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Don Lemon Tonight
No Charges for General Flynn; Labor Nominee Withdraws; CNN Reporters Snubbed by the President; Which is Which for Israel. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired February 15, 2017 - 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] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, the FBI not expected to pursue charges against former national security advisor Michael Flynn over that phone call with Russia's ambassador.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
Law enforcement officials telling CNN they don't believe Flynn was intentionally misleading them. Meanwhile, the president ignores questions from CNN's reporters today about the news that high level advisers close to his campaign, among them Flynn and Paul Manafort were in constant communication with Russians known to U.S. intelligence.
And there's another casualty tonight for the Trump White House. The president's pick for labor secretary Andrew Puzder withdraws after GOP revolt in the Senate. Now the fast-food CEO is toast.
Let's get right to CNN's Jim Acosta and Jim Sciutto with the very latest. Our Jims are here this evening. Good evening to both of you. Jim Sciutto, you first. Forty-eight hours after the president's National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigns, the FBI is now saying they aren't expected to file charges against him. What's the latest on Flynn? And also on your reporting that Trump's campaign aides were in constant contact with Russian officials.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN'S CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, first on Flynn. The FBI is saying that barring new information, they're not going to pursue charges on him. That they add that in their conversations with him that he was forthcoming, he did not hide the truth, they say if he forgot some certain details of things he was not intentionally misleading.
So, if they don't learn anything new, they're not going to pursue charges. We did learned today that his clearance or rather his access to classified intelligence was suspended pending further review, I'm told this is in response to those conversations with the Russian ambassador, and could later be reinstated, but as of now he has no access to classified information. That's on the Flynn side of things.
As far as the Trump campaign is concerned, Donald Trump had multiple opportunities today, including answering questions from my colleague, the other Jim there, Jim Acosta to answer our reporting that there were -- there were repeated constant communications between very senior members of his staff during the campaign and Russian officials and Russian nationals known to U.S. intelligence.
And that the frequency of those communications and the level of the Trump campaign officials involved raised alarm inside U.S. law enforcement and U.S. intelligence. President Trump did not answer those questions today.
LEMON: And Jim Acosta is going to delve into what you just mentioned now the questioning of the president. But here's what the president said, Jim Acosta, this is to you, about the man he just fired. His National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he's been treated very, very unfairly by the media. As I call it, the fake media in many cases. And I think it's really a sad thing that he was treated so badly.
I think in addition to that, from intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked. It's criminal action, criminal act. And it's been going on for a long time, before me. But now it's really going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Interesting response to say the least, Jim Acosta. A wonderful man, not something you would expect to hear about a guy he just axed. What do we know about how the vice president feels about this?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well and first of all, getting back to that fake media charge that the president made at the news conference, we should point out that reporters went back to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and said, you know, what is fake about these news reporters.
And he basically told reporters earlier this afternoon at his office that, well, I'll get back to you on that. And at this hour, Don, we have not heard from the White House press office as to what was fake about those news reports.
As for the vice president, we're told by a senior administration official that he was concerned about the fact that he was not notified for those two weeks after the president was notified by the Justice Department through his White House Counsel Don McGahn that there were concerns about what the former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said on the phone with the Russian ambassador about Russian sanctions.
And we're told that the vice president wants to get to the bottom of it. But we should point out in the hours that we've been reporting this, this evening, the White House is pushing back on this.
We have statement we can put up on screen from White House. This is from an administration official. Nobody wanted to go on the record, Don, we should point out. "The Vice president is in close coordination with the vice -- with the president and senior staff. The vice president has moved beyond this topic and has focused on the future. Any claims to the contrary are false."
And we should point out in our original reporting, we were told that the vice president's folks want to make it clear, there was no friction between the vice president and the president. It is only natural, Don, that if you're a high level administration official, you want to be kept in the loop about things, especially if those things involve you and you're the vice president of the United States.
[22:05:00] So, it seems only human nature that he would be concerned about this. But now the White House is saying tonight that he's just fine with all of this.
SCIUTTO: You know, Don, on the vice president, it just occurs to me that twice in this administration, the vice president has gone out to the cameras, to the public, and said things that were later found out to not -- to not be true. Not because of his own knowledge, he says that he was lied to by Flynn about those conversations about sanctions.
But again, a month ago, he went on Fox News he was asked about high level contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the campaign and he said no, that didn't happen. So, either the vice president didn't know that as he didn't know about Flynn's conversations or he's not giving a completely accurate...
ACOSTA: That's right.
SCIUTTO: ... portrayal of events. And that's twice on two major issues that he's been out there -- out there, sort of hung out there in effect on those questions.
LEMON: And Jim Acosta.
ACOSTA: And that's (Inaudible) administration. I think Jim Sciutto is exactly -- is exactly right on that.
LEMON: Yes. Jim, let's talk about -- Jim Acosta let's about what Jim Sciutto mentioned earlier, the president not responding to your questions. What is the president saying about CNN's reporting that Trump aides were in constant contact with the Russian officials during the 2016 campaign?
ACOSTA: Well, so far, Don, he's not saying anything about this. We tried to ask him that question. I tried to ask him that question at the news conference with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier today. And here's happened. Let's show you that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Mr. President, are you answering about your associates' contact with the Russians during your campaign? Mr. President...
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you have any comment on the reports that there was contact between your senior advisers and suspected Russian operatives during your presidential, Mr. Trump?
President Trump, no comment on that?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: This sounds like the press in Israel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
Trump: It certainly is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: So, Don, there you have it. Not only did I try to ask the question, but my colleague Sara Murray tried to ask just a few minutes later in the Oval Office. And you can't really say at this point that the president could not hear those questions. He certainly heard my question in the east room of the White House, because he stopped in his tracks and sort of looked around the room as to what was going on and then decided to move on.
And then Sara Murray, my colleague asked right there in the Oval Office with the Israeli prime minister right next to him, he chose not to answer that question. And so, with this, and keep in mind, Don, this is the question I tried to ask then-president-elect Trump during that news conference, during the transition back in January, and he just does not want to answer that question in any kind of definitive declarative fashion.
And you know, today at the news conference they turned to conservative news media, ask questions, it was the third news conference in a row where conservative news media were called upon to ask questions. That is highly unusual. That is going against tradition that we've seen at this White House for multiple administrations.
Typically wire services, newspapers, television networks, maybe an occasional conservative or liberal news outlet might be called upon, but not three news conferences in a row where you have conservative news outlets only getting the questions, Don.
LEMON: All right. I appreciate our reporting from the Jims at the top of our show. Thank you very much, JIM and JEM as well. We appreciate it.
Now I want to bring in CNN's Jamie Gangel, David Chalian, and political commentator, Ryan Lizza.
Good evening to you, all. Thank you so much.
David, what do you make of the president ignoring questions on CNN's reporting that his campaign was in constant contact with Russian officials? Or coming out saying the man he just fired is wonderful. I'm wondering if they're saying that -- you know, he said fake news reports by fake news. Sean Spicer is yet to answer Jim Acosta's question. Maybe because the answer is, his response is fake.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, listen, let's break apart your question there. On the issue of coming out today, calling General Flynn a wonderful man and saying that he was badly treated is just diametrically opposed to what seemed to be upon -- seemed to be the agreed upon White House strategy yesterday when Sean Spicer, the president's spokesman went out on his behalf to say the reason that Flynn was fired was because there was eroding and devolving trust between Flynn and the president, and the president asked for his resignation and he got it.
That's just totally different story. And I think we got real insight today, Don, into the president's thinking about this. Because clearly when he was talking about Flynn, he did not at all express that what Flynn did was a problem. That's what expressed yesterday by his spokesman. That is not what where Donald Trump's head is on this very clearly presented himself today.
LEMON: And thus the comment that I made to you about the response. Listen, Jamie Gangel, I want you -- I want to play this. This is Senator John McCain is saying about the administration following Flynn's resignation then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[22:10:01] JOHN MCCAIN, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: I think there is significant dysfunction in the national security apparatus of the Trump administration, when you see you that you don't know who is in charge, this Flynn situation, the whole environment is one of dysfunction in the Trump administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Now I know, you, Jamie, you've been speaking to your GOP sources. What are they telling you about what's coming next? An investigation if anything.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So, it's interesting to see that the FBI saying barring any new information they're not going to bring charges on Flynn. But we've been told that the Senate intelligence committee is going to really have a very serious investigation. They've broadened the scope of their investigation.
I'm told that it is likely they will ask Michael Flynn to come and testify and that it's also likely that they're going to go back to former intelligence officials. That they'll go for former CIA Director Brennan, former DNI, Clapper. Because they want to know -- the old Howard Baker question from Watergate. What did the president know and when did he know it? The other thing is, John McCain and Lindsey Graham and a couple of
others they're not so lonely anymore. In the last -- you know, they've been the critics coming out. In the last 24 hours we've seen Senator Roy Blunt, Senator Bob Corker, two very senior respected people come out and start questioning the White House.
I think that there is maybe not a sea change going on, but these republicans are coming out more and more to question.
LEMON: Yes. Concerned about what is going on.
GANGEL: They are.
LEMON: Because the Trump administration has not really given an answer that they find satisfying.
LEMON: I want to bring in now Ryan. Ryan, this is what the president tweeted this morning. He said "The information is being illegally given to the failing New York Times and Washington Post by the intelligence community, NSA, and FBI? Question mark. Like just like Russia."
So, the question is he can blame leaks all he wants but when he ignores answering questions on all this or continues to hit the intelligence community, this story doesn't go away.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let's put aside the fact he spent the entire presidential campaign or much of it promoting the illegal ex-filtration of John Podesta and the DNC's e-mails that we then we now believe taken by the Russians and given to WikiLeaks. Put that aside that he was for leaks before he was against him.
Look, everyone now has an interest in a serious bipartisan full investigation here. If you are Michael Flynn you believe you've been smeared by the intelligence agencies, and you did nothing wrong. The way to clear his name is to go testify before Congress and get all the facts out there, get those transcripts of the calls out there.
If you are Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman or Roger Stone or any of this other Trump campaign associates who have been dragged through the media through these leaks, the way to clear that up is a full and thorough investigation.
I mean, the range of possibilities here is so wide, right. It could just be a series of strange coincidences that make it seem that the Trump administration is, you know, is too close to Russia but there's no there-there, that's at a minimum, all the way to the unthinkable, that there was something, you know, far more sinister at hand here.
And the only way any of us are ever going to get to the bottom of this is a full and fair investigation where everything is looked into. And that gets your...
LEMON: So... (CROSSTALK)
CHALIAN: Sorry, Don.
LEMON: No, go for it.
CHALIAN: And that gets to your other question at top of this segment, which is why did Donald Trump dodge Jim Acosta's question or Sara Murray's question?
CHALIAN: You know, to add to Ryan's list, the president would be well-served.
CHALIAN: He would be really well-served by answering these questions that we have. Because otherwise it lets the sort of worst-case scenario hang out there. If there are clear reasons and the fact pattern to be shared as to why his associates were in constant communication with Russian officials throughout the campaign it would serve Donald Trump really well to explain that to the American people.
LEMON: Interesting. And also, another beyond that another bit of news. One state solution, two state solution, when it comes to Israel, I don't know, whichever one on the menu works. We'll discuss that when we come right back.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: All right. Back with me now, Jamie Gangel, David Chalian, and also, Ryan Lizza. So, let's finish this Russia stuff up as well as we came here before we move on to the one state, two state solution.
At a very -- someone sent me a note, saying "can someone just ask the question. President Trump, did you authorize anyone in your campaign staff to contact the Russians about the Obama administration sanction, yes or no."
GANGEL: Right. They've been trying to ask, come on, come on, a lot of questions. Look, the one point I think we have to make in all of this, is I thought what David said about serving the president to have this come out is all well and good.
Except the one thing that every republican has said that they can't wrap their head around is Donald Trump, his position on Russia, right? He has never backed down on Russia is good and Putin is good. And so, it's not as if he feels badly about this or he has a concern. And throughout the Republican Party, people are mystified by this.
LEMON: Yes. Is this just as simple, though, as he, maybe he didn't have as much knowledge about Russia as people -- as he should have. He backed himself into a corner and now he feels he has to dig in when it comes to Russia?
GANGEL: Well you know...
LEMON: I mean, you know, that's given a lot of leeway there.
GANGEL: Right. But we've seen him adjust on things.
GANGEL: He has not adjusted on this.
LEMON: He hasn't adjusted. Yes. For time purposes let's move on, Ryan. Because I want to talk about the president what he is saying about tossing around a one or two state solution when it comes to Israel. He is talking about it pretty casually. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm looking at two state and one state and I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like. I could live with either one.
[22:19:59] I thought for a while the two state looked like it may be the easier of the two but honestly if Bibi and the -- if the Palestinians, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I'm happy with the one they like the best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. Ryan.
LIZZA: Well, I'd like to see the proposal where the Palestinians agree or don't agree to self-determination and have their own state. I think -- look, I think as he gets a little bit deeper into the weeds, he'll realize why for decades it's been everyone's policy, including nominally at least Bibi Netanyahu's policy, that the only solution is a two state solution, you have to have a viable Palestinian states.
And by the way, you know, a lot of Israelis, a lot of hawkish Israelis came around to a two state solution because they believed that the democratic character and the Jewish character of Israel would be fundamentally threatened if there was a single state.
LIZZA: So, it's you know, it's Trump being Trump, you know, being casual, saying whatever works, works.
LEMON: I know but we've seen people, and people at home saying you're laughing at president. But the response was so absurd, that you don't know what to make heads or tails -- Israel and the Palestinian state is such a tough and complex situation.
Just to say maybe we'll have the corned beef, maybe we'll have the chicken, I don't know, you know, whatever works on the menu, whatever you like best. That doesn't -- that doesn't play when it comes to that issue.
LIZZA: No because words -- everyone, you know, words matter in Middle East peacemaking, right?
LIZZA: And tiny little phrases mean a lot. And so to just casually throw out one or two states as if there's really not that big of a difference is a little weird. It's just similarly, when he sort of offhandedly said, you know, maybe you could -- you know, maybe not build so many settlements for a while that would be nice. I mean.
LEMON: Did you see Netanyahu's face when that happened, but anyway.
LIZZA: Yes. I mean, that he's changing -- the words of the president changed policy. He changed policy on two major fronts today.
LIZZA: But he did in such a casual way that you have to like, you know, realize like wait a second, that just fundamentally changed several decades of American policy.
LEMON: Exactly. And David Chalian, I have to ask you about this. We're four weeks into the Trump presidency and every day it seems like there is another controversy brewing or another bombshell drop. Trump has had some success with executive actions, but just this week it's Flynn, it's the news his campaign aides in constant contact with the Russians officials during the campaign. So why on earth would he be going to Florida on Saturday to throw a campaign style rally?
CHALIAN: First off, remember, he has actually already filed his candidacy for re-election. He did so on inauguration day, the earliest any president has ever done so. So that is like a Trump 2020 event.
Listen, I actually think he's going to do a campaign style rally, Don, because it's one of the happiest places for him. I think that he has been cooped up in the White House, not out in the country as much, not holding these kinds of rally events where he can sort of feed off the crowd as he did so well during the campaign and clearly thrived on that energy.
I think it's going to be a bit of an energy boost after four weeks as you noted of -- I mean, other than sort of the clean rollout of Gorsuch, the Supreme Court nominee, every day this administration in its infancy has been battling brutal headlines, controversy after controversy and can't seem to get out from underneath itself. This to me, looks like something added to the schedule of the sort of service and energy boost to the president.
LEMON: Is it an energy boost or is it to confidence behind the president, some gravitas -- more gravitas because he has been bombarded with controversies, Jamie Gangel?
GANGEL: So, look, there's an old expression in Washington, when presidents -- when the going gets tough, get out of town. LEMON: Get out of town, right.
GANGEL: And this is get out of town. But I agree with David. This is what Donald Trump likes. When he first came into office he said well, do I get to do rallies anymore? I mean, after Election Day one of his first questions was, you know, can we go out and do some more rallies? So, I think this absolutely is what he likes to do, and in comparison to everything else that's going on, you know, this is the good stuff for him.
LIZZA: And one point on this, Don, it's not that unusual even in the first weeks of the new presidency to go out and do rally-like events to campaign for your agenda.
LEMON: Didn't President Obama do it?
LIZZA: Absolutely. I remember in 2011, a few weeks after Bush was in office I remember traveling to South Dakota where Bush was giving speeches about his tax cut plan. Obama campaigned for the stimulus package and for the Affordable Care Act. Absolute standard practice.
[22:24:59] What I think is weird here is Trump doesn't have any legislative agenda to speak of that he would be campaigning for. In other words, there's no Obamacare repeal legislation on the table, tax reform hasn't been written yet.
So, there's usually a point to these rallies, right where you're going and you're stumping for your agenda. Maybe they will add that component. That's what a little unusual here, the strategic purpose behind the event is not clear yet.
LEMON: Yes. But clearly he's needed in town. I know you said when the tough gets going get out of town, but it's needed in Washington considering that last three weeks plus, four weeks.
Thank you, all. I appreciate it. Up next, can President Trump reset our relationship with Israel?
LEMON: President Trump meeting at the White House today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the two leaders signaling a new chapter in bilateral relations.
Here to discuss, Fareed Zakaria, the host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS. Good evening, sir.
Today, the president hosted Israeli Prime Minister and he had this critical issue. They talked about this critical issue, the two state solution to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[22:30:01] TRUMP: So, I'm looking at two state and one state, and I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, this is a major break from decades of bipartisan policy. What's going on here with that response?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: I think what you're seeing there is, you know, basically the breakdown of the national security process where the president was obviously not briefed. He either doesn't want to do the briefings, we know he doesn't get the daily intelligence briefing anymore, maybe there's nobody in the National Security Council who can brief him.
But it sounded so bizarre, so casual and so, you know, frankly irresponsible. Would be like, I don't know. You know, at end of the Soviet era, saying, you know, if Poland wants to be independent that's fine with me, but if they want to stay be part of the Soviet, you know, orbit, that's fine with me, too.
That scenario can one imagine in which the Palestinian would say, yes, we don't want to stay. They have been, you know, fighting for a state since 1948. And you couldn't get a sense as to whether this was a seriously thought out issues or whether as so often happens with Donald Trump who is just winging it.
LEMON: Do you think that's why Netanyahu is laughing? It was surprising for such a serious question, right, when you're considering what's happening in that region. That Benjamin Netanyahu laughed. Perhaps he just did not, you know, he's like what is going on here? It was not a serious answer.
ZAKARIA: Yes, I think he was thanking his good fortune that he's given this situation. If you remember there was another weird moment where an Israeli reporter asked President Trump about the disturbing real rise in anti-Semitism that has taken place in the United States and whether he wanted to in effect disavow it.
And Trump gave a totally bizarre answer, where he said there's going to be a lot of love coming out of our administration, refusing pointedly, I thought, not to condemn the anti-Semitism that is real and rising in America.
And so, Bibi steps in, Bibi Netanyahu steps in and says, let me explain that, you know, Trump in no way condones this. Why did Trump need Bibi Netanyahu to say that? Couldn't he have just and said I completely condemn any form of anti-Semitism and if someone out there who thinks that they're supporting me in some way, I reject that.
It was the whole thing was kind of surreal and -- you know, to why it was embarrassing frankly, to watch an American president so under briefed and to being given this assist by the Israeli prime minister.
LEMON: Wasn't there a similar sort of odd moments with Prime Minister May in the press briefing as well, yes?
ZAKARIA: Not quite as bad as this. There's another moment here where Trump mentions a larger deal than the Israeli/Palestinian one. We have that clip I think where you know, he talks I think there might be even a larger deal here.
LEMON: Yes. Well, let's watch it. Let's watch it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Bibi and I have known each other a long time. A smart man, great negotiator, and I think we're going to make a deal. It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand. That's a possibility. So, let's see what we do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What does that mean?
ZAKARIA: It's weird because he mentioned it again and again. It might be a bigger deal, it might involve more countries than Israel and one with the Palestinians.
Well, this has been in the cards for a long time. The Saudis proposed it, the Arab league endorsed it in 2002. The idea if being the Israelis and Palestinians make peace, the other Arab countries would make peace with Israel.
As I said, this was endorsed 15 years ago by the entire Arab league, it was re-endorsed in 2007. Ten years ago. Trump is talking about it as if he just had the idea over the weekend.
ZAKARIA: There's something unreal here with just the lack of briefing and preparation, it may be because Flynn is out and nobody is -- nobody is home. But it's truly bizarre.
LEMON: Did you ever consider being his foreign policy adviser because that might help thing?
ZAKARIA: I think if there was any such prospect this interview has just taken care of that. No, but I think he clearly -- who knows what's clear but he doesn't seem to want to be briefed on these issues. I think he walks into these things.
He's always negotiated real estate deal by just walking in, he talks about this in his books, you know, sensing the room, sensing how things are going to go. Look, he won the presidency, but the point is, you don't walk into the room with the Israeli prime minister and just kind of wing it on the two state solution.
LEMON: I found it a lot from him and from many of the surrogates and spokespeople, the answer to everything is that we won, and that's not a satisfactory answer to you. Just because you won doesn't mean you're right or that you, you know, have nuance and policy ideas and so on.
But I want to get back to Israel. Because this is him speaking to pro- Israel group APEC during the campaign. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[22:35:01] TRUMP: When the United States stands with Israel, the chances of peace really rise. And rises exponentially. That's what will happen when Donald Trump is president of the United States.
We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.
And we will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and our most reliable ally, the State of Israel.
LEMON: And now it would appear that president is back pedaling on his promise to move the embassy and he's also changing his position on settlements.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: As far as settlements I'd like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We'll work something out. But I would like to see a deal be made. I think a deal will be made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What do you think the Israeli reaction will be?
ZAKARIA: Well, in that respect, Trump was reasserting finally, you know, kind of traditional American foreign policy. American foreign policy has always been ever since the settlements began that they were an impediment to peace.
Now on many of this substantive issues, look, Trump said he would tear up the Iran deal. He's not going to tear up the Iran deal. He said he was going to refuse to recognize the one-China policy, he back pedaled on that. He's back pedaled on settlements. He's back pedaled on moving the embassy.
Which are all good things by the way, because all the positions he took in the campaign were kind of irresponsible. And so, in this, in that respect there's this kind of return to reality. And I suspect that will happen in other areas as well.
But it's somewhat disconcerting to watch when -- as I said, that clearly -- if Donald Trump, if President Trump were briefed in a serious way before this press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I would be stunned because there was no evidence of it during the press conference.
LEMON: Fareed Zakaria, thank you very much. And don't forget you can see Fareed Zakaria GPS Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Always a pleasure. Thank you.
When we come right back, is James Comey compromised -- is he compromising now that the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia is coming to light?
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The word we've gotten is that the FBI is not expected to pursue charges against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn over that phone call with Russia's ambassador but that doesn't mean the story is over.
Let's discuss with CNN's senior legal analyst, Mr. Jeffrey Toobin, and John Flannery, a former special counsel to the U.S. Senate and House judiciary committee. Thank you both for joining us. Good evening.
Jeffrey, to you, the FBI deciding not to file charges, does that mean that he's in the clear and this just political?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The FBI's role in the last three months is so mysterious to me. How would they know at this point whether they're going to file charges or not. I'm not saying they will but we haven't had a real investigation yet.
I mean, what was said in all this phone -- you know, in all this exchanges with the Russian embassy. Did they talk about the WikiLeaks, did they talk about the hacking of the Democratic Party of the Clinton campaign? I mean, there's just a lot we don't know. I am not here to convict Michael Flynn of anything but it just seems so premature to suddenly announce that he's in the clear.
TOOBIN: It's just still early days.
LEMON: And they're saying, well, his answers were forthcoming so far. And that...
TOOBIN: So, it's he. Yes. But I mean, the whole way you investigate is you look at what people say and then you look at the other evidence to see if it corroborates or it conflicts with us.
LEMON: John, what do you think, because the White House says that Flynn didn't break the law.
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, that's pretty interesting it's self-serving in their case. But I mean, we had Director Comey who could easily begin an investigation with no new evidence and when he has evidence of contradictions between statements made and kind of section 101 false statements versus tapes that contradict him.
And they have no probable cause to continue to go forward to determine, as Jeffrey says, whether or not they have a case. And you have to consider the fact that why would he make these misstatements, these false statements, unless it was consciousness of guilt?
In other words, he realized that what he did was wrong and so misstated it, lied about it, whatever is the characterization that's appropriate under investigation. And I think that the long conversation with the president feels like what Benjamin Franklin said, "We all hang together or we all hang alone."
And I think that that's part of the problem here. So, Comey and Sessions are very bad actors for us to expect and believe because of the apparent conflict, and perhaps a real conflict, that we're going to get any, quote, "justice" here that is that we'll be able to rely on what the final result is. So, that's a shame.
TOOBIN: I mean, I'm not prepared to write off this investigation at this point. There's also a congressional investigation that's going to take place. You know, events have been happening so fast in the three weeks of the Trump presidency.
LEMON: Just been three weeks? Four weeks.
TOOBIN: I know. No. Three.
TOOBIN: We think, you know, all the answers we should have right now. Let's slow down, let's see what the facts are. There are very good people involved in these investigations but don't announce someone is in the clear or that they implicated unless the investigation is finished.
LEMON: John, can you clear this up, you said why start an investigation when there is no evidence and then then opposite. What are you speaking of specifically?
FLANNERY: I was speaking of Comey just before the election.
FLANNERY: Announcing an election -- you know, announcing an investigation into the e-mails when he had nothing new to go on, compromising that aspect of the election. And this quote, "Kremlin- gate investigation" or whatever it's called, there's some talk on the Hill about sealed hearings, I don't think that should happen, and I think we should have lawyers like Jeffrey or others former prosecutors asking some of the questions instead of having self-serving statesman.
[22:44:57] LEMON: You think an independent investigation of -- but my question is, do you think that since Sessions played such a big role in the Trump campaign and was a Trump supporter and surrogate, do you think that he should recuse himself from if that's possibility?
FLANNERY: Well, absolutely. And consider the fact, you know, when we talk about conflict as Jeffrey would say, we look at not only what we know to be a conflict but the appearance of one. He owes his job to the very person who may be the subject or target of the hypothetical investigation, what did Mr. Trump know and when did he know it. So, how could we possibly trust him to be in charge of appointing any series of prosecutors or investigators to look at it?
LEMON: Go ahead, Jeff.
TOOBIN: It's not just that he owes his job to Donald Trump. It's that Sessions was an active part of the Trump campaign.
TOOBIN: He's barnstormed around the country. This whole investigation is about whether the Trump campaign behaved improperly with respect to Russia. You know, I have no reason to think Sessions was involved in that but he was involved in the campaign. So, the conflict is just really obvious.
LEMON: All right, gentlemen. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Coming up, Donald Trump has called the first reality show president, but is he having issues facing reality?
[22:50:00] LEMON: Donald Trump has been called our first reality show president. So why does he seem to have issues facing reality?
Here to discuss now, Kamau Bell, the host of CNN's United Shades of America. Hello, sir. How are you?
W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST: That's right. It is United States of America and sometimes 'merica.' No, just 'merica.' Merica.
LEMON: So, listen. The president has refused to acknowledge the facts that have surface about his former National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn as well as others in his administration communicating with Russia. He has instead blamed the media. Does our first reality show president have a disconnect with reality?
BELL: I mean, we elected a conspiracy theory in chief. I mean, you know, he's the 'birther' guy. So, it's not a surprise that he doesn't believe the media when the media is telling him facts.
LEMON: It's a very good point. You know, people...
LEMON: People often go back to that whole 'birther' thing, which was the advent of fake news.
BELL: Yes, yes, yes. We elected the head crank of the 'birther' theory to our presidency and we're now surprised when he doesn't believe facts that are presented to him by several different sources. Like, I mean, I don't know, you know, just for a second, Don. Just go with me for a second. Imagine all that happened with Trump over the last month happened in Obama during his first month in office. LEMON: Yes.
BELL: He would already be out of the White House.
LEMON: Well, I heard someone on air last night, our show maybe Erin or Anderson on one of the shows and they were saying, this is not out of the ordinary. We always have turmoil in the beginning of every administration. I'm like, didn't we lived through -- I was born when Watergate, when the president left the White House on a helicopter. Right? So, I mean, anything is possible.
LEMON: From then on, I don't remember this much turmoil at least since Watergate when it comes to an administration.
BELL: No. There was nowhere -- no. I mean, just going to back to Obama, there is nowhere near this much turmoil. Obama couldn't make one false step. He had to be always crisply dressed. And Trump meanwhile -- I mean, think about the fact that Trump the first couple of weeks has gone to Mar-a-Largo to play golf and now he's going out on just like a World Tour like he's going to Florida to have like rally. He doesn't have policy to promote. He's just going, I just want to see people and have a good time.
LEMON: Well, you remember the vacationer in chief. The vacationer in chief.
LEMON: So, listen. Here's what he tweeted this morning. He said, "The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred. MSNBC and CNN are unwatchable. Fox and Friends is great."
So he is now calling news stories that he doesn't like conspiracy theories, you know, when it comes to -- actually he is the king of conspiracy theories himself.
So, here he is talking about Ted Cruz's father and President Obama. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being, you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this? Prior to his being shot and nobody even brings it up.
I wish he would. Because if he doesn't if one of the greatest scams in the history of politics, and in the history period. You are not allowed to be president if you're not born in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And so again, that was that and not mention, again, what we said about 'birtherism' and all of it. What do you think? BELL: I mean, it's just -- I mean, this is -- this is what we paid
for. This is what this country paid for and now we're surprised that it's not going that well. I mean, this is exactly -- we have seen this all throughout the years. You watch any episode of "The Apprentice," I don't know why you would go, that guy would be a good president, based on his -- based on his appearances on this reality game show.
LEMON: Yes. But there are a lot of people actually who, you know, thought that he would be a good enough president. Obviously that he won. Didn't win the popular vote but the way our system is set up, he won the most people in the most states right? And so he's president.
BELL: Yes. Look how torturous that is, look how torturous that s to get to that point. That we had to get like, through the current math with the thing we got. Then, here he is.
LEMON: That's our system though. Here's what he tweeted when the news came out about General Flynn was discovered. He said, "The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these be happening as I deal on North Korea, et cetera." So, when, you know, when Trump...
BELL: So, now he's basically...
LEMON: He loved leaks when he was the presidential candidate.
BELL: Yes. Yes, he love the leaks and basically in that tweets he is insulting the intelligence community. He's the first president to have the FBI, CIA and the black people mad at him at the exact same time. That's pretty amazing.
LEMON: K, did you watch the SNL?
BELL: Yes, of course. It's become appointment television, it's become that and "Black-ish" are the two things I won't miss.
LEMON: Their ratings are better that they had been in years. And I love "Black-ish." By the way, I saw Anthony Anderson this weekend. I love that show. But let's watch SNL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: And then there's some light terrorism this week when Nordstrom's decided to stop selling Ivanka Trump's line of clothing and accessories. OK. And that's Nordstrom's loss because these are high, high quality products.
In fact, I'm wearing one of her bangles right now. It's beautiful, it's shimmery, it's elegant and $39.99, it is unbelievably affordable. OK?
(APPLAUSE) [22:55:09] And don't even get me started on her shoes because these babies are real head turners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That is when I fell out. Oh, my gosh.
BELL: Savage. I mean, if you're Sean Spicer, I'm sure he watches that, when read his memoirs, he talks about in a year, he's like that was the moment I knew it was all over. The minute that pump went on the table, I knew my days were numbered in the White House.
LEMON: I understood I heard that -- I don't know if it's true. Were you going to say? Were you going to say something?
BELL: Trump didn't like the fact that Spicer played by a woman and then Melissa McCarthy said, let me take that one step further, sir. I'm going to put spokesman in high heels.
LEMON: Yes. The point that I was making. I heard that they were upset or he was upset by that. But this -- I thought this was hilarious, I'm not sure if many people got it. But Leslie Jones playing Donald Trump, you have woman, then you have an African-American woman playing Donald Trump. And I don't understand why they wouldn't let her do it. I think she should do it.
BELL: Yes, I kind of -- I saw that sketch. It was kind of a bummer because it was a joke on Leslie. And I felt like, no, actually give her a shot. Who doesn't want to see her play Donald Trump? Like we know that would annoy him. We know it would be hilarious. Let's do it.
LEMON: Well, I just think it would be funny. The annoying part, I mean, I think they all should be taking this with grain of salt and laughing but it doesn't appear that, you know, at least one person.
BELL: But we also -- we also as comedians we also know that it's fun to make fun of the people in power and if you know that when you're making fun of them that it actually hurts their feelings, and that's the most fun. So, yes, I would say that they should let Leslie play, let Leslie Donald Trump, yes. And Melissa McCarthy, when are you going to declare for 2020. That's my next question.
LEMON: Thanks, W. I appreciate it.
BELL: Thanks, sir.
LEMON: So, W. Kamau. Well, you can watch his show 10 p.m. here on Sunday on CNN. So, anyway, we'll be right back.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)