Return to Transcripts main page
Kirstjen Nielsen Out As DHS Secretary; President Trump Listens To His Senior Advisor Stephen Miller; Attorney General Barr Will Go To The Hill Tomorrow; Redacted Version Of The Mueller Report; Chinese Woman Who Attempted To Get Into Mar-A-Lago. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired April 8, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: We're getting too close to uncensored Trump for comfort. That's the argument.
Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: It's very unsettling. It's very -- because this is not really -- it's what -- how some people are being treated there and the separation of children and families is really un-American. It's inhumane but it's un-American and I don't understand why people continue to allow him to -- and these policies, they say Stephen Miller is behind it.
But one would think that the president would, you know, overrule him and do what is decent and humane, but that's not happening.
CUOMO: Well, look, with all fairness to Mr. Miller. And again, the invite is open. We've spoken before, I'll give you the time, we'll talk about it, let's do it in person. It makes interrupting less of a need and let's talk about what you think matters.
But there's zero chance that Stephen Miller is putting ideas in this president that he doesn't want.
CUOMO: He likes the harshness of the message that, you come here, you're going to lose your kid. You're going to have to find them. We're going to send you out of here and you'll be telling stories that will be waking you up for weeks. He likes that.
He thinks it will be a deterrent, he thinks it will keep people away and more and more of Trump supporters are saying something I've never heard Americans say before, not mainstream Americans.
That Lady Liberty, that's not a law, that's not a policy, that's just a poem. I've never heard that in this country before. And everything he's saying is anathema to the lady that you and I love in the bay.
LEMON: Yes. The asylum seekers, many people who came over as immigrants were seeking asylum, right? Many of the people who were probably saying that, who agree with the president. Here's what -- if we're all full up, I mean, what's next? Are we going to stop families from having children if we're all full up that if America is full? CUOMO: We laugh. We've seen societies do it.
LEMON: I'm just saying because it makes absolutely no sense. There's no, you know, we can't to the hospital and that be stop having babies, the country is full.
CUOMO: What's more -- what's more likely is what his mentor and pal Steve King was selling, can't keep America going, can't keep western civilization going with their mother, people, baby is done.
LEMON: Somebody else's babies, yes.
CUOMO: You remember that. When you and Tim get started, keep them American. Keep them American. Can't keep western civilization going.
LEMON: Well --
CUOMO: He said it. And the president has never spoken up about what he said being wrong.
CUOMO: Never. So, it's not that farfetched. And it's something that we have to keep our mind on and there's a judge right now that put an injunction on the separation policy --
CUOMO: -- because they couldn't keep track of anybody.
LEMON: We're going to talk about that in a little bit.
CUOMO: He wants to do it anyway, Don that tells you everything you need to know.
LEMON: Yes. We're going to talk about that in a little bit and other issues. But again, thank you, sir, thank you for being so kind and I'll be -- I'll need lots of advice. Yes, dear, is probably good.
CUOMO: Don't ask me.
LEMON: I know. You're the wrong person.
CUOMO: Don't ask -- falling forward is my role. When you get hit, just fall forward. Get the game. But listen, I want to thank you.
CUOMO: And your betrothed for reminding us that beautiful things happen in this world.
LEMON: Thank you, thank you, Chris. All the best. I'll see you soon.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
And what's going on inside this White House is really stunning, you heard Chris talk about it for a little bit. We're going to dig into it more.
Firings on top of firings, one resignation after another. Almost half the cabinet level jobs in this administration have turned over so far, and why? Because we have a president who wants what he wants and will do anything to get it.
Regardless of what the policy or what it does, wants what he wants and he'll do anything he needs to get it, a president who is perfectly willing to bust through any and all norms that make our government function who seems to believe that he is above the law, a president who never hesitates to throw his own people under the bus if they fail to give him what he wants, no matter how ill-advised, illegal, or impossible that may be. I'm going to explain more.
Here's an example, the latest example, this president's efforts to shut down the border at El Paso, and return to -- even expand his inhumane policy of separating migrant children from their parents, the same policy that caused outrage across the country and around the world. That put kids in cages. And that even now has forced the government to admit it could take two years just to identify thousands of already separated families.
Are you hearing what I'm saying? The cruelty is stunning. The Atlantic's Adam Serwer has argued the cruelty is a point. It's a feature, not a bug. And we are learning more tonight that we need to tell you about, a senior administration official telling CNN they're considering offering migrants at the border a Sophie's choice, keep your family together and go to detention, or agree to be separated from your children while parents go through the immigration court process.
[22:05:09] One senior administration official says this about the president, quote, "He just wants to separate families."
Now, you could be forgiven for thinking that we already decided all of this nearly a year ago, remember the president said that he was keeping families together, the first lady called the policy unacceptable and heartbreaking, Ivanka Trump called family separation a low point. And yet here we are again. Why? Because the president wants to.
He thinks separating parents from their children, even if they came in at a legal port of entry, even if they were apprehended in this country, he thinks all of it deters migrants from coming here. He thinks his voters love it. And a lot of them do.
The worse the treatment of those parents and children the better this president thinks it works. The courts and the anger, the American people be damned.
One senior administration official telling CNN's Jake Tapper, and this is a quote again, "The president refuses to understand that the Department of Homeland Security is constrained by laws."
So, is it really any surprise the president thought that he could just demand that a legal port of entry be closed in a matter of hours? He's consistently painted immigrants as a threat to the security of this country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're on track for a million illegal aliens trying to rush our borders.
Crime of all kinds coming through our Southern border, it's an invasion like you've never seen before. People hate the world invasion.
We have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people.
It is an invasion.
Security is more important to me than trade. So, we're going to have a strong border or we're going to have a closed border.
The system is full. Can't take you anymore, whether it's asylum, whether it's anything you want, it's illegal immigration, can't take you anymore. We can't take you. Our country is full. Our area is full. The sector is full. Can't take you anymore. I'm sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Sources also telling Jake Tapper that in an Oval Office meeting two Thursdays ago, the president was, quote, "ranting and raving," saying "border security was his issue," demanding that Kirstjen Nielsen and Mike Pompeo shut down the port of El Paso the next day at noon.
Those sources saying Nielsen argued all they would be doing is ending legal trade and travel and migrants would just go between ports. The president's response, another quote, "I don't care."
Eventually, Mick Mulvaney seemed to be able to talk the president out of it though. But it's like this president thinks he doesn't even need a DHS secretary, just somehow to, you know, follow his orders.
And who is his enabler, his henchman in all of this? Well, these our sources are saying. Sources are saying the president himself recently told aides that immigration hardliner Stephen Miller is in charge of all immigration and border related issues in this White House.
The same Stephen Miller who, according to former White House staffer, Cliff Sims, remember, said he would be happy if, quote, "not a single refugee foot ever again touched America's soil."
The same Stephen Miller who just three days ago convinced the president to suddenly withdraw the nomination of ICE Director Ron Vitiello.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're going in a tougher direction. We want to go in a tougher direction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, is it any wonder that the president forced his homeland security secretary to resign when she didn't give him what he wanted? Is that any wonder? OK, well, won't you ask Jeff Sessions, H.R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson, John Kelly.
Now an official tells CNN there is concern that no one will want to take Nielsen's job. You think? And it probably didn't make the president happy when a federal judge today blocked his policy of returning some asylum seekers to Mexico to wait out their immigration court hearings.
The ruling coming the day after Nielsen hit the chopping block. And Kirsten Nielsen isn't the only one. The director of the Secret Service was also removed in what one official calls a near systematic purge of homeland security, even though it was just five days ag that the president said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[22:10:08] TRUMP: I could not be happier with Secret Service. Secret Service has done a fantastic job from day one, very happy with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, now the fact is the president can have whoever he wants in his administration, whoever he wants.
Elections have consequences. And one of those consequences is the president gets to surround himself with people who will carry out his policies.
But when those policies go against the values that a lot of Americans stand for, when those policies involve separating thousands of children from their parents, that is not making America great.
The president wants to reinstate, even expand his family separation policy. Question is, will that throw the administration into even more chaos?
David Gergen is here, Sam Vinograd, Max Boot, and Michael D'Antonio, next.
LEMON: Tonight, we're seeing just how far President Trump is willing to go to stop immigrants from entering the United States and it apparently includes ordering officials to break the law.
[22:15:02] So let's talk about this. David Gergen is here, Samantha Vinograd, Max Boot - Boot, as well. He is the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right." Also, Mr. Michael D'Antonio, he is the author of "The Truth About Trump."
It's so good to have all of you in this evening. Thank you for coming in. Max, I'm going to start with you. Because the president ordered border agents to essentially -- what he's essentially saying was break the law, right, and then he told them to stop letting people in, as part of a dangerous -- this is part of a dangerous pattern, I think, when Trump wants something.
And then they tell him, well, that's against the rule of law he basically orders them to do it anyway. That is dangerous pattern, don't you think?
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It is, Don, I'm ready to declare a national emergency, the national emergency is not on the Southern border, it's in Washington, D.C. with a president who is lawless and out of control.
Now, Donald Trump, in truth, is never all that much in control. But he seems to be being driven over the brink by the fact that you had 100,000 apprehensions on the Southern border in March so he is flailing. He is purging the Department of Homeland Security.
He got rid of Kirstjen Nielsen who you thought was a loyal soldier, she did horrible things for him like separating families. But it wasn't enough. She was willing to violate the dictates of humanity and morality. She was not willing to violate the law itself. And that is what the President of the United States demands.
LEMON: Yes. It's a -- I wonder did it ever occur to him that his policies may actually be working in reverse. People are saying, well, they might shut down the border, or there's a wall coming so we're going to run over. I'm just saying, I wonder if he ever thinks about that it's --
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's one of those it's actually me, not you. That's what anybody else would be saying in this situation.
VINOGRAD: A responsible president would take a step back and say my policies aren't working. I need to sit down with my team and actually reassess what's happening. Instead, President Trump is raging against the machine. The problem is it's his machine.
His spring-cleaning exercise of the Department of Homeland security is not going to drive down illegal immigration numbers. Essentially, it could increase it because the very officials that are working on these issues are being purged and there's going to be transition periods.
And at the same time, Don, let's just take a step back and ask, what's the primary job question any job interview right now for these cabinet officials, can you figure out how to break the law? Not will you care about from a security perspective but can you figure out how to change our asylum processes. Can you figure out how to separate families? That's what the president is looking for, he's not looking for a secretary of homeland security. He's not looking for unbiased analysis. He's looking for a henchman or henchwoman to carry out his orders at this point.
LEMON: David, he also wanted to reinstate or even expand that family separation policy. The administration is weighing at shores, they say that migrants should either stay together in detention or be separated.
Adam Serwer from "The Atlantic," I said this in the opening, said that the cruelty is the point here. Do you agree with that?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Not necessarily. Does he mind being cruel or brutal? No. It gives him no second thoughts whatsoever. But I'm not sure he's intentionally trying to cause harm and intentionally trying to hurt people.
I do think he wants to send a signal to people who are coming that it's a very rough process once you get here. And from his point of view, look, what's basically going on here, in my judgment, is that he campaigned on this issue, it was central to his campaign that he would fix the borders.
He's tried this now for two years, it's been a complete failure, and it's a growing failure and he's facing reelection and he's demanding that it be fixed before he starts heading down into the election campaign.
And that's what the panic and the frustration on his part, comes from the fact that he knows this is a killer for him politically unless he gets this fixed. And he's willing to do damn near anything to do it. And he believes the separation policy, as cruel as it seems, actually was the most effective thing that's been done so far. It was working from his point of view and now he wants to return to it.
LEMON: Yes. He wants to go back to it. Is this the policy, this binary choice, is this the business that America should be in, this binary choice about either state you have to go in detention or not come?
GERGEN: Stay in detention.
BOOT: I mean, this is incredibly cruel, Don, and I speak here as somebody who was a refugee myself. I came here with my family in 1976 from the Soviet Union. And to my mind this is exactly what makes America great is our willingness to take in people from other lands who are oppressed, who are fleeing poverty, who are fleeing horrible conditions and we open our hearts, we open our arms and we take them in and make them Americans.
And Donald Trump is undermining the very foundation of America. I think this is assault on refugees. And the fact that he's not willing to admit that anybody has a legitimate claim to asylum status in the United States. LEMON: Michael, you spent time with him. You wrote the book on him,
right, "The Truth About Trump." One senior administration official described Kirstjen Nielsen as thinking the president is becoming increasingly, and this is a quote, "unhinged about the border crisis." Unhinged?
[22:19:54] MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he's -- he wants us to think he's unhinged. I agree with David that this is a 2020 setup, that he's very frustrated, that his policies don't seem to be working. Now, I don't know that they ever did really work.
But I disagree with David on the issue of whether this cruelty is intentional or a byproduct.
LEMON: -- to being a point, right?
D'ANTONIO: Well, I think he is a very sadistic person. He takes pleasure at our discomfort, at the fact that Democrats are upset, that he thinks that judges are wrong and that they're bleeding hearts and he looks for people who are willing to be cruel and sadistic as he is so that's why we have Stephen Miller driving so much of this policy.
Stephen Miller would not be in America if this policy were in effect in 1903 when his family came here. They came here as refugees, fleeing the pogroms in Russia. Stephen Miller would not be an American citizen under his own policies, and yet he is acting like a Roy Cohen without the charm or without the connections, without the savvy.
He is directing this president with into his worst impulses because he shares the sadistic and cruel attitudes. And the president finally, I think, is appealing to those impulses in certain Americans, this idea that we're going to solve certain problems by separating children from their mothers at the border.
This is like the Japanese interment. It will wind up being one of the cruelest chapter in our history and a shame upon our nation.
LEMON: Do you want to respond to that?
GERGEN: I do believe it's going to be a shameful chapter. I think that's right. But I just -- I have a hard time accepting that someone would set out to cruelly treat another person. A president of the United States whose own wife, his daughter is opposed to that. It's just seems -- it just --
VINOGRAD: But he's been told how cruel this is.
GERGEN: You may be right. I just have a hard time accepting it.
D'ANTONIO: He'd be returning to it now, and --
LEMON: Yes. GERGEN: Because he's in crisis.
D'ANTONIO: Well, he's --
LEMON: The intention to separate is cruel and that he --
D'ANTONIO: This is not a special moment for him. This is -- this is how he rolls. He is a sadistic, cruel person, look what he's done throughout his life publicly. It was let's attack the Central Park Five, let's question the legitimacy of the Obama presidency. Let's attack and name call every single person I'm running against, let's belittle everybody and our institutions.
VINOGRAD: But this is even in a different category. This policy happened. He was told by his daughter, his wife made a comment on this, there is no confusion about how cruel this is and yet he's looking to return to it.
We can call that sadistic, we can call it sociopathic, we can come up with any other adjective to describe it. The point is it's not just that he did it once. He's looking to go back to it to scrap the person or to win a reelection, whichever way you cut it is sadistic.
LEMON: Yes. Sam, let me ask you, because I want to put this up. This is that numerous Trump administration officials who are in acting roles now, right? There's a purge at homeland security, and more firings are expected. Look at all these people. They're all acting. Is this about the president being able to exert more power over these people by saying they're acting or, you know, filling in?
VINOGRAD: I think every cabinet secretary, every senior official that's in the government right now is actually acting in a certain respect because the president doesn't use them. I mean, he has a shadow cabinet of Fox News personalities, foreign leaders and this three-way process that he has with Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller and himself at the White House.
But because his confirmed cabinet secretaries and officials aren't empowered, he undercuts them every day, he throws them under the bus, he insults them, they're not taken seriously abroad. They're not viewed as empowered.
LEMON: How concerned should Americans be about that?
VINOGRAD: Well, if acting secretaries are considered even less empowered the substance of any conversation any of these people are having with our foreign partners around the world is minimal.
President Trump has centralized all power in his own hands which means he's the only one that any foreign leader, any foreign official thinks is worth talking to.
We see how well that's playing out. We see how well we're protected. We see how well this country is doing on so many levels and it is a national security risk, Don, because even if he wasn't sadistic, even if he wasn't, you know, tweeting all day and watching television, no one man can talk to every foreign leader that's required to keep this country safe.
LEMON: All right. Stand by, everyone. Hold your thoughts.
The president has said that he governs from his gut. But is that exactly the problem?
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump is doubling down on his rhetoric and threats on immigration. Is this a preview of what's to come in his campaign for 2020?
Back with me David Gergen, Samantha Vinograd, Max Boot and Michael D'Antonio.
David, when the president uses his language like "we're full of," you know, and making immigration the priority, 2020, is this a preview?
GERGEN: I think so, Yes. Yes, turn out the lights on the Statue of Liberty.
LEMON: It's already started.
LEMON: This is it, right.
GERGEN: Absolutely. I think his game plan is what he wants to do is succeed, he wants to get the numbers way down, if he fails to do that, he wants to have scapegoats and he's trying to set up the Congress and the courts to be the scapegoats.
He's going to do some things that cross the line, have the courts come in, he's going to fail with the courts and then he can say, see, I tried to solve this, I was doing everything I can, the damn judges and the people in Congress they never game to an agreement. I think that's his game plan.
GERGEN: I think it's pretty clear.
LEMON: You say this all about him, Michael, thinking that he'll be a one-term president, fearing he'll be a one-term president because he didn't get the wall built.
D'ANTONIO: Well, yes, I actually think this goes back to 2015 when he came down the escalator and called people all sorts of names, they're bringing crime, they're bringing drugs.
LEMON: Let's listen to that --
LEMON: -- and then we'll finish your response. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best, they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That's day one.
D'ANTONIO: Day one. And I'm not sure he was seriously running for president at the time but he staked out this territory as his signature issue. So, he had to declare the wall would be built. He had to declare that he would stop asylum seekers and other immigrants.
The fact that neither is happening, I think, is terribly frustrating to him. But the worst thing he could imagine would be to be a one-term president.
D'ANTONIO: That humiliation is too much for him. So, he will do whatever and say whatever in order to forestall that.
[22:30:00] LEMON: That's how this started. Let me -- and then I'll get -- so you want to get in. But there are also his attacks on Judge Curiel. There was a Muslim ban. And there was his racist 2018 ad that was even pulled from Fox News. The hard line message has been constant throughout this administration. Go on.
BOOT: Right. There's no question that native to xenophobia is core to his message, Don. But the way he used to disguise that was by saying oh, I am not really opposed to immigration, I just believe in upholding the law. I am just opposed to illegal immigration. Well, we're seeing the falsity of that rhetoric now exposed, because clearly Donald Trump has zero regard for the law.
He is telling, according to CNN, he is telling border agents to break the law, to disregard the dictates of judges, the people who uphold the law in order to prevent people who have a lawful claim for asylum from coming to the United States. He doesn't give a damn about the laws. It's not about the law. This is about stigmatizing brown people. This is about creating hatred of immigrants in order to mobilize nativism among his base.
And he's blaming these people for everything that's wrong in America, for factories shutting down, for the opioid epidemic, everything that his
followers complain about, everything that he's not actually fixing. He has no actual solutions to their problems. Instead, he is distracting their attention by making it seem as if people coming over the border, they're the real problem.
LEMON: He's a self-avowed nationalist by the way. One would think that the administration or he would have gotten a clue. Considering the drubbing (ph) that they got in the 2018 midterms, and this is one of the issues, the family separation policy. Go on. GERGEN: I think that's right. But there is an irony now. And that is despite these outrages about the border, his prospects for winning reelection appear to be improving. As you sort through the Democratic candidates and what kind of challenges they made, you look for who can be standing up here on the stage, who is as tough as he is.
It's not so clear that his opponents are up to this. And it's also clear that if he has the economy he thinks he's going to have, his prospects are going to be high. There was a Wall Street Journal poll that really captured my attention. It was among Wall Street analysts, 70 percent said they think he's going to win reelection, therefore, saying a good economy that will put him in. That was something.
VINOGRAD: And the way you talk about what that means actual wholesale immigration perspective. We talked about illegal immigration. But he was elected president. And one thing he's been consistent on is illegal immigration isn't going down. But he has very successfully attacked legal immigration as well. You mentioned refugees earlier, Max. But he is using the State Department to drastically reduce the number of refugees that are let into this country.
They're not coming here illegally. We're at a ceiling of 30,000 refugees that are going to be let in this fiscal year. If he allows their applications to be processed, if he is reelected in 2020, we can expect illegal immigration to probably continue going up, because his border security policies are so poor. While he continues to reduce all legal immigration that he can from Muslim majority countries, by refugees, and by other minority groups.
He's a president, and there's a secretary of state that talk about championing religious -- the rights of those that are persecuted for their religious beliefs, while they cut refugee numbers coming into this country. That's what a reelection for Donald Trump will look like in 2020, more of the same on legal and illegal immigration.
LEMON: But yet, tonight, you had Senator Chuck Grassley is warning the White House in an interview with the Washington Post not to fire another immigration official. He specifically is talking about Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Lee Francis Cissna. He also had Leader Mitch McConnell who is praising Secretary Nielsen or the former secretary, I guess, as of today, on the Senate floor, also warning that talking about closing the border last week.
He warned about that. Do you think Republicans are getting concerned about this approach now?
BOOT: Not concerned enough, Don. I mean, I think they get concerned when Trump proposes to do something really crazy like closing the border, which would throw three million Americans out of work. Have the auto industry grind to a halt within a week. That was so insane that I think people like McConnell were alarmed, and Trump felt compelled to back down. But they're not expressing their right to outrage.
In fact, they're hardly expressing any outrage at all about the family separation policy, about turning -- tear gassing women and children, about all the cruelty that is involved in Donald Trump's anti- immigration policy. I hardly here a peep coming out of the Republican Party. And it's a disgrace, because previous Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan, who David worked for, they believed in immigration.
They championed immigration, because they understood that immigration is what made America great. And Donald Trump and Stephen Miller are really redefining what America is all about. That's why they're saying the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty, that doesn't apply anymore. That's going to the very core of what this country is all about.
And if he wins another term, we are going to be a very different country by the end of his time in office.
LEMON: Governing from his gut, is that the problem?
[22:35:05] BOOT: Well, there are not a lot of brains down there, that's the problem. If you look at the stuff that he's actually proposing, like a few weeks ago or a week ago, he's slashing aid to the countries in Central America where that aid was actually the only thing that was reducing migration from El Salvador because we were helping them to deal with their crime problem.
He's slashing that so it's going to backfire, and there's going to be more migration. That's what happens when you make policies with your gut and not with your head.
VINOGRAD: But guess what? Congress has leverage there. Any outrage that McConnell or whomever are, you know, supposedly expressing behind closed doors. Grow up and use your leverage to get the president to change his policies. Congress has a huge amount of leverage over a foreign assistance budget. These things have to pass the Senate. There are going to be nomination hearings at some point for any cabinet officials that have to go forward.
I am tired of hearing that people are telling the president that, you know, he should change policies when they're in the Oval Office. Mitch McConnell, Senator Graham, and others could actually make material changes. They are choosing not to. We don't know why, but it's time for them to either speak up or just stop pretending that they're outraged.
LEMON: Here's what I want to know. Is it possible that he is doing this, that he is creating the chaos because he wants there to be a crisis at the border, that he is creating all of this. Like you said, that it's backfiring, he's doing it so it looks like a crisis, and then he's the guy who comes in and saves them.
D'ANTONIO: Well, that's always been his method. And he's also always believed that he can hang in there longer than anybody else. And that eventually, by some circumstance, the tide will change. And he'll say, look, it's moving in my direction. I must be right. It just depends on the timing. The one thing that I think is most disturbing about what he's doing is Donald Trump, during the campaign, said that he didn't think America was the exceptional country. He said, well, we kill people too. We're not exceptional. What he's
doing now is persuading the Congress and trying to persuade the United States, and then the world, that we indeed are not exceptional. We do not practice human rights. We do not welcome refugees and asylum seekers. We're just like any other country.
We're going to throw up our hands and walk away from the problems of people who are in need. And this is what I think McConnell and others are accepting. It's a small vision of America. We're no longer exceptional. We're small minded just like Donald Trump.
LEMON: I have got to go. I know you want to get into this.
VINOGRAD: We have to just congratulate you on your engagement. We are so happy for you.
GERGEN: Let's see the ring. Let's see the ring.
LEMON: Thank you, guys. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much. I love it.
BOOT: There's some good news in America.
LEMON: Thank you. It's been amazing. It's been amazing. OK, now that I am all embarrassed, we'll be right back.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Attorney General William Barr heads to the Hill tomorrow for a hearing that's supposed to be about funding for the Justice Department. But he is likely to face questions about what the redacted version of the Mueller report will look like. This, as House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler says he wants to bring in the Special Counsel to testify.
I want to bring in John Bies, who worked as Assistant -- Deputy Assistant Attorney General during President Obama. And also Michael Moore is here as well. He is a former U.S. attorney.
Thank you gentlemen, I appreciate you coming on, and will I appreciate your expertise on this. Michael, let me start with you.
MICHAEL MOORE, POPE MCGLAMRY PARTNER: Sure.
LEMON: Congressional Democrats are expected to grill Barr about the Mueller investigation. What do you want them to ask?
MOORE: You know it's not surprising that they're going to take the opportunity to do that. This is really the first time since he wrote his summary to come and give a public statement. I'd probably want to hear how it was he digested the depth and breadth of that report in such a short amount of time and was able to sort of knock it down to four pages.
I mean if you take his version of it, it's sort of like somebody reading the Book of Genesis and telling you that they understand the intricacies of the entire Bible. It's just not a very credible position for him to take. But more importantly, I hope they will go in at some point into his self-determination that, you know, that there was not an obstruction charge.
And that has seemed to draw out some contradictory views from the investigators on the Special Counsel's team. And so realizing this is an appropriations hearing, I don't know how far they'll go into that. But I would be interested to hear what he had to say on that.
LEMON: I got a follow up question for you, because CNN obtained an excerpt from one of the top Democrats questioning Barr tomorrow. Here's how it reads. It says last week, "The New York Times" reported that the Special Counsel's office had already created summary documents that were ignored in your letter, and that some investigators within the Special Counsel's office felt that your summary understates the level of malfeasance by the president and several of his campaign and White House advisers.
LEMON: So it sounds like Democrats aren't going to hold back here, especially now that Mueller's investigators reportedly are voicing their frustration.
MOORE: Well -- and I think that was the fallacy with this four-page summary. I mean, there was no way that that was not going to open the door to criticism. I mean he would have been much better off to just say I am going to withhold anything. I am going to look to the report. I'm going to talk to Bob Mueller. We're working hand in hand to get as much information as we can to the Congress we'll and do it with x number of days.
But as stated, he puts out something that's clearly one sided, clearly going to draw criticism. And it gives the appearance, as opposed to somebody trying to be open, that he was more interested in just trying to clear the president as quickly as he could. He was basically writing the letter for an audience of one.
LEMON: John, let's bring you in now, because you worked in the Obama administration's justice -- the Department of Justice. Barr has set out a lot of potential restrictions according to his letter to Congress. He wants to remove information that by law can't be made public, information about sensitive sources and methods, information relating to other investigations, or information that would infringe on the privacy of third parties.
[22:45:11] What do you think this version of the report will look like?
JOHN BIES, AMERICAN OVERSIGHT CHIEF COUNSEL: Well, I am hopeful that the attorney general will do the right thing and make public everything that lawfully can be made public.
Don, it's important to remember that what the public gets to see and what Congress gets to see also is a different question. And there are things that can be disclosed to Congress that even if there are reasons not to give them to the public can be shown to Congress and to committees working on this.
LEMON: Michael, Barr is under a lot of pressure from Congress and the public. Do you think that that's going to make a difference?
MOORE: You know, I would like to hope so. I'd like to hope we could take him at his word from his confirmation hearing that he'll be as transparent as he can. The problem he's got is that Congress leaks like a sieve, you know, and anytime that you stand up to the Hill it's going to hope it makes its way down. There are some provisions, and I agree with my colleague here, that, you know, there are some very specific provisions and arrangements for Congress to take classified information, security information for sources and methods.
The question at the end of the day is whether or not that stuff would remain sealed. So I don't think there's any question we're going to see a redacted report. And in some ways, I support it. I mean I don't always want grand jury information coming out. But I think you have to remember that this -- we have crossed the rim from a judicial process to a political process at this point. And so the standards and the tests may be a little bit different.
LEMON: That's a very good point. John, the House Judiciary Chair, Mr. Nadler, won't say if he's going to issue the subpoena for the full report for the attorney general releases the redacted report. Do you think that's the right approach?
BIES: Yes. I think it makes sense to see what he's going to see, what the attorney general is going to release before you decide whether to issue the subpoena. But, you know, it is the Department of Justice's official position that Congress is the right place to adjudicate presidential wrongdoing. And I think it would make sense for the department to give Congress access to evidence it needs to evaluate that question.
LEMON: Unlike Barr, John, Mueller is not a Trump appointee. He's seen as a straight shooter. How important is it that we hear from Mueller?
BIES: I think it's very important. But I -- by reputation, Mueller is a long-term law enforcement person. He's a straight shooter and someone who will follow the marching orders. I think if the department tells him what he can and can't say, I think he will follow that advice. But I think it's important to get his take on what he found.
LEMON: Gentlemen, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.
MOORE: Glad to be with you.
LEMON: We're learning more about the Chinese woman who attempted to get into Mar-A-Lago, including the devices found in her hotel room that are raising more questions about exactly what she was up to.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: A court hearing woman accused of breaching security at the president Mar-A-Lago resort revealed even more mysterious details now. Prosecutors say that the Chinese national had multiple electronic devices in her hotel room, including a signal detector which detects hidden cameras, a cellphone, nine USB drives, five sim cards, $8,000 in cash, all that in addition to the other devices she was found with, including a thumb drive with malware on it.
So let's discuss about it. Steve Hall and Matthew Rosenberg are both here. Listen, let's talk more. I'm just wondering, Steve, we've been on -- Matthew you're on too. Did some people downplay the importance or the seriousness of this story? Because this woman, we don't know, now it seems that it could be really serious.
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah. I mean, Don, I have said on your show before that there's a large part of counterintelligence that is just sort of commonsensical and looking at patterns.
And so, you have this woman from an adversarial nation, China, not unlike Russia, Iran and the others, who shows up in a place where there's lots of interesting conversations and things going on, Trump and his team at Mar-A-Lago, with that laundry list that you just went through of things that look to me very much like espionage-related things.
Things those are difficult to track, burner phones that you can use once or twice and then get rid of to hide what you're up to, cash, harder to track than a credit card, and then, of course, the device that detects, cameras, microphones and that sort of thing.
So, you know, is it possible that she's just a Trump fan or some creepy woman, or is it possible that she's trying to use that most important part that you mentioned at the end, that malware on that thumb drive, to penetrate a network or to penetrate somehow Mar-A-Lago to collect information or to cause disruption there.
I think it's much more likely that this is a Chinese operation than it is anything else.
LEMON: Matt, let's talk about this. The prosecutors detailed all the devices and the cash this woman had in her hotel room. Does that explain what she was doing at the president's club, you think?
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No. I mean, look, in all fairness, I often travel with multiple thumb drives or at least a phone or too. Rarely do I have $8,000 in cash on me. That said, you know, you're showing up at Mar-A-Lago with devices, as Steve pointed out, that certainly would facilitate espionage.
However, you know, she also had a laughably thing cover story. She said she was there to look for the pool but didn't have her bathing suit. So there are things here that, you know -- if this is the best Chinese intelligence has to throw at us, like, I am going to sleep well tonight. I think we're good.
But, you know, maybe she was there, you know, -- is there some industrial espionage going on here. Is there some kind of amateur operation? It certainly looks like that, especially that the device she had to track hidden cameras. I don't know anybody who travels with anything like that.
LEMON: Well, what about the one they say that maybe you're going to -- this thumb drive that when it was tested immediately began to infect the Secret Service computer.
ROSENBERG: I have never had a thumb drive that could infect anything. I don't think I've used a thumb drive that immediately started infecting machines that I put them into. I hope not, anyway, that all looks very suspicious.
LEMON: Yeah. And especially at the president's club, you know, where he visits a lot. Steve, prosecutors say that Zhang, that's her last name, that she presented an invitation posted to Mar-A-Lago managers, the same invitation posted on Cindy Yang's website. She's a Florida spa founder who was allegedly selling access to Trump events at Mar-A- Lago. Is that a huge red flag there?
[22:54:50] HALL: Look, I don't know that there's any huge red flags except what people are raising correctly, which is why -- how could more thought not have been, you know, thought gone into this? But let me offer this counterpoint. What have the Chinese learned from the Russians and pretty much from everybody else about this administration? And how hard of a target is -- how seriously they take counterintelligence?
How seriously the president listens to the advice that he's given about electronic devices that he uses the fact that he tweets so much. This is no longer a hard target for them. Just because you're the Chinese intelligence services in the government, and you have a really good capability, doesn't mean that you have to use the most subtle of it. I mean the Chinese have learned what's the worst that's going to happen if she gets caught?
In the next meeting, Donald Trump is going to sit down with the Chinese president, maybe ask him about it, maybe not. The Chinese president will deny it. And Trump will say yeah, he said he denied it, so it must not be espionage. They've learned they don't have to work very hard for this.
LEMON: Steve, Matthew, thank you. Appreciate it. Attorney General William Barr is going to be grilled on the Hill tomorrow. But what will he say about his plans for Robert Mueller's report?
LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I am Don Lemon.