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CNN TONIGHT

Mueller Probe Concludes No Collusion Between President Trump And The Russians; President Trump Declares Victory And Fires Back At His Enemies; Rep. Greg Steube (R) Florida Is Interviewed About The Obstruction Of Justice Case And The Decision; Interview With Rep. Steve Cohen (D) Tennessee; Michael Avenatti Out On Bail For Allegedly Extorting Nike. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 25, 2019 - 22:00   ET

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


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Welcome back.

CUOMO: Good to be here.

LEMON: Yes. It's good to have you back. It was a very interesting week without you or while you were gone, I should say.

Listen, I think you're right on in your assessment there. Here's the interesting thing. People think if you're tough on this president, then you're out to get him or if you were tough on this president, then you automatically thought that the Mueller investigation was going to take him down.

It's our job to be tough on people who are in power, especially presidents, especially considering how much this president does not tell the truth. But that doesn't mean you thought the Mueller report was going to take him down.

I've said it, and you've said it. And I said it. I'm very tough on this president. But I have said, look, if you think at the end of the day this president is going to be led out of the White House in handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit, then you're sadly mistaken.

I can't tell you how many people would say that to me all the time, this is really going to get him. And I would say, I don't think so. If you want him out, you got to vote him out.

CUOMO: That's exactly right. Where you get anybody that you don't like what they did is at the ballot box. The idea of finding criminality to me has always been remote.

Look, it could still be found. There are a lot of investigations going on. I just didn't see the proof of it then, and I haven't seen enough of the record to see it now.

But I'll tell you why I did this. I'm not an I told you so guy. You know this. We've known each other a long time. And I put better minds around me for a reason.

But, look, Rudy Giuliani I've known most of my life, OK? We've had plenty of nasty back and forth. We try to disagree with decency. He demanded an apology from me tonight.

LEMON: For asking tough questions? I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Look, and I meant what I said. There is no damn apology coming. I got nothing to apologize for. I believe in everything that I've done, and I'm going to do it every bit as much as I can going forward when I think it's right. You've got to confront power. That's the job. But that's where we're living.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: They're taking a victory lap for not being felons. That's how low the standard is for behavior right now. They'll say, well, this was a witch hunt. We were set up. It's not true, Don.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: The American people have to know that it's not true. Just because somebody is not found guilty of a crime doesn't mean it was wrong to ask the questions in the first place.

LEMON: Yes. And it doesn't say that, listen, I said this last night. It doesn't say that there was no evidence. It says that they did not --

CUOMO: That's right.

LEMON: -- right? What's the exact language? The exact language is --

CUOMO: Didn't constitute a crime.

LEMON: Yes. It didn't say it didn't constitute a crime. It says --

CUOMO: Yes, it says that.

LEMON: Did not establish. That's what it says. It says --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Yes. I mean, they use different verbs.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: They use constitute. They use establish. What they don't say is collusion because collusion is a behavior, not a crime. The distinction matters in legal analysis.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: I don't like that people conflate them because it winds up giving a misimpression of what people mean, like me, when I say, was there collusion? Yes. Was it criminal? Not that I've seen. And that's held true so far.

LEMON: So, all of that, listen, we don't know. This is Barr's assessment. But even beyond that, let's just say it comes out and Barr was off on his assessment, whatever. It is still very tough to remove a sitting president. We know what the DOJ guidelines say.

And by the time all of this would unfold, the election will have come around anyways, and if you really feel that strongly about getting rid of this president, go to the polls. That's what I've been saying.

But, again, it doesn't mean that the president should not be investigated. It doesn't mean people around him should not be investigated. It doesn't mean that this was a witch hunt. This was not a witch hunt.

If it was a witch hunt, look at all the witches who got caught. There were certainly a big number of people who got caught and entities and a whole lot of people who lied to investigators about their contacts with Russia. Why?

CUOMO: Rudy Giuliani has a lot of good arguments. One of them is not his argument on that. Why did they lie? Because people lie, he said. Yes, people lie when they have something to hide. That's what they do, you know?

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: Because the last thing you want to do to anybody in law enforcement is lie. I know you can lie to cops. It's not a crime. You can't lie to feds. You don't want to lie to anybody asking you any questions like that if you have nothing to hide.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: Look, he knows that there was trouble. He's also the man's attorney, and he's trying to help him. What I don't get, Don -- I really don't get it. If this president has nothing to hide, he should want us to at least see his written answers. His doctor -- his lawyers already doctored them up for him.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But there's a way that he can fix all of this because the concern I think for most people is that is he compromised by a foreign entity, whether it's Russia or anyone else? And the easy fix is just show your tax returns, and if you don't owe anything to Russia, if you're not doing any business with Russia or China or anybody --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: I don't even know that -- I don't know that the taxes would satisfy on the question. It would help. It would be transparent.

LEMON: Yes. It's not going to happen. CUOMO: That would be if you've got nothing to hide. I don't think that it is positive on the issue. But I do think that, you know, they said, do you have a legal right? You know the law. Look, Sekulow and Rudy are better lawyers than I ever was on my best day.

LEMON: I don't know about that.

[22:04:58] CUOMO: What I'm saying is it's not about the legal right. It's about the duty to the public. There's only one president in this country. You have a duty to the people who put you in power to speak the truth to them on the matters that are of importance to them.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: And the idea that you're going to hide your answers, I don't buy it.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: And to say, well, he's got to protect himself, I don't buy that. You put yourself in a different position when you put yourself in a position of public trust.

LEMON: And to be the president of the United States. Look, I'm glad you're rested up because great ready. You're going to be the scapegoat. We're going to be scapegoats. The media, the mainstream media, the boogie men.

CUOMO: Let's get after it.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, sir. good to have you back. I'll see you tomorrow.

CUOMO: Pleasure.

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

So, what a day this has been for the president. What a day this has been for the president. Sort of like Christmas, his birthday, and election night 2016 all rolled into one.

The dark cloud of the Russia investigation lifted and the president's nemesis, well, one of them facing criminal charges. You can't write this stuff. We're going to have more on that in a moment.

But President Trump is basking in the glow of the no collusion that he says all the time after Bill Barr's letter summarizing the Mueller report, saying that the investigation did not establish that Trump or his campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.

Mueller did not reach a conclusion on obstruction. Barr quotes him saying, "while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him," which hasn't stopped president, by the way, from falsely claiming he was totally exonerated. And even though a White House official tells CNN that they haven't

seen the full report yet, this president is losing no time turning Mueller's findings against anybody he sees as his political enemy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things against our country.

And hopefully that people that have done such harm to our country -- we've gone through a period of really bad things happening. Those people will certainly be looked at. I have been looking at them for a long time, and I'm saying why haven't they been looked at?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Treasonous. Some of the president's advisers, quite frankly, are worried that that kind of talk could backfire as his re-election campaign heats up.

While he's got some pretty ominous things to say about people -- I don't know -- being looked at, the president has good things to say about Robert Mueller, now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you think Robert Mueller --

TRUMP: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, let me say this. The president is right. Mueller did act honorably. But that's not what he was saying before when he was tweeting and tweeting and tweeting about what he called Mueller and his angry Democrats. And when he said all of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Why don't I just fire Mueller?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, just fire the guy.

TRUMP: Well, I think it's a disgrace what's going on. I think that the Mueller investigation has been totally discredited.

Mr. Mueller is highly conflicted. In fact, Comey is like his best friend.

Robert Mueller put 13 of the angriest Democrats in the history of our country on the commission. I had a nasty business transaction with Robert Mueller a number of years ago. I said, why isn't that mentioned?

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: We are also learning that Robert Mueller told Attorney General Bill Barr and the Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein three weeks ago that he wouldn't be reaching a conclusion on whether President Trump obstructed justice.

That was three weeks ago, though one official tells CNN the president and the White House did not know about that. But Barr's advance knowledge may explain how he was able to write his letter summarizing Mueller's report within 48 hours of receiving it.

And as the attorney general has begun the process of scrubbing the report of grand jury material, there's still no time line for releasing it.

In fact, there's no guarantee that the American people will ever see the full report. But the president today said it wouldn't bother him at all if the report was released.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want the report to be released?

TRUMP: Up to the attorney general, but it wouldn't bother me at all. Up to the attorney general. Wouldn't bother me at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I said it before. The A.G. should take the president at his word. The House voted 420 to nothing to demand the public release of Mueller's report, and the chairs of six House committees sent a letter to Barr today demanding that he make the full report available to Congress no later than April 2nd.

[22:10:03] Though on the Senate side, Mitch McConnell today blocked Chuck Schumer's efforts to pass a resolution to make the report public.

But the fact remains that's what 87 percent of Americans want. Eighty- seven percent of Americans, that's what they want, the full report to be released.

We'll see if they get what they want. But there's more from the president today. I want you to listen to what he says about Mueller's investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We can never let this happen to another president again. I can tell you that. I say it very strongly. Very few people I know could have handled it. We can never, ever let this happen to another president again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: We can never, ever let this happen to another president again. That's what he says, which is troubling, really troubling because what happened -- Mueller's investigation -- was entirely legal.

Mueller's appointment, authorities and actions were upheld by seven federal court decisions, the rulings made by judges appointed by both political parties. Even one appointed by Donald Trump himself.

This is the way our legal system works, the way it's supposed to work. Mueller has brought criminal charges against 34 people and three companies, including half a dozen members of team Trump, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Roger Stone.

Five people have been sentenced to prison including Manafort, Cohen, and Papadopoulos, plus Richard Pinedo and Alex Van Der Zwaan. They are paying a price for their crimes because nobody is above the law. Nobody is above the law. This was no witch hunt. If it had been, the result would have been very different, right? And when the president said this last night --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I just want to tell you that America is the greatest place on earth, the greatest place on earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Again, he's right. America is the greatest place on earth, and that's because we are a country of laws. I'll say it again. A country where nobody is above the law, which also applies to one of the president's fiercest critics.

You see it up there on your screen. Attorney Michael Avenatti, who formerly represented porn actress Stormy Daniels. Avenatti was arrested today, charged in two separate criminal cases, alleging he attempted to extort more than $20 million from Nike, that he committed wire and bank fraud.

Serious, serious charges that could land him behind bars for decades if proven true. Stormy Daniels tweeting that she was saddened but not shocked at the news and going on to say that she terminated his services, quote, "after discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly, and there will be more announcements to come." That's a quote from which she tweeted. A defiant Avenatti saying this tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY: I am highly confident that when all of the evidence is laid bare in connection with these cases, when it is all known, when due process occurs, that I will be fully exonerated and justice will be done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All of this has Michael Cohen, the president's former fixer who pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations over hush money paid to Daniels, is set to report to prison in May. Like I said, nobody is above the law. That's one of the things that

really make America great.

One of the big unanswered questions tonight, why didn't Robert Mueller come to a conclusion on obstruction of justice? Why did he punt to William Barr and Rod Rosenstein? John Dean, John Pistole, Garrett Graff, they're here. I'm going to ask next.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A source telling CNN that Robert Mueller informed top Justice Department officials about three weeks ago that he would not reach a conclusion on whether President Trump obstructed justice.

So, let's discuss now. John Dean is here. Also, John Pistole, who was a deputy to Mueller when Mueller was FBI director and is now the president of Anderson University. Also, Garrett Graff is here, he's the author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror."

So good to have all of you on. John Pistole, I'm going to start with you. You worked for Mueller. The question is why? Why would the special counsel not come to a conclusion on obstruction of justice? Help us out with that, please.

JOHN PISTOLE, FORMER DEPUTY TO THEN-FBI DIRECTOR ROBERT MUELLER: I think there's a couple aspects of it. One is, of course, we just have the Barr memo summarizing, so we don't know exactly what the Mueller memo says. And it could be there was sufficient evidence that would be to charge somebody in a difficult situation of conspiracy or obstruction of justice.

But because of the DOJ guidance that you don't indict a sitting president, it may be that Robert Mueller decided to hedge on that from the standpoint of deferring to the attorney general, the deputy attorney general as his mandate was.

And so, to take it from there and say there is evidence here of obstruction as was noted, he's not exonerated, so take it from there and say, OK. Given that precedence and that -- just the situation of we don't indict a sitting president, that could be what he's basing it on.

LEMON: OK. Again, listen, so you mentioned a little bit, but I want you to dig, go a little deeper because you know him. And he says, "while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

PISTOLE: Right.

LEMON: You say that this says more than we may realize? How so?

[22:20:00] PISTOLE: Well, so part of it is just Barr's memo, I think it's on page two where he say where he talks about obstruction of justice and referring to the decision-making process that he and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, used to make the decision. He also says, we did not take into consideration the fact that there's

precedent for not indicting or charging a sitting president, and there's a footnote on that.

So that's my takeaway on that is that that was their prosecutor decision, but whether Robert Mueller as the investigator here, rather than prosecutor, there may be ample evidence that he developed.

But because of that high hurdle and obviously the disruptive impact of what an indictment against a sitting president would be, deferred to the A.G. and deputy attorney general as would be his precedent versus what, for example, of former FBI director Jim Comey did with the Hillary Clinton announcement of not charging.

So, I think he deferred in that respect because there is evidence, but the question is how much. And if there's no smoking gun or even if there is a smoking gun, because of that precedent and the rule of law, which Bob Mueller is always going to follow, he deferred to the A.G. and the deputy attorney general.

LEMON: So, he would take into account the disruption that would cause to the country? That would come into his decision, factor into his decision?

PISTOLE: I think it would. Again, unless there is such a clear smoking gun, and I think that then would be the conversation between he and Barr to say, look, --

LEMON: Interesting.

PISTOLE: -- there's just proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It's a slam dunk. Whatever you want to call it. So, and he's been charge. But he's not going to make that announcement. He's going to defer that. And obviously, Barr made his prosecutorial discretion decision. We'll find out more when we see the full report.

LEMON: John Dean, let me ask you this, then. Do you believe that the attorney general is placing the president above the law? Do you believe that? Explain.

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, do believe that because if you read the Barr memo of June of 2018 where he lays out all of his thinking on obstruction of justice as well as on criminal law in general, vis-a- vis the president, he says unless the statute specifically names and mentions the President of the United States, these laws don't apply to him.

The word like whoever or officer of the executive branch, according to Barr, has no application to the president. So, none of the federal criminal laws apply to him in Barr's thinking.

I think that's a remarkable analysis, and I don't know any precedent for it. I don't know any basis for it other than his thinking about a unilateral, all-powerful president is what he wants.

LEMON: So, the question is, Garrett, how did Barr and Rosenstein reach their decision on obstruction, particularly since Barr wrote against the obstruction investigation and Rosenstein wrote the Comey memo?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean obviously Rod Rosenstein has been involved in this investigation since day one. He was the person who appointed Robert Mueller, has been supervising it, would have been up to speed with this investigation all the way through as Mueller found whatever he was finding.

But I think John and John both make a good point, which is at a certain level, this is not necessarily a criminal question so much as a political one. And you can imagine that Robert Mueller saw his job to go out and deliver the facts and hand them up potentially to Congress for possible impeachment, that the way we deal with the president is through the impeachment process and that it would be sort of Congress sitting in judgment with whatever the facts were that Mueller actually found.

I think sort of one of the questions that should be easy for the Justice Department to answer, that we don't know that I think is significant, is how long is this Mueller report?

We've seen the four-page Barr report on the Mueller report. We don't know how long the underlying report is. The second question, how much of that report deals with Russia? And then third, how much of that report deals with the obstruction question?

I mean Mueller obviously put a lot of thought into this. Barr says he waived complicated questions of fact and law and, you know, it would be great to have a sense of are we talking about dozens of pages or hundreds of pages of evidence that Mueller gathered as part of the obstruction probe.

LEMON: John Dean, where do we go from here?

DEAN: Well, one of the things we've got to do is get the underlying work of the special counsel released for public to understand it and the Congress to understand it.

[22:25:00] One of the things right now based on the Barr letter, he doesn't even address his mandate in explaining why he approved and disapproved various prosecutions. There are obviously ongoing prosecutions he's already referred.

And it just doesn't take that long, Don. This can be done rather quickly, and they knew this in advance. They may well have a highlighted copy of where the grand jury testimony is, where the pending cases are, where is material that is potentially executive privilege. So, I just don't think this should take very long.

LEMON: Yes. John Pistole, were you trying to get in?

PISTOLE: Yes, I just say one other question I would add to what Garrett is mentioning is did Robert Mueller see the Barr memo before it was released? And, then, two, does he agree with the sum and substance of that memo? LEMON: What do you think?

PISTOLE: Or would he have written it differently? Well, until we see the underlying report, I don't know. I might be surprised that if he would agree with the tone and the outcome of the memo. But I need to see the underlying report to make that decision more conclusively.

LEMON: That's a good question because very few of his words were used in this four-page letter. He was quoted only a few times.

Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate your time.

The House voted unanimously to demand the release of the full Mueller report before attorney general -- before the attorney general's letter summarizing its findings. Are they satisfied with Barr's letter, or do they need to see the whole report?

I'm going to -- I've got two members here from the judiciary committee. One is a Republican. One is a Democrat to talk about just that. Congressman Gregg Steube is here, and also, Steve Cohen, next.

[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Robert Mueller's Russia investigation maybe over, but what about the investigations in the House? My colleague, Manu Raju, caught up tonight with Congressman Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Schiff, do you accept the finding that there was no Trump-Russia conspiracy that Robert Mueller found?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I actually accept that the prosecutorial judgment of Bob Mueller is sound. I have said all along that we would accept whatever conclusions he reaches as a prosecutor. I have also said that there was a big difference between whether there's evidence of collusion. And I think that evidence is in plain sight.

And whether you can establish or prove beyond a reasonable doubt of a criminal conspiracy, and I accept his conclusion that he could not. I do want to say, with respect to the obstruction part as well, that what troubles me the most about that is that you have an attorney general who applied for the job by talking down any potential obstruction conviction or indictment, who then went to a Senate confirmation and refused to recuse himself.

I don't think, under those circumstances, he should ever have been confirmed. But he has now done the job he applied for, which is, attempt to exonerate Mr. Trump when Mr. Mueller said no exoneration was in order. That ought to deeply concern people that someone was handpicked for the purpose and executed that purpose. That does not, I think, tend to enhance the credibility of the Justice Department.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you drop your investigation into Russian interference now that this exhaustive investigation was over, and the conclusion was that there was no Trump-Russia conspiracy?

SCHIFF: Our investigation has always focused on counterintelligence issues, that is, is the president or anyone around him compromised in some way? That work has to go on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Adam Schiff earlier today. I want to bring in now Congressman Greg Steube, a Florida Republican who is a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, thank you so much for coming on. I just want to get your response first to the chairman, Chairman Schiff. Are you troubled that Barr made the decision on obstruction considering that he authored a memo last year, saying the obstruction investigation was fatally misconceived?

REP. GREG STEUBE (R), FLORIDA: Well, the first thing that he said that troubled me was he said there's evidence in plain sight. What evidence in plain sight? You've had an investigation for 22 months, over $25 million, 2,800 subpoenas, 500 witnesses, and the finding by the Mueller investigation was there was no collusion.

So what evidence is he referring to that's in plain sight? So I am troubled by his comments. Look, the investigation is now over. They found no collusion. And we need to move on to things that the American people want us to work on, jobs, the economy, and things that Floridians are focused on.

LEMON: And how about Schiff on the counterintelligence investigation? He says that the work has to go on. Are there more questions that need answers here on things like the Trump Tower Moscow or anything else in your estimation?

STEUBE: Look, the House Intelligence Committee, before I came to Congress, investigated this, found no collusion. The Senate Intelligence Committee, weeks ago, investigated this. Found no collusion with looking at more documents than Mueller has looked at. You've had investigators looking at this for 22 months, spending $25 million of taxpayer dollars and found no collusion.

So I don't know why we are going to continue to use taxpayer dollars to go after something that has now been found by the Special Counsel that there was no collusion.

LEMON: You know the investigations into the House and Senate previously. Democrats said they were shut down. And it was not followed up on. And that Republicans shut it down and weren't asking questions that could have garnered the information that they needed to make a real judgment on that. Do you disagree with that?

STEUBE: Well, the current investigation in the Senate happened in this Congress. They were still investigating it during this Congress.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: The Senate is still Republican-controlled. But go on.

STEUBE: Yeah, but it's bipartisan. Both members have the opportunity to be involved in their committee's process. I think you had the Special Counsel that has gone through this for 22 months. The American people are ready to move on.

LEMON: As a congressman, as an American, do you want to know why Mueller wouldn't reach a conclusion on obstruction and how he reached his decision on conspiracy?

STEUBE: The attorney general and Rod Rosenstein, who had been in the Obama administration for eight years, determined that they didn't have evidence to charge for obstruction. You have somebody from both administrations making that decision. So what exactly they're going to prove -- look, I voted to make all of the report public along with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

But even people in the Justice Department, Rod Rosenstein, who had been there during the Obama administration, had said there's not any evidence to bring any charge of obstruction.

[22:34:58] LEMON: So you want to make the report public, but you don't think it's going to garner any more information? Is that what you're saying?

STEUBE: I have no problem with it being public. I voted to make it public. But what I am saying is you have two Department of Justice officials, one, Rod Rosenstein, who has been there during both administrations, determining that there wasn't evidence to bring an obstruction of justice charge against the president.

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

STEUBE: Thank you for having me.

LEMON: I want to bring in now Congressman Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, who is also a member of the Judiciary Committee. Thank you so much. Listen, I want to get your reaction of what you just heard from your Republican colleague. Do Democrats need to reconsider further investigations or be more judicious about what they're investigating when it comes to this president?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: No. I think we need to continue. And the main thing we need is we need the full Mueller report. You know, the Mueller report, which was really the Barr analysis -- the Mueller report would give us what he had on conspiracy, which might not have reached guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in the mind of Mr. Mueller, and apparently it didn't.

But it might still show evidence of conspiracy or areas we could go to in investigations. But the main thing is obstruction of justice. And, you know, he said that it did not exonerate the president. I'd like to see what proof he had. And I'd like to know from Mr. Barr why he determined that it was not obstruction of justice.

You know, he's given a very unusual and limited opinion that the president really cannot be convicted of obstruction of justice, because he's the president, and he can do what he wants to do unless he suborns perjury.

LEMON: OK. So to what end, though, when you have -- to what end for all of this?

COHEN: Well, the end is that we have to do oversight. And we have to see if our laws need to be changed to protect our country from another foreign interference in our election. It was shown, and Mr. Mueller mentioned it in his report, that the Russians did interfere with our election and attempted to change the outcome.

You know, I saw President Trump today go there are some evil, evil people who have done some bad, bad things to our country, yeah, the Russians. And he hasn't been concerned about that. In fact, he's been defending Vladimir Putin and saying Putin said he didn't do it. I don't see any reason why he did. He's defended Vladimir Putin.

He's not supported his intelligence officials, who said the Russians interfered with our elections. That's what we need to see, how the Russians did it, what they did, change laws if necessary to try to be more effective in ferreting out foreign invaders to our election process and protect it. And there may be other laws we need to see that might need to be changed.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Do you think that's in the report? I mean in the letter, it lays out -- it talked about how, you know, a couple of instances how Russia interfered in the election. Do you think from this report, which essentially it did mention that, but it was essentially about a coordination and conspiracy, that you're going to gain that information?

COHEN: Well, I suspect it was a counterintelligence investigation. And through that, you might pick up a lot of ways in which the Russians were able to get their information, who they got it from, and what they did to plant it in the American social media. And some of that maybe known and some of it may not. But people paid for the Mueller report. The people need to see it.

And the Congress needs to see it, because we don't know what's in there and what Mueller said. All we know is what Bob Barr said, and we know Bob Barr was hired by Donald Trump to be his Roy Cohn. And to be his Roy Cohn means his boy, his bulldog.

LEMON: I have a short time left here. But the president's attorney, Jay Sekulow, says that he would oppose any move to make the president's written answers to Mueller public. What steps will Congress take to make this and the entire report public? Do you want all of it to be public?

COHEN: Well, I know that there's certain parts of it might be, and not much of it. But some of it might have sources and methods. I don't know in the counterintelligence portion. And obviously, we wouldn't want any of that to become public. There is grand jury testimony. But we believe that's easily obtainable. It has to go through a court.

But we think that's certainly obtainable, and the judge would allow us to see that material. I don't think it's going to be difficult for us to see most all of it. The executive privilege, they're going to exert as much executive privilege as possible, because they don't want us to see it either. You know, Giuliani said it was better than they expected.

Giuliani said they had a report to counter the report of the Special Counsel, because they expected something really bad to come out. They know what happened. They're the best evidence. They know what they did. And when they know what they did, it thought it was going to be worse, and that they had a report of their own to counter the Special Counsel's report that they thought was going to be damaging. Then we know there is something there.

LEMON: Congressman, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

COHEN: You're welcome, Don.

LEMON: Michael Avenatti arrested for allegedly trying to extort Nike for more than $20 million. All the sordid details next.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Federal prosecutors in Manhattan and Los Angeles charged attorney Michael Avenatti nearly simultaneously in two criminal cases today. Prosecutors allege that he tried to extort more than $20 million from Nike and that he committed wire and bank fraud. Well, tonight, Stormy Daniels' former lawyer says he is highly confident that he will be fully exonerated. CNN's Nick Watt has all the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: While his frequent nemesis, President Donald Trump, gleefully celebrated his claimed vindication by Robert Mueller, in a neo-Shakespearean twist, Michael Avenatti was arrested in New York.

GEOFFREY BERMAN, NEW YORK U.S. ATTORNEY: The charges are based on Avenatti's scheme to extract more than $20 million in payments from a public company.

WATT: Charges were actually filed in two totally unrelated cases in New York and California.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY: I am highly confident that when all of the evidence is laid bare in connection with these cases, when it is all known, when due process occurs, that I will be fully exonerated and justice will be done.

[22:45:09] WATT: California prosecutors say their investigation began well before Avenatti lassoed the limelight.

NICK HANNA, LOS ANGELES U.S. ATTORNEY: -- has nothing to do with anything political or with anything else. It's just the facts in this case speak for themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, everyone.

WATT: This Newport Beach-based lawyer first found fame repping Stormy Daniels in her legal tussles with President Trump. Avenatti cast himself as a resistance warrior. He even briefly flirted with a 2020 presidential run.

HANNA: But the allegations in this case describe something different, a corrupt lawyer who instead fights for his own selfish interests.

WATT: According to charges filed this morning in New York, in meetings, and on the phone just last week, Avenatti tried to extort more than $20 million from Nike. I am not f-ing around with this, Avenatti allegedly told Nike lawyers, also suggesting that he held their balls in his hand. This morning, shortly before his arrest, Avenatti had tweeted this.

Tomorrow at 11:00 a.m., we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by Nike.

BERMAN: A suit and tie doesn't mask the fact that at its core, this was an old-fashioned shakedown.

WATT: Nike issued a statement that reads in part, Nike will not be extorted or hide information that is relevant. Nike firmly believes in ethical and fair play, both in business and sports, and will continue to assist the prosecutors. An unnamed co-conspirator is mentioned but not charged, identified by a source as Attorney Mark Geragos, who was a CNN contributor but no longer is, as of today.

He didn't immediately respond to CNN's request for comment. Here in California, Avenatti was also charged today and charged with wire fraud and bank fraud for allegedly falsifying tax returns to secure $4.1 million in loans, and for allegedly delaying payment of $1.6 million he won for a client, using the cash for his own personal and business use.

Stormy Daniels tweeting, I am saddened but not shocked. Now, Avenatti was released on $300,000 bail, and he's due back in a California court on April 1st.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Nick Watt, thank you very much. We've got a lot to talk about. Joey Jackson, Midwin Charles. We're going to dig into it next.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Stormy Daniels' former lawyer, Michael Avenatti, was released on $300,000 thousand bond tonight after prosecutors alleged that he attempted to extort more than $20 million from Nike, and that he committed wire and bank fraud. Let's discuss now. Joey Jackson is here, as well as Midwin Charles. Good evening to both of you.

MIDWIN CHARLES, CONTRIBUTOR, ESSENCE MAGAZINE: Good evening.

LEMON: It's interesting. Consider -- you know, we've been on panels with him. He's, you know, appeared on the network. And you sat -- and now we see this happening today. He was representing Stormy Daniels. He mulled a 2020 run. He said tonight -- he said throughout my career I have fought for the little guy, and that he's going to be fully exonerated. That's going to be -- what do you think?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sad state of affairs, without question. So I think differently, depending upon the case that we're talking about. As it relates to California, I think he's in a world of hurt. Why? Because either you have taxes that were properly filed with the government or you don't. It's easy to prove. The allegation in terms of him filing false taxes, you go to the IRS.

You see if there were taxes filed. If they're not, and he presented them to the bank, that becomes problematic. In the event that you that inflate your income to get loans, that becomes problematic.

CHARLES: It sounds very familiar, by the way.

JACKSON: It really does.

CHARLES: Inflating your income to get bank loans. Remember we talked about Michael Cohen talking about Donald Trump.

JACKSON: Yeah, absolutely. So on that particular case, I think it becomes a problem in as much as it's documentary evidence. You have it, you don't.

LEMON: The southern district.

JACKSON: The southern district is another matter. One upon which me and Ms. Charles disagree. We carried our fight out here.

CHARLES: We did.

JACKSON: We've done it off camera, now it's time to do it on camera.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So he says the stickier case is California, southern district he doesn't believe it.

CHARLES: Well, I think we have a difference of opinion. I mean Joey looks at this from the perspective of -- listen this is just an attorney who was doing his job representing his client zealously and trying to engage in settlement negotiations. I understand that. I have done that on behalf of my clients. I do it the time.

I think the problem is where Avenatti drew the line or where he should have stopped or crossed the line, rather, is by trying to force Nike to hire him to represent them for an investigation. Now, at that point, you crossed the line from representing your client to trying to get yourself hired by Nike. And I think that's one of the biggest problems.

JACKSON: I think there's a distinction. Look, we have plenty of ethical rules. If you do things as a lawyer and you're overzealous in your representation, you talk to people in a way that you shouldn't, your demeanor and comportment is not appropriate, you have a bar that comes after you. They censure you. They suspend you. Potentially, they disbar you. It doesn't amount to a federal prosecution.

The issue I have here -- and we can have a principled disagreement about it, is that where does zealous advocacy stop and where does criminality begin?

(CROSSTALK)

CHARLES: It stops and it begins when you try to force someone to hire you.

JACKSON: Now, that, I get. And that's what they'll go after, OK? There's no question they'll go after that. However, that said, what is the distinction between having a company hiring you for money and having a company pay your attorney fees on behalf of your client? Every other day and twice on Sunday, when cases settle, there's a settlement that goes to the client.

[22:54:58] And then many times the person paying that money pays the attorney fees as well. In this case, there was a hiring which amounted to money. How is that distinguishable from the payment of attorney fees? I don't think it is.

LEMON: Let me ask you this --

(CROSSTALK)

CHARLES: Easy. You're not forcing it on them and threatening to have them face criminal liability for doing so. And by the way, I think it's important also at some point to look into this underlying allegation that he's making, which is that Nike was illegally paying students and all that kind of thing --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: How much trouble -- because embezzling in California. How much trouble, what kind of legal jeopardy is he in for California?

CHARLES: Significant, significant. What happens -- you can't say exactly how much he faces, Don, because there are these things called the sentencing guidelines. On the one hand, they look at your offense level, how much did you take. On the other hand, they look at your criminal history. There is none. But there are a lot of factors that go into sentencing.

We're not there yet. He has to be, you know, he has the presumption of innocence. I think California's a very easy case to prosecute. I think the southern district case is a lot more problematic, again, because there's a distinction between advocacy, and I should point out the statute talks about wrongful coercion. So what's rightful coercion?

LEMON: Yeah. I have got to go. But listen, I have got to say, look forward to that to see what they say both in California and the southern district. But Stormy Daniels released a statement tonight, saying that she was saddened but not shocked, and terminated his services more than a month ago. And she said that there would be more announcements to come from her. So we shall see. Thank you, both. I appreciate it.

JACKSON: Always, Don.

LEMON: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)