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President Trump Believes a Rogue Leader's Word; Executive One Identified by Michael Cohen; Michael Cohen Testifies Before Congress; Interview with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); Michael Cohen Implicates President Trump in a Crime During Blockbuster Congressional Testimony; CNN Original Series; An Update to 2018 CNN Hero of the Year. Aired 11-12a ET
Aired February 28, 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.
Michael Cohen will return to Capitol Hill to give more closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee next Wednesday. That's after President Trump's former fixer answered questions for more than seven hours today out of the public eye. And there's more.
The chairman of the House intel announcing a public hearing on March 14th with Felix Sater. He's a Russian born and former business associate of Donald Trump who worked on the Trump Tower Moscow project with Michael Cohen.
That as, President Trump incredibly sided with a dictator yet again, this time saying he doesn't hold Kim Jong-un responsible for Otto Warmbier's death after Kim denied knowledge of the American student's mistreatment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He felt badly about it. I did speak to him. He felt very badly. But he tells me -- he tells me that he didn't know about it. And I will take him at his word.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: We'll talk about that in the hour ahead. I want to bring in now Shimon Prokupecz, Matthew Rosenberg, and Laura Coates.
Good evening. Thank you all for joining us this evening.
Matthew, first let me ask you about "The New York Times". "The New York Times" is reporting that the president ordered Chief of Staff John Kelly to grant a security clearance to his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. You contribute to the story. And it looks like the president overruled the recommendations of his own intelligence agency.
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, look, we have known for a while that Kushner had problems. I mean, this is a guy when he filed his initial security clearance form on report January 2017, he didn't put any foreign contacts on it.
And what we learned is that, you know, over the last two years the FBI, the CIA and others have raise concern -- had raised concerns over Kushner's contacts with a number of foreign businessman who are tied into foreign governments and just questions about his discretion and his ability to keep secrets.
And, you know, a level of even entanglement with foreign concerns that would probably keep any American from getting a security clearance. At some point last year, the president said, well, he's got to have it and at least John Kelly, the former chief of staff, believed that he was ordered by President Trump to make sure Jared got a clearance and that Don McGahn also wrote a memo saying the same thing.
So, both McGahn and Kelly wrote their own memos kind of outlining their concerns and Kelly saying he believed he was ordered to give Jared a clearance despite the concerns of the FBI and the CIA and NSA.
LEMON: So, I apologize today. Did you guys hear that sneeze? Did I make it on the air? Sorry.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Bless you.
LEMON: I couldn't hold it. I was trying to tell them, like I need to sneeze. Cut my mic. But sorry about that.
So, listen, Shimon, you know, team Trump hasn't been very honest about this, have they?
PROKUPECZ: No. They haven't been very honest, you know, neither has team Trump or neither have the people around Jared Kushner. Let's remind folks of when Jared Kushner first -- when it was announced and his lawyers came out and said, he's getting his security clearance. They tried to act as if he went through the normal channels and this was given to Jared Kushner after an extensive background check and then the FBI and the CIA all just kind of signed off on this.
And then obviously now we learned that that just wasn't the case.
[23:04:55] And then the other thing let's remind folks is when the president was asked about this by "The New York Times" he denied back in January that he had any involvement in getting Jared Kushner his security clearance. Here is that sound.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: There's been a story in the news in the last two weeks about your son-in-law's security clearance.
HABERMAN: Did you tell General Kelly or anyone else in the White House to overrule security officials? The career veterans?
TRUMP: No, I don't I have the authority to do it. HABERMAN: You have the authority to do it.
TRUMP: But I wouldn't -- I wouldn't do it.
HABERMAN: You never --
TRUMP: Jared is a good -- I was -- I was never involved with his security.
IVANKA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: The president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHIMON PROKUPECZ: And that was obviously Ivanka Trump, the daughter and the wife of Jared Kushner.
What's really significant in all this and I think Matt hit on this is that, basically what the president did here was that he circumvented the entire process, the intelligence community process by doing something like this.
And I can tell you I spoke to someone tonight in the intelligence community about this and said they're not very happy about this, you know, for obvious reasons because it just kind of goes around the institutions that are in place to try and deal with things like this.
And if the president is sort of known to circumvent this process, then they feel what is the point of having this process? If the president is just going to decide to go ahead and do this, there is really no point in having this process. And that is what concerns them, is that this entire process, the president which we see time and time again has been circumvented.
LEMON: Laura, listen, the president has a right to grant a security clearance, but why lie about it?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's the major question here. I mean, it really is the president's prerogative to either classify or even declassify whatever information he sees fit. And as we know, he kind of gave the role to his son-in-law as the secretary of everything.
I mean, he's responsible for bringing out the Middle East peace crisis. He's somebody if he had to fill that role would need to be able to have access. So, the president has the right to. So why would you lie about it repeatedly things that you already have the power to do?
And let's just hammer in for people the reason why there may have been concerns. We don't know all the reasons why there may have been security clearance concerns, but we do know that when you have somebody in the executive branch of government working so closely with the president of the United States, in particular you want them to engage in behavior to have international compromises. You don't want to themselves be compromised.
And if the nature of the concern is because they thought that Jared Kushner could be manipulated, could be acceptable to bribery in some way or in some way said this is somebody you do not want to have top secret clearance, the president circumventing that is not about nepotism or as prerogative, it's about dismissing genuine concerns by putting someone in a position to be malleable to maybe have that susceptibility and also to now have the top government secrets.
See, that's part of the issue. Perhaps that's the reason the president lied because he disregards repeatedly the notion of the intelligence community saying you need to look at this. And by the way, Don McGahn and General -- and Kelly had the same concerns. Both of them don't have the axe to grind as once thought about Ivanka or Jared Kushner. So both had concerns and the president disregarded it.
ROSENBERG: You know, I think it's also worth explaining to folks, you know, how this process works and why it works. When you try and get a security clearance they are going to your finances. They go in to get, everybody you, they want to let all of your foreign contact.
I know that if you live in Washington, like a bunch of us do, you never have neighbors who are getting security clearances renewals and you got people come to your house. They have to sat down for any number of my neighbors and been ask are they loyal Americans? Have you seen them use drugs? Do you have any reason to doubt, you know, their honesty?
And you know, I think that explains a lot of frustration for people inside the government who have gone through this process. And then they see somebody who it's never really been explained why is he in the White House. What is his role, what it is his expertise and now he's got access to all these secrets? You know, what is this? And he didn't have to go through any of this or just this disregard the concerns?
LEMON: The president was on, guess where, Fox News tonight. And I just want to play this for you guys. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I was kind of dragged a little bit into the Michael Cohen issue. I interviewed him many times on TV.
HANNITY: He was never my attorney. He had to apologize to me for his attorney saying that in court. Or I can tell you personally he said to me at least a dozen times that he made the decision on the payments and he didn't tell you.
HANNITY: He told me personally.
TRUMP: He did. And he made the decision. And remember this. He's an attorney. Whatever decision he makes he's supposed to rely on an attorney to make a decision. Somebody said one of the very good Republican members today said that, you know, he's supposed to be an attorney. He's out there doing all sorts of things. When you -- when you have an attorney, you are supposed to be able to rely on your attorney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[23:09:55] LEMON: OK. Here's the problem with that, Cohen told the president that he was going to make the payments. There is the tape of it. Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: 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 --
TRUMP: Give it to me.
COHEN: And I have 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.
TRUMP: I'm thinking about that.
COHEN: All the stuff. Because you know, you'll never know where that company, you never know where he's going to be.
TRUMP: If he gets hit by a truck.
COHEN: Correct. So, I'm all over that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Matthew, what are they talking about?
ROSENBERG: I mean, look, I'm not a lawyer, I'll leave that for Laura here, but it sounds like they're talking about making payments to hush -- to kind to keep quiet a story, the Stormy Daniels story, and it really sounds like the president is agreeing with him and has been fully briefed and knows what's going on.
LEMON: Did he -- Laura, did he open himself up to Hannity to potentially becoming a witness in front of Congress?
COATES: Yes. I wouldn't have written out the subpoena at that moment in time. There was a conversation that you had with Michael Cohen who is now a convicted felon about transactions involving the president when the president of the United States was virtually named as an unindicted coconspirator. And there is talk about him making installment payments while he's in office.
This is wonderful. Thank you for volunteering the information and now I have actually a sound bite to compare it to if you decide to change your story at some point in time that you are under oath. Absolutely.
And by the way, the president and Sean Hannity can't have their cake and eat it too. And particularly the president of the United States. Was he your attorney? Was he your attorney or was he not?
You have varying statements from the president either he's my attorney, ask him when we talked to him back at Air Force One about the payment, let alone all of them involving Stormy, Karen McDougal, David Pecker at National Enquirer, et cetera.
And then it was conveniently well, he's not my attorney. He's not my attorney at all. And if he was, I'd be happy to rely on. Just because a person is an attorney doesn't mean that he was your attorney for the purpose of the actual transactions or that you are certainly inoculate and somehow immunized by that conversation simply because that person has a J.D. (Ph) Was he your attorney or was he not?
According to SDNY, according to the Mueller team talking about him as a cooperator, the privilege is, poof, gone, and the president is responsible for that.
PROKUPECZ: And also, if I can just add, Don.
LEMON: Quickly because I've got to run.
PROKUPECZ: According to the SDNY, despite what Sean Hannity is saying, Michael Cohen was his attorney. I was in court when that was announced.
PROKUPECZ: And the way it was announced they did not want to announce it and the judge forced Michael Cohen to tell her that Sean Hannity was a client.
LEMON: And the people on that channel will never know alternative facts and alternative universe.
Thank you, all. I appreciate it.
The president did it again today. He accepted the word of a dictator, but this time Kim Jong-un. Why does he keep siding with dictators?
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: A remarkable moment at the Trump-Kim summit in Vietnam today. The president said he believes North Korean leader Kim Jong-un didn't know about the torture of American student Otto Warmbier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He felt badly about it. I did speak to him. He felt very badly. But he knew the case very well, but he knew it later. And, you know, you got a lot of people. Big country, a lot of people. And in those prisons and those camps you have a lot of people and some really bad things happened to Otto. Some really, really bad things.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why aren't you --
TRUMP: But he tells me -- he tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Fareed is here. Fareed Zakaria is here, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS right here on CNN. He's taking Kim at his word. That is astounding, isn't it? He's taking Kim at his word.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: It's a breathtaking statement. The whole thing is breathtaking. I mean, here you have the dictator of a country that is arguably the most repressive country in the world.
Donald Trump accurately points out there are lots of people. By lots, we mean tens if not hundreds of people in prison camps that make up like an almost a mini country an archipelago of prison camps in North Korea. So, yes, there are a lot of people. But it is an absolute dictatorship with a highly repressive police state.
The idea that an American would be taken prisoner and tortured without knowledge of the leader is inconceivable. You know, and why would you take his word for it? That's part of the bizarre aspect here. Donald Trump says he takes Putin's word that he didn't -- he didn't interfere with the election.
LEMON: Don't forget Bin Salman, Mohammed bin Salman.
ZAKARIA: Mohammed bin Salman that he didn't showed -- right. What is it about those steps, forget about just, you know, American intelligence? It's common sense. You have the dictators of the one of the most repressive countries in the world. And you take his word that he didn't know about a very prominent case of torturing an American to death?
LEMON: Is it does he envy the power that they have? Just, they could just from Russia over all of these dictators? Does he envy their wealth? Does he feels like -- does he feel like he's like them?
ZAKARIA: I think it's the power. You know, Trump -- at the root of Trump is narcissism. And I think to watch these people who are the cult of personality that control the power. You notice he's almost never said something like, Angela Merkel tells me that she thought that it was a good idea to take these refugees in, and I take her for her word.
You know, the benefit of the doubt is somehow only provided to these dictators. There are very few leaders of democracies that he extends that courtesy. So, it's a very bizarre thing. And it's also breathtakingly naive for a guy who says he's a tough guy. He's a shrewd guy. He understands the world.
If you understand the world, you would understand you don't extend the benefit of the doubt on communist propaganda to the leader of the North Korean communist party.
[23:20:02] LEMON: Let's talk about the summit. He walked away with no deal. What happened?
ZAKARIA: There I actually think frankly he did the right thing in walking away with no deal. Why did we get there? My guess is Donald Trump invested way too much in the idea of his personal relationship with Kim. He signaled that he wanted a deal very badly. They scheduled a signing ceremony and a press conference before the deal began, before the conversations began.
So, Kim probably thought he could ask for a lot. And he asked for the relaxation or the suspension or the elimination of all-American sanctions. Well, he wasn't going to do that much. He was going -- he was not going to do complete denuclearization.
Now, at that point, Trump, to his credit, probably influenced a lot by Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, who are two serious adults in the room, walked away. I don't think we would have gotten to this point if there hadn't been these crazy expectations that were raised with Trump signaling for months that he thought there was going to be a breakthrough.
Because Kim, you know, the thing to remember is, Kim is watching all that same TV. Kim is watching CNN just as Trump is.
LEMON: So, he set himself up.
ZAKARIA: I think he set himself up. For Kim made a much bigger ask than he would have done. If he would have gone in with lower expectations and said, as every president does, with every one of this kind of these negotiations, you know, you would have gotten to a reasonable process which would have taken much longer, but Trump wanted, you know, some kind of a dramatic quick win. But as I said, at the end of the day, he did the right thing in walking.
LEMON: The art of the deal.
ZAKARIA: Well, the thing about the art of the deal is one of these days Donald Trump should read the art of the deal because there is actually some good stuff in there. I don't think he, you know, he clearly didn't write it.
But and he says time and time again don't set yourself up. Don't want the deal too much. Don't, you know, if you signal that you want the deal too much, the other side will ask too much. LEMON: Yes.
ZAKARIA: He just need to read that book.
LEMON: Read his own book. With the book with his name on it at least.
Can you quickly tell us -- I don't want to give you a short trip though, you have a special in Saudi Arabia coming up?
ZAKARIA: Well, it just feels like we are at this bizarre moment with Saudi Arabia where the Trump administration has invested so much in this one guy, Mohammed bin Salman and this one country. And what we thought we would do is just take people back and make them understand why do we have this crazy relationship with Saudi Arabia in the first place?
You know, this is, the United States is the most open democracy in the world. Saudi Arabia by some standards are one of the most closed societies in the world. What got us together? It's a 75-year-old alliance. What are the --
So, a lot of it is just, you know, we call it the kingdom of secrets because there are so many secrets but there are so many paradoxes here. You know, the most open society with the most closed society. The Saudis have been our closest ally in some areas but they have spawned some of our deadliest enemies like Osama bin Laden. So, I hope what people will get is like an uncovering. You know, we'll pull back the curtain on all those secrets.
LEMON: We'll be watching. Fareed, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Don't miss Freed on the CNN Special Report. Saudi Arabia, kingdom of secrets Sunday night at 8. Thanks again to Fareed Zakaria.
Michael Cohen's testimony is hardly the end. There could be a whole lot more to come. I will tell you who might be next, right after this.
[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings is suggesting there may be a lot more Trump associates to testify before Congress. Here's what he said about people who were mentioned in Michael Cohen's testimony.
(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)
SEN. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: If they were names that we mentioned, or records that were mentioned during the hearing. We'll figure out who we want to talk to and then we'll bring them in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, would it be fair to then say that if any names came up multiple times in that hearing --
CUMMINGS: They have a good chance of hearing from us.
(END VOICE CLIP)
LEMON: Well, that list includes the president's children and some of his top business aides.
So, joining me now is Glen Donath and Juliette Kayyem, also Garrett Graff, the author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global terror." Hello, one and all and welcome.
Garrett, I'm going to start with you. You just heard Chairman Cummings you heard him say that if name -- if a name came up in Michael Cohen's testimony, they'll probably be reaching out to them. This is one of a, one name that came up over and over again. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Weisselberg is executive one, correct?
MICHEAL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Yes. The bottom signature I believe is Allen Weisselberg's.
I was asked again with Allen Weisselberg.
I was instructed by Allen. In the office with me was Allen Weisselberg.
Mr. Weisselberg for sure.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D) NEW YORK: Who would know the answer to those questions?
COHEN: Allen Weisselberg.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, listen, Cohen actually mentioned the Trump organization chief financial officer more than 20 times. He seems like, you know, purposely, right? Do you think he was laying the ground work for the committee to call Weisselberg?
GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we sure have known for a while that Allen Weisselberg is likely one of the key players in this. You know, this is one who is cooperating with federal prosecutors, who has immunity in the campaign finance probe that Michael Cohen has already pleaded guilty to, a probe in my view that the Southern District of New York is continuing so they have other investigative targets in mind likely in that case.
And then ultimately, remember, this is the Trump organization. This is not a super large company. This is a small family business with a small number of senior level executives and most of them are named Trump.
One of the few who is in a position to know everything that was going on in that company who is not named Trump is Michael Cohen. And one of the few others is Allen Weisselberg.
[23:29:52] So, if you are going to try to figure out how to decode what was actually going on inside the Trump organization, you are obviously going to be turning to the accountant, particularly after Michael Cohen laid out in such great detail yesterday that, you know, we hear a lot about criminal organizations keeping two sets of books, sort of your real books and your fake books.
The Trump Organization might be the first criminal organization in history to be keeping three sets of books. You got your fake books for the tax folks, you got your real books, and then you got your other set of fake books that you gussy up for Forbes and other organizations to try to inflate the idea that Donald Trump is a successful billionaire.
LEMON: That's a lot of juggling, Glen. Cohen suggested yesterday that Trump committed a variety of financial crimes including bank fraud, tax fraud. What does that mean for Weisselberg? After all, we're told that he knows where all the financial bodies are buried.
GLEN DONATH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, good to be with you tonight, Don, and happy birthday.
LEMON: Thank you.
DONATH: It can mean -- it is hard to know. We heard that he had an immunity deal. We heard more recently that it may be a more limited immunity deal. It may just only immunity which only protects his words from being used against him in the southern district.
So were Congress to reach out to him, I would imagine any attorney (ph) would have to strike a separate immunity deal for Congress. It would be crazy for him to go in and talk without protection before Congress because, to your point, Don, he would have a lot of exposure.
DONATH: Cohen revealed a smorgasbord of potential crimes. As you said, bank fraud, tax fraud, charity fraud, auction fraud, fraud sort of sublime and ridiculous and as Garrett said, Weisselberg would be right in the middle of this. So, yes, he has a lot to be concerned about.
LEMON: Juliette, I want to bring you in. So how then would investigators on the ground get to the bottom of potential financial crimes like this?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Michael Cohen helped them yesterday. I think one of the overlooked aspects of the testimony was of the three of the four documents that he produced, you know, he says I did not see collusion. That's the Mueller issue. One of them is about him, Trump fighting about the grades.
The other three are right in the bull's eye of the Southern District of New York. I have to believe that that's purposeful. They involved Deutsche Bank, they involved the payments to Stormy Daniels, and they involved the -- I wrote it down because I knew I would forget -- the auction of the portrait of himself which relates to the Trump family foundation. Those are the three Achilles heels for Donald Trump.
So Michael Cohen started down that pathway. We got to believe that the southern district already has those three key pieces. And the national security implications of this are real. This is not just about the Trump Organization. These falsities made the Trump family vulnerable.
Now, whether it was coercion, collusion or just a desire to hide this entire network that Garrett said is based on three different books, who knows but that kind of falsehood is why people who have companies like that don't get security clearance. They're vulnerable.
LEMON: I want to play what former New Jersey governor --
GRAFF: Don, if I could pick up on that for a second.
LEMON: Yeah, but let me play this, please. I want to get this in. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie just said to my colleague Chris Cuomo. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: The folks at the southern district, only they know what they know. What they're doing, I'm confident, is building a case for two things. One is to go after those around the president who may have committed crimes. And two, to build a case if they have one, I don't think they have one at the moment, but if they were trying to build one, against the president for when he leaves office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Garrett, is he right?
GRAFF: It certainly seems possible. It also seems possible that they are building a case and hoping to move forward while the president is still in office. You know, they could put forward a conspiracy indictment that includes the president as an unindicted co-conspirator for political reasons.
One of the things that I think really came clear out of Michael Cohen's testimony yesterday is that this is looking more and more like a racketeering prosecution, a racketeering investigation or RICO case that you have an overlapping group of players, you have an overlapping group of criminal conspiracies, you have an overlapping set of crimes.
This is not sort of individual instances. This is an organization that was involved in corrupt practices from top to bottom on a wide variety of fronts. And, frankly, there is no office in the country that is better at a RICO racketeering prosecution than the Southern District of New York which effectively invented it under, wait for it, U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani.
LEMON: Rudy Giuliani.
[23:35:00] LEMON: Interesting. You think they're more powerful. I only have 10 seconds left. Do you think that SDNY is not as powerful as the special counsel?
DONATH: Well, I think in investigating the president, they have more limitations. They have less sort of jurisdictional limits than the special counsel has, but it is much more awkward for them or difficult for them to get their story out.
They don't have a direct channel to Congress. They can only speak through indictments, as Garrett was saying. So, if they can't indict the president and that's a sitting DOJ policy, then it is very hard how they can get sort of a report to Congress or sort of unindicted material that assembled against Trump outside.
LEMON: That's got to be the last word. Thank you all. I appreciate it.
Investigations into Russian interference are expanding on Capitol Hill. The House Judiciary member, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, tells me what to expect next.
[23:40:02] LEMON: Michael Cohen is heading back to Capitol Hill. The president's former attorney testified before Congress for three days in a row, but lawmakers think there is more to learn from him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm committed to telling the truth, and I will be back on March 6th to finish up. There is more to discuss.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Joining me now is Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. Congresswoman, it is always a pleasure. I want to start with this breaking news that administration officials including the White House, they are telling our Pamela Brown that they believe that the way the special counsel regulations are written will protect the president from any negative information being released if he's not charged with a crime. Give me your reaction to that.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Well, clearly, I stand on the side of ensuring that the American people have all the facts that they need to know what their president did, when and why. A special counsel report is one that the American people are expecting to see, and there are many of us in the United States Congress that will join either in a lawsuit or demanding that the Justice Department release the document if there are confidential or classified matters, redact those, but to present them to the American people.
We will not stand idly by and not allow the special counsel's report in the context that it can be presented to be seen, heard, and studied by the American people and the members of the United States Congress, plain and simple. We will simply sue the Justice Department and the administration to have that document released.
LEMON: Let's talk about Michael Cohen now. He's coming back for his fourth day of testimony before Congress in just over a week. And we are told that investigators are expanding. Where do you think all of this is heading?
JACKSON LEE: Well, you know, Don, what was shocking to me is that a man who spent a good part of a decade with the president of the United States, calling him a cheat, a con man, and a racist, in addition, providing real documentation of evidence of bad behavior. The check that came during the actual presidency of Donald Trump, $35,000 hush money reimbursement, well documented.
I think looking closely at the testimony that was given by Mr. Cohen and information that is going to be gleamed from a whole series of hearings by the House Judiciary Committee which I'm on, dealing with obstruction and emoluments issues that are extremely important, are really going to provide a road map for what the next step should be regarding this presidency.
LEMON: Yeah. So, listen, I want to talk about the House Oversight chair, Elijah Cummings. He says after Cohen's testimony his committee now wants to interview close Trump associates and family members. Who do you think could be facing the most trouble?
JACKSON LEE: Well, I certainly think that there are persons that have left the White House. I mean, I wouldn't leave out some of the persons that have been fired or left that would be relevant to call. I don't know whether or not there is an intention to bring in family members. I think that the Trump associates and they are vast will be the ones that he would be calling on.
And anything that's going to be relevant to the American people, it connects to the campaign, but it really is what kind of behavior was going on in the White House.
LEMON: Yeah, once he became president.
JACKSON LEE: That is correct. That's the most important.
LEMON: I want to ask you about your colleague, Mark Meadows. He is pushing back against allegations that he is racist. Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Anyone who knows me knows that there is not a racial bone in my body.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Meadows was responding to two videos that emerged from 2012 that show him vowing to send then President Barack Obama "home to Kenya or wherever" as he says. Now he regrets those comments. As someone who serves with Meadows, do you agree with those comments, that there is not a racist bone in his body?
JACKSON LEE: Well, I want to make this point. I hope Congressman Meadows has learned over the last 24 hours from his actions. And I will take the approach that I cannot judge a saint or a sinner. But I can certainly look at bad acts and bad behavior. And I can look at behavior that should be changed.
Frankly, unfortunately, the bringing out of a person, no matter how talented that individual is, and I have no comment on the White House -- the administration official that was brought out, but when I looked at that, my heart sunk. My spirit sunk.
[23:44:58] I could not get my hands around or my mind around the concept of a person standing, not speaking, not being called upon to provide any oral reference to why they were there. That is akin to how the master used to call slaves into the dining room, to stand, to be there to either show their wealth or to act upon any desire that they may have had.
People who don't understand our history may be insensitive to that and of course some people are even insensitive or don't even want to hear about that there was slave history here in the United States.
JACKSON LEE: My point would be about the congressman is that yes, he has always shown himself to be nice and gracious. And so I am not going to comment except for the fact that your deeds have to be in conjunction with your spirit or your reference of who you are.
The action yesterday cannot be defended. And I just hope that it is a lesson well learned by Congressman Meadows and that we can go forward in that reflection. We are all equal. We deserve the dignity of that equality.
LEMON: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, thank you for your time.
JACKSON LEE: Thank you for having me. Have a good evening.
LEMON: You, too.
JACKSON LEE: Glad to be with you.
LEMON: Michael Cohen implicating the president in a crime during his testimony, but what happens now?
[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Michael Cohen during his Capitol Hill testimony yesterday implicated President Trump in a crime, and he did it out loud for all the world to hear. So what happens now?
Let's discuss with CNN Presidential Historian, Timothy Naftali.
Tim, thank you. It is always a pleasure to see you. In Michael Cohen's hearing yesterday, he implicated President Trump in criminal activity, the illegal hush money payments that were made to porn star Stormy Daniels and possibly more. What happens now?
TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I believe it's a myth that we have settled the question whether a sitting president can be indicted. Certainly in the Watergate period, the Watergate Special Prosecution Force concluded that a sitting president could be indicted. The only reason why they didn't indict him was that he was already facing an impeachment proceeding and they thought, let's let the House decide because we don't want to go to Supreme Court.
So, if the president is found to -- if the evidence presented to a grand jury is such that the president is indictable, he could be indicted. That's the first thing that could come of this.
LEMON: You have got a new special airing this Sunday. Let's take a quick look at it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): I would like to introduce you to my family. The fact is I would be nothing without them, our four sons, our daughter, my own Barbara Bush.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can hear you. And the people that knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): People referred to the Bush family as dynasty. That's what it is and that's what it was.
BUSH: I'm running for president of the United States. There is no turning back, and i intend to be the next president of the United States.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's my boy.
LEMON: So as we gain more distance from each of the Bush presidencies, what is time starting to reveal about each of these men and how they made their mark on America?
NAFTALI: The first thing is of course because they're human beings, they're flawed. As we move back in time, we should, I think, ask questions about the grander effect of their decisions. In the case of George Herbert Walker Bush, I think that with time, people will become more and more appreciative of the hard calls that he made while he was in office.
He certainly wasn't perfect. The 1988 campaign was quite dreadful. But he understood because of his life of service and I think because of his psychology, he understood how to handle the collapse of the Soviet empire first in Eastern Europe and then the collapse of the Soviet Union.
And secondly, he understood that despite the fact he had promised his base that he would not raise taxes, when staring into the abyss of a federal budget deficit, he recognized that he owed it to all Americans to break his promise not to raise takes and to take the political hit.
LEMON: Timothy Naftali, thank you. I appreciate your time.
NAFTALI: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: Three generations, two presidents, one powerful family. "The Bush Years," narrated by Ed Harris, premieres Sunday night at 9:00 on CNN. We'll be right back.
[23:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Next week, we reveal our first CNN Hero of 2019. But before we do, an update on last year's hero of the year, Dr. Ricardo Pun-Chong of Lima, Peru. He was recognized for his work helping six children and their families who made the difficult journey from the farthest reaches of Peru to access medical care. His non-profit provides them with home and wraparound services so they could comfortably stay and receive treatment. Here is a quick update from Anderson Cooper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the 2018 CNN Hero of the Year is Dr. Ricardo Pun-Chong.
COOPER: An incredible night. When he returned to Peru, crowds gathered to greet Ricardo at the airport. He's been hailed a national hero.
Ricardo plans to use his CNN prize money and viewer donations to build a new shelter.
RICARDO PUN-CHONG, 2018 CNN HERO: The kids inspire me every day. Really they are heroes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero right now at CNNheroes.com. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
LEMON: What's that all about?
LEMON: What is this for? Oh, my God. I hate surprises. I hate, hate, hate surprises. I hate surprises. I love you, guys, but I hate surprises. Don't ever do this to me again. All right, I'm going to wish that no one surprises me.
All right, I never thought I'd be 25 years old and on CNN.
All right, to the best team in the news business, in show business. All right, thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.