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Everybody Awaits Michael Cohen's Testimony; Republican Congressman Follows the President's Bully Playbook; Interview with Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL); Michael Cohen Expected to Give Details of Donald Trump's Business Deals and Conduct in an Upcoming Hearing; Donald Trump Getting Ready for Second Summit with North Korean Leader; Michael Cohen Threatened by Congressman Matt Gaetz. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 26, 2019 - 22:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: That's right.

[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Then you have to care equally about another liar.


LEMON: They said why, why do Michael Cohen's lies matter and Donald Trump lies don't?

CUOMO: That's right because one them they're afraid of and one of them they're not. That's why. But that's the problem for them tomorrow. And that's why if they come out about him, just as a point of credibility and he's actually to show things that corroborate things, it's going to come back to haunt them because they're not going to be able to keep to that standard with this president.

And many, in fact, have abused it. They ignore what he does on a regular basis. So tomorrow they want to get righteous, you know, it's going to be a little bit of an obvious hypocrisy, but that's politics.

LEMON: And little bit of an -- it's amazing to sit here and just watch the hypocrisy happen. I mean, it is just amazing. We don't need this kind of oversight of a president. OK, remember when a very similar thing happened to Bill Clinton? Where were you then?

Where he's saying when it started off as Whitewater and it ended up with Monica Lewinsky, you weren't saying, well that's outside of the scope of what the special counsel -- nobody was saying that. And all of a sudden now, you want to play by different rules.


CUOMO: Look, this --

LEMON: That's not how it works.

CUOMO: This is what gave birth to Donald Trump, the obvious hypocrisy, the disaffection with the same. People being fed up and having no expectations of trust or integrity. That was the petri dish, the bowl of ingredients that allowed Donald Trump to feast on those feelings, those same feelings.

Look, the same time we're talking about this, and this matters. They had an emergency declaration vote today, right, that they're trying to work through?


LEMON: Yes, the House --

CUOMO: About whether or not to have a joint statement of recall on it, right? Joint resolution. How many Republicans went after Obama for doing exactly this? How many times did they say, Paul Ryan, and all these other guys, you know, now he's out, but how many times did they say, we've got to take our power back from the president.


CUOMO: We're going to stop letting him send military all over.


LEMON: He's not a monarch, he's not a dictator.

CUOMO: Yes, we've got to get it all back.


CUOMO: Now he's sticking it right in their face and they're eating it like it was ice cream.

LEMON: Well, listen, I have to say, I know politics is a dirty business. Nobody knows that more than you, right? You grew up in a political family. Have you ever seen anything like what Congressman Gaetz --


CUOMO: Nope.

LEMON: -- did today?

CUOMO: Matt Gaetz. I thought you meant the whole process. No. That was in this new reality of overt manifestations of obnoxious political behaviors, this ranks high.

But look, Matt Gaetz is developing a little bit of a persona of being a provocateur. He's a little bit like a baby Trump in that regard. You know, he knows if he is provocative, it gets him attention. And it gets him noticed and it distinguishes him.

And let me tell you, he's got a lot of friends in the White House. He's got a lot of love in the White House.


CUOMO: So, do I think that he was trying to chill Michael Cohen? No, I do not. I think he was trying to get attention and he got it.

LEMON: I think it's both.

CUOMO: Do I think it will have any effect on Cohen?


CUOMO: I think it has no effect.

LEMON: I think it's both. I think it's, yes, I got, don't worry, man, I got this, I got this, wait until you see this.


LEMON: I think, of course. I know there's all kinds of -- I can only imagine, all kinds of talking and everybody's in cahoots and --


CUOMO: Why wouldn't you say that when the president does it?

LEMON: It's really disgusting. I mean, I've never seen anything like it. When I first saw it, I thought it was a joke. I said, there is not -- there is not a sitting member of Congress who would do this, especially when I said --


CUOMO: The president does it.

LEMON: Yes, of course he does, we know that. But especially, I said if someone did this, they must have a sterling reputation and has never done anything wrong outside the bounds of the law or even within their marriage.

That's not the case with Matt Gaetz, because he opened up a can of worms, and if you look at the Internet, people are coming for him and they're talking about things that he has done wrong in the past. I'm not saying it's fair, but maybe it's all -- maybe it is all fair game once you put yourself out there and you do something that's just that, as I say, child.


CUOMO: Well, I'll tell you what I did and like about it most.

LEMON: The ghetto.

CUOMO: Again, I don't believe it is a serious threat and I don't think it was taken as the same.


CUOMO: But here's what I don't like. And I worry about this on the left, also. Scandal is seductive, but it is not productive.

LEMON: Productive.

CUOMO: You are not going to impeach a president because he's got bad character and he's done a lot of shady stuff in the past. You're going to have to show that there is an abuse of power that is active and ongoing. So, don't get too caught up in that kind of stuff. I hope they don't. It would be a real disservice.

LEMON: You reap what you sew, I've got to tell you. Karma.


CUOMO: That's deep. That's deep, Don.

LEMON: Karma is going to be bad. It's going to be bad. All right, brother. I've got to go. I'm in D.C. I've got a lot to get to. I'm preparing the way for you. All right. I'm going to make it easy for you tomorrow when you get everything all.

CUOMO: You didn't take up all the rooms on the top floor again, did you?

LEMON: I did, I did, all of them.

CUOMO: The whole entourage. You got your cape?


CUOMO: I'll see you tomorrow.

LEMON: I'll see you. A superhero cape. Thank you.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

As I said, live from Washington right now. And we are just hours away from what could be the biggest bombshell of them all, the biggest one of all. Michael Cohen, the man who kept Donald Trump's secrets for years, about to tell all on live TV under oath.


[22:05:08] MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I look forward to tomorrow, to being able to, in my voice, to tell the American people my story. And I'm going to let the American people decide exactly who's telling the truth.


LEMON: Ladies and gentlemen, this is just the beginning. This is how big it is. I want you to listen to Senator Mark Warner. He is the vice chair of the intel committee talking about what he heard from Cohen just today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: The only comment I'm going to make is

that two years ago when this investigation started, I said, it may be the most important thing I'm involved in, in my public life in the Senate. And nothing I have heard today dissuades me from that view.


LEMON: Cohen testified today for more than nine hours behind closed door. But tomorrow, he's going to blow the doors off. Millions of people will be watching the president's former fixer live before the House Oversight Committee.

And a source is telling CNN that Cohen is expected to reveal behind- the-scenes details about Trump's business dealings and his conduct as a candidate. The source also says he may have documents to back up his story.

Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings says Cohen has agreed to discuss hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Also, the president's finances, conflicts of interests at Trump Foundation, at the Trump Foundation, and the Trump international hotel.

You know who's going to be really interested in all of that? Prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, who are already investigating the president's businesses. Not to mention pretty much every other committee on the Hill investigating Trump right now.

But we also learned some intriguing details about Cohen's classified testimony today before the Senate Intel Committee. Multiple sources telling CNN that Cohen apologized to the committee for lies he told in his 2017 testimony. Lies that, along with financial crimes and campaign finance violations, will land him behind bars for three years.

Republican Senator Roy Blunt said Cohen spent a lot of time explaining exactly what was untruthful in his previous testimony. Republican Susan Collins said Cohen got what she called an extensive grilling and said he was, quote, "very different guy from the last time he appeared."

Democratic Senator Kamala Harris wouldn't comment, except to say, yes when asked if she'd learned anything new.

And here's one of the big questions in all of this. Are there tapes to back up what Cohen said? Are there tapes? We know he taped some of his conversations with Trump. We all remember this.


COHEN: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know, so that I'm going to do that right away. I've actually come up --


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Give it to me -- COHEN: And I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up, with --


TRUMP: So, what are we going to do?

COHEN: -- funding. Yes. And it's all the stuff, all the stuff. Because, you know, you never know where that company, never know where he's going to be --


TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So, I'm all over that.


LEMON: That was juicy. Remember that one? That was a good one. Congressman Jackie Speier says she thinks there are more tapes and she thinks the House Intel Committee will hear them.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER, (D) CALIFORNIA: Michael Cohen taped many conversations with Donald Trump. I'm confident that we're probably going to be listening to other tapes, at some point.


LEMON: So, if you're wondering just how much all of this has gotten under the president's skin, even while he's half a world away in Vietnam, for his summit with Kim Jong-un, there's this really disgusting, disgraceful, vile, nasty -- anyone got any other adjectives for me? Unbelievable, despicable, low-down, in the gutter, ghetto, trashy example of last-minute witness intimidation from a member of team Trump.

Congressman Matt Gaetz, even after everything we have seen, this is shocking, coming from a sitting member of Congress, OK? Are you ready for this? This is a quote. "Hey, Michael Cohen, do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she'll remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot."

[22:10:00] Like I said, straight out of the gutter. And straight up witness intimidation. No other way to put it. No other way to look at it. Actually, maybe there is.

Let's look at it another way. It is pretty rich for Trump supporter Congressman Gaetz to take a stab at Michael Cohen wielding the smarmy -- that's a good one, I like that -- the smarmy, unsubstantiated claim that he has some girlfriends. When all of this raveled over a scheme to pay illegal hush money to a porn star named Stormy Daniels, who said she had sex with the president when his wife, Melania, had just had a baby!

Now, that's classy with a United States congressman just gleefully mudslinging. Gaetz claims his tweet wasn't witness tampering, but what he called witness testing. But whatever you call it, though, it's right out of the Trump playbook.


TRUMP: Did he make a deal to keep his wife who supposedly -- maybe I'm wrong, but you can check it -- did he keep -- make a deal to keep his wife out of trouble?

He should give information maybe on his father-in-law, because that's the one that people want to look at. Because where does that money -- that's the money in the family.

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: What is his father-in-law's name?

TRUMP: I don't know, but you'll find out and you'll look into to, because nobody knows what's going on over there.


LEMON: Words that Florida eldest (Ph) damn, damn, damn, damn. Let's remember ""The New York Times"" reporting that Congressman Gaetz, a Trump ally from day one, was one of the first Republicans to go on the offensive against the Mueller investigation. And that really got the presidential seal of approval, so to speak.

So, I think we can guess how the president feels about all of this now. But frankly, it is shameful, or it would be if the Congressman had any shame. Believe it or not, he says he's trying to get on the hearing tomorrow to question Michael Cohen. He's not even on the committee.

And if this tells you just how worried the president and his allies are about what Cohen said today behind closed doors and what he'll say tomorrow with millions of people of watching and listening live, those millions including the president himself, who is expected to pull an all-nighter to watch Cohen's testimony, that in the hours leading up to his summit with Kim Jong-un, a ruthless dictator, who has yet to give up his nuclear weapons. Here's what the president said about him the last time.


TRUMP: He is very talented, anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough. Very few people at that age, you can take 1 out of 10,000, probably couldn't do it.


LEMON: Now some of the president's aides are worried about what he might be willing to give up to get a nuclear agreement. To re-write the script as Michael Cohen testifies with the whole world watching. Live.

We've seen Republicans attack Michael Cohen, with that shameful tweet from Congressman Matt Gaetz today. Is there more mud-slinging to come? That's a question for Manu Raju, Laura Coates, Matthew Rosenberg, next.


LEMON: We are just hours away from Michael Cohen's public testimony before the House Oversight Committee, live on TV. President Trump's former lawyer and fixer says he is looking forward to telling his story in his own words and that the American people can decide who is telling the truth.

The White House calls Cohen a convicted liar, but that's not going to stop him from telling his story tomorrow.

Let's bring in now Manu Raju, Laura Coates, and Matthew Rosenberg. Good evening.


LEMON: Wow. Seriously, the reason I say wow is, we all have someone who knows our secrets, right? Imagine that person who knows your secrets about everything turning on you and revealing those secrets to the rest of the world and that's what we're expected to hear from Michael Cohen tomorrow. His ex-attorney, the person who implicated him in a crime testifying. You have some new -- testifying publicly, you have some new reporting.

RAJU: Yes. It's about what the parameters of what tomorrow's hearing is going to be about. Elijah Cummings is the chairman of the House Oversight Committee. They sent a memo to democratic members on the committee, making it clear that they don't want them to deviate from the lines of questioning that they have agreed upon and discussed tomorrow.

Those are the president's alleged complicates of interest, of course, the hush money payments to silence those stories about women making those allegations of affairs during the run-up to the 2016 campaign, the Trump organization and the like.

What Cummings is making very clear is that there should be no discussion about Russia, Russia interference, nothing pertaining to ties between the Trump organization and the Russians all of that needs to be relegated to behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

Now, there are some Democrats who are not pleased about this, on the same committee. They want to be able to ask a wide range of questions. They believe this is the one opportunity for the public to see exactly the entire scope of what Michael Cohen is saying and to shut off this line of questioning is prompting some frustration.

The concern, of course, from Cummings and others are saying, look, we don't want to trample on the special counsel's investigation, so we're trying to make sure that everyone has their lanes here.

But that's one thing the public will not hear tomorrow, about Russia, what he's been saying behind closed doors about the Russia interference and also why he lied to the House and Senate intelligence committee.

LEMON: OK, so if you're a skillful questioner, miss know everything about the law, there are ways to ask the question or get an answer without -- you know what I'm saying? You don't have to go directly there. You can sort of scoot around it and get answer out of it.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Of course, you can. And you can also elicit testimony from him without even asking him the direct question --

LEMON: Right.

COATES: -- by having an open-ended discussion.

[22:19:59] Remember, this is somebody who's asked to be here. He's not appearing via subpoena, he has voluntarily asked to appear. And he's already told people, especially on ABC talking to George Stephanopoulos, I will not be the villain at the end of this story.

So, we already know that he has a vested interest in being as forthcoming and comprehensive as possible. He is well aware of the restrictions of Elijah Cummings. He is well aware that behind closed doors he's going to be talking about Russia and the special counsel probe to an extent.

But this is also not only democratic lawmakers, it's Michael Cohen's last opportunity to speak to the American people before he goes to prison in May. I think he will not take that particular role lightly.

And to that end, I hope he answers the real questions the American people want to know, which is, you pled guilty in New York, saying that somebody, the president of the United States or candidate Donald Trump, actually directed you or coordinated with you an effort to circumvent campaign finance laws. Tell us what that was about. The word Russia is not in that question. It's all about what the actual candidate did. That's it.

LEMON: There you go. But, so, here's the thing, though. Why would he -- it's three years now, right?

COATES: Three years.

LEMON: Would he spend all of that --


LEMON: OK. So, then, why would he lie and make things worse for himself?

COATES: He would not. And the idea that's part of it.

LEMON: That's --

COATES: And by the way, thinking about that, he has until May for the special counsel to be able to say, actually, your honor, we would like you to reconsider that three-year sentence. That's still in the cards for him.

LEMON: I got it.

COATES: So, he has every sentence to say, I'm going to be overly cooperative, but always truthful.

LEMON: Yes. So, he -- the president likes to portray himself, Matthew, as this very successful businessman, like, I'm the best deals, I have the best, whatever. When most of the people who have followed him and do financial reporting were saying, there is no actual proof that he is a billionaire. A lot of that is Trumped up, no pun intended.

Michael Cohen backed him up about that for a long time. Is this going to be a 180 tomorrow, that we're going to get to the finally people are going to hear the kind of businessman he actually is?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean, I imagine we're going to hear a very different version of, you know, -- we're going to go from Donald Trump of the apprentice, you're fired, a mogul, to Donald Trump of kind of tawdry, cheap hush money payments. There's no other way to describe that.

Basically, we've got a president who in his own personal life becoming president had a man who's described as his fixer. And that's not what successful, legitimate self-made businessmen have. They might have a lawyer who helps things on the side, but having somebody around who threatens people and they are getting your way, who says they are going to take a bullet for you, you know, who plays the tough guy, who plays the heavy.

It's not going to -- I can't imagine he's going to portray Donald Trump as having this wonderfully clean business. What I do hope though, is that the Democrats is going to the question you asked Laura here, that the Democrats just shut up and let him talk.

LEMON: Right.

ROSENBERG: They don't make points, and they don't need to. He wants to be there, you know. But you know, it's Congress.

RAJU: So, the congressional hearing --


ROSENBERG: It's Congress.

RAJU: So, he's going to be worried about that.

LEMON: So, again, I think that's very good advice if you're the questionnaire. Say it again. ROSENBERG: Shut up and let him talk. That's what every journalist

knows, good journalist know knows to do and doesn't always do it. But does let him talk, he wants to tell a story, then let him tell it.

LEMON: You know, that's a very good point because tomorrow is really about clarification to the American people, for the American people. This is not about you running for office for -- well, maybe you want to be a senator. Maybe I want to -- you know, or running for re- election or running for the presidency.

This is about the American people so back up with the got you and grandstanding and just let him talk, very good advice.

So, listen, this is how it was described today, an extensive grilling, the closed-door session today. Walk us through what happened with the Senate intel testimony?

RAJU: Well, it was a long day. He came in at about 9.30 in the morning, he left around 6.00 p.m. Eastern. After a full day of questioning from -- actually, it was led by staff investigators on the intelligence committee and the Senate side, they were asking questions, senators were in the room and they were passing notes to these staffers who were asking the questions, which is the way this committee typically does its inquiries.

Of course, they talked at length about the lies that he told, when he initially testified back in 2017 about the Trump tower Moscow project, when he significantly downplayed what was going on with the Trump organization's pursuit of this project.

He of course, admitted to lying to the committees about that conversation ending in January 2016, when, in fact, it went on to June, at least of 2016, as the Russian interference campaign was going on. He talked about that a fair amount.

I'm told that he also apologized to the committee for telling those lies. He was contrite, it was a professional discussion. It was not very contentious for the most part.

There are still a lot of details we don't know about what happened in there. We don't know the extent to which he details the president's involvement, whether the president was aware of what he was going to say the last time. And so those are kinds of question -- those are the questions we're going to have to learn about as more as the day --


[22:24:56] LEMON: I think that though, that people are being so quiet about, especially on the Republican side, exactly what happened, there must have been some -- whoa, there must have some moments.

Listen, I've got to ask you this, so this threatening, because I've been talking about Representative Gaetz.


LEMON: What is that?

COATES: Witness intimidation is what it is. It's somebody who's trying to harass a witness, to try to influence or tailor the scope of the testimony, either to withhold some information or to be forthcoming or at least to be on edge and nervous about the entire testimony process.

Now, that's what happens when you talk about witness intimidation. It's not always an instance of somebody physically threatening somebody. It's not about putting a gun to somebody's head or even trying to allude to physical violence. Sometimes it's just a matter of, listen, when you show up, it's going to be awfully uncomfortable. I'm not telling you how but your wife will have a problem with you.

You'll have no safe haven after you leave the actual penitentiary, all these things, but you know what, I'm not intimidating you, I'm just trying to test the witness.

Well, that is actually one of the factors of witness intimidation and influencing. It's about the harassment, it's about the bullying, and it need not have actually impacted what he will say. He could have look at that and said, you know what, forget it. I don't mean to hear you, I'm not listening to you. The fact that he endeavored is enough, whether or not he'll be prosecuted, very different story.

LEMON: Thank you, all. I appreciate it. We all look forward to tomorrow. And there you see the countdown clock right there on your screen.

Michael Cohen says he is looking forward to testifying in public tomorrow and my next guest is probably looking forward to it, too, because he's one of the Congressman who will be questioning Cohen.

Let's put him up. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi is next. We'll see him, he's right here in the wings.


[22:29:59] LEMON: A source telling CNN that when Michael Cohen testifies publicly tomorrow, he is expected to give behind-the-scenes details of Donald Trump's conduct as a businessman and as a presidential candidate. Let's discuss now. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat who is a member of both the Oversight and Intelligence Committees, and so he -- so you get a chance -- good evening by the way. You get a chance to be there and question him twice, right?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS: Yeah. It's going to be a double header. He's going to be in Oversight tomorrow for open session, and then on Thursday in closed session with the Intelligence Committee.

LEMON: You don't have a lot of time to question, right? What are you going to focus on?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yeah. We only have about five minutes per person. I think I'm going to be focusing on some of the president's business practices, including some of his intimidation tactics that he's used in the past to silence people, and to, you know, make sure that people don't necessarily air details of wrongdoing, which is a big problem for us.

LEMON: Yeah. So listen, Matthew Rosenberg from "The New York Times" was just on. I thought he brought up a very good point, where he said just let him talk. This isn't a time for, you know, for lawmakers to be grandstanding, because you don't have a lot of time.


LEMON: Just let him talk, because you may get more out of that. Do you agree with that strategy?


LEMON: This is about the American people tomorrow.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yeah. I think that the American people want to evaluate his credibility. They have heard a lot of different details coming from him. But at the same time, he was convicted of lying before Congress. And so I think that people want to know, OK, is he telling the truth? You know, what does he know about the president? What does he know about the president's conducts, and what kind of wrongdoing happened in 2016 or even now?

LEMON: OK. So listen, behind closed doors, I think you have a little bit more leeway with questioning him, right? Is this where you're going to ask about Russia or about the Moscow tower project?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Correct, correct. Yeah, so there are two reasons why it's closed door. One, because there's an ongoing investigation and we don't want his testimony to shape, influence, or taint anyone else's testimony. And then two, he may share classified information or the questions asked of him may share classified information. So that obviously can't be aired in the open.

LEMON: So he has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. So how much are you going to -- how important will it be for Michael Cohen to show us some receipts, provide some documents, back up anything that he divulges?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think that would be very useful and important, but as important, I mean is just how he tells his story. He said he wants to say it in his own voice. You know, how sincere he comes across, how specific, how consistent his statements are with other statements. I think those are all factors that people are going to weigh in deciding is he credible.

LEMON: Yeah. So -- (Inaudible) he certainly doesn't want to make things worse for himself, because if he lies...


LEMON: Right? Doesn't he stand a chance of going to prison? KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yeah, absolutely. I mean nobody knows the

consequences more than Michael Cohen of lying to Congress. He knows it in months and years at this point.

LEMON: So I played the -- earlier in the show, I played the conversation remember with Michael Cohen. Because in case he gets hit by a bus or whatever, we've got to make these payments...


LEMON: -- in cash, and he's like, no, no, no, I will take care of it. Could we end up hearing more recordings?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't know about that. I think that -- I have heard that he may produce some documents, but I haven't heard anything about a recording yet.

LEMON: What kind of documents have you heard?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I mean -- look. I only know what I read in the press with regards to him potentially bringing signed checks or other information that details payments and that kind of thing.

LEMON: I want to put this up, OK? Let's just read it. Hey, Michael Cohen, do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she'll remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot. That's your colleague, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz threatening Michael Cohen via Twitter.

What do you say to that? He's an ardent Trump ally. Is that witness intimidation?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Look, I don't think tomorrow should be about, you know, who broke vows. It's about who broke laws, OK? And we shouldn't go into the gutter here. I think that this type of conduct is intimidation. It's a threat. And I don't think that is acceptable. We shouldn't run this committee like a mob. This is a very serious business. Let's listen to Michael Cohen.

Let's see what he has to say. Let's try to figure out if wrongdoing occurred. I think it did. And then how do we fix the laws, rules, and regulations to prevent it from happening again? That is the mission of oversight.

LEMON: Is that outside the conduct, or should a sitting congressman be better than that?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yeah, absolutely. I am very disappointed in this type of conduct. It has no place in Congress.

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

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Don, thank you.

LEMON: Thank you very much. Please come back. KRISHNAMOORTHI: Absolutely.

[22:35:00] LEMON: Thank you. The president is currently halfway around the world preparing for his second summit with Kim Jong-un, but will he be distracted by Michael Cohen's testimony in Washington? And how dangerous could that be? The former director of National Intelligence, Mr. James Clapper, is going to weigh in next.


LEMON: Michael Cohen will be testifying live on TV tomorrow as the president is in Vietnam for his second meeting with North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. And with everything happening here at home, some of the president's aides are worried about what he might give up to get a nuclear agreement. Let's discuss that and other things with James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, always a pleasure to have you on.


LEMON: So as I think about this testimony tomorrow, I am thinking about -- a lot about the Russia drama. And it goes back to you, James Comey, and others. You guys went to Trump Tower before the inauguration to brief the president, the president-elect on this dossier. Talk to me a little bit about what you got, where we go from here, how we got here?

[22:40:08] CLAPPER: Well, the incident you -- the episode you referred to when we briefed then president-elect Trump on January 6th was -- I think one of the predicates for this Russian investigation. And so I think tomorrow will be very interesting and very revealing. I think it's one of the things I am going to be looking for is whatever observations that Cohen shares about the Russian entanglement, Trump Tower in Moscow, things.

And in general, financial dealings of the Trump organization predating the campaign, in which I think has some bearing on the strange deference of the president to Russia and Putin specifically.

LEMON: Are you worried that he -- because of what's happening back here, that he may try to distract, he may make a bad decision with Kim Jong-un, because he's trying to distract from Cohen's testimony?

CLAPPER: Yeah. It is inconceivable to me that this is not going to be a huge distraction for him. You know here's this major summit with Kim Jong-un, a lot on the line here, and to think that he's not going to be preoccupied with what's going on back here, particularly in light of the public discourse. And yes, I do worry about that. That just on the -- off the top of his head, he will do something like he did in the Singapore summit when he gratuitously conceded our joint exercises, which was completely unnecessary.

By the way, the North Koreans completely understand those exercises and why we do them, because they are the same every year since I served there 30 years ago. LEMON: Yeah. This is from -- let's see, Rudy Giuliani. And this is

a quote. He says "I don't think Michael Cohen is occupying even 10 percent of his attention right now," meaning the president. But a senior White House official says the president is expected to stay up all night overnight in Hanoi to watch the testimony. How worried do you think he is?

CLAPPER: I think he's very worried. He has to be. He has to be. I mean apart from the legal implications, you know, politically, this is I think potentially hugely damaging to him.

LEMON: Yeah. Although he likes to say, you know when he met with Kim Jong-un, he talks about their relationship and, you know, and how they're, you know, buddies or what have you. The last meeting -- not -- nothing really tangible came out of that meeting, although he likes to say so.


LEMON: Do you think he has learned this time around that he's got to get something out of it?

CLAPPER: I don't know. I mean he's much more into photo op form and not much on substance.

LEMON: Pomp and circumstance.

CLAPPER: And I wish that either then or if this is a do-over, pose the question to Kim Jong-un. What is it that you need to feel secure so you don't need nuclear weapons? And in the absence of knowing the answer to that question, I don't know how we design a negotiating strategy or a way ahead with the North Koreans.

LEMON: Yeah. We know he likes to flatter people. He's trying to make a deal, calls it buttering up, right? This is what he said on Sunday, watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a very interesting thing to say, but I have developed a very, very good relationship. We'll see what that means. But he's never had a relationship with anybody from this country and hasn't had lots of relationships anywhere.


LEMON: So who's flattering who here?

CLAPPER: Well, I don't know whose ego he's feeding? His own or Kim Jong-un, and by the way, Kim Jong-un has had a pretty good relationship with Dennis Rodman. And I mean that in a serious way. So, you know, this whole flattery thing when you -- particularly I don't -- it's kind of hard to take given, you know, the way Kim Jong- un behaves and his brutality and his abuse of human rights and all that. And it's a (Inaudible) little hard to take. LEMON: A brutal dictator who's killed members of his own family.

CLAPPER: Exactly.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate, always a pleasure.

CLAPPER: Thanks for having me.

LEMON: My next guest says the president has created a new reality in Washington and across the country. He says we've normalized Trumpism, and he says we're never going back to the way it was before. Stay with us.


LEMON: Hours before Michael Cohen's public testimony before Congress, an ally of President Trump's, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, tweeted out a threat to Cohen. It's something I have got to talk about with former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, also with Alice Stewart, and Matt Lewis. By the way, Matt has a column in "The Daily Beast," and it is titled "We Have Finally Normalized Trumpism."

Good evening. I don't know if there's a better example tonight, right? You didn't even have this in mind when you wrote this, right? OK, here's what it says. It says hey, Michael Cohen, do your wife and father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight will be a good time for that. I wonder if she'll remain faithful while you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot.

[22:49:56] MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is a guy doing what Donald Trump does. I mean he may be doing Trump's bidding literally here, but he's also replicating what Donald Trump has done to the body of politics.

LEMON: But is there any behavior too low?

LEWIS: No. You never apologize -- he hasn't deleted it. That's one of the lessons we've learned from Trump. And that's why I think that Trump has normalized so many things. I mean you look at all the crazy things happening, North Korea, Michael Cohen, sexual harassment, and emergency declaration where Trump overreaches and tries to grab power from legislature. And then you have an army of Matt Gaetz is out there, OK.

There are disciples. I think that once the doors -- Donald Trump opens doors that cannot be closed. And if he's a two-term president, which I think is within the realm of possibility, you are going to have a generation of young people who came of age, young Republicans for example watching this guy. He's their Ronald Reagan. This is model. This is what works in politics, at least up until now.

LEMON: Have any of you seen any Republican sitting Congress members, senate, anybody, lawmaker really vehemently speak out against this?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, not yet. And I would like to think someone will. Someone will be stopped I assume tomorrow and asked to reply to this. And you cannot read that and you can't absorb and anything other than it is completely inappropriate and is uncalled for. And it's -- another thing it is certainly not going to scare Michael Cohen.

He doesn't have anything to lose by putting whatever he has to put out there. But from the standpoint of he should -- Gaetz should certainly apologize. But taking it down I think that's only going to cause more harm than good here, because everyone knows what he says. He needs to own up to it. He needs to apologize. He needs to take it back, and there's just no two ways about it.

LEMON: You once chaired the House Ethics Committee, right?


LEMON: Will there be any ramification -- what do you think of this and will there be any ramification?

DENT: Well, somebody could file a complaint. And there is a certain rule in the House that says any conduct that brings discredit upon the House can be sanctioned. That's a pretty loose definition. That can be just about anything. But unless there is a complaint, I suspect nothing will happen. I thought I understood the rules of politics having run for office 13 times.

We tried to keep the public discourse confined to matters of public record. So if you have been arrested or you have a PFA against public statements or votes, that's all fair game.

LEMON: Yeah.

DENT: But unsubstantiated, uncorroborated personal (Inaudible) attacks, I mean if somebody had launched this type of attack on the congressman, he would be considered it a human rights violation and he would be waving a bloody shirt and -- I mean this is an alternative reality.

LEMON: You are a Republican.

DENT: Yeah.

LEMON: So do you condemn this tweet?

DENT: Absolutely.

LEMON: You're a Republican.

STEWART: Absolutely. There's no place for that.

LEWIS: This -- even if you took out the legal -- the possibility that this is intimidation and witness-tampering or all that, it would have been still scummy and disgusting. That's what this guy does.

LEMON: Yeah. So Matt, let's talk a little bit more about your piece. You say we have finally normalized Trumpism, right? And then you write we have a president close to trampling over the bedrock of our constitutional system of governance with an emergency declaration to appropriate his own funding for a border wall.

At the same time, he is taking even more concrete steps towards legitimatizing a nuclear regime by having another ego-stroking sit down with North Korea's madman dictator Kim Jong-un. Before Trump, both of these things would've been contrary to everything conservatives.

LEWIS: Right. So I think that this is abnormal just in terms of American standards and American political standards. But it's especially abhorrent considering what conservatives used to believe in. I mean I am old enough to remember 2014 when we said -- I'll count myself included I wrote about this that Barack Obama was trying to act like a dictator or a Caesar.

He said that he couldn't do what he ended up doing with the dreamers. I actually think that the policy was right, but he didn't have the right to do it. And Barack Obama said he didn't have the right to do it, same thing with Donald Trump's and his emergency declaration. There is no emergency. Donald Trump spent months trying to persuade Congress to do something.

Then when they wouldn't do it, he said well, guess what? I don't need you because I am the man. This is what conservatives used to believe in, institutions, conservative (Inaudible), constitutional conservatives. That's just one example of how this...


DENT: If this order is left (Inaudible) on the, you know, on the transferring (Inaudible) military construction, then an emergency is whatever a president says it is. I know that tomorrow there's going to be legislation introduced bipartisan that's going to address this emergencies act so Congress can retake -- reclaim some of its...


LEMON: So even with the vote -- even with (Inaudible) Republicans in the vote today, it still won't pass veto-muster.

DENT: Correct.

LEMON: So -- but you said there is going to be new legislation.

DENT: There's going to be legislation I'm told -- I was told tonight. There is going to be legislation introduced, bipartisan. It's going to reform this emergencies act that would give Congress more oversight and determine what is an actual emergency, because this clearly is not an emergency.


[22:55:04] DENT: An emergency is the assault on the power of (Inaudible) authority of the Constitution.

STEWART: Here is the thing. My brand of conservativism and I believe yours as well. It was here long before President Trump came into office. And it will be here long after he leaves office. The way he goes about doing things, a lot of it I don't agree with. I don't agree with a lot of the rhetoric, but I do agree with the results.

And right here, what we're talking about -- we may disagree of his declaration of the emergency powers. We -- I disagreed with some of the things that President Obama, but the end result is what he ran on, but a lot of Republicans ran on.

LEMON: Where is that brand of Republican that you say you are and believe Matt is. Where is that now?

STEWART: The -- it's -- many Republicans that are currently serving in office are doing just that, because they say look, I don't agree with how he's doing it, but we ran on securing this border. We ran on making sure that...


LEWIS: -- justifies the means. The reason we have principles, the reason we have the rule of law is that we honor those things and abide by them even when we disagree.

LEMON: Yeah.


DENT: And he's breaking the law. The president is violating the Budget Act. He cannot take defense money and move it for a non- defense purpose. He is breaking a firewall of the second statute with this order.

LEMON: Fascinating conversation. It's a fascinating piece in "The Daily Beast." We have finally normalized Trumpism by Matt Lewis. So I adjust everyone read that. Thank you, all. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.