spend a lot of time on this issue of whether or not Congress -- sorry -- whether the Justice Department can indict a sitting president. [23:20:06] The recommendation is no. But remember, that Congress'

responsibility is to determine whether high crimes and misdemeanors have been undertaken by the president.

That is a responsibility that lies only with Congress, and in that sense, any material that the Mueller investigation has gathered that might be relevant to that constitutional duty of Congress, that's a different standard it seems to me, it seems potentially, then that which would go into a report purely about whether or not to indict somebody.

And so, you know, again, even the standards are quite murky here, and I think we do tend to evaluate and to talk about this before it comes in a speculative way, truly from the point of view of what the legal standards are for indictment.

So, you know, Congress can justifiably say that all of this investigation, more or less, is material to the question of whether the House of Representatives should consider beginning impeachment proceedings against the president.

These are very serious allegations, and so they could make a strong argument whether by having to subpoena it or not that all of the information in the Mueller investigation is relevant to them.

And, you know, I think there is going to be a huge argument if President Trump and his administration decides to withhold any of this report. I think you're already seeing that warm are back here.

But remember, we're sort of, you know, punching blind. We don't really know what this means. It's a report that says the Justice Department is preparing to receive the end of the investigation. But what does that really mean? Is it going to come in one giant thunder clap from mountain lower?

LEMON: Maybe it's the beginning of the end, and the end, you know, who knows. Sometimes the last act --


GLASSER: The end of the beginning of the end.

LEMON: Yes. The last act is the longest. You know, Elie, you know that the former FBI director has been out there, Andrew McCabe, talking. He was on MSNBC earlier giving more insight to the reasons that the president fired James Comey. Listen to this.


ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: A rambling four-plus pages, it goes through all the different reasons why he is firing the director of the FBI. I'm not going to go through all of those with you, but I will tell you that one of them, is he claims he wants to fire the FBI direct director because of his failure to fire me. And that was a letter written long before the I.G. had concluded their

investigation in drawing their, I believe false conclusions in that report that I'm still having to deal with.


LEMON: So, we believe Mueller has this letter. Is that significant?

HONIG: Yes, it could be. I mean, we've gotten such an interesting look inside the inner workings of the FBI during this crucial period in early 2017 when All of -- when Comey was fired and when all of these things happened.

There is a couple of really important things that I think that come out of that. The most important one is that the FBI set off the obstruction of justice investigation and the counterintelligence investigation which served as a sort of safety release just in case everything got tanked by Trump.

But what McCabe is doing there that I do sort of object to, is he's doing a little bit of the rigged witch hunt thing in reverse. He's now trying to make an argument that the OIG, the Office of the Inspector General was out to get me for political reasons.

The Inspector General, Michael Horowitz was appointed by Barack Obama, and by all accounts, people who worked in DOJ, he's a straight shooter. And to go on the offensive against the person who put out a report concluding that McCabe lacked candor, I don't approve of that tactic.

LEMON: Yes. Yes. OK. Everyone, stay with me. We have a lot to talk about. The president's former fixer getting ready to testify publicly in front of Congress. And he says he's, quote, "looking forward to it." What we can expect, next.


LEMON: So, Trump's former attorney set to testify publicly in front of the House Oversight Committee next Wednesday.

Back with me, Elie Honig, Susan Glasser, and Max Boot. Wow. It's always something. Elie, I'm going to come to you. The chairman of the House Oversight Committee released a memo earlier tonight about the focus of Michael Cohen's schedule of public testimony. The former attorney will discuss his 10 years of working for President Trump and explain why he has implicated the president in federal crimes. It's going to come out of this.

HONIG: Focus is maybe a generous term. That list is really broad. It includes any false statement by the president, his financial entanglements. We're going to see the Congress and the American public go through what prosecutors go through the first time you sit down with a cooperating witness.

On the one hand, there's the thrill of you have someone who can take you inside these closed rooms and tell you what was happening behind closed doors. It's open game. What were your private conversations with the president? What was he involved in?

That's fascinating and sort of exhilarating. On the other hand, I think people are going to be struggling with the credibility question, which also comes into play whenever you have a cooperating witness like Michael Cohen.

Do I trust this guy? Is he credible? Is he backed up? What are his motivations now? And Michael Cohen has a lot of baggage. He just pled guilty to a whole bunch of crimes of dishonesty. He's playing different games to try to minimize I think his own potential sentence. So, it will be a very interesting public test of a very high-profile cooperating witness.

LEMON: All things though, well, not all of them, but most of the things he's accused of lying of, lying about were for were to help the president.

HONIG: Yes, you bet.

LEMON: And now he's saying the opposite.

HONIG: Well, again, that's always the conundrum you have with any cooperating witness. They're with the guy until they're against him, so you have to line it up what makes more -- what makes the most sense given all the external evidence.

LEMON: Is this why Trump has been so upset about? This seems more than anybody else.

HONIG: This one has got to scare him. Right? I mean, he is sitting there with Cohen for a decade. They've doing their dirty work together. He's got to be sitting there that Trump at night going, gosh --


LEMON: Alleged, Elie, well, I guess you can because he did lie about the --


HONIG: Yes, the Moscow project and the hush money payments.


HONIG: And Trump has got to be thinking back through every conversation he had with Cohen. Now it's all going to come out.

LEMON: Yes. And a lot of it it's probably on tape or there is some sort of --

HONIG: Right.

LEMON: -- note keeping about it.

[23:29:57] Max, two top Republicans are expressing concerns. They say that the hearings would be, and this is a quote, "unproductive and chaotic." Do you think those are valid concerns?

BOOT: Well, it's certainly possible, but I think that Congress has a responsibility to get to the bottom of this. I think what the Republicans are really objecting to is the fact that Congress is no longer running interference for Donald Trump, or at least the House of Representatives is no longer running interference for Donald Trump, which was what happened in the last couple years.

I think the conduct of Republicans when they are in the majority in the House and in the Senate was disgraceful because they ignored their duty to the constitution, their duty to their constituents, and they really saw themselves as being had names (ph) of Donald Trump.

In fact, you had one of the Republicans, Matt Gaetz of Florida, who basically admitted that this week in The New York Times story, where he was saying that the reason why they were attacking the Justice Department was to help Donald Trump and his defense. I mean, that is not what members of Congress should be doing. That is really a violation of their oath of office. I mean, they were de facto helping to obstruct justice on behalf of Donald Trump.

Now, obviously, the House has a very different outlook. They are trying to get to the bottom of this. It is going to be very difficult. There is certainly the possibility for a circus-like atmosphere when Michael Cohen testifies. I mean, there are other dangers as well. The fact that, you know, he has to be careful about what he says so it doesn't endanger prosecution that could involve the president, but I think it is absolutely right to get the information out there.

The final point I would make is that it will be interesting to see the timing because this is actually going to occur at the same time that Donald Trump is meeting with Kim Jong-un, so he is not going to appreciate having some of his thunder stolen by his former consigliere.

LEMON: Susan, you know, in a statement released today, Chairman Elijah Cummings said, "Congress has an obligation under the constitution to conduct independent and robust oversight of the executive branch, and this hearing is one step in the process."

Republicans on the committee, Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, said that they want to investigate Cohen's personal life and financial dealings with his father-in-law. What? Are you concerned that this is going to turn into a partisan circus?

GLASSER: Well, you know, that statement from the two Republican congressmen, of course, echoes very much the threats and tweets that President Trump himself has issued against Cohen since he became a cooperating witness against President Trump.

Essentially the president of the United States has used language echoing that of a mob boss and suggesting he has become a rat who has turned against him, raising the possibility of some unspecified criminal acts that should be investigated by Cohen's father. That seems to be what the two Republican congressmen are doing, picking up and amplifying the president's theme (ph). This goes to Max's point about, you know, what is the role that these Republican members of Congress see themselves in? It seems at times that they view themselves really as President Trump's defenders and his wing men, an arm of the investigation, if you will.

But, you know, the point about this being one part of the process in Chairman Cummings's statement, I think, also refers to the fact that they won't be asking about some important dealings involving Russia, that Michael Cohen is still presumably testifying to not only with the Mueller prosecutors but also with in closed door hearings he's agreed to participate in with the House and Senate Intelligence Committee.

So, there is a public and for now a private aspect to Cohen's upcoming testimony.

LEMON: I wonder if these lawmakers, if they could go into the future --


LEMON: -- look at a history book --

GLASSER: Couldn't we all?

LEMON: No, into the future, look at a history book and see what history says about them. If they could come back now, how different that would be. I wouldn't want to be these guys who are not standing up against the president.

HONIG: Michael Cohen wants to be the next John Dean. We'll see.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you all. I appreciate your time. Robert Mueller's report could come out as early as next week, but should the president be more worried about what the SDNY is looking into?


LEMON: OK, so we have been talking about President Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, appearing before the House Oversight Committee next week.

Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings says Cohen will be testifying about Trump's "debts and payments relating to efforts to influence the 2016 election, also his compliance with financial disclosure requirements, campaign finance laws and tax laws, and Trump's business practices."


LEMON: Sorry. I would be scared if I was the president, too. Jennifer Rodgers is here, also Michael D'Antonio, the author of "The Truth About Trump." This is exactly what the president does not want, the last thing he needs. That's why he has been so apoplectic about Michael Cohen.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is the trap of loyalty. So you got someone who has demanded loyalty from everyone personal loyalty, not loyalty to the truth or to some higher standard. So, when people get in a jam, what did they opt for? If you were able to buy them, then someone else is able to buy them, too.

In this case, one sketchy character purchased loyalty of another sketchy character and everybody is in trouble. This is what happens. It happens in the mafia. It happens in government. It happens whenever you put yourself above the law.

LEMON: Here is the thing, too, OK? So, he's concerned about Michael Cohen's credibility. But if Michael Cohen gives specific examples, isn't the evidence there?

[23:40:03] JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, yeah. I mean, the first thing that --

LEMON: So, how would he not be credible? If he says this happened on this day and we did that and blah, blah, blah, and then you go back and look at the record and it indeed happened, how is that not credible then?

RODGERS: Right, and that's exactly what prosecutors do. They don't just take the person's word for it. They go back and they get other corroborating evidence, right? Other people who tell them the same thing, records, e-mails, texts, recordings. We know that Cohen recorded Trump. So, there are all sorts of things that can corroborate.

That's why they brought the case, the campaign finance case in the first place. They got that sort of evidence against Cohen. And now they will use Cohen to add evidence, I think, against other people. We're going to have to wait and see whether they charge.

LEMON: This is going to be explosive.

D'ANTONIO: And this is the thing that the president was complaining about, that they broke into his office. Well, they didn't break into his office. They locked up the door --

LEMON: Michael Cohen said they were very professional.

D'ANTONIO: They were very professional. But they took out probably millions of data points. If you think of all the data that was processed by that office and, you know, they have very sophisticated means for analysing it, they have more than Michael Cohen's word for it.

LEMON: Yeah. Let's talk about -- I'm going to watch this one. Let's talk about it and not just the highlights on line. Let's talk about the SDNY, that investigation there. News from "The New York Times" that the president wanted to put an ally in charge of the investigation. What are the ramifications there?

RODGERS: Well, it's another potential obstruction, really, right? So here's the president saying this endangers me, this prosecution investigation endangers me, I want someone in charge of it who will be loyal to me, again, as Michael was talking about. And so he wanted his appointed U.S. attorney, Geoff Berman, who had recused himself from that series of investigations. It was being run by the deputy U.S. attorney, Robert Khuzami. He wanted Berman back in charge.

And supposedly, according to the reporting, Whitaker reminded him that couldn't happen because of the recusal, but Trump doesn't pay attention to the ethics rules apparently, so that's what he was looking for.

LEMON: So -- but isn't the obstruction happening in plain sight?

D'ANTONIO: Well, this is --

LEMON: Like when you're tweeting out about someone, well, maybe you should look into his father-in-law, whatever. Hello!

D'ANTONIO: Correct. This is what the president has done his whole life. He dares you to recognize what he's actually doing. When -- Oprah said people tell you who they are. The president has told us who he is since he arrived on the scene in New York in the 1970s and declared I can buy politicians. He was buying politicians. And in this case, he wants to buy his way out of this prosecution.

LEMON: The president actually tried to have Mueller fired but backed off when his White House counsel threatened to quit. In the face of questions about Trump Tower meeting with Russians, he pushed the story about adoptions. What does the pattern of manipulation tell you and does it meet the standard of obstruction, Jennifer?

RODGERS: I think it does. You know, we will have to wait and see what we're allowed to see with the Mueller report when it comes out. But there is a pattern here. Those things that you mentioned, the attempt to fire Muller, of course the actual firing of Jim Comey is the biggest item there, and even this latest thing with trying to make sure that someone that he believes is loyal to him is in charge of the spiraling SDNY investigations.

These are all points where you saying, you know, the main thing you have to prove in an obstruction investigation is the intent, the corrupt intent. All of this information goes to the intent. There is really not much question here that prosecutors could prove if they were permitted to charge the president that he had the corrupt intent to interfere with these investigations.

LEMON: You know, Michael, Jennifer mentioned a key word there which is loyalty, because he has been obsessed with people being loyal to him. He couldn't get that from -- Whitaker was loyal but he couldn't get out of Whitaker what he wanted, right?

D'ANTONIO: Correct.

LEMON: And then he -- you remember the whole thing about Comey and Comey wouldn't do what he said as well. He's been obsessed with loyalty. Is that part of -- couldn't say his downfall, but part of, you know, where he's going wrong in all of this?

D'ANTONIO: This is the profound mistake that he makes. He assumes that everyone is corrupt as he is and that everyone is corruptible. But we are discovering that there are a lot of people, many of whom occupied what the president would say the deep state, who actually are loyal to the United States of America. They are loyal to the constitution above the personality of the president.

LEMON: Yeah. We know that Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization, he is cooperating. This is what Trump associates had said about him. Let's play this quickly and we will get response.



[23:45:00] And in terms of the money trail, Donald can be hurt, I believe, a great deal by Allen Weisselberg.

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: He knows every single financial transaction.

BARBARA RES, FORMER EXECUTIVE, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I do believe that he got more and more involved as time went on. Donald trusted him. He was almost a family member.


LEMON: How much damage could this do? Quickly, please. Weisselberg knows where all the Trump Organization bodies are buried.

D'ANTONIO: This is a huge problem for the president because he was there as Donald came into the organization. He knew Fred Trump intimately. He knew all the minds that Fred Trump laid in this organization. There are dangers everywhere. I think that this is a serious issue.

LEMON: And the SDNY, he can't shut down.


LEMON: Yeah. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

RODGERS: Thanks.

LEMON: At 19, a young woman traveled from Alabama to Syria to join ISIS. She even married fighter loyal to the cause. Now she says it was a big mistake and wants to come home. We'll discuss.


LEMON: Nearly five years ago, a 20-year-old Alabama college student left home to join ISIS in Syria. Now, Hoda Muthana is expressing deep remorse and wants to return home with her 18-month-old son, Adam. But Muthana, married three times and widowed twice, faces an uphill battle. Here to discuss, retired FBI supervisor, special agent James Gagliano, also Mubin Shaikh, the author of "Undercover Jihadi," a deradicalized Taliban and Al Qaeda supporter. Thank you so much for joining us, gentlemen.

So Mubin, President Trump tweeted this today. He says, 'I have instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the country.' But you disagree with that decision. Why?

MUBIN SHAIKH, AUTHOR, FORMER JIHADI: Well, I like to think of it from the legal standpoint, of course, you know. The husbands were dealt with by hell fires, but we can't deal with everyone the same way. There are legal principles that we do need to abide by, and I will let the U.S. government figure out what the legal status is.

I understand there are some questions regarding her citizenship. Her lawyer, Hassan Shilby, was adamant that she, Hoda Muthana, was born in the U.S. Indeed, she had a U.S. passport when she went in 2014, that she, unfortunately, did also end up showing on Twitter, saying that we're going to burn it. It was actually joined with a Canadian passport, a British and an Australian ISIS female member, declaring that they were going to burn their passports.

So, I'll let the U.S. government figure out what the legalities of it are, but if she is a citizen, repatriation is really the only legal option.

LEMON: OK. Mr. Gagliano, let's bring you in here, because Muthana said she is willing to face the legal consequences. This is what she told The Guardian. She is now 24 years old. This is what she told The Guardian.


HODA MUTHANA, AMERICAN WOMAN WHO JOINED ISIS (voice-over): I thought I was doing things correctly for -- for the sake of God. And when I came here, and I saw everything with my own eyes, I realized that I've made a big mistake. And I know I've ruined my future and my son's future, and I deeply, deeply regret it.

I've been planning -- literally planning to get out for months. I got caught twice by ISIS and I was so scared I broke my phone. From what I heard, if they were to read my messages, I would've been killed.


LEMON: Does she pose a danger to the country, James? Should she be allowed to return?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, RETIRED FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: I mean, some of the rhetoric, the heated rhetoric, the things that she posted on Twitter, the propaganda that she supported ISIS, ISIS is a proto-state, a quasi-state, and it is pledged to destruction of the west. Don, here is the thing. If we unpack the facts on this, the only way you can strip somebody of legal citizenship here is if they are convicted and guilty of treason.

You can't strip them of citizenship if they pledge to a terrorist organization or even provide material support as she did. Now, I have personal feelings about that, but those are the facts. The question is going to be whether or not she's a U.S. citizen. Her father was a Yemeni diplomat.

If he was a Yemeni diplomat when she was born in 1994 in New Jersey, she could become a permanent resident, but she would not have birth right citizenship. If that diplomatic status lapsed, then, just like birth right citizenship, she would be a U.S. citizen and those rights would attach.

LEMON: Mubin, listen, let me ask you this. I want to know if she might be able to help the U.S. or, you know, help the folks who are fighting terror in some sense, might she be an asset in that way, or is she -- is it too dangerous of a proposition to let her back in because in 2015, she encouraged attack in the U.S., tweeting this "go on drive-bys and spill all of their blood or rent a big truck and drive all over them." What do you think?

SHAIKH: Well, I think that was then and this is now. We're dealing with -- you know, look at these individuals on a spectrum, right? On the far end, more serious, you would have your male combatants, right? These are people that are a lot more dangerous, especially those who are older when they went.

There are a lot of mitigating factors, I would say, when I look at, when I do a risk assessment of these individuals. A person who left when they were very young, they can make the argument that they were very vulnerable, but like anybody, they can be flipped. Individuals have gone through that process. I don't know if you remember --

LEMON: So you think she's sincere, right? You think she is sincere, and do you think she can be an asset to U.S. Intelligence?

SHAIKH: I do believe she can, absolutely. She will have to go through a lengthy debriefing process.

[23:55:02] And if we are able to actually do it and employ her for, you know, counter messaging purposes, I think we have an experiment that we can engage in with her.

LEMON: OK, not to cut you off, but quickly, because we're running out of time, I think this is very important. You were radicalized at the age of 19 to become an Al Qaeda supporter. So, can you help us understand how this 20-year-old, 24-year-old college student, 20 years old, leaves home to join ISIS and then four years later says, oh, my god, it was a terrible mistake?

SHAIKH: Look, my story is kind of dumb. I had a house party when I was a teenager. I got caught by an ultraconservative family. I felt terrible shame and guilt. I went off and became an extremist, became radicalized because of my desire to fit into society and not really knowing which world I should have my feet in. The story that we heard from her was similar, right? Her parents were really tough on her, and she took a similar path. Of course, not everyone does that, but some people do.

LEMON: OK. Last word, quickly, if you will?

GAGLIANO: Reminiscence of John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban. Seventeen years ago, he was brought back to the United States after fighting against Americans right after the war started and guess what, convicted in federal court, pled, got 20 years. He's got about another couple years left. I see something similar like that happening here.

LEMON: Thank you, James. Thank you, Mubin. I appreciate it. And thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.