Return to Transcripts main page
Don Lemon Tonight
Jones' Victory a Lesson to Learn for Democrats and Republicans; Omarosa Out of the White House. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired December 13, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: It's a great night, I hope you join Kelly and I -- Kelly and me, I should say. Sorry.
That does is it for us tonight. Very grammatically correct. Thanks for watching. Time to hand it over to Don Lemon, CNN Tonight starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
Forty eight hours ago, I told you there was going to be a day of reckoning in Alabama, well, there sure was. And this is not the way the president thought his day would go, it was supposed to be a big republican victory in the Alabama Senate race. A victory made possible when the president threw his support to Roy Moore who bears repeating, is an accused child molester, you know how that worked.
A big victory for democrat Doug Jones. And a humiliating defeat for Moore, for the president and for the brutal and cynical world view of Steve Bannon. A man described this way by republican Congressman Peter King.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER KING, (R) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: This guy does not belong on the national stage. He looks like some dishelmed drunk that wandered on to the political stage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: A lot of lessons there who thought President Trump had rewritten the rules of American politics. His election may have been more about the man than the movement, a movement that may turn out to be not so much grassroots, as AstroTurf.
Smoke and mirrors, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. It turns out voters, even in the republican stronghold like Alabama are not in lockstep with this president. His approval rating just 48 percent there, in a state that he carried by almost 28 points just a year ago. It turns out that the man who as a candidate famously said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That man can't stand on the border of Florida and Alabama and swing an election. The laws of the political universe still apply, and betting on voters who swept Donald Trump into office was a bad bet for Roy Moore.
But there's more to all of this. The group of voters who may be the key to Doug Jones' victory in Alabama, African-American women. A stunning 98 percent of black women who voted in this election, cast their ballots for Jones.
President Barack Obama only got 95 percent in 2012. The gender gap overall worked in favor of Jones. Women voting for the democrat, with a margin of 57 to 41 percent. Young voters also favored Jones. Voters age 18 to 44 went for Jones 61 to 38 percent.
But what does this all mean for the president and his agenda? Well, if Alabama is any indication President Trump and his party may be on a long rocky road.
Let's discuss now with CNN political commentator David Swerdlick is here. Political analyst April Ryan is here as well, and Bob Cusack, editor in chief of the Hill.
Thank you all for joining us. Good evening, post-election eve, right? Bob, President Trump trying to turn the page after suffering a humiliating loss, he is zero for two in Alabama. Here's the president today.
2(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: A lot of republicans feel differently. They feel very happy with the way it turned out. But I would have -- as the leader of the party, I would have like to have had the seat. I want to endorse the people that are running.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, President Trump went all in for Roy Moore, is the president weaker today than he was yesterday, Bob?
BOB CUSACK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE HILL: I think he is, Don. I mean, he backs Strange in the primary, lost it, this is a state he won big time. And then, of course, Doug Jones won. I mean, this is one of the most stunning elections that we're going to see in our lifetime.
The situations where some republicans were actually rooting for a democrat, I think like Mitch McConnell we're never going to see again.
So, I think this hurts his agenda in one big way. Obamacare replacement legislation. They almost got it through the Senate, they didn't. And Doug Jones is going to be around next year. I think Obamacare the law, I mean, it's been very resilient. It's been criticized repeatedly, it's been legally challenged. It's been legislatively challenged. I think this -- I think Obamacare will be around for a while.
LEMON: Even with the -- Bob, even with the mandate and the tax?
CUSACK: Well, that -- administratively, and the tax bill, they can chip away at it, actually replacing it, on a -- you know, a big level, but they wanted to do earlier this summer, no chance.
LEMON: Just completely getting rid of it?
OK. April, let's move on. Roy Moore, I mean, he really had a laundry list of problems. Let's be honest here.
APRIL RYAN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Yes.
LEMON: He was a flawed candidate. But this loss was in Alabama where, you know, you should be able to run anyone with anyone with an R in front of their name. The president is trying to minimize the defeat. But what is this say about his political strength, do you think?
[22:04:54] RYAN: The president's political strength was, I guess you would say, it leaned on Bannon, Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon was someone of a crutch here and I guess that crutch is broken because the president is weakened.
This was not a good moment for the president. Alabama, the reddest of red states, I mean, blood red, bright red, and they could not win this state, and they -- the president, you know, supported someone else, yes. But he ultimately fell in line with Steve Bannon who thought he was a kingmaker.
And you know, it's really interesting, and I thought about what you said at the beginning, you were talking about numbers. And I just think about, and how women voted for the other candidate, for Doug Jones. And I think about how the president had 51 percent of white women in his corner. Particularly those who married white women, 51 percent of married white women were in his corner, voted for the president.
And look at how women voted overwhelmingly for the democrat. And I'm thinking about those women who voted for president, they voted for their husband's interest according to Gloria Steinem.
And now with what happened in Alabama that still has high numbers in popularity for the president, they totally turned tide and went in the opposite direction. This is a moment that -- it's going to be a marker for this president, his marker.
LEMON: I want to ask to ask you, David, because in the beginning, I said pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. You get what that was, right. That was a reference to the Wizard of Oz where...
(CROSSTALK) DAVID SWERDLICK, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Steve Bannon.
LEMON: Yes. And Steve Bannon when they finally go behind the curtain and they see, it's not a God back there, it's just this one guy with a megaphone or a microphone, a green screen and some levers.
And so, people have been putting too much stock, too much faith saying that Steve Bannon is this Bengali when maybe he isn't really?
SWERDLICK: So, Don, I don't think Bannon is going anywhere. He will regroup and try to make his mark in 2018, in assortment of racist around the country. But yes, last night in Alabama, he was repudiated and his approach of trying to upend the Republican Party and the whole political system really was suffered a setback because by not going with the establishment candidate, Luther Strange, republicans coughed up a seat to democrats in the reddest of red states.
Politics is a game ultimately of addition not subtraction, it's cliche, but it's true. If you're trying -- if you have both Houses of Congress and the White House as republicans do, and you're trying to march forward with an agenda piece by piece.
Whatever, regardless of what people think of that agenda, what you want to do is build seats, not turn over the wheelbarrow and try and destroy the establishment. You're trying to march towards to a goal.
And Bannon with this weird brew of, it's not conservatism, it's this hodgepodge of statism and protectionism and anti-immigration...
SWERDLICK: ... stuff, nationalism. And even the establishment (Inaudible) even though he went to Harvard and he worked for Goldman Sachs. And whatever he was trying to sell, it's not as easy as he probably has thought it was coming out of the victory of President Trump a year ago.
LEMON: Hey, Bob, I want to ask you, I thought it was interesting that Ari Fleischer tweeted this. You remember he was the White House spokesperson under President Bush.
He said "Establishment candidate Ed Gillespie lost. On establishment candidate Roy Moore lost. The lesson, a base only POTUS isn't enough for the GOP to win. D's hate Trump more than R's love him. POTUS needs to improve his approval rating or D turnout will kill R's in 2018."
I mean, Bob, how many times have people on this program and other programs and political commentators and strategists, how many times have they said the exact same thing, but yet this administration and this president doesn't seem to listen, he keeps going back to the base, because he needs that those cheerleaders, he needs that ego boost.
CUSACK: Yes. I mean, we do have to think also that they haven't gotten much done legislatively, they don't have a big bill win. They didn't get health care done. They haven't got transportation. I think they're going to get this tax bill cut done.
CUSACK: But at the same time, is that going to really get him to 50 percent? No. I think the White House has to think, let's get to 50 percent.
And on Bannon, I think, how is he going to raise money after this massive loss, I think a lot of republican incumbents who were up for re-election who were nervous about Bannon a couple days ago, they're not so nervous anymore because Bannon is going to have a fund-raising issue.
LEMON: Do you want the, Bob, do you want the president campaigning with you in 2018?
CUSACK: I think you want him in primaries, I'm not so sure in the general. I mean, Barbara Comstock who lives out by me in Virginia, I mean, I don't think she's going do have Trump in her district because Trump is unpopular. I think it depends on the situation. But in primaries that are upcoming in early part of the year, you probably want Trump. General election, not so much.
[22:10:04] LEMON: April, what do you think? Do you think that republican candidates in 2018 do you they are going to be energized. Will that energized the democrats if the president is campaigning with them.
RYAN: Of course it will energize the democrats. But I'm thinking of republicans. Twenty eighteen is right here. And you have to think about this, it all depends on the time and what's going on if things continue to steadily go in a downward path, I don't believe you're going to get many people wanting the president.
But of course, you're going to have those areas that are solid Trump areas that there are may be a call for him. But I don't believe if this president continues to go down this path and he does not have the legislative win, a legislative win that he's hoping for, people may take a second thought and really we think bringing him on the campaign trail.
LEMON: Let's talk about his approval rating, David.
LEMON: Job approval rating 32 percent, and that's according to Monmouth University poll.
LEMON: That's the same as the Pew poll last week. And by the way, President George W. Bush didn't hit numbers like this until well into his presidency during the Iraq. How do numbers like that impact the president's deal making abilities. SWERDLICK: Yes.
LEMON: I mean, to April's point just a second ago.
SWERDLICK: Exactly. Thirty two percent the highest number you see out there is the Gallup daily at 36. But that's the most, right? So what you have with Alabama last night, with the repudiation by the Alabama voters, even though it was fairly narrow, even though Roy Moore was a terrible candidate.
And with this approval numbers that are stuck in the mid to low 30's, you have republican candidates next year, like Bob and April said, and also republicans already on the Hill who can make their own decision about whether they're going along with the president in a primary or on a given issue.
They may go with him in some cases, but they don't have to be afraid of bucking the president.
LEMON: Is that a serious consideration right now, David. You think people are wondering? Boy, what do we do? You think candidates, lawmakers who are up in 2018 are really thinking about should they go along with this president's agenda. Should they have him on the campaign trail, should they sign on with this?
SWERDLICK: I agree with Bob. They may want him in a primary and may be not in a general. But the point is, with the president this week, with his coat tails so short, they can make their own decision, they don't have to live in fear of going, you know, cross ways or sideways with the president.
They can make their decision based on what they think the demographic of their district and the issues that are near and dear to their district matters. Not so much staying right on track with President Trump. Because President Trump has wounded himself over the last year, he's -- and they know it, voters know it. The White House knows it.
LEMON: Thank you, David. Thank you, Bob. I appreciate it. April, stick around, please. Because when we come back I want to talk about how black voters, especially black women made the difference in the Doug Jones stunning election win. We'll be right back.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Democrat Doug Jones stunning victory in Alabama last night shocked some seasoned political observers and his overwhelming support from black voters especially black women may have been the key.
April Ryan is back with me. Also joining me is CNN political commentator is Joseph Pinion and Angela Rye. Good evening, everyone. Thank you so much. It's been an interesting 24 hours so say the least. Angela, last night, during a special election in December African-
American voters eclipse that and made up 29 percent of all voters -- and then Jones won, then by 96 percent to 4 percent.
In 2012, on election day black voters compromise -- I think comprise, I should say, 28 percent of the total Alabama electorate, and went 95 percent to 4 percent for then-President Barack Obama. Was this -- is this a wakeup call for democrats? What do you think.
ANGELA RYE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it's major, and one of the things that I haven't heard talked about too much is a moment to give credit where credit is due, there's an amazing member of Congress in Alabama who worked here behind off for Doug Jones, and that's Congresswoman Terri Sewell.
Terri Sewell has an amazing record, she's done just yeoman's work in trying to protect Alabama citizens voting rights. She's been pushing the Voting Right Amendments Act since last Congress. And actually since 2013 when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 making it hard for states like Alabama to be pretty clear.
Saying all of that to say, what happened yesterday is black people worked in the space that they do best, and that's in resilience, right?
They worked in spite of the fact that there were licensing places, closing in their areas so they couldn't have the proper I.D. to go vote. They worked in spite of. And I think that people need to be commended for that. I don't think the democrats can take credit for this, I think the black people can. And Doug Jones should be...
LEMON: Well, I think that also -- I think that it was also a lot of the people who went down there, and this turn out the vote effort by African-Americans, and many prominent African-Americans. It was kind of below the radar, because they didn't want to look like they were outsiders coming in to tell people what to do.
LEMON: So it was kind of a -- you know, it was a surprise to many obviously.
RYE: Well, and I don't think it was a surprise, I think what you saw is whether it was Kamala Harris or Cory Booker or Barrack Obama's robo call its folks again rising to the occasion. Not waiting on the Democratic Party to give specific instructions. Not waiting on Doug Jones campaign to give specific instruction, but knowing that we have to do what we have to do. And again, shout out to Terri Sewell.
LEMON: OK. So, listen, put this into perspective for us, April, as a reporter who happens to be a woman of color. Black women were 17 percent of the electorate yesterday. And they voted for Jones 98 percent to 2 percent. RYAN: Right. Well, when you look at the community African American
women, we are becoming the highest, we have the -- we're becoming increasing in number as the head of household, as the sole provider.
And when you have people like Roy Moore talking the way he's talking, the stakes are at the highest they can be. And you have to go out and fight back. And the way they fought back was through their vote.
[22:20:00] You know, Terri Sewell like Angela said, really worked hard. And you know, you had people come in like Cory Booker who is a rock star of the party, whose mother has roots in Alabama who came in. They wanted to reach each one.
And I remember talking to Terri Sewell over the weekend. And she said that we need the African-American vote. She said, it's not -- we don't have the numbers to put it all the way over the top. But if they had not had that African-American vote and particularly the women, as well as the moderate republicans, it would not be Doug Jones the winner.
So when it comes to issues for women, for minority women the stakes are high, and they know it. We are the ones who go to the polls.
RYAN: We are the ones who leave the household. We are the decision makers a lot of times at home. So they wanted to make a decision, and they made the decision through their vote. And it's clear it's Doug Jones.
LEMON: It's frustrating to -- I heard over the last 24 hours to many African-American voters because they feel that -- especially within the last two or three years all they've heard on television is, what rural white voters and working class voters, which now means white voters, what this person says, are the unheard Trump voter when the people who are out now really in the election to determine the election since 2016 are voters of color. There's a frustration there, Joseph.
JOSEPH PINION, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I think that, to me, when you look at what we're facing right now. First of all, we have to give credit to not the Democratic Party, but as Angela said, to black people.
I think that ultimately, I think one thing that I haven't heard people talk about is the Trump effect on the black vote. I think sometimes the Trump administration acts as if black people cannot see them. Like, as if somehow we cannot hear them we cannot see them.
So when you get down to Air Force One and fly down to Pensacola, you know, literally the day before the Civil Rights Museum opening to campaign for a man who said that the last time this nation was great was during slavery.
Go to the U.S. Senate on behalf of a state that still to this date celebrates Robert E. Lee day in conjunction of Martin Luther King day. And that's not going to have an effect on the African-American vote, I think that is short sided.
LEMON: You said that this is -- this is a warning shot yesterday across the bow for the GOP that you've been warning that people have been warning them about for years now.
LEMON: About the black vote.
PINION: I think when you look at the fact, what even the golden opportunity project. I said earlier that, you know, someone used to call Reince Priebus and figure out what files he left that documenting.
Because ultimately, at the end of the day, we have been talking about this for years. And so, again, when you sit here and act as if, calling you know, NFL players kneeling SOBs and act as if that doesn't have an effect on black mothers going to the polls who are recognizing those individuals who are kneeling on behalf of their sons and their daughters.
I think that's not the reason why they turned out in that black vote is going up. I think you're being shortsighted. I think the fact that when you start talking about the fact that you have individuals out here in Selma, Alabama going to the polls in record numbers.
You don't think that has anything to do with the fact that you have Congressman Lewis who disavow the president after he had -- he's gotten battered and bruised and bloodied on Edmund Pettus Bridge I think again, you're being shortsighted.
And so, I think that hopefully, finally, if we can't expect the president to change, and certainly the party must at least acknowledge the truth that we are spending millions of dollars to confront, is that you have to start dealing with these issues with communities of color much differently.
LEMON: Well, the person in the White House who was supposed to help with that vote, turning out the black vote liaison fired the day after the stunning loss. Or should say...
RYE: The night time.
LEMON: ... she said she resigned the night of the stunning loss. And I'm talking about Omarosa. I would say you're fired, but they're saying she resigned. We'll talk about that.
RYAN: It was both.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: One of the president's most vocal and controversial supporters, a former "Apprentice" contestant, Omarosa Manigault, out of a job at the White House.
Back with me now, April Ryan, Angela Rye, and Joseph Pinion. So, April, today, Manigault Newman, that's her married name now, resigned to pursue other opportunities. The president tweeted thanks to her, everyone is being gracious.
But there is reporting by you also by CBS News that Omarosa was fired by John Kelly. Why did she have to go?
RYAN: Well, according to my sources, and you know, Don, we didn't get too much sleep last night. And about six, after we were doing the Roy Moore show, but what happened this morning 6 a.m., I'm starting to get texts from sources and it continued from so many different people, so different sectors who had credible sources, people who were high ranking republicans, to people close to the White House, I mean, people who knew -- I mean, it was a lot.
So what ultimately we found out, is that last, General Kelly ran into her or approached her at one of the White House Christmas parties. And he said I need to talk to you. And ultimately, she said, I want to have full access that I did before. I want to be able to walk into the president's office, I want to be able to go in and out of meetings as I please, and I also want to be able to just -- to do my own thing.
And he said, look, he said, he told her this is part of the problem, that I understand that you're in the president's ear. She's been calling and trying to influence the president going around his boundaries, and his parameters.
And so then she said, well, if I don't get what I want, there will be hell to pay. He said, OK, there's hell, and that's what started it all off. But ultimately...
LEMON: And so this was -- so this all happened last night? And so, here's what...
RYAN: Last night.
[22:29:58] LEMON: Last night. OK. So, listen, there are reports again from you and from other organizations that she was scourtsed off the property that they took her security clearance, what have you.
LEMON: The Secret Service is tweeting. It says "The Secret Service was not involved in the termination process of Ms. Manigault Newman or the escort of the complex," which seems to me if you, it looks like they are confirming because they are saying they were not involved in the escort.
ANGELA RYE, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Yes.
RYAN: Yes. But who escorted her off the property?
LEMON: "Our only involvement was to deactivate the individual's pass which grants access to the complex."
So, this gives us more information about what happened here. Do you think?
RYAN: Yes. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, and I tried to get her to confirm it early this morning. And when I e-mailed her they in turn ran to A.P. and the Huffington Post. But I said, OK, you say she resigned and there's a resignation letter with her signature, but it was a negotiated resignation, but there was still drama that ultimately, she was terminated.
The resignation she was supposed to leave on January 20th.
RYAN: Secret Service took her, deactivated her hard pass, where she can't get in.
RYAN: So, the question is, is she being paid out through the 20th, what? But she is no longer...
LEMON: Well, I'm glad you said that. Let me put this. And just for the sake -- because of time. OK, so let me get this up, this is a statement, it's from someone -- an administration -- a former administration official told CNN this. "People have long been unsure what she did at the White House what value she brought. Many of her colleagues are elated."
What was her role at the White House, Joseph?
JOSEPH PINION, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I think that it's unfortunate that things transpired in this way. I think putting any feelings that people have about Omarosa to the side.
I think that, again, when we just talk about African-American turnout through the roof in Alabama last night and then you literally, while you're losing that election, turning probably the most visible African-American figure you have in that administration, out the door.
LEMON: Well, no, but Joseph, that was her job. Part of her job was to get black turnout, but to vote for the republican candidate or for the president's agenda, and she didn't accomplish that. You don't think that's a fireable offense?
PINION: I think that meetings on that access, and I think that, you know, as much as I think it's well documented, that there's been a little friction in the hood between Omarosa and a lot of people.
I think that the reality is that if there is no perceived credibility at the administration to be able to say that these meetings will turn into actual results for the people, and it doesn't really matter who you have in that job, it's going to be difficult, almost impossible for people to actually take that person seriously.
LEMON: What about Omarosa's perceived credibility, Angela, does she have any?
RYE: I don't think she had any credibility. I think, here's the tough part. If she's the most visible person that African-Americans are to be relying on this administration, tell me why she was sitting in EEOB instead of in the West Wing. Tell me why she didn't have an office here.
If you are going to tell me that she was the highest ranking -- she certainly was paid well, but if you're going to tell me that, you tell me why she wasn't able to influence any policy to ensure that black people, communities of color and low income communities were taken care of.
Whether we're talking about healthcare, we're talking about tax reform. We certainly weren't protected in any of those. She even had HBCU's under her bailiwick, and if that's the case you tell me why this president thought the HBCU's...
RYAN: And there are various...
RYE: ... well, hold on, you tell me why you think this president thought that HBCU's are unconstitutional. Then you tell me what she was doing, that was helpful to us and I will call you a liar.
LEMON: Why would she -- let's be honest, she was the head of...
RYE: What, Don, you just hard stopped.
LEMON: Look, (Inaudible) says, let me put it this way, black people didn't like Omarosa, they thought that she was divisive.
LEMON: They thought that she -- they didn't understand why she was there she was a former "Apprentice" contestant. Listen, he can hire whoever he wanted. But if you're going to hire someone to be and part of her main job was that outreach to African-Americans that she had credibility there. Why on earth would you do that?
PINION: Well, I think also, I think it's just -- to defend everything and to be credible on nothing, right. And so that's the biggest issue that we have here.
And I think that to me, it's less about actually being able to talk about the deficiencies of Omarosa as far as her advocacy for the black community and just talking about the deficiencies of this administration, to actually have a credible interest in what is occurring in African-American communities?
LEMON: Go ahead.
RYAN: But let me say this. Let me say this. It is important to talk about the deficiencies of this person who was in this position, when you have a president who is taking the issue of taking a knee, and making it about the flag and soldiers, versus the issue of police involved shootings what it was.
Also the issue of Charleston, she is supposed to be the voice of reason for the black community. The liaison between the black community and the president.
RYAN: The tension between this administration and the black community is at its height, and she is there to help be his liaison.
PINION: I would submit to you that she is not, though. I would submit to you the fact in name only.
[22:34:56] RYAN: But this is why they get...
RYE: That's the whole point.
PINION: And I think that that is the point. And to me, again, ultimately on some base level to me, Omarosa is irrelevant.
LEMON: So what do you mean in name only?
RYAN: No, it's not. No, it's not. Because that person -- that person was also supposed to go on the Hill, and work with the Congressional Black Caucus. Instead, she was picking -- she was picking fights with Cedric Richmond, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus.
RYE: She was also calling herself honorable.
RYAN: Trying to insight him to fight. Yes.
RYE: She called herself the honorable and putting the address block of her letter at the end of the letter. Like I don't even know who taught her that. So she is so irrelevant, she doesn't even know how to address a letter.
And you're talking about relevance, you should have a place near the principal. Again, she's sitting on the outskirts in EEOB.
For those of you who don't know, there's a separate building. RYAN: The building next door. The building next door.
PINION: And yes, and this is the point.
RYE: There's a separate building that's where she was seated.
PINION: I think that...
RYE: Well, hold on, Joseph. One more thing. One more thing. The last thing I have. If she was supposed to help black people, you tell me why she was boo-booing on the people in the administration in the White House.
There were folks that she was shutting the door on, black people, name by the couple of them, sorry to be airing you all out. But she was going out of her way to make it difficult for these folks to do their jobs. I'm not supportive of the Trump administration. But I definitely don't support someone who will work diligently to close doors on people trying to be successful in their careers.
LEMON: All right. That's the last word.
RYAN: Don, let me -- Don, let me...
LEMON: I got to go, I got to go. But she's gone now. So, you know, there you go.
Thank you, everyone. When we come right back, Rob Rosenstein testifying in front of the House judiciary committee today. We're going to tell you what the deputy attorney general is saying about Robert Mueller and whether he should be fired.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein flat out telling the House committee today that he has seen no reason to fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
Here to discuss, CNN national security Steve Hall, retired chief of CIA Russian operation. He joins us via Skype. Also CNN national security and legal analyst Susan Hennessey, and contributor Garrett Graff, author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror."
Good to you all. Susan, to you first. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appeared before the House judiciary committee today to defend Robert Mueller and his investigation against claims of political bias. Rosenstein said "In no uncertain terms that Mueller should not be removed from the investigation." How good is Rosenstein's defense of Mueller today.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Right. So I think he gave a really robust and sort of appropriate defense of Mueller, both integrity in the investigation and Mueller as an individual. You know he stop short in some places of sort of a full defense of the FBI writ large.
He was given the opportunity, for example, to express confidence in FBI Director Christopher Wray. He did that, but then didn't -- sort of punted on the chance to also express confidence in General James Baker. So a little bit of sort of moderated approach, obviously he's trying to play it pretty careful in front of -- in front of Congress.
But I think the message is really unambiguous. Rod Rosenstein who is the individual actually responsible for firing Mueller sees absolutely no reason to do so. He's perfectly satisfied with the scope and integrity.
LEMON: He said he was the perfect choice. He said "Mueller was the perfect choice for running the investigation." Do you agree with that?
HENNESSEY: Yes, I mean, look, it's hard to imagine of who else might have been able to serve on this role, right. So, you know, considering sort of the arc of Mueller's career, you know, this is an individual who was George W. Bush's FBI director.
He was so popular and respected in the bureau and on Capitol Hill that Barack Obama actually though special legislation in order to extend his term passed the 10-year. Right?
So this is an individual with really strong bipartisan credibility. Long career in law enforcement, real sort of sterling reputation for integrity. You know, hard to imagine that the very, very short list of people who could play this really difficult role.
LEMON: So, Steve, democratic Senator Joe Manchin was asked about the possibility of Mueller being earlier fired today. And here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE MANCHIN, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: I would hope to think he's safe, if not, then, pardon the expression, all hell will break loose.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN: What does that mean?
MANCHIN: That means that I think there will be an uprising from members of both parties knowing this is a good man. And you're taking a good man out, you must be taking him out for political reasons not for the law or rule of law as we, you know, we are a rule of law. That's how we rule each other and we live by that. And this is a man that will enforce.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Do you agree with Manchin? STEVE HALL, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: I do, and I'm concerned
about what he said about this sort of uprising. Because I think if you go back to what the Russians are hoping and what the plan is for all of this, you know, way back last year when this whole thing started was to cause this decisiveness and cause this polarization inside of our democracy.
And I think what you saw in that room today was a lot of that, as long as our politicians continue to rise to the bait that Russia has set out for them and sort of make this whole thing a serious political issue. We're sort of giving easy wins.
It remains me of a lot of the -- a lot of the developing countries that I served in where the important part of the political g system was not getting to the truth, but was this blind belief in your president or your party leaders.
And we got to recognize that this is not a republican or democratic thing, it's an American thing. And I didn't see a lot of that American piece except from Rosenstein himself I think today.
LEMON: Yes. Rod Rosenstein had a message for those claiming that Mueller's investigation has been tainted. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, UNITED STATES DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: We recognize we have employees with political opinions and it's our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions. Pardon me.
And so I believe that Director Mueller understands that and that he is running that office appropriately. Recognizing the people have political views, but ensuring that those views are not in any way a factor on how they conduct themselves in office.
LEMON: So, Garrett, do you think that his words today could have been a message to republicans, maybe the president himself?
[22:45:02] GARRETT GRAFF, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: Well, I think what you saw Rosenstein try to make was a defense of the institutions and the systems and the processes that we have in place. Which is -- which is absolutely correct for him to do. Which is, you know, it's not that humans don't have opinions, it's not that humans don't express opinions.
But we have a system and a process that ensures with checks and balances that those opinions do not influence the outcome. And this is something that actually Bob Mueller has been remarkable attentive to throughout his career.
When he was FBI director he was in charge of the New Orleans field office at one point made an offhand comment one morning in the media, that he might consider some day entering politics.
And Mueller removed him from office by lunchtime that day, before even the Justice Department could call Mueller and ask what was going on. LEMON: Everyone, stay with me, when we come back, Rod Rosenstein not
the only one in the hot seat today, Donald J -- Donald Trump, Jr., I should say, in front of the Senate intelligence committee for about nine hours, and it wasn't even the first day long interview on the Hill. I want you all to weigh in on that when we come right back. We'll be back right after this.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The president's son on the congressional hot seat again today.
Back with me, Steve Hall, Susan Hennessey, and Garrett Graff. So, Susan, Donald Trump, Jr. was questioned by staffers for the Senate intelligence committee for approximately nine hours today. Why do you think they brought him back and what more do they want to know from him?
HENNESSEY: It's certainly a long day. Not all that surprising that they have a lot of questions for Don Jr. And if you think about it, Don Jr. is not only at the center of a lot of different sort of issues related to the Russia investigation, right.
He's the individual who organized the sort of infamous Trump Tower meeting. You know, sent the e-mail if what's you say it is, I love it. He's also the head of his father's business, right?
Trump is still not divested from the Trump organization. Certainly, the committees are going to be looking into questions related to potential financial conflict of interest. And then, you know, Donald Trump, Jr. has also sort of dabbled in some Russia-related policy issues.
So during the campaign he gave a speech for a Russia-backed think tank in Europe on sort of Syria policy, an issue that I don't think Don Jr. is an expert on for which he was paid up to $50,000, reportedly.
So there is a huge range of questions and issues that this committee is going to want to get into. So not surprising that they would bring him back and not surprising that they would take that full nine hours to sort of walk down every possible path here.
LEMON: So you're not surprised that they brought him back for questioning by various investigations.
HENNESSEY: No, I don't think it's surprising that they brought him back. One of the sort of outstanding questions is how forthcoming he is being. So before the (Inaudible) earlier this week or late last week he declined to answer questions about sort of conversations with his father, somewhat strangely asserting attorney-client privilege. Not really clear what the grounds for that were.
So is he actually being forthcoming with the committees and is he answering the questions that they're asking.
LEMON: Yes. Steve, Senator Mark Warner, who is a member of the Senate Intel committee, has said he wants Don Jr. to come back and answer questions from senators themselves. What is the difference between having staffers and senators questioning Trump Jr.?
HALL: Well, there is a difference, and I was always surprised when I was working with intelligence oversight committees, congressional committees, at the depth of understanding to the level of detail that the staffers, that the professional staffers actually had.
So, I know there were questions earlier about, you know, are staffers up to this task or, you know, shouldn't it be the members? I think the answer is a lot of times the staffers are sort of the members' brains on a lot of really detailed issues.
And so, it doesn't surprise me that it would have been senior professional staffers who would have been getting precisely to some of the questions that Susan what just alluding to.
It is important of course that members because at the end of the day they are the ones who the elected and it is important that they get in there and have their own questions. But a lot of time staffers provide the research, the background, the depth of understanding that they can then allow the members to really get, you know, weed out the stuff that they're not interested in.
In a counterintelligence investigation and in a legal investigation like this, the financial piece of it, it can all be extremely complicated, and sometimes just weeding it out to the three, to the five most important things is something that those professional staffers can do and then the members can follow up on that.
So, it doesn't surprise me that they went for a long time today.
LEMON: Garrett, do you think that this will be the last time Don Jr. is called, called upon to answer questions for lawmakers?
GRAFF: I would be shocked if it is. In part because I don't think that any of these investigations are close to wrapping up no matter the president's lawyers' repeated assertions that all of this will be over by Christmas or the end of the year.
You know, I think we are looking at a process on Bob Mueller's special counsel investigation that is likely going to extend at least another year, even if there are not that many additional cases that we see come out of it, and I think that the Senate and the House both seem like they have a lot of runway left ahead of them.
LEMON: Does a year seem like a long time to you with an investigation like this, Susan?
HENNESSEY: No. I think Garrett is right. We're looking at a year from now sort of at a minimum. The other thing to think about whenever you're thinking about the congressional investigations, which, of course, are different from Robert Mueller's investigation.
You know, that we're just talking about the timeline that it would take for them to put together a report. So you have to tack on probably six months at a minimum to go through all the declassification hurdles, so this is going to be a very, very long time before there is an actual public congressional report that's been issued.
LEMON: Steve, I'm wondering what this does to have your kids, you know, one of your kids your namesake have to go and answer all of these questions. I wonder what that does to Donald Trump, the President and the father.
[22:55:03] HALL: You know, having a kid myself, I mean, it's difficult to imagine them sitting in that room you know, for nine hours, really being asked a whole bunch of very detailed, probably very unpleasant questions. It's got -- it's got -- you know, it must take -- it must take a toll.
That said, you know, I agree with what Susan said earlier. Donald Trump, Jr. is a key player and he was made a key player by his father. You know, one of the key things that came up during the Rosenstein testimony today was the question as to, was there any collusion or has anybody seen any collusion?
I think Donald Trump, Jr.'s comments about yes, I'm interested in that derogatory information on Hillary Clinton, you know, if it's not collusion in and of itself, it seems to be an intent to try to get there. And that's, you know, that's a very serious thing, which is why I'm sure they spent as much time as they did today with him, Don.
LEMON: Yes. And possibly if there was a divestment of the businesses and there wasn't so much at least cross between the business and the campaign, then maybe the kids or Don Jr. wouldn't be in this position as advisers have been saying all along and political analysts.
Thank you, all. I appreciate it. When we come back, will the president pay a political price in the wake of Roy Moore's defeat?
And whatever happened to Steve Bannon's war on the GOP?
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)