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Don Lemon Tonight

CNN Source Says White House Staffers Are Stunned By The Day's News; Michael Cohen's Attorney, Lanny Davis, Speaks Out; Michael Cohen's Guilty Plea, Paul Manafort Verdict. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired August 21, 2018 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. You want to pay attention to this hour. We have a lot going on, it is 11:00 p.m. on the East Coast. We are live with breaking news tonight.

A source tells CNN that White House staffers are stunned by today's news. The man who led the President's campaign for five critical months leading up to the election, found guilty in federal court. Former trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort guilty of eight financial crime charges.

Victory for Robert Mueller, in the first trial, to come out of his investigation. While the President continues to push the lie that the case against Manafort wasn't part of the Special Counsel's original mission, I want you to look at what the Trump appointed acting Attorney General wrote. Mueller, is authorized to investigate any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump. Plus, any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation. There you have it.

Prosecutors laid out reams of evidence highlighting, how Manafort made millions at advising Ukrainian politicians, pushing pro-Russian policies. And then there's the other huge legal story tonight, President Trump's one time personal attorney admitting in federal court today, his role in paying for the silence of an ex-playboy model and an adult film actress who alleged affairs with the President. Michael Cohen, not the only copped to his part in coordinating hush money payments one month before the election, but directly implicated the President as well. Saying he broke campaign finance laws, quote, in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.

So let that sink in. A man who once said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump now says he broke a federal law with the same man, Donald Trump, with the president. A White House source telling CNN that -- this was not a good day for the home team. And that Trump has been stewing all day.

So let's bring in now, Michael Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis. Lanny, thank you so much for joining us this evening. First off, have you spoken to Michael? What is he doing? What does he say? LANNY DAVIS, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PRES. CLINTON SPECIAL

COUNSEL: Yes, a combination of relief. Suffering for his family, his children, the life he is been forced to lead with the cloud of doubt facing criminal prosecution. That there is also a liberation in Michael's voice.

This is a man with a very big heart, who loves his family, loves his country. And has been unable to speak, because of this cloud after the massive search warrant was executed including even his children's telephones. Well, now, he is -- stepped up to the line and he can now speak again. And he feels liberated.

LEMON: How far is he willing to go? Because I just want to ask you, because, you know, for years, he is been saying, you know, I will protect this President, I'm very loyal to Donald Trump, I'm not going to flip. I would never hurt him and now we've come to this.

DAVIS: When I first spoke to Michael Cohen and took several weeks for the two of us to get to know each other on the phone before we ever met. We talked very intensely about what caused him to change his mind about Donald Trump and the only way to put it, it may sound a little bit (inaudible) was patriotism and love of country. Caused him to recognize the danger of this particular President.

His lack of suitability to be President of the United States. And his decision as he said to me late one night, to hit the reset button on his life and his previous loyalty to such a man that he considered especially after Helsinki to be a danger to our country as President of the United States.

[23:05:05] LEMON: OK, so do you know what Giuliani has been saying, right? He is a liar, this is nothing more than just a series of lies, he has been lying forever, he is a liar, liar, liar, liar. What do you say to that?

DAVIS: The man who said the truth is not truth. The man who actually takes away any dispute of fact that Donald Trump committed a crime when he directed my client, Michael Cohen to pay the money to Miss Daniels. It was Rudy Giuliani who broke the attorney/client privilege, contradicted President Trump's lie on Air Force One who said, Mr. Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen for the advance money paid to Miss Daniels to keep her quiet. That is Rudy Giuliani saying that Donald Trump knew, directed and paid Michael Cohen.

LEMON: There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President in the government charges against Mr. Cohen. This is Giuliani speaking here. It is clear that as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen's actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time. Lanny?

DAVIS: Let me repeat. I am talking about a fact not in dispute. Mr. Trump's attorney submitted a letter published to the Special Counsel, in which they said Mr. Trump directed Mr. Cohen to make this payment. Whatever Giuliani wants to invent, that truth isn't truth or to say what's on the tape that isn't on a tape, so I went on this CNN network and said don't believe me, listen to the tape. Giuliani doesn't know the difference between a lie and a fact. Bu

here he is caught in his own words. He said that Mr. Trump lied to the press when he denied knowing about the Stormy Daniels payment, and Giuliani said, and his lawyer said that Mr. Trump knew and directed Mr. Cohen as Mr. Cohen said, under oath today in federal district court.

So, there is no doubt that Donald Trump committed a crime, and more than that, a cover-up of the crime, because he did not want to write the check to Stormy Daniels, which Mr. Giuliani admitted he directed Mr. Cohen to do, why didn't Donald Trump write the check himself, Don? Because he covered up what he knew was wrongdoing?

LEMON: This is all going to come down to proof. People are going to say where are the receipts, right? Where are the receipts? That Michael Cohen has?

And you know, speaking to Chris earlier, Chris said he has no reason to lie, it doesn't behoove him to lie, because then he is in more trouble than he is already in. Does he have the proof? Does he have the receipts?

DAVIS: So first of all, yes, the wire transfer from the Trump Corporation to the account that Michael Cohen set up that then went to Stormy Daniels is recognizable and provable. But let me repeat, the proof is President Trump's own lawyers wrote the Special Counsel and used the word directed.

There doesn't need to be proof when the lawyers have acknowledged that the client directed Michael Cohen to make an illegal payment. Making the client as guilty certainly as the lawyer, and in my judgment, more guilty, because he was trying to cover up and hide his own role in the situation with Ms. Daniels by having Mr. Cohen do the deed rather than himself. There is no dispute, there is no need for proof. His lawyers have admitted that fact.

LEMON: Listen, everyone knew that the President knew. And when he got aboard Air Force One, and everyone say, OK, we know, he knew about this payment. You say Michael Cohen has information, Lanny, that should be of interest to the Special Counsel, and he is more than happy to tell Mueller all that he knows. Does this mean that Cohen will say what CNN reported a month ago, that Cohen told friends Trump knew of the Trump tower meeting ahead of time?

DAVIS: So there's certain things that an attorney and client share that I can't divulge, unlike Rudy Giuliani, who waived attorney client privilege when he spoke about what Donald Trump told him. I'm not allowed to do that. There is a certain complication in that story that we were never able to correct, but I do, to answer your question know that Michael Cohen has information that would be of interest to Mr. Mueller in his probe of a conspiracy to corrupt American democracy, very similar to the indictment of the 12 Russians.

[23:10:15] I believe that Mr. Cohen would be able to provide information useful to the Special Counsel. I won't call it a smoking gun information, somebody else will have to judge that. But I believe that he does have relevant information.

LEMON: So, he has relevant information, and do you think that information pertains to that Trump tower meeting or could it pertain to that Trump tower meeting.

DAVIS: It pertains to something else that I can't divulge right now, but I believe, it would be of interest to Mr. Mueller in his probe of the Russian -- the conspiracy to collude as well as actual knowledge of a crime that most people would call the FBI about, and we'll see what develops with Mr. Mueller's investigation, I think he knows a lot more than we think he knows.

LEMON: So, Lanny, let me ask you this. So, if Michael has all of this stuff as you say, and there's no reason to believe that he doesn't. Then why would the President and the President's team, the administration work as hard almost every day to throw Michael Cohen under the bus and keep backing up over him? Or as one of our analysts here Laura Coates said, you know, on Air Force One, throwing him under Air Force One. Why would he do that?

Or they do that?

DAVIS: It's impossible to understand Rudy Giuliani's conduct. Truth is not truth, throwing a client under the bus by admitting essentially we now know a crime by saying he reimbursed a campaign contribution that was above the limits and then didn't disclose it in his 2019 -- 2018 report.

So, Rudy Giuliani simply doesn't understand the law or doesn't care about the law. And this particular culture of lying we know, that it was Rudy Giuliani who said that when Donald Trump lied to the press on Air Force One -- you've done that clip, I've seen. It's not a crime to lie to the American people. Well, Giuliani's right about that, but it is an impeachable offense. To use the office of the President to abuse the powers of the presidency and lie to the American people.

LEMON: I'm not going to monopolized you, I am not going to hold you too much longer, but again you say, Michael Cohen has information that does what as it relates to conspiracy and collusion?

DAVIS: I think it would be of interest to Mr. Mueller, and I don't want to go any further than that. Mr. Mueller, in a -- the after word, to a book that is about to come out in paperback version that I wrote. I liken Mr. Mueller to a silent deadly submarine under the surface, leak proof with the fuel energized by one thing, facts. Facts. Something that Rudy Giuliani doesn't think exists, and that Donald Trump literally doesn't care when he ignores. And we'll see what Mr. Mueller comes up with, but I do believe that Michael Cohen will tell the truth to Rudy Giuliani and will tell the truth about Donald Trump.

LEMON: I appreciate your time. Lanny Davis, thank you very much.

When we come back, Stormy Daniels attorney says the President's fingerprints are all over the crime scene in connection with Michael Cohen's violation of campaign finance laws. Michael Avenatti, is here to talk to him. Well, I will talk to him next.


LEMON: President Trump former fixer and longtime attorney Michael Cohen pleading guilty to eight criminal counts today including campaign finance violation. That tie two payments Cohen made or help orchestrate to silence Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Cohen admitting then candidate Donald Trump directed him to make those payments. Here to discuss the attorney representing Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti. Michael, thank you for joining us.


LEMON: You say you believe Lanny Davis dropped a bombshell in that interview. Explain.

AVENATTI: Absolutely, I was sitting offset and I was watching that interview and Lanny Davis just made an admission that has never been made before. It's the first I've heard of this, Lanny Davis just stated on your show moments ago. You asked him about receipts, and you asked him if Michael Cohen had the receipts.

LEMON: Where are the proofs, where are the receipts.

AVENATTI: Where are the receipts, relating to Stormy Daniels payment, vis-a-vis Donald Trump's involvement. And Lanny Davis just stated that there was a wire transfer from the Trump organization directly into the account that Michael Cohen had established. This was the essential consultants account in order to pay my client the $130,000 payment.

Now, if that in fact is true, that is a huge problem for the President. Because it would be direct conduct by the Trump organization to reimburse that payment. That would constitute campaign finance violation, and would basically make Donald Trump a co-conspirator. No question about that. And I also add that, that is directly contrary to what Rudy Giuliani told Sean Hannity a few months ago. Because what Rudy Giuliani told Sean Hannity was, that the payment was reimbursed by way of invoices, I think he said laundered -- or used a similar word when describing how the $130,000 was reimbursed. So if Lanny Davis is correct, what he just stated to you --

LEMON: fact funneled. I remember he used funneled --

AVENATTI: That is right. We did, it was funneled, then we talk about that that was an interesting word to use, right. Well, if in fact that there -- if there was a $130,000 payment that went out to my client which we know there was. And then there was a $130,000 wire that came in directly into that account from the Trump Organization, the President is in a lot of trouble.

[23:20:02] LEMON: How so? Explain.

LEMON: Well, because I think it's an open and shut case. Relating to the fact that this $130,000 payment was paid by Michael Cohen with the understanding that he was going to be reimbursed directly by Donald Trump or the Trump organization. That would have had to have been disclosed.

LEMON: Another part of the interview. If you resist, I said, I followed up, and he -- it would be good for -- OK, this is not verbatim, this is just notes. Some things I can't divulge, attorney/client privilege, set certain complications, we are unable to correct Michael Cohen. Has information that we would be -- that would be of interest to Mr. Mueller, he said. OK and again this is paraphrasing here, he said, I won't call it a smoking gun. Information call it smoking gun information, someone will have to characterize it, but he does have information that would be of interest and it pertains to a crime most people would call the FBI about.

AVENATTI: Well, Don, I think the biggest problem right now for Donald Trump is, that he has lost control. He is lost control over Manafort, he has lost control over Cohen. These two individuals now are going to be looking to do whatever they can to cut their own criminal sentences, to protect their families, and there's not a lot that Donald Trump is going to be able to do about it, and I will just tell you, though, if there's a wire transfer receipt for $130,000 payment directly from the Trump organization. That is nothing short of a bombshell.

I do want to say one thing though and I respect Lanny, but I disagree with him about, you know, what we just heard, in the following regards, because I think it is complete nonsense and spin. Michael Cohen did not all of a sudden find love of country and did not all of a sudden become a patriot. Did not all of a sudden conclude after having known Donald Trump for 12 or 15 years that Donald Trump would not make a good President.

Here's what happened, Michael Cohen realized he was dead to rights, he was in the crosshairs, whatever metaphor you want to use, as it relates to prosecutors from the Southern District of New York. Michael Cohen took the steps that he is taken for no other reason than to save himself and his family. Let's be clear about that, let's not try to call it anything other than what it is, just so everyone understands what happened.

This is not about love of country or patriotism, in fact, Michael Cohen waited until the last possible moment, and you've witnessed it over the last five months. The American people had witness it. he has been practically begging for Donald Trump to lead him out of the dark force for months now, it became clear it wasn't going to happen.

LEMON: He was waiting on some help from the President.

AVENATTI: No question. I think he was waiting for air cover and loyalty and it never developed.

LEMON: It's a kind a lengthy sound bite, but this is what you were referring to earlier, as it comes to the alleged wire transfer if that is indeed what happened. Watch this.


LEMON: Does he have the proof? Does he have the receipts?

DAVIS: First of all, yes, the wire transfer from the Trump Corporation to the account that Michael Cohen set up, that then went to Stormy Daniels is recognizable and provable. But let me repeat, the proof is President Trump's own lawyers, wrote the Special Counsel and used the word directed. There doesn't need to be proof when the lawyers have acknowledged that the client directed Michael Cohen to make an illegal payment. Making the client as guilty certainly as the lawyer, and in my judgment more guilty, because he was trying to cover up and hide his own role in the situation with Miss Daniels by having Mr. Cohen do the deed rather than himself. There is no dispute, there is no need for proof. His lawyers have admitted that fact.


LEMON: That s good. So, the first part of that is, you say what?

AVENATTI: That is a bombshell. If what Lanny Davis just stated is true, that there's a $130,000 wire transfer directly into that bank account that was used to pay my client. And that is a direct reimbursement from Donald Trump or a company controlled by him, which is what Lanny Davis just said, that is a stunning piece of evidence and stunning admissions. And it runs directly counter to what Rudy Giuliani has said and it also runs directly counter to David Schwartz. I don't know if some of your viewers remember that guy that showed up early on to defend --

LEMON: To defended Cohen.

AVENATTI: Used to defend Michael Cohen. You'll recall all the things that David Schwartz told the American people that have now been proven to be absolutely false.

LEMON: OK. So, you've made a lot of predictions, and a lot of them have come true. I'm just wondering what this means, I'll get to that -- one important thing that I want to talk about. What does this mean for your case? Does this mean that you will possibly get to depose a sitting President? What are the chances of that?

AVENATTI: I think the likelihood of us being able to depose first Michael Cohen and then second Donald Trump, I think that those odds went through the roof today as a result of this plea, as a result of the language in the plea, and the facts that Michael Cohen pled to.

[23:25:04] I think there's little question as to whether we're going to get a deposition of Michael Cohen, and I'm going to be permitted to ask him specific questions about what happened and the level of communications, and I'm going to get to the details relating to that and then I am guessing. I'm not guessing, I'm speculating, and I think, I'm on solid ground and I'm also going to get a deposition of the President of the United States.

LEMON: You said, you have zero doubt that Michael Cohen is already cooperating and has been cooperating with investigators, and do you mean the Special Counsel or do you mean the Southern District?

AVENATTI: I'm referring to the Southern District. It does not sound to me as if he is -- that he has cooperated with the Special Counsel.

LEMON: Listen, I don't think they've offered him the queen for a day thing. According to our source that I know that has not been put on the table. The queen for a day, to talk to the Special Counsel. You also have said that you think this President will resign before his term is -- what is your proof, what's the indication of that, and how do you feel about that now?

AVENATTI: Well, I said that a number of months ago, and I feel even more strongly about that statement today in light of what happened with Paul Manafort and with Michael Cohen. I think that the walls are closing in on the President, I don't think he is going to serve out his term. I want to be clear about something, there's a lot of things that have to happen. There's a very dynamic situation. We don't know what the Southern District of New York is going to do with the information that is provided by Michael Cohen. But I stand on that prediction.

LEMON: I have to run, but I want to ask you, because Rudy Giuliani tweeted this and said, buckle up, buttercup, you and your client completely misplayed this.

AVENATTI: Yes. I tweeted that out, because I meant it.

LEMON: You tweeted that, not Rudy Giuliani?

AVENATTI: To Rudy Giuliani, I mean, Rudy Giuliani is an absolute walking disaster of an attorney. He is destroyed his legacy, he is done a disservice to himself and his client. And I mean, he is basically committed legal malpractice in the way that they've handled this. Look, Donald Trump should have brought Michael Cohen into the tent a long time ago, when he went --

LEMON: I asked Lanny that question, why did he keep him and Giuliani and the whole administration keep throwing Michael Cohen under the bus.

AVENATTI: Because they don't understand the sense of loyalty unless you're last name is Putin. Then they understand loyalty.

LEMON: Your client, Stormy Daniels, tweeted this, how you like me now? #TeamStormy.

How big of a day is this for your case?

AVENATTI: Well, it's a huge day. I mean, she is ecstatic, she feels vindicated. There are a lot of name (inaudible), a lot of legal pundits out there in the last five to six months that took a fair amount of shots at her and me, and I have talked about our legal strategy and the fact of how we use the media. Well, you know, as of today, it looks OK.

LEMON: Yes, all of that reporting that we were doing was fake news, remember?

AVENATTI: It is all fake news. All facts are fake news.

LEMON: Thank you, sir, I appreciate it.

AVENATTI: Thank you.

LEMON: We'll be right back.


LEMON: So tonight, President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison, convicted on eight counts of tax and bank fraud. The judge declaring a mistrial on 10 other counts. Also, Michael Cohen, pleading guilty to eight other counts today as well.

I want to bring in now CNN Legal Analyst, Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, and Areva Martin, the author of "Make It Rain." Good evening to both of you. Areva, you heard Lanny Davis.


LEMON: Lanny Davis said he believes that Michael Cohen has information that the special counsel would be interested in. Michael Avenatti says he believes that Lanny Davis laid a bombshell tonight, dropped the bombshell when he talked about the possibility of a record of a wire transfer from the Trump Organization. What do you make of this?

MARTIN: Don, you know, there's a popular saying that justice rides a slow horse, but she eventually gets there. And I would say today she got there. You know, just overwhelming news on the legal front for the Trump team. What happened with Paul Manafort in terms of, you know, eight counts where he's found guilty of bank fraud and tax evasion.

And now, you know, Michael Cohen, the long-time fixer and personal lawyer for the president pleading guilty to eight counts, two of which directly involve the president of the United States. Clearly an unprecedented day for the government, for the president.

Shocking, I think, revelation by Lanny Davis that this isn't over. I think this is what -- when I looked at that interview, what it said to me is, we have a long way to go and more shoes are going to drop. Now, whether Mueller decides that he can indict a sitting president, we know that that's up for debate.

But clearly enough information has come out today just from what we saw Michael Cohen plead to in federal court to suggest that there is a case that can be made against Donald Trump for criminal activity.

And it's so ironic, Don, that, you know, Donald Trump said during the campaign that Hillary Clinton would be the most scandal-ridden president in the history of this country. And now we have Donald Trump, his campaign adviser, his long-term personal adviser, his personal lawyer, his fixer, both -- one pled guilty and one convicted of felonies. Unprecedented.

LEMON: And then this Mueller case. Let's see, one sentence, five guilty pleas, one person found guilty, 35 defendants, 191 criminal charges. There it is up on the screen. Renato, what do you think?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I will tell you, don, my mouth dropped when i saw that Michael Cohen went into federal court and under oath said that he was directed by Donald Trump to commit a crime.

I mean, that is serious. The folks at home don't need any of us to tell them that that is a very, very big deal. When you direct someone to commit a crime, you are guilty of that crime, whether you are a mob boss or a drug dealer or something else.

LEMON: Does that make him an unindicted co-conspirator, Renato?

MARIOTTI: Yeah, it makes him -- there's something called agency liability. When you are telling somebody to do something at your direction, you are responsible for that crime, whether he agreed to do it with Cohen.

[23:35:01] That's certainly one way of looking at it. Another way is that, you know, he actually is responsible for the crime as Cohen was his agent. Either way, if Cohen is telling the truth, Donald Trump has committed a felony. Period. Full stop. That is very, very serious business. There's no way to explain that away as a witch hunt.

This isn't the Mueller team doing this. This is a bunch of federal prosecutors doing their job in New York. This isn't about collusion. There's no discussion one way or another about collusion or about the dossier or any of that other nonsense that we've been hearing on Fox News or the president's team talk about. This is a federal crime, and the president's own former lawyer is the one who says he did it under oath.

LEMON: Wouldn't it be interesting, Areva -- and you can say whatever you want after this. If -- you know, despite -- whatever comes out of the Mueller investigation, let's put that aside. But if what comes out of something that Mueller actually referred to the southern district is the thing that trips this president up the most?

MARTIN: That would be incredibly interesting, Don, and I don't want to put the Mueller investigation aside. I think we should settle --

LEMON: I mean, just for that --

MARTIN: I think that would be amazing. But I think it's important for us to note, this is a president that has ridiculed, has taken pod shots at the Mueller investigation, has called it a witch hunt, a hoax, has tried to demean it in the most aggressive way possible.

And to date, out of that Mueller investigation, came the referral to the southern district of New York, which led to Michael Cohen walking into that federal court, pleading guilty to those eight counts. So, Trump can no longer try to delegitimize the Mueller investigation because it's clear today that Mueller and his team know what they're doing. They're experts and they're getting at the bottom of what happened, not just with Donald Trump, but other people in his orbit.

And it says to me today too, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., other individuals that are in that personal circle of Donald Trump, we may be hearing something from the special counsel and his team of investigators as it relates to those individuals as well. I don't think they are out of the clear by a long shot.

LEMON: Fascinating. Areva, Renato, thank you. I appreciate your time. When we come back, both the president's former campaign chairman and his personal attorney headed to prison. That makes five members of Trump's circle who have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to crimes. What happened to Trump's law and order presidency? What happened?


LEMON: The president's former fixer, Michael Cohen, pleads guilty to eight criminal counts on the same day the former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is convicted of eight financial crimes. Remember when Donald Trump said he was the law and order candidate?

Joining me now to discuss is CNN Political Commentator, Mike Shields, a former chief of staff to Reince Priebus at the RNC, and Republican Strategist, Rick Wilson, the author of the book "Everything Trump Touches Dies." Gentlemen, good evening. So, Mike, sources are telling CNN --


LEMON: -- that White House staffers were stunned and rattled by these legal bombshells and the president has been stewing. What's your reaction to what we saw today?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's obviously not good. You don't want your lawyer to be pleading guilty and also to try to implicate you as he's trying to plead himself out of the sentence that he has or his wife might get into trouble.

I thought it was really interesting watching Michael Avenatti disagree with Lanny Davis on his motives. Lanny Davis was ascribing Michael Cohen's motives as patriotism. And Michael Avenatti said, no, it's not patriotism, he's trying to save himself because he knows he's in trouble.

I think that's a really interesting take because it puts into perspective when someone is already admitted to be a criminal, that a lot of the things that they say really are at that point self-serving.

Obviously, you know, this is something that has to be proven before anyone can reach conclusions, and so the tease was a law and order president. And the president ran on that because of things like what happened today in Iowa, where we saw an illegal immigrant committed murder, those are the kind of law and order things. People are going to try and convict the president on cable new but he hasn't been convicted of anything or found guilty of anything. There is just someone who's going to jail accusing him of something.

LEMON: What do you think, Rick?

WILSON: Look, I think that the joke that was making the rounds tonight is right on point. MAGA now stands for my attorney got arrested. This is a president who has been surrounded by people.

His campaign manager is now a convicted felon. His personal attorney today is pleading out in federal court and implicating the president directly while he was a candidate in law breaking.

We've got a whole constellation of other Trump people who have plead guilty or cooperating with prosecutors because this is a guy who is standing atop a gigantic mountain of corruption, and he's standing atop a gigantic mountain of obstruction as well.

All these things that have been slowly building up for Donald Trump, this predicate (ph) he has been building for months and months and months that this is an unfair witch hunt by Hillary's -- you know, angry minions, is falling apart. People are seeing this now.

You can't spin away the fact that Paul Manafort, who was Donald Trump's campaign manager, is going to spend the rest of his life in jail. That Michael Cohen, his personal attorney, one of his closest associates, is going to jail. And for things they did both before and during his administration and his campaign.

LEMON: Yeah. So listen --


LEMON: Go ahead, Mike.

[23:44:59] SHIELDS: I'm old enough to remember being on here with Rick, where Rick specifically made the point to me, that the Cohen investigation had nothing to do with the Mueller investigation. And so I think that's an interesting point because in the Manafort case, they're not looking at Russia collusion of the Trump campaign, they're looking at tax fraud and payments that he had and he hid. And in the Cohen case, that was not a part, according to everyone of the Mueller case. These are not --


WILSON: We're nowhere near the end of the road.

LEMON: Hold on, Rick. Hold on, Rick. So Mike, can I ask you though, does that change since Michael Cohen directly implicated Donald Trump today? He may have said that yesterday or five minutes before Michael Cohen did that. Doesn't that make a difference?

SHIELDS: Not in -- when you -- what Rick was saying was that the president calls this whole thing a witch hunt, and what he of course referring to is the Mueller investigation trying to create a conspiracy case around the president's campaign, and he's repeatedly said there was no such thing.

And now we're saying, oh, my gosh, two people around him have gotten into trouble, but neither one of them has anything to do with what that was originally about and what Democrats talk about every time they can about Mueller which is Russian collusion. Neither one of these two things has anything to do with that.

LEMON: OK. Go ahead, Rick, what were you saying?

WILSON: This is the first couple steps in a long waltz. And this is never going to get better. And Robert Mueller is circling around closer and closer. You know, the Cohen thing was ancillary and was kept to the southern district of New York because it was ancillary, the individual charges and case issues were ancillary to the overall investigation.

But remember, Mueller's charter was to explore Russian interference and the role the Trump campaign may have played with it, but also any other crimes that may emerge from that. They have a duty to go ahead and push through on these things. And so this is the first couple steps in this dance.

This isn't the end for Donald Trump. It doesn't get easier after this. It gets harder. It gets worse. They're going to close in soon. Roger Stone is going to be staring up at a gray ceiling and a jail cell pretty soon. There are a lot of these guys who are going to be facing continued pressure on this.

And the fact of the matter is, I do think it speaks to the president's character, the man who promised he was a law and order candidate who will hire the best people that -- it seems like for a guy who's going to hire the best people, he seems to be hiring the best felons.

And there's a long trail of these other people that are already caught up in this, and it's -- it's disproportionate to any other president in modern history, including Richard Nixon at this point. It's kind of remarkable how many people around Donald Trump just seem to be in legal trouble.

LEMON: OK. Don't go anywhere. We have much more to discuss. We'll be right back.


LEMON: So back with me now, Mike Shields and Rick Wilson. So, Rick, with Manafort convicted, Michael Cohen pleading guilty, Senator Lindsey Graham said this today.

He said, "The American legal system is working. It is well in both the Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen cases. Thus far, there have yet to be any charges or convictions for colluding with the Russian government by any member of the Trump campaign in the 2016 election. It's important to let the process continue without interference. I hope Mr. Mueller can conclude his investigation sooner rather than later for the benefit of the nation."

What happened today caused congressional Republicans to rethink their support for the president.

WILSON: Well, it should. But I think we've seen a lot of behavior already where they're going to do everything they can to avoid the mean tweet from Donald Trump. And, look, Senator Graham, as I tweeted back to Lindsey today, I said, you don't want to grab the fecal end to this stick.

This is a president who will leave you hanging. He will absolutely abandon anyone and everyone who supports him. You guys will -- they will be stuck with all of the radiation and the fallout and the stink off anything that happens to Donald Trump legally because he requires they defend him so passionately.

And that's a bad bet. It's a bad bet because it relies on two big predicates (ph). the first is that Donald Trump refuses to tell the truth to anyone about anything ever. And the second is that they believe that Donald Trump says there is no collusion, there is nothing there, there is no conspiracy, and there is no contact with Russia.

We know there was contact. This is a guy who -- this is a guy who lies to his friends, his allies. He's lying to members of Congress right now and they're buying it like a bunch of nooks (ph).

LEMON: Listen --

SHIELDS: A bad bet is what Democrats and people who just hate the president like Rick have done which is spent a year and a half now telling the American people Russian collusion, Russian collusion, Russian collusion. That's what this is all about. Vladimir Putin. The campaign colluded with the Russians to win. That's how he won the election.

That has been the Democratic Party message heading into the midterm. It's what wall to wall media coverage is. So then when something like this happens, a lot of the public goes, well, this isn't Russian collusion.

LEMON: It is also about conspiracy and obstruction, but go on.


SHIELDS: You even harmed your inability (ph) to prop up something like what happened today and explain to the American people because you spent so long going down a conspiracy path. Look, I worked for Newt Gingrich in the 90's when President Clinton got impeached.#

There was a white water investigation and then it ended up being about something completely separate. He committed perjury under oath. The American people didn't want to have him impeached for that. It backfired on Republicans badly.

And so that's what happens when you set something up as a Russian collusion case and then you watch things like this happen. You watch, if Democrats win Congress, they will go to impeach the president.

[23:55:00] That's what they're going to run on.


LEMON: I'm running out of time. I just want Rick to -- I don't have a lot of time. Rick, if you want to respond to that, you said you set yourself up.

WILSON: Look, the situation right now with Donald Trump is the only easy day was yesterday. More evidence will come out. More things will be revealed.

You're going to look at Donald Trump's money, his longer relationship with this, the denials will ring hollow, and everybody else is going to get the stink on them that has been a Trump defender because they believe a man who is a pathological liar about everything.

Why would he be telling you the truth about this one single thing in the whole universe?

LEMON: The one thing I know for sure is that tomorrow is a new day and there will be new developments because there are every moment.

WILSON: You bet.

LEMON: Thank you both. Have a good night. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.