Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

Judge Jackson Tightens Stone's Gag Order Forbidding Him From Speaking Publicly About Any Aspect Of The Case Or Investigation; Interview with Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL); President Trump Not Free from Stress; DOJ Preparing for Mueller Report Any Day; Senate Investigators Pursue Moscow-Based Former Trump Associate. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired February 21, 2019 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

A no-nonsense federal judge in Washington dealing a severe blow to Trump ally Roger Stone, a self-described dirty trickster. Judge Amy Berman Jackson was having none of his dirty tricks after he flippantly posted this image to Instagram.

There it is right there. It's a photo of Jackson with crosshairs of a gun drawn behind her head. The judge calling it a sinister message, saying "there is nothing ambiguous crosshairs."

Jackson tightened Stone's gag order forbidding him from speaking publicly about any aspect of the case or the investigation that led to his indictment on charges including obstruction of justice, making false statement, and witness tampering. Judge Jackson warning Stone that he's not getting another chance. If he violates her order, she'll consider putting him in jail.

Let's discuss right now. Shimon Prokupecz is here. Jack Quinn, and Morgan Pehme, the director of "Get Me Roger Stone."

Good evening, everyone. I'm so glad to have all of you on this evening. Shimon, I'm going to start with you because the judge in Roger Stone's case wasn't having any of his excuses. Lay out for us what exactly happened in court and how Roger Stone explained his Instagram post.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, Don. First of all, it was just really bizarre to even have Roger Stone testify in this kind of hearing. No one certainly expected him to take the stand. But like with most things of Roger Stone this is how he, you know, performs, this is what he does.

And he took the stand to try and explain to the judge that, yes, it was a mistake, but then he was offering all sorts of excuses for how this could have happened. At one point trying to tell the judge he didn't know who had access to his phone, he was trying to explain to the judge how he didn't even know how he received this message, the picture of her and how it got posted. And then there was another interesting exchange that I'll go ahead and

read for you where he was trying to explain to the judge that he didn't believe, he didn't know this was crosshairs. And here's what the judge said to him. "Is it fair to say that you are 100 percent responsible for anything that gets posted and it's not anybody else's fault?"

And Stone replies, "that is correct. I take responsibility. I don't have any employees. I do have volunteers helping because of my financial circumstances. They do a lot of the clerical work. I am in all honesty not very technologically proficient but I expect responsibility. It is my fault."

The judge then says to him, "do you know how to do a Google search? And he said yes. And she says do the volunteers that work for you know how to do a Google search, and he says, yes. How hard is it to come up with a photograph that didn't have a crosshairs in the corner? And he says, your honor, I didn't recognize it as a crosshairs."

And the point of that is her photo, if he just simply did a Google search, he would find it on the court's web site. So clearly, she was just not buying any of it, Don.

[23:05:00] LEMON: Over and over again she wouldn't let him off the hook.

PROKUPECZ: No, she wouldn't. And she kept going at him. Look, she said he was lying, basically. He took the stand. Like I said that was a bizarre moment. She did not believe his excuses. You know, she found it hard to believe that he would not -- that he would now know that these were crosshairs.

She says that he was doing this to stoke up followers and that it was a deliberate choice. He made a deliberate choice. And most important here is what she said was that, to her, for her, this judge that she felt this message, what he did here had a more sinister message. And that's sort of the tone that she took here. I mean, he's very lucky, Don, that she did not put him in jail as he awaits trial.

LEMON: Morgan, let me bring you because you're the director of the documentary "Get Me Roger Stone." Right? He is not allowed to speak publicly in this case. It's probably the worse sentencing that you are going to have. Is he going to be able to stick to this?

MORGAN PEHME, DIRECTOR, GET ME ROGER STONE: Well, as he says in our movie speaking to the media is what I do, that's my value. And he can't help himself taking advantage of this humongous stage that he has right now. But by his own admission that was a tremendously stupid thing he did. And I think he may have learned his lesson because he certainly doesn't want to go to prison, and he is going to be very careful I think not to violate the judge's order.

LEMON: Yes. Jack, what do you make of this tragedy to put Roger Stone on the stand, a surprising to a lot of people? But to put on the stand especially when he couldn't say who posted that photo to Instagram if it really wasn't him. JACK QUINN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I have no idea what the calculation

was there. It didn't make any sense to me. But, look, I don't want to pick on Roger's lawyers. I will say it's a good thing for Roger that stupidity is not a crime. If it were, he'd be looking at a really long sentence.

I mean, it's just unbelievable that in the face of the charges he was filing -- he was facing, he did something like this. And let me just remind everybody who's watching and who's talking here tonight, this judge is the person who will sentence him if he's ever found guilty.

So, you know, having a picture like that with the horrific message embedded in it, these crosshairs, it's just -- what can I say, it's just monumentally stupid.

LEMON: And what do you think about the judge? She didn't think Roger Stone was sincere. She grew impatient when he changed his answers. She's saying next violation, jail.

QUINN: Listen, I said it earlier this morning that she has likely not going to send him to jail now. I think she simply -- she must have been so tempted, but I think that she did not want to allow Roger to be able to, you know, prance himself around as a victim. And so, I think she's going above and beyond the call, giving him one more chance. But if he does anything this criminally stupid again, he'll be behind bars.

LEMON: Morgan, listen, we all know what crosshairs looks like. He tried to say it was a Celtic cross. I mean, are those the kind of excuses, are they typical for Roger Stone?

PEHME: Well, Roger Stone once made a kind of drunken late-night call to Eliot Spitzer's father when Eliot Spitzer was governor of New York and later on said that it was an impressionist doing his voice, that he was at a play. I mean, just the most ridiculous excuses that were absolutely impossible to sustain.

You know, Roger is part of his -- one of his main tactics is hurling invective at people, and he's hurled at you, Don, on many occasions.

LEMON: Yes.

PEHME: That's what got him banned from Twitter. And it's something that he can't resist. And as smart is Roger is in so many ways in politics, he also does things so confoundingly stupid at times, that are really self-destructive and this is probably the worst example of it, because he's used to playing towards to the media, playing to the public. But now he's fighting for his freedom and to do this to the judge it was jaw dropping.

LEMON: If I had a penny for all the people who hurled -- I wouldn't need to sit here. But it's always fascinating for people to either say if someone had said something about you, they didn't like you. And I go, really? What did they say? Or remind me. I forgot about the whole Twitter thing until -- and I've actually read about it. PEHME: You know, Roger was really disappointed when he saw our movie

when it premiered at Tribeca film festival because he always wanted to end with a montage of all the times that he had threatened to have my co-directors then I killed if he didn't like how the movie turned out. And the fact that we had a different type of ending he was very disappointed.

LEMON: Well, you said he said it was someone impersonating him, right?

PEHME: Yes.

LEMON: Well, I mean, if someone else John Barron --

(CROSSTALK)

PEHME: And (Inaudible) who is now central to this whole Russia investigation. So --

[23:09:59] LEMON: I'm talking about the president himself who used to pretend that he was his own publicist.

(CROSSTALK)

PEHME: Yes, absolutely.

LEMON: His name is John Barron back in the day. So, I mean, I wonder where he got that from?

PEHME: Yes.

LEMON: Maybe the president got it from him or he got it from the president.

(CROSSTALK)

PEHME: Or the president learned a lot of tactic from Roger.

LEMON: Shimon, speak to the bigger issue of what we're starting to see here. Any day now Mueller may deliver his report. It could drop at any moment. Roger Stone is in court. Michael Cohen on Capitol Hill today ahead of his testimony next week. I mean, that's a short list of the things that touched President Trump.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. There's a lot going on that really could happen in the next day. This Mueller -- the ending of the investigation and the report going to the Department of Justice. We're in that zone now where this could either happen tomorrow or it could happen on Monday or maybe perhaps later.

But, you know, most of us are pretty much ready for it to come at any point. The other thing you have happening tomorrow is that the special counsel's office is going to be filing their sentencing memo on Paul Manafort. Where we expect to learn a lot more about what he was involved in and what their allegations are. And that's going to be filed at some point tomorrow. And then next week, really, there's going to be even more high drama,

right? You have Michael Cohen kind of going on a tour of Capitol Hill. We saw him there today. He's going to appear before three committees. One of the committees, the oversight committee is going to be testifying publicly. And he's really supposed to talk about and testify about the president's business dealings.

The long history in New York of the Trump organization, the foundation, a lot of what the Southern District of New York has been looking at. And this all supposed to happen by the end of next week. I think Thursday or so is when he's supposed to start testify. And then he's going to start appearing at other committees as well.

So, it's going to be a busy week certainly for Michael Cohen, and we're going to learn a lot about the president's history according to Michael Cohen.

LEMON: I know, jack, that your focus is really on what happens after the attorney general gets the Mueller report. What do you -- what will he do with it?

QUINN: Well, obviously that remains to be seen. I think, look -- let me just break it down this way. The attorney general is required to reveal very little. He's only required to reveal information about the prosecutions he says cannot be undertaken.

He's permitted to reveal a great deal. In fact, he's permitted to essentially reveal anything he wants except with some notable exceptions, classified information, information that would compromise ongoing investigations, information that would impinge on the privacy rights of people who are not indicted.

You know, that said, I think first of all, I think that it would really behoove the attorney general to do his dead level best to get on the same wavelength as the special counsel. I think there's daylight between them, that will be plenty of ammunition for Capitol Hill to be issuing subpoenas for the report.

But I think that when you step back and think about what has happened in recent days, you know, you've got Mr. McCabe out there on a book tour. He has just said, he just revealed that the FBI opened an investigation of the President of the United States because the FBI was concerned that he might be an agent of a hostile foreign power.

It's inconceivable to me that in those circumstances the attorney general can really try to reveal very little about this investigation. I think not only Capitol Hill will be up in arms, I think the American people would be up in arms.

We've had on CNN air all day a poll that indicates 87 percent including Republicans and independents as well as Democrats want to see the fruits of this investigation. I don't think --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: They paid for it. QUINN: They paid for it, and it belongs to them. So, I think they're

going to be very hard-pressed to do what they're legally able to do, and that is bury a lot of this information.

LEMON: So, Shimon, listen, in this short time we have left. Even after the Mueller report gets turned in, the president still needs to worry about the Southern District of New York.

PROKUPECZ: That is not going away anytime soon. You know, the Southern District of New York as we are all very much aware now, they're quite aggressive. That investigation from everything we can tell is just heating up.

I mean, they've just issued subpoenas for the inauguration committee information, finances and other information, and that's what we know of. Who knows what else they're doing? And also, the hush money payments. That investigation we've seen indications is not over. So, there's a lot still going on there.

[23:14:59] The prosecutor on that case is aggressive. I think they're going to try to see this way -- see that investigation through.

And the other thing what's interesting is what the Southern District of New York is doing, people here in D.C., the Department of Justice, the main justice don't even have a full read on what's going on there. Because that is on purpose, and the Southern District of New York does not what to tell main justice what they're working on.

So, we have no idea what they're doing. We're hearing, you know, little tidbits of information here and there. But it's pretty serious. And just one final point, it's so serious that the people who are closest to the president, his lawyers and staffers and other people that really know him well say that is the one thing that they are concerned about. The Mueller thing I think they feel they're OK with that. But it's the Southern District of New York investigation that they are really concerned about.

LEMON: Gentlemen, thank you. I appreciate your time.

Michael Cohen is set to testify publicly before the House Oversight Committee next week. I'm going to talk to a member of the committee Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, next.

[23:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer and fixer making a surprise visit to Capitol Hill today. He apparently spent hours inside the Senate intelligence committee secure spaces conferring with his attorneys, but we're told he did not have any meetings with the committee.

However, next week Cohen will appear before a total of three congressional committees. They are Senate intel and House intel, both of those are behind closed doors. But the big spectacle will be before his public testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat is a member of

that committee and he joins me now. Congressman, it's so good to have you on.

The main event next week --

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: -- is on Wednesday when he testifies publicly before your committee. We saw the chairman -- that Chairman Cummings, that memo saying that the focus is on Trump's finances related to the campaign, his compliance with tax law, the D.C. Trump hotel, the Trump foundation, Trump's business practices, and so on. What are you going to be asking him?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, thanks for having me on, Don.

The president's right-hand man is finally going to take his right-hand up in front of the committee and tell us all about his -- the president's personal life, professional life and of course, his organization and campaign.

I'm going to be very interested in why Michael Cohen went from being one of the president's staunchest defenders to becoming one of his staunchest critics. That will be a fascinating topic in and of itself.

LEMON: Do you think he should be worried about -- the president meaning, should he be worried about what Michael Cohen might reveal?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Possibly. I think that obviously Michael Cohen knows so much about so many topics involving the president. As you know the president has said numerous -- made numerous statements with regard to his personal finances, his dealings with other entities. And so, Michael Cohen having personal knowledge of these transactions can shed a lot of light on what the truth actually is.

LEMON: Yes. So, Congressman, Republicans are saying that Democrats are limiting the scope of the hearing to only be about the president. The ranking Republican member Jim Jordan says that he intends to ask about the crimes Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to and Michael Cohen's finances. What happens when Republicans ask questions outside the scope of the Cummings memo?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, obviously, Chairman Cummings and Michael Cohen agree to certain ground rules. Remember this is a voluntary testimony on the part of Michael Cohen. And so, if questions go outside those ground rules, it's possible that Michael Cohen may or may not answer them.

That being said, I hope that the Republicans don't turn this hearing into a total circus. There are some important and serious topics that have to be discussed and I hope that we'll, you know, narrow our scope to those particular topics.

LEMON: Yes. So, the ranking member Jordan says this hearing is, quote, "phase one of the Democrats' coordinated campaign to remove the president from office." What is the end game here? What is the goal?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think the goal is we need to get at the truth. And we also need to know, you know, how do our laws, rules and regulations need to be modified to prevent some of the illegal wrongdoing that we see that happened in 2016 and making sure that it doesn't happen again. I think that's really what the oversight committee is all about.

LEMON: So, Speaker Pelosi says she won't tolerate any witness intimidation. You know what happened last night and then Michael Cohen, he postponed his hearing.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes.

LEMON: Speaking in front of the committees.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes.

LEMON: But what happens if President Trump tweets about Michael Cohen or his family as he has done before in the past? Are you worried he's going to pull out of testifying again?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I hope not. I hope the president doesn't resort to that. As you know the president has in the past called Michael Cohen a rat. That's a term of art that's used in the mafia. Giuliani and Cohen -- Stone have also used those terms as well. But the main point is that we can't go down that road. Our government should not operate like a mafia, and we have to do whatever we can to protect Michael Cohen as well.

LEMON: Thank you, Congressman. I appreciate your time.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Don. Thank you for the opportunity.

LEMON: Robert Mueller's report could come any day now, but will the American people ever get to see it?

[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Sources tell CNN that the Justice Department is preparing for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to report to the attorney general, that report within the next couple of days. So, but will that report, what will it look like, and what happens after Mueller delivers it to the attorney general?

Let's discuss now. Eric Columbus is here, he is a former senior official in the Obama Justice Department, and also Garrett Graff, the author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror."

Gentlemen, good evening. Garrett, I'm going to start with you. Here are the seven ways that you think Mueller's investigation could wrap up. And I'm going to let the audience read the list for themselves. So, which of these scenarios do you think seems more likely?

[23:29:55] GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, one of the things I think we have to realize is that when everyone talks about the Mueller report, when we sort of have this idea that he's going to turn in, you know, one definitive novel sort of like Ken Starr did or the 9/11 commission did, that answers all of our questions. And I don't necessarily think that that's the most likely scenario, in part because he doesn't have a way to release that directly to the public.

As you said, he's turning over something to the attorney general at the end of his investigation, and then the attorney general is choosing what would get turned over. So the one thing that Bob Mueller does have control over is what gets filed in court as part of indictments. And so I think if there are more charges that Bob Mueller can bring, that's a way that he can ensure that he has control over what information gets made public and when it gets made public.

LEMON: So, Eric, all of this really rests on the attorney general. The new attorney general, by the way, Bill Barr, it rests on his shoulders. He promised to be as transparent as possible in his confirmation, but other than that, he really -- I mean, we don't know what William Barr is going to do, how he's going to proceed. What do you think?

ERIC COLUMBUS, FORMER OBAMA JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SENIOR OFFICIAL: I don't think Bill Barr knows either. I think in his confirmation hearing, he was kind of speaking out loud a little bit. I do think he is not going to be a puppet of Trump in any way. That said, he is someone who believes in the power of the presidency and is not looking to find ways to undermine that. He, I think will at the end of the day err on the side of being more forthcoming because he knows a couple of things.

One is that he is perceived as bottling up information that is harmful to the president, the knives will be out, there will be leaks, and it will harm the president politically. Second, Congress will be coming after him as well with subpoenas and may be able to get a lot of what is in Mueller's report, maybe the whole thing through the judicial process and through fights that can go all the way up to the Supreme Court and could last for over a year, and that might not be a fight the Trump administration wants to have.

LEMON: Garrett, you write about the immutable truths of the Mueller investigation. You say, "First, every move has surprised us, both in timing and content. And second, every court filing has been more informed, detailed, and insightful than anyone imagined, and shown us that what we knew publicly was only the tip of the iceberg." Do you think we're in for more surprises?

GRAFF: I sort of still think that we are. Eric and I were just talking about this a minute or two ago. In part because Mueller has been so conspicuously silent about parts of this investigation that I have to believe that he is staying silent about those corners of the investigation for a reason. That he has sort of left these strange unexplained breadcrumbs across many of these court filings. He's sort of appeared to draw out specific dates that seem like they should matter without telling us why.

And I sort of feel like he has left those for some purpose because otherwise, he's gone out of his way to make his job a lot harder than it needed to be along the way across all of the more than 500 pages of court filings that he's already filed.

LEMON: So Eric, listen, Barr also pointed out in his confirmation hearing that the DOJ doesn't release derogatory information about people who aren't going to be indicted. Because the DOJ has a policy that the president can't be indicted, should that change how this is handled?

COLUMBUS: That's an excellent point, Don. And I think it very well might because in a typical situation, there is a privacy interest of someone who the DOJ had a chance to indict and decided not to. As you note, the DOJ has long maintained that the president is constitutionally immune to indictment. He's not immune, of course, to impeachment.

And to the extent that is something that if indictment is not on the table, then impeachment has to be at least theoretically on the table, and therefore there is far more than in the usual situation a public interest in learning information, derogatory information about someone who even though that person is not going to be indicted by DOJ.

LEMON: Garret, for as much as it looks like Mueller is wrapping things up, Roger Stone's case looks like it's really just beginning. Could Mueller be playing a longer game than we think?

GRAFF: Yeah, and I think that, you know, even if Bob Mueller announces on Tuesday that he's totally done, he's brought every charge that he's going to bring, and he's going back to his golf game in California on Wednesday, which I don't think is the most likely scenario, let me hasten to add, but this is a case that will likely go on for years in the various courts.

[23:34:59] He has handed back parts of this investigation to the district attorney and the District of Columbia. He's handed back parts of these cases that he's already brought to the national security division at the Justice Department.

And some of these cases like Roger Stone and some of the other matters that he's actually still pushing forward to try to get testimony from certain witnesses or get documents from this foreign mystery subpoena target could continue for quite some time. I mean, we sort of forget that in some cases the Watergate trials and legal battles stretched out over the better part of a decade.

LEMON: Yeah. Just after William Barr was sworn in as attorney general, Eric, last week, there was a flurry of activity and reports that Mueller is wrapping up. Some people are saying that could be an indication that Barr himself was involved in bringing the investigation to a close. What do you think of that?

COLUMBUS: I think that's unlikely. I do not think that Barr is going to sweep in and tell Mueller to shut down. Your network reported that some of Mueller's team was seen moving file boxes out of their offices the week before Barr was confirmed, so it doesn't seem that was done in response to an edict from Barr. That said, people sometimes react to something that they think will be coming in the future. Mueller might have felt that it may be more prudent to be shutting down soon to make it harder for Barr to take adverse actions against him and to kind of seed things in, as Garrett has noted, to seed things in other DOJ offices where it will be harder for Trump to demonize them.

Trump has made Mueller a villain throughout this process. He has not succeeded in doing that with the Southern District of New York which has been going after campaign finance issues very hard. And it'll be hard for Trump to demonize actions taken by other divisions and U.S. attorney offices within DOJ and the years to come if he doesn't have a face he can target.

LEMON: Eric, Garret, thank you for your time. I appreciate it. Senate investigators want to talk to a previously unknown Moscow-based Trump associate. Who is David Geovanis, and what does he know about the president's personal and professional activities?

[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to know if Russia has compromising information on President Donald Trump, and they think an American businessman based in Moscow, David Geovanis, also known as Geo, may have the answers. CNN's Nina dos Santos explains. Nina?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Don, new information has emerged about a new figure who is a person of interest to the congressional committees investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. We are talking about a U.S. citizen who since 2014 also has had a Russian passport. He is somebody who has lived in Russia for 30 years and known Donald Trump for most of that time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to talk to this man, an American who once escorted Donald Trump around Moscow, to see if he can confirm claims that Russia has embarrassing material on the president, according to multiple sources.

David Geovanis has been based in the Russian capital for almost three decades, at one point taking this picture in front of a Joseph Stalin portrait surrounded by scantily clad women. Sources tell CNN that Geovanis has known Donald Trump since at least 1996, when he helped organized meetings like these for the now president and men who would go on to become donors to his 2016 campaign.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's been the best business year of my life.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): This Russian news report from the Time emerged online a month ago. It shows Geovanis looking on as Trump meets with Moscow's deputy mayor. By his side are real estate moguls Bennett LeBow and Howard Lorber. According to The New York Times, Donald Trump, Jr. called Lorber after his now infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer in 2016. TRUMP: Behind me, I have to say, we have some of our great businessmen of the world, Howard Lorber, Bennett LeBow --

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Lorber did not respond to several requests for comment. The 1996 trip was part of a long-held plan to explore building for Trump Tower in Moscow. Geovanis also has close ties to another figure of interest in the investigations, Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian mining magnate whose ties to Trump's former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, had been scrutinized.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOS SANTOS: When reached by CNN, Geovanis said that he had no comments to make on his present whereabouts or on the Senate committee's interest in him. However, CNN has managed to ascertain that he is still in Russia today. The president's legal team declined to comment on his relationship to Geovanis and a lawyer for the Trump Organization also declined to comment.

By the way though, here we have a new intriguing character who's being investigated and whose links to the president and Russia go back much further than other names that have come up in these probes thus far. And because Geovanis still remains in Russia, he won't be interviewed fully despite speculation that the Mueller report will be out soon. Back to you, Don.

LEMON: All right. Nina, thank you very much. We're going to dig further into who David Geovanis is and what he could know.

[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to talk to David Geovanis, an American businessman based in Moscow about his decades- long relationship with President Donald Trump. Here to discuss, Steve Hall and David Cay Johnston. David is the author of "It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America." Good evening, gentlemen. It is so good to have you on.

Steve, what do you think of the story from Nina dos Santos? How unusual is it for a character like David Geovanis, an American who has been in Russian -- who has been a Russian national, I should say, since 2014?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Don, it's really hard to keep them all straight, isn't it? We got Mr. Geo now. We had Papadopoulos before. We had all of these characters who have kind of connectivity between Moscow and some part of the Trump Organization.

So, the most important thing that you need to understand about a guy like this guy who is in Russia and has been there for the better part of 30 years is that he essentially agreed to play by all the rules that you have to play by if you want to be a "successful" American businessman in Moscow.

[23:50:05] Moscow appears to be sort of like a western place, but you don't just go there and open up a donut shop and be successful. You got to play by Vladimir Putin's rules and if you don't, then bad things happen to you. You get thrown into jail for 10 years or you get thrown into jail recently like an American did just recently. It happens all the time. So, this is a guy who has essentially sold out and has agreed to do whatever Vladimir Putin or Oleg Deripaska, one of his lieutenants, tells him to.

It happens that he also has great connections into the Trump Organization or had as long ago as the 90s. So, a guy like that would be very valuable for the Russian Intelligence Services and for the Russian government to give ideas, thoughts, comments on Trump and his organization. And that's, I think, what the real value is for him right now to the Russians.

LEMON: So, David, Geovanis' relationship or Geo's relationship with Trump seems to go back decades. How significant is it that lawmakers are looking deeper into the president's past dealings with Russian than previously known?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: I think this is very important. By the way, I think that was a very well-done package that a lot of serious work went into, to find the videos and the photos to illustrate it. But we don't know nearly enough about the 30 years that the Russians have been courting Donald, his repeated trips there, and when I say Russians, I don't mean just people in Moscow, I mean, Russian-speaking people.

Donald has been involved with people from Kazakhstan and Georgia and elsewhere. These relationships are much deeper than we have had any public awareness of, and I'm sure there are many more names that are of significance to the people running the Mueller investigation and hopefully running the House investigations into Donald Trump and his involvement with the Russians.

LEMON: David, I want you to listen to my colleague. This is Anderson Cooper talking to the former deputy FBI director, Andrew McCabe, earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you still believe the president could be a Russian asset?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: I think it's possible. I think that's why we started our investigation. And I'm really anxious to see where Director Mueller concludes that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, the question is, David, how might Geovanis prove or disprove that the president is a Russian asset?

CAY JOHNSTON: Well, first of all, we got to get him to talk, and Vladimir Putin is going to have zero interest in him talking and his business interests, as Steve points out, depend on Vladimir Putin's good graces. But he's going to know who Donald met with, which oligarchs, tell us more about Oleg Deripaska's relationship, which I think will be one of the central threads to all of this, and understanding Donald's relationship.

And by the way, I've been saying long before Andrew McCabe that the kindest thing you can say about Donald Trump is that he has divided loyalties and I believe that wittingly or not, he is, in fact, a Russian asset.

LEMON: Interesting. OK. Steve, why do you think this photograph -- we'll put it up -- why is it drawing interest from the Senate Intelligence Committee?

HALL: Well, there was a lot of racy stuff going on in Moscow in the 90s. That's pretty tame by a lot of different standards. But obviously, what people are interested in -- those who are investigating Donald Trump -- is whether the Russians and specifically the FSB, the internal intelligence service, was able to obtain anything along the lines of compromising information on Donald Trump. You know, it could be anything from shady business dealings that could later on be extremely embarrassing to Trump or more salacious stuff as we saw in some of the Steele documents.

So, that's what they're really interested in because of course, if Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin have any leverage over the president of the United States regardless how long ago it was collected, that of course would be very damaging and in some interpretations could be, you know, Donald Trump could be then be called an asset or some sort of a controlled entity by the Russians and that's, of course, very dangerous.

LEMON: So, why might his work for Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska -- why is it so interesting to investigators? As you said, we can't really keep them straight right now.

HALL: I think -- I think what we've got going on is there are a number of different lines of investigation. There are some really sinister ones. For example, could it be that Donald Trump was somehow, you know, had a conversation with Putin at some point and Putin said, look, I got the goods on you, you need to do what you got to do, what I tell you to do, something as sort of gross, or is it much more subtle that gets back to perhaps more criminality unless espionage type of stuff, a shady business deal gone wrong that they have all the details that they could reveal if they wanted to. That sort of questions what they want to look into, I think.

LEMON: David, go ahead.

CAY JOHNSTON: Well, let me suggest even scarier scenario, and that is that Donald is really a house of cards. He doesn't behave like a billionaire. He's out there grubbing for relatively small sums of money in a way no billionaire would.

[23:55:02] And the Russians, having put a lot of money into him, could pull back money and create for him a real crisis. That would give them leverage over Donald in a way that he would understand.

LEMON: Gentlemen, fascinating conversation. We should have, like, a scorecard with faces on it so people can know exactly who we're talking about with all these characters that we are just learning about. Thank you. I appreciate your time. I will see you next time. And thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)