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President Trump Meets Kim Jong-un for the Second Time; Long List of Charges Against Paul Manafort; Former Trump Fixer Michael Cohen Starts Three Days of Testimony on Capitol Hill, Testifies to House Intel Committee; R. Kelly Posting Bail; "Empire" Actor Jussie Smollett Fighting Allegations of Staging the Assault He Recently Reported; Robert Kraft, New England Patriots Owner, Charged with Soliciting Prostitution. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired February 25, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: You should tell the American people why you do it because it's obvious to everyone.
Thanks for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So according to the dictionary, racist, a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.
You can do that through your comments. You can do that by ignoring racism. You can do that through your actions. You can do that through your policies. You can do that through ignorance. You can pretend that you don't see it. All of that is racist material. That's all racist. And so, you saw the back of my fat head there when I asked him a number of times --
CUOMO: I wasn't going to say anything.
LEMON: I know, I know you're going to say that.
CUOMO: It looked like a pack of franks back there.
LEMON: The least racist person, and I asked him that question a number of times, but just because you say it doesn't mean that it is so. It comes out in your actions and your policies.
CUOMO: And I think that --
LEMON: Or inaction.
CUOMO: The reason I seized upon them or we seized upon them tonight in putting together the closing is because I think they're the most instructive. He knows that that's not true, what he's saying. He knows it's ridiculous, and that's not because I'm painting him as a bigot.
I'm saying he goes out of his way. He goes out of his way not to be as condemn notorious as he is about so many things that matter so much less. LEMON: Yes.
CUOMO: And that Heather Heyer murder, whether that happened, and he didn't do with that matter what he did with, let's say Katie Steinle, you know, something that was that didn't have to happen, that wouldn't have happened if that guy wasn't in this country, but he'll seize upon that as proof of a problem.
But when this bigot kills Heather Heyer, that doesn't speak to any problem.
CUOMO: That doesn't speak to anything. And he had to be chased into saying the right thing about Heather Heyer, where he leaps the chance to make so much more of these others. It's obvious.
CUOMO: It's obvious, and it's ugly. And I just hope at some point he owns it.
LEMON: It's also where your priorities are. And even if you use it because it's politically expedient, ignoring the problem or prioritizing the wrong things, that is also racist behavior and ignorance. And ignorance is part of racism.
CUOMO: Sure, it is.
LEMON: In its part.
CUOMO: It's one of the most dangerous types of indifference that we have seen in world history, where you know that what you're saying is stirring a very dangerous brew.
CUOMO: And while you may not really be that convinced of it yourself, it doesn't matter. In some ways it makes it worse, that you just see the effect of it. You see the need for it in yourself and what you want to achieve, and then you do it?
CUOMO: You own it.
LEMON: Well, as I said during the campaign, I said he -- I started by saying if he's not racist, then he's racist-adjacent. Then after the s-hole comments, I came right out, Chris, and I said the president of the United States is racist. I opened my show that way.
And you would have thought that, you know, I set off time bomb, a bomb or something. But people just went nuts. But the evidence is there. I stand by it. All you have to do is look at his words, his deeds, his actions going back to when he was a young man.
And the biggest one of all -- well, besides, you know, the Central Park Five, would be the whole birther thing. But, listen, I got to go. You mentioned Spike Lee. I got to see those guys last night. I also got -- remember, we're talking --
CUOMO: Fancy, Don. Don, the dandy.
LEMON: Remember when we were talking about Diana Ross --
CUOMO: Yes, I saw the picture.
LEMON: -- at the Grammy's.
CUOMO: Yes, I saw the picture.
LEMON: So, we get to this big fancy dinner. It's actually a really good cause. It was for Elton John's AIDS foundation.
LEMON: He has his big -- there's Elton John. He has this huge Oscar viewing party that, I mean, he raised millions of dollars last night for AIDS research.
LEMON: He and his husband will be the one that stamps that out. But I get there and I'm looking. It says Elton John, Diana Ross, Don Lemon. And I said, my gosh. Chris is not going to believe this. But I just thought and I fanned out. I said, listen, I'm not usually a fan boy.
CUOMO: Yes, you are.
LEMON: I love her so much.
CUOMO: Yes, you are.
LEMON: She said, I'm 75. I'm like, Miss Ross, everyone knows it's your birthday.
CUOMO: She's amazing.
LEMON: She's amazing. She looked great.
CUOMO: And you love it. You love to stress it up. You didn't wear the cape.
CUOMO: I know it was over for me when I didn't see the cape. That should be part of your signature look.
LEMON: I got something for you. Billy, I couldn't outdo Billy Porter. I mean, come on. You saw that. Yes. Hey, I got to run. I got lots of news to get to. Thank you, my friend. Good to see you. And thank you for spending time with me this weekend. We also talked about race with your wife.
CUOMO: Wowed the crowd and rightly so.
LEMON: It was really great. Thank you. Good to see you. I'll see you tomorrow.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
So, he's on his way to Vietnam right now. But the president can't leave his troubles behind him at home. And make no mistake about this, this will be a week of one big deal after another in many investigations swirling around this president.
[22:05:04] Tonight, Paul Manafort's legal team is attempting to argue for a lighter sentence for the crimes he admitted to in D.C. district court, which may be a tough sell because let me just remind you of what prosecutors said about the former Trump campaign chairman in their massive -- it was a massive 800-page filing. OK?
It says Manafort, quote, "repeatedly and knowingly broke the law," they said. His criminal actions were bold, it reads. And he lied to, quote -- get this, OK? He lied to, quote, "tax preparers, bookkeepers, banks, the Treasury Department, the Department of Justice, national security division, the FBI, the special counsel's office, the grand jury, his own legal counsel, members of Congress, and members of the executive branch." That's a whole lot of lying.
Let's leave that -- let's go back through that. Re-rack that, OK? They said he lied to, quote, "tax preparers" -- that's a lot of lies. He lied to bookkeepers. He lied to banks, the Treasury Department, the Department of Justice, the national security division, the FBI, the special counsel's office, the grand jury, his own legal counsel, members of Congress, and members of the executive branch.
I just -- you needed to see that because that is a whole lot of lying, and for what? Why is he lying so much? It could land the man who once ran the Trump campaign in prison for the rest of his life.
That's as Trump's former lawyer and keeper of secrets, Michael Cohen, set to answer questions tomorrow from the Senate Intel Committee. He's going to do it behind closed doors.
But that is the beginning of Cohen's three-day marathon on Capitol Hill. So just imagine, right? The split screen, there you go on the television on Wednesday. The day Cohen is set to testify in the House under oath, live on TV as the president meets with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Vietnam. The question is will there be any real progress to end that nuclear threat from Pyongyang?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we'll have a very tremendous summit. We want denuclearization, and I think he'll have a country that will set a lot of records for speed in terms of an economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, let's not forget, OK? The president seems to see Kim Jong- un through rose-colored glasses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We fell in love, OK? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But you've got to wonder if everybody in the administration is on the same page. You've got to wonder, are they on the same page? Listen to this exchange between the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and our very own Jake Tapper. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you think North Korea remains a nuclear threat?
MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes.
TAPPER: But the president said he doesn't.
POMPEO: It's not what he said. I know precisely what he said.
TAPPER: He tweeted there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That's right, he did. The president clearly tweeted last June, OK? And this is a quote. He said, "there is no nuclear threat from North Korea." That was a quote. The president tweeted this. "There is no nuclear threat from North Korea."
Thursday will be day two of the Trump/Kim summit as Cohen goes back to Capitol Hill for another grilling, this time from the House Intel Committee from behind closed doors.
You can bet the president that President Trump will want to have a news conference to get attention for any progress he makes with Kim on the nuclear threat. But at the same time, he'll undoubtedly have to answer questions about Michael Cohen.
One big development, we're not expecting this week, and that is the Mueller report. But that doesn't mean the president can rest easy right now. He said the timing of the report is totally up to his new hand-picked Attorney General William Barr, who in his confirmation hearing last month, said he would provide as much transparency as he can. Note he said as much as he can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: So that will be totally up to him. I guess from what I understand, that will be totally up to the attorney general, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, there's no requirement that the report is ever made public even though we, the American people, are the ones paying for it. The deputy attorney general, who is Rod Rosenstein, keeping his cards very close to his chest today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, UNITED STATES DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: What's the attorney general going to do? You'll have to ask him that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:10:00] LEMON: A lot of people are wondering what Rosenstein meant when he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSENSTEIN: When we charge somebody with a violation, we need to be prepared to prove it by evidence beyond any reasonable doubt. The guidance I always gave my prosecutors and the agents that I worked with during my tenure on the front lines of law enforcement were if we aren't prepared to prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt in court, then we have no business making allegations against American citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, what's he saying? What is he saying there? Is that a sign that the report will stay under wraps? Congressman Adam Schiff not having it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: I've had this conversation with Rod Rosenstein and others on down at the Justice Department. As they turned over thousands and thousands of pages of discovery in the Clinton e-mail investigation, and there was no indictment in that investigation, that this was a new precedent they were setting. And they were going to have to live by this precedent whether it was a Congress controlled by the Democrats or Republicans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: It looks like Congress is gearing up for a big fight over the Mueller report, and there's more facing the president here at home. The House expected to pass a resolution of disapproval in the wake of his declaring a national emergency to start building his border wall without money from Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It's a big, beautiful, powerful steel wall that you can see through, which is very important to be able to see through. And if you don't have it, you're not going to have borders. You're not going to have a country pretty soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And in the face of all that, here's another case of the Trump White House attempting to ignore the truth. This time the truth about climate change.
The president was reportedly upset by his own administration's -- his own administration's national climate assessment, which described climate change as a threat to this country.
These are his own people. He's upset it not buying it reportedly, OK? So, well, he's not because his White House is setting up a new working group of federal scientists to counter the scientific consensus. I kid you not, to actually try to debunk the administration's own conclusions.
You can't write this. That's according to the Washington Post. Like I said, this week is a very big deal with news of Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Rod Rosenstein, and as they say in the TV business, and more, all while the president is sitting across a table from Kim Jong-un. And the stakes in all of this could not be higher.
Paul Manafort's legal team arguing for a lighter sentence for him. Juliette Kayyem, Renato Mariotti, Max Boot -- I'm going to ask them what they think next.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Breaking news, Paul Manafort's lawyers trying to get him a lighter sentence tonight in a D.C. district court. They argue Manafort wouldn't have been prosecuted as harshly if Robert Mueller had not been appointed special counsel.
Here to discuss, Juliette Kayyem, Renato Mariotti, and Max Boot, the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right." So, let's figure out why they're doing this. It's very interesting. Good evening. Let's discuss.
I'm going to start with you, Renato. The defense team is saying that the case isn't about murder or drug cartels or a Madoff style Ponzi scheme. They're arguing for a lighter sentence in the D.C. case. I mean, what do you make of their argument here?
RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I have been representing clients now for years, and before that I spent a decade as a federal prosecutor. And when you're in the white-collar criminal defense world, you know your clients in real trouble when your argument is, well, he didn't kill anybody.
That's basically the lowest level argument when you're a criminal defense attorney. You got nothing. You don't have the facts. You don't have the law. You have no sympathy on your side. So, you say, well, he didn't kill anybody. LEMON: Or nobody died, nobody is the other one, right? Yes.
MARIOTTI: There you go. Pretty much.
MARIOTTI: And that's what this is. I mean, the whole dissenting memo seemed like a desperate plea for a pardon.
LEMON: So, let me ask you this, Renato. So, his team is arguing that Manafort would not have been - hat he would not have been prosecuted harshly had it not been for Rod Rosenstein appointing Robert Mueller. Are you seeing any remorse from Manafort?
MARIOTTI: No. I mean what I see is a guy who knows he's going to get 10 years from Judge Jackson no matter what. That's the -- or pretty much a guarantee at this point. That's the maximum sentence she can give.
You know, Judge Ellis is going to give whatever he's going to give. You know, he did seem to buy into some of the rhetoric earlier. But, you know, I don't know. Manafort is looking at a heavy sentence there potentially as well.
So, I think he's just hoping that he's going to get a pardon from Trump because, you know, look, he's looking at state law convictions, state convictions, but at least he has a shot there, right? He hasn't been convicted yet, so he might as well hope for pardons, give the party line because he's looking at the rest of his life in prison. He has nothing to lose at this point.
LEMON: Interesting. So, Max, let me bring you in because the defense team is also emphasizing that the special counsel hasn't charged him with any illegal coordination with Russian government officials in 2016. They're making the claim that there is no evidence of collusion. Your reaction here given what we know about Manafort's interaction, especially with Konstantin Kilimnik.
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, this is really the last refuge of the scoundrel in this case, Don, to claim, you know, I committed all these other felonies, but I didn't commit, quote, unquote, "collusion with Russia," which as we know is not actually a crime. That's just a phrase that we in the pundit business use to describe the cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
And the actual crime, if there is one, would be something like conspiracy against the United States. But I mean how does that exonerate Manafort from all the financial fraud, all the tax fraud, all the bank fraud that he committed? It's a complete non sequitur.
And as you were pointing out, there is actually a lot that's come out that actually supports the charge of collusion, in his case with Konstantin Kilimnik --
[22:20:02] LEMON: Yes. BOOT: -- who is suspected of being a Russian intelligence operative. In fact, today, there was a new revelation where a blogger pointed out, who blogs under the name "empty wheel," pointed out that in one of the filings from Manafort's own defense attorneys, they basically admitted that he shared 75 pages of internal polling data from the Trump campaign with Konstantin Kilimnik, who was linked to Russian intelligence.
Why would you share 75 pages of internal polling data? There is no innocent explanation for that. What it suggests is this could have very well been used -- this data could have been used to coordinate the Russian disinformation campaign on behalf of Donald Trump.
LEMON: And, Juliette, why would you lie so much or mislead people because the prosecutors talked about the range of people Manafort had deceived, including members of Congress, members of the executive branch.
I mean, listen, let me just read, he lied to tax preparers, bookkeepers, banks, the Treasury Department, the Department of Justice national security division, the FBI, the special counsel's office, the grand jury, his own legal counsel, members of Congress, and members of the executive branch. That is an incredible thing to hear given his major role in the Trump campaign.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's the point that we can't forget is that these lies are about the time period that he is the campaign chairman and he is at least a part of trying to elect Donald Trump as president.
I know the president's son tried to suggest that these were old crimes. They are not old crimes, and lying is actually a present crime.
And I think what's important to remember is we're assuming that Mueller has laid out all of his cards. But we certainly know from the fact -- just the nature of the redacted evidence that things like what Max was talking about, how much and to the extent of the information that he shared with the Russians.
Where, I'm curious where did Manafort get that data from within the campaign? Was it the data collection staff that was run by Jared Kushner? So there's a lot of things that Mueller has not laid out yet.
So, you know, back to Renato's point, they just got nothing, and so they're going to say, OK, I didn't kill anyone. OK. And this is just silliness. The judge is going to give a harsh sentence, and we'll see if Trump does what he says -- well, he has not closed the door to the pardon of Manafort at this stage.
LEMON: Well, you mentioned it. You said that Don Junior said these were old crimes. He also said there were no crimes.
LEMON: We're going to hear from the president's son right after this. We'll be right back.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Juliette, Renato Mariotti, and Max, they're all back with me. As promised, I want to talk about what Don Junior said. This is for you, Renato. I want you to listen to him, what he said about Mueller, that he hasn't found any actual crimes. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, JR., DONALD TRUMP'S SON: I've been hearing this for two years. Where everyone's getting into -- everyone's going to jail. Meanwhile, they haven't actually found anything as it relates to this. What they did was they put credible pressure on regular guys that couldn't afford a million dollars in legal fees and got them to slip up and say something incorrectly.
You know, they pretended they were their friends. They got them. And that's all that happened. There are no actual crimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So how can you actually say with a straight face on a day that we just got another Manafort court filing -- and let's not forget Manafort pleaded guilty in September too conspiracy against the U.S.
There's also the guilty pleas from Rick Gates. There's Flynn. There's Cohen. There's Papadopoulos. What do you say, Renato?
BOOT: Cut it out, Don. They're just regular guys.
LEMON: Right. They're just regular guys.
MARIOTTI: You know, I'll tell you, look, as you point out, Don, there's 37 criminal charges here. Lots of defendants. People like Manafort are going to be spending the rest of their life in prison.
LEMON: But 37 people and entities charged. Overall criminal counts, 199. But go on. Sorry.
MARIOTTI: OK. Sorry. I'm understating it by saying.
MARIOTTI: So, Yes, 37 individuals, 100-plus criminal charges. But I will just say, what do you -- who -- I want to know is what are those Fox & Friends hosts doing sitting there? I mean are they really pretending to be journalists? They don't ask him any tough questions. They don't follow up with that.
I mean any serious journalist, if you're sitting there and this guy is saying, these aren't real crimes, but people are pleading guilty. They have high-priced lawyers. You know, people, some of these people have fantastic lawyers. You know, Michael Cohen had a great lawyer, a really expensive lawyer.
He pled guilty and got a deal and got three years because frankly, otherwise he was going to be spending 10-plus years in prison.
So, you know, to me, any serious journalist would be asking the question. What's really sad is we have this network that's a mouthpiece for the Republican Party that is letting these guys get along, you know, saying lies to the American people. And we wonder why, you know, 30, 40 percent of people in America believe Donald Trump more than they'll believe Robert Mueller at the end of the day.
LEMON: OK. So, Rod Rosenstein is saying when it comes to this report, he's saying the Justice Department should not release information on uncharged citizens. He says there's good reason not to be transparent. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSENSTEIN: This is a knee-jerk reaction that suggests that we should be transparent about what we do in government. But there are a lot of reasons not to be transparent about what we do in government.
Just because the government collects information doesn't mean that information is accurate, and it can be really misleading if you're overly transparent about information that the government collects.
So, I think we do need to be really cautious about that. If we aren't prepared to prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt in court, then we have no business making allegations against American citizen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Max Boot, what is he doing? Is he signaling there that the report may not be released, that we may not learn much publicly about what happened?
BOOT: Well, I don't think we should necessarily read too much into that, Don. I think what he's doing is he's stating a general rule, which is one that I think makes sense. I think the country was generally revolted by Ken Starr, who overshared and also by FBI director Comey, who overshared about Hillary Clinton despite not indicting her.
So, I think Rod Rosenstein is reacting to that. But of course, when we're talking about President Trump, that is a unique case. I mean as a general rule, yes, the government should not be sharing derogatory information about somebody unless they're indicting that person.
But in the case of Donald Trump, according to the Justice Department, he can't be indicted. So, does that mean that no derogatory information about the president can possibly be released because he can't be indicted? In that case, he's above the law. That clearly doesn't make any sense.
LEMON: Let me ask you a question. I'm not sure if you're old enough. Do you remember this president named Bill Clinton? BOOT: Yes.
[22:29:58] LEMON: Do you remember this president had a scandal. It was a special counsel. It started with Whitewater.
LEMON: So, you were a Republican then, right?
LEMON: Were there a lot of Republicans saying well, this isn't about white water at all. All of a sudden, it's become something else.
BOOT: No, of course, I mean that --
LEMON: Well, what happened?
BOOT: Well, obviously we all know that what, you know, Bill Clinton really got into trouble for, perjuring himself about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, which had zero to do with the original predicate for the investigation, which was the white water --
LEMON: I am just wondering where were Republicans then who are now saying --
BOOT: I mean obviously -- we know where they are. They just flip- flop based on what's politically expedient. They have no principles here. They're doing whatever is necessary to protect Republicans and to hurt Democrats.
BOOT: They have no credibility.
LEMON: Juliette, this is what Democrat Chairman Adam Schiff responded, tweeting this, OK? He said this double standard won't cut it. For two years, I sounded the alarm about DOJ's deviation from that principle as it turned over hundreds of thousands of pages in closed or ongoing investigations. I warned that DOJ would need to live by the precedent, and it will. So I mean Democrats are ready to go to battle for this report.
And we may not even -- you know, we may not even see what's in the report. Do they have a strong case if they subpoena someone of getting this information out?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: They could. I mean this is all sort of new territory. I want to be clear. There are going to be legitimate reasons why the public does not see all the information in this report. We have, as you said -- you know, we have at least 30 cases ongoing. We have 199 indictments. There are going to be reasons to protect sources met in this (ph) investigation and information.
So this idea it's like sunshine rules, I think it's just ridiculous for even Democrats to say at this stage. What we need to do is set the standard for what should be disclosed, right? And so this is where Rosenstein, I think, we should not lose our heads over what he said. It was clear he was not talking about -- at least when I saw the whole thing, that he was not talking about the president of the United States.
So -- because the president of the United States is a different rule, it is someone -- you can't --
LEMON: He did specifically say citizen of the United States, which makes me think he wasn't talking about the president.
KAYYEM: Exactly. So he knows better than anyone if DOJ says we can't indict under their rules, and we follow the FBI rules of we don't put out this information, then the president could actually kill someone on -- well, maybe not kill someone on 5th Avenue but try to kill someone.
LEMON: Shoot someone as he said.
KAYYEM: Exactly. So what I think you have to remember is there's also a public interest. The DOJ and FBI will have a public interest exception that the Democrats should demand, right? They did this in Ferguson as some people are reporting today, because the public interest was much higher than it is in a normal case. And then finally, remember this is -- I view the Mueller document as a political document.
The indictments are ongoing. The criminal side is already happening. It is going to go on well past 2020. This is a political document, which does not need to have crimes listed, because impeachment proceedings do not have to follow the criminal code. You can impeach based on high crimes and misdemeanors that may not match the criminal code.
So I think a lot is still open on what they're going to release. But just quickly, we need to -- Democrats need to stop saying everything shows, because we will undermine the investigation and cases that are ongoing that will show some really bad behavior by a lot of Trump people.
LEMON: Interesting. OK, man, there's so much to talk about. I want to get -- I have to get to this. Michael Cohen, he's going to testify on Capitol Hill publicly and behind closed doors. What are we going to learn from him? RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: One thing we're going to learn
potentially is what he was hiding from Southern District of New York prosecutors if the -- Congress had asked the right questions, and members of Congress I should say asked the right questions. We're also potentially going to find out a little bit more about these campaign finance charges. And we're going to find out who was he coordinating with at the White House about his lies to Congress. That's going to be very interesting and potentially explosive testimony.
LEMON: Wow. Stay tuned for that. I am going to be watching that one. OK, thank you all. I will see you next time. Chicago police dealing with some big cases right now. R. Kelly posting bail and leaving jail today. Jussie Smollett fighting allegations that he staged the assault he reported. I am going to speak to a man at the center of it all. That is Chicago's police superintendent. He joins me next.
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Jussie Smollett insists he's innocent after being charged with staging a racial and homophobic attack. But Superintendent Eddie Johnson says the Chicago P.D. has a lot more evidence that proves Smollett is not telling the truth. And Superintendent Johnson joins me now. Good evening, Sir. Thank you so much for joining us here. I really appreciate it.
EDDIE T. JOHNSON, SUPERINTENDENT, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Good evening. Thanks for having me.
LEMON: Absolutely, a lot more evidence. Can you talk about it? What is that?
JOHNSON: Well, I can't really go into specifics because we're past the bond proffer. But I can just tell you this. You know, normally, when we do things of this nature, all the evidence isn't provided up front. So there are some other things that just don't support the original version of the story that we got.
LEMON: OK. So let's talk about some of those things. You said there's additional evidence, but you can't talk about it. What about this whole thing about the check? You know he's saying he wrote on the line that it was for training and whatever, and that it wasn't to stage an attack. What do you say to that?
JOHNSON: Well, you know what? Like I said, Don, a lot of these things will come out in court if it gets that far. But let's face it. If you were going to, let's say, buy a stolen car, you wouldn't put in the memo line buying stolen car. So that's what I will say to that.
LEMON: Did the brothers testify or tell police that the check was for the attack or was it for training?
[22:40:05] JOHNSON: Well, when you look at -- if you read the bond proffer, what they said the check was for is in that bond proffer, and it was for the attack. LEMON: OK.
JOHNSON: The staged attack.
LEMON: So let's talk about this letter. What about the letter because that was one of the first things you said during the initial press conference, that you believe that he -- this is the one that came about a week before to the set of Empire. The FBI says that is not confirmed.
JOHNSON: Well, yeah. The FBI has not confirmed that we -- you know, that's their individual investigation. So any comments that we've made about it is from evidence that we've gathered independent of the FBI.
LEMON: So this is from your own --
JOHNSON: So they may in fact come up with -- they may in fact come up with something different.
LEMON: OK. So -- but this is from -- you're talking about Chicago P.D.s evidence has nothing to do with what the FBI collected. It is two separate investigations. Is that what you're saying?
JOHNSON: That's correct.
JOHNSON: That's correct.
LEMON: OK. Can we also talk about the Cook County state's attorney Kim Foxx recusing herself? Why is that? Was there some sort of conflict of interest?
JOHNSON: Well, you know, really she's the person that has to answer that. But, you know, I have a very good working relationship with state's attorney Foxx. And I would just say this, that I am sure she had good reason for recusing herself from the case.
LEMON: So here's the thing. I mean besides the question about why would Jussie Smollett do this, you laid that out in the proffer. And from what, you know, you said at the press conference. But what reason, Superintendent, would the brothers have to attack Jussie Smollett on their own if -- because if he's saying he didn't do it, then that must mean the brothers did it on their own?
JOHNSON: Well, that's the only thing you could surmise from that. And, you know, we have to face the fact that he still has the presumption of innocence at this time. And he'll get his chance to explain his side of the story. But like you just said, you know, you wonder why would they do that on their own? They didn't appear to have any conflict with each other. So I think all those details will come out, you know, when he gets his day in court. LEMON: I am sure you've heard about this. People were surprised.
You know, I am not saying in a bad or a good way. But in the press conference that you were so passionate, so clearly upset. This was personal for you. Why is that?
JOHNSON: You know what, Don? I've lived in Chicago my entire life. And I don't know if you know this, but I grew up -- part of my childhood was in (Inaudible), which could be characterized as the most notorious public housing project back in the 60s and 70s. You know when I took this job as superintendent in 2016, the mayor and I made a pact that we would do everything we could to make Chicago safer.
And we've made a lot of progress in these three years. You know crime is down. We have built up and repaired relationships in the black communities, the black and brown communities. So we don't want to lose that momentum. And we certainly don't need manufactured things to, you know, stunt that growth. Now, are we where we want to be? Of course we're not. But we've made a lot of progress.
You know we're 40 percent down this year, year-to-date, compared to last year in terms of murders, 22 percent down in shootings. And those are important figures. So I don't want anything to disrupt that unless it is something that is -- something that's earned. And it just -- I just don't understand the nature of something like this.
Because it could really cause an issue in this city, you know, we've had issues before, but we've made a lot of progress also.
LEMON: And the numbers are going the right way -- the right direction. That's a good thing. As far as Jussie Smollett, he continues to stand by his story that he didn't stage this attack, Superintendent. His attorneys released a statement, saying Smollett feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing. How do you respond to that?
JOHNSON: So what I will say to you, Don, is this. Our job as police officers, not just in Chicago but across this country, our job is to let the facts guide us to where we go. When we started this investigation, he told us that, you know, he could see through the mask that these were white-skinned people. That's who we were looking for. But the facts guided us in a different direction.
And I would tell you this also. We classified him as a victim. We gave him the benefit of the doubt all the way up until the 47th hour, of the 48th hour that we could legally hold those two brothers in custody. It turned at that 47th hour. And that's when he became a suspect in this, you know? Our job is to gather the facts and evidence, present them to the state's attorney, who then decides if the evidence is sufficient for charging.
They decided it was. Now, the next step is to go through the judicial process, and either a judge or jury will decide who's telling the truth. So we just let the judicial process play out.
LEMON: He did say it was white -- he saw white skin. He said that to you, to police? JOHNSON: Yes, if you read the bond proffer...
LEMON: I did.
JOHNSON: You'll see that in there.
[22:45:02] LEMON: I have you here. I just want to make sure. And again, you stand by the evidence that you have. And you said that you have more evidence than what you presented at the press conference and in the proffer that leads you to believe that this was something that he cooked up himself.
JOHNSON: I absolutely stand by the investigation. The detectives did a heck of a job. And I want to commend them on their thoroughness in that investigation. So I have no reason to believe right now than it's anything different than what we've stated it is. Now, when he gets his day in court and he's able to say his part of the incident, then we'll see what happens. But right now tonight, the evidence suggests otherwise. It doesn't suggest that the incident occurred the way that he stated it did.
LEMON: You guys are very busy in Chicago. I want to ask you about R. Kelly now. He left the Cook County Jail this afternoon after posting bail. He was indicted on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of four victims. These stories of R. Kelly with underage girls have been around for decades. Superintendent, why is it taking so long to charge him?
JOHNSON: Well, I think a lot of the problem is, Don, you know, even like for us, when we are investigating murders and shootings and things of that nature, you know, oftentimes we'll identify people of interest. But it ultimately comes down to whether witnesses or victims are willing to cooperate. You can have all the evidence in the world.
But if victims and witnesses don't want to cooperate, then you kind of reach a point that you can't take it any further. So I think right now what you have with that particular case is people that feel like they were taken advantage of are willing to actually say something now.
LEMON: Superintendent, I thank you for your time. And you mentioned at the press conference about the people who were victims of gun violence in Chicago needing to get attention, and we would love to have you back to discuss that as well. So will you please come back anytime and discuss those issues?
JOHNSON: I'd be glad to, Don. Thanks for having me.
LEMON: Thank you, Superintendent Johnson. Appreciate your time.
LEMON: Patriots owner Bob Kraft, officially facing charges of soliciting prostitution. All the details of the months-long investigation that led to the bust and what it could mean for the billionaire.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots, has been charged with soliciting prostitution. Investigators say video shows Kraft visited a Florida day spa to pay for sex acts just hours before the AFC championship game. But Kraft denies he engaged in any illegal activity. Brynn Gingras has more now.
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BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It appears Tom Brady is standing by the man who he's won six Super Bowls with, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. This photo of the two hugging taken today, soon after, police in Florida released documents alleging Kraft solicited sex on the very day of the game that got the Pats to this year's Super Bowl. Kraft is one of at least 25 people now charged with soliciting prostitution in Palm Beach County after a months-long investigation of massage parlors.
DAVE ARONBERG, FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY: I am not surprised about the defendants. Defendants in these matters come from every socioeconomic group. And it's just the reality of the times we live in.
GINGRAS: Court paperwork states Kraft headed to the Orbits of Asia Day Spa if Jupiter on the afternoon of January 19th. A track of his private jet shows he flew into Florida from Boston the day before. And it is cameras that police say caught him soliciting sex acts, not once, but twice over the next two days.
CHIEF DANIEL KERR, JUPITER POLICE DEPARTMENT: And much of our evidence comes directly from the businesses, and also from body-worn cameras of our officers, and also surveillance.
GINGRAS: According to police, those cameras show Kraft paying for services in cash at the front desk and heading back to a private room. And that's where more cameras allegedly catch the Patriots owner undress and lay on a massage table while a woman touches him. Kraft spent 40 minutes at the spa before driving away in a white Bentley. A traffic stop confirmed Kraft's identity according to the filing.
The next day, Sunday, January 20th, police say Kraft came back to the spa at 10:59 in the morning. This time, police say the cameras show him lying on a table while a woman performs a sex act. The video allegedly shows Kraft paying money to the woman before he leaves 14 minutes later. That afternoon, the billionaire's private jet takes off from Florida headed to Kansas City, touching down in time for kickoff of the AFC championship game where the Patriots beat the Chiefs.
After the celebration, Kraft heads back to Boston. The state's attorney says the charges highlight the growing problem of human trafficking.
ARONBERG: Human trafficking is built on force, fraud, or coercion. It is evil in our midst.
GINGRAS: A spokesman says we categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. The NFL says its personal conduct policy applies equally across the league, and it remains to be seen what consequences if any the league's most successful owner will face. "We will handle this allegation in the same way we would handle any issue under the policy," the NFL said in a statement.
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LEMON: Brynn joins me now. Thank you for joining us here and giving us that report. What kind of punishment is he looking at?
GINGRAS: Well, the charges carry a year in prison. But because it's the first offense for Kraft, it's more likely he'll get, you know, educational classes that he'll have to take and fines for the most part, yeah.
[22:54:59] LEMON: So people have been focusing on the charges of soliciting prostitution. And the human trafficking stuff, he is not charged with that.
LEMON: But the state's attorney says it's a huge problem that we should be paying more attention.
GINGRAS: Yeah. And the state's attorney really uses his platform to kind of explain how big of a problem it is. He said in this particular case, these women were lured into the country, in most cases from China, living, working, sleeping, eating, and then being forced to perform these sex acts on people all day long. And saying, you know, this is a brothel, this is modern day slavery.
And he's saying really the only way it can be stopped is two ways. One, women report it. They realize they have options here when they report it. In some cases, that means a visa. And then the other way is cut down demand. You know the people that take part in this, the alleged defendants in this case, maybe they don't want to know what's going on or they just turn a blind eye. But that's really the way that this is going to stop.
LEMON: Appreciate the report. Thank you, Brynn Gingras. Thank you so much. Michael Cohen starts three days of testimony on Capitol Hill in just hours. How damaging could it be for the president?