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Don Lemon Tonight
President Trump Denies Talking With Roger Stone Over WikiLeaks' Dirt On Hillary; Evidence Taken From Roger Stone's Pandora's Box; Trump Claims Intel Chiefs Said Their Testimony Contradicting Him Was 'Mischaracterized'; A Moscow Meeting Of Dictators; E-Mails Reveal New Details About NRA 2015 Russia Trip. Aired 11-12a ET
Aired January 31, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
Major developments tonight in the Russia investigation. So, we're devoting this entire hour to an in-depth look at all things Russia.
First, we have our breaking news for you. The president telling "The New York Times" he never spoke with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks. According to Mueller's indictment, a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about what WikiLeaks had on Hillary Clinton.
But Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" tells me the president insisted the direction did not come from him.
We're also learning that Mueller's team has seized what they call voluminous and complex evidence from Roger Stone. This includes several years worth of information collected from Stone's iCloud accounts, e-mail accounts and hard drives.
Also, tonight, CNN has exclusive reporting that Donald Trump, Jr.'s three mysterious phone calls before and after the now infamous 2016 Trump tower meeting were not with his father. This is according to new information obtained by Senate investigators showing the blocked calls from between Don Junior and two of his business associates.
President Trump seizing on the news tonight tweeting, "just out, the big deal very mysterious Don Junior telephone calls after the innocent Trump tower meeting that the media and Dems said were made to his father, me, were just conclusively found not to be made to me. They were made to friends and business associates of Don. Really sad."
Didn't credit us with the reporting because that's where it came from exclusively from CNN, but it's clearly a positive development for the Trump family. But let's not forget that Trump, Jr. did meet with Russians about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Let's discuss now all of this. Shimon Prokupecz, Susan Glasser, Phil Mudd, and Harry Litman, good evening to all of you. I just think it's ironic that he's saying, that the media is saying claiming all this stuff and it was us who reported and we're saying, it's good news for Don Junior. So, anyway, I digress.
Susan, I spoke with Maggie Haberman, who, along with someone you might know, Peter Baker, he just interviewed Trump in the last hour. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": He was emphatic he did not speak with Roger Stone about WikiLeaks. He was emphatic he did not direct anyone on the campaign to go speak to Roger Stone about what WikiLeaks might have.
And this is important because there is that vague line in the indictment against Roger Stone that says that he was directed sometime after July 22nd, 2016, that somebody -- a senior campaign official was directed to get in touch with Don. We don't know who that senior official is and we don't know who directed that person, but the president definitively said it was not him tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Susan, Maggie says that Trump was emphatic that he never directed anyone to contact Roger Stone about what WikiLeaks had on Hillary Clinton. Are you buying it?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, let's just say that all of these reports tonight are exactly the reason why there is an investigation by the special counsel Robert Mueller's office and why it's very hard to incrementally with blind folds around our eyes try to follow an unfolding complicated federal investigation.
You know, these are little bits and pieces of data. I felt all along like we're, you know, patting parts of the elephant without knowing exactly what is the animal that we're dealing with here.
I think it's noteworthy that President Trump made those deep statements to Peter and Maggie, and you know, we'll see if there's any evidence contradicting it.
The Stone indictment as Maggie pointed out, is filled with this sort of tantalizing passive voice statements that suggest that there might be a lot to learn from this apparently voluminous information and evidence that's been seized by Mueller's office in the course of the Stone arrest.
[23:05:01] LEMON: So, Harry, you know, Trump also told "The Times" that Rod Rosenstein told his attorneys he's neither a subject or target in Mueller's investigation. Meaning he told Trump's attorneys that.
But when asked about a separate investigation by federal prosecutors in New York, he said I don't know about that. What does that say to you?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think it says he's pretty scared of the Southern District of New York with good reason. Chris Christie among others has said he really has to be most concerned there.
And a couple of things about the Southern District of New York. One, they're very well-known as being aggressive, prosecutors pushing the envelope, going where the evidence leads them is one. And two, their field of investigation is the years before Trump was candidate when the Wild and Woolly years and they have the cooperation of the CFO of the organization.
So whatever crimes he might have committed when he didn't think that he was going to be a presidential candidate are in their sights, and that's good reason to frighten him.
LEMON: Mr. Mudd, "The Washington Post" reported in April, though, of 2018 that in private negotiations in early March about a possible presidential interview, that Mueller described Trump as a subject of his investigation. So, what do you believe?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, you look at what the president has said about Stormy Daniels. I go back to that because that was one of the clearest indications I take. I look into the southern district investigations that when he's speaking about investigations you can't take what he's saying as fact.
I look at everything that's going on, and let me pick up on what you just discussed a moment ago. We talk too much about Mueller. If you're looking at this from the outside and you're looking at whether the president is a subject or not, I would be looking at the southern district investigations, that is the New York investigations, because those are long-standing questions about whether there was dirty money.
Forget about Russia. What have a lot of these people pled guilty to? Look at Manafort. That's dirty money. Look at Cohen, that's dirty money. So, I look at this and say, whether the president is talking about Mueller of not put that aside. What does he say about the southern district, you already reported that? He doesn't say too much because I suspect he's worried, Don.
LEMON: Shimon, we were also learning that the mysterious calls Don Junior made ahead of the Trump Tower meeting were not to President Trump. How significant is this development?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So, certainly significant for Donald Trump, Jr. There'd been a lot of questions about whether or not he spoke to his father before the meetings and whether or not just a couple of hours after on January 9th. After that meeting wrapped up there were these blocked calls.
And members of Congress had asked him questions about it when they interviewed him. They did not know who these calls were from. There was a lot of assumption made and a lot of people suspected that maybe he was calling his father and briefing him on what had occurred at this meeting. That now turns out not to be the case obviously from our reporting.
He simply according to people we've talked was talking to business associates of his. Where does this all go now? It doesn't mean that he never spoke to his father about this meeting. This does not make it in any way definitive. But it's a data point here that certainly members of Congress have been interested in. And it points to signs that he did not at least in these phone calls call his father.
LEMON: So, Susan, the president told his son tweeted this tonight. He says, "Has anyone heard from Adam Schiff? I imagine he's busy leaking other confidential information from the House intelligence committee to change the subject. Full of Schiff." So clearly Don Junior is feeling good about this news. Should he be feeling good about it?
GLASSER: Well, look, I think the reason he's focusing in on Congressman Schiff is because Schiff, among other Democrats was raising questions about the Republicans on Capitol Hill refusing to pursue this the last year in their investigation and refusing to find out just who made the phone calls.
So that's the reason he's targeting Congressman Schiff. Again, I think Shimon's point is well-taken here. It doesn't definitively rule out that President Trump was informed about the results of the meeting, possibly even in person.
The Trump tower meeting after all took place in Trump Tower where his father not only had an office but I believe has been reported that he was present on that day. So, again, we don't know exactly what President Trump knew and when he knew it about the Trump Tower meeting, but this is something that, you know, Donald Trump, Jr. is tweaking Democrats about.
But I would say well, where did the information come, almost certainly from a leak from Republicans on Capitol Hill would strike me as an obvious source for this information today given that it appears to, you know, be good news and positive information for Donald Trump, Jr.
And, you know, the weaponizing of little data points of information I think is going to continue until we have more definitive public reporting from the various entities that are investigating President Trump.
[23:10:05] LEMON: Susan, that makes too much sense. What you just said, I'm like wait a minute, does she know who she's dealing with here? That makes way too much sense.
Harry, I mean, let's remember, though. Don Junior was e-mailed that Russia had information that would incriminate Hillary Clinton, and he responded quickly, if it's what you say, I love it especially, you know, later in the summer. That was June 3rd, 2016. So, there are still major questions about his role in all of this and what kind of trouble he could be in.
LITMAN: Totally especially since we now know as we didn't before that the negotiations for the Moscow Trump Tower were continuing. You know, one of the calls that he placed to a business associate was the real estate developer of the family.
The whole focus now has been whether he and the Trump family have been conflating foreign policy and their own commercial interests. So, he's certainly not out of the woods there. I agree that it's far from definitive that he didn't tell his dad, even though it wasn't in these phone calls.
And finally, he looks to be very much at risk, maybe even dead to rights about the statements he previously made to Congress. So, that seems to be almost a low hanging of fruit for Mueller if and when. And I think it's more a question of when he wants to pick it.
LEMON: Phil, just because those calls weren't to his father --
LEMON: -- that doesn't mean Don Junior didn't tell the president some other way, correct?
MUDD: Sure. But let me give you an eye roll-on this one, Don, at 11.11 p.m. on the East Coast. We are two plus years into an investigation using the best resources in the Department of Justice and FBI.
The question is not simply malfeasance on the financial side. The question is whether there was a conspiracy like we've never seen with the Russians. And the Democrats are hanging their hat on unidentified, a couple of unidentified phone calls a few years ago? Are you kidding me? I mean, it's appropriate to ask the question --
LITMAN: Just a second. Don, can I respond after --
LEMON: Of course. That wasn't -- that was Phil. Come on, Harry.
LITMAN: Look, we don't know what Mueller knows. That's the whole point. It's true that as soon as the Republican members of the Senate found out this good piece of information it was a media leaked, but the whole point is and rule number one, don't assume anything about what Mueller knows in this charge until he's done it. No way in saying it's been two years because it's up to Mueller when he plays his cards.
MUDD: Just a quick -- so, I think that's correct. My point would be I don't think Adam Schiff knows either. If I were a Democrat, I'd say my get out of jail free card is Robert Mueller. If he comes forward with more aggressive charges you don't have to be a Democrat. You have to be an American to say if Mueller said it's true, I think it's true and therefore the Democrats can attack.
If I were them, I'd just hold fire. This is not the time to say this is our solution, a couple of unanswered questions about phone calls a few years ago.
LEMON: So, you're holding fire. Shimon and Susan seem like, I'm going to let those who fight it out. Stick around. Stick around, everybody. The Justice Department has a whole lot of information from Roger Stone's iCloud accounts, e-mail, computer hard drives. But what has Robert Mueller learned from all of this? We'll get into that next.
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: New details tonight about the volume of evidence federal prosecutors have collected against Roger Stone. It spans several years. Comes from Stone's e-mail, iCloud accounts and hard drives.
Back now Shimon Prokupecz, Susan Glasser, Phil Mudd, and Harry Litman. Harry, the special counsel describes the evidence that they have from Roger Stone as voluminous and complex. Should the president be worried?
LITMAN: I think so. Terabytes, that's really a lot and it's often consistent with the extra amount of data in actually decoding the information that Stone might have thought he'd kept from its government's eyes, probably not. It's likely they already had in his own words the proof of his having lied.
Moreover, the designation as complex, with which both Stone and the government agreed to, means we're going on for a while. Unless Stone caves and decides to cooperate, which has got to be a distinct probability we're looking at because it's a complex case at trial in the fall.
LEMON: We saw, Shimon, how with that Russians can use information that they send to lawyers, right, and leak it.
PROKUPECZ: That's right.
LEMON: Right. So then how is the Mueller team trying to prevent leaks from all of this and for particular information?
PROKUPECZ: Well, they're asking for a protective order. Same thing they've done in other instances in this investigation. They essentially want to protect the information so that Roger Stone and his team can't leak out the information or give it to anyone that shouldn't have it.
In this way they do -- they're mostly always concerned about information getting out about aspects of this investigation.
Look, I think harry there makes a good point. One of the things I found very interesting in some of the information that they got from Roger Stone were financial records, bank records.
It's the first time that we're hearing that the FBI or that the prosecutors were looking through that. We don't know why, and that could still be ongoing. And so, there's a lot of information that they have, and they need to protect it because it seems that there are parts of this investigation that are still ongoing.
LEMON: And they're asking for more time because there's so much information.
PROKUPECZ: That's right.
LEMON: Yes. So, Phil, you know, we're talking about Roger Stone's cellphone, computer, his e-mail, financial records. Does that tell you anything about where Mueller is heading?
MUDD: No, I'd just like to give you a different perspective. You would do this in any case. I want to know if I'm investigating Don Lemon, I want to know your pattern of life. Who you talk to, when you talk to him, whether there are financial transactions?
[23:20:02] Put Roger Stone in context. Think of all of the dozens of people in this investigation including people in the campaign, in the White House. I want to know from texts, from e-mails, from financial transactions who talked to whom. I want to put all those 20 people on sort of a time line and I want to take Stone's data and balance it against all the other data I've acquired over two and a half years.
MUDD: In modern life, if you want to take all that stuff, tax, phone, financial data, that's going to take a long time, Don.
LEMON: Susan, so could all of this evidence mean more charges for either Stone or others who haven't been charged yet?
GLASSER: Well, I keep coming back to the fact that the indictment was written to really not show Mueller's hand when it came to a lot of this evidence that they had already acquired.
And so, does that mean because they're holding out the possibility of further charges, some of the language around who his contacts were in the campaign, what was the nature of it, very unclear.
And also, importantly enough, is this fundamentally a case about collusion or not? The implication is yes, that Roger Stone was the cue conduit between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. But again, there's so much left to the imagination there. It's not clear at all from this indictment.
So, I think this is something that is going to be the subject of either the ongoing investigation or until they get into court, we're not going to know the answer.
LEMON: Excuse me.
GLASSER: Did he know the Russians were involved in the hacking or giving the information to WikiLeaks? How much was he providing information from the campaign to WikiLeaks? Again, that's completely left out of the indictment. It's not clear at all.
LEMON: So, Harry, listen, there's a -- this is more of Trump's interview with "The New York Times", OK? He said, "I've always liked -- I liked Roger Stone, he's a character," Mr. Trump said. Insisting that the FBI agents charging a house like they did at six in the morning, I think that was a very sad thing for this country. Do you see anything wrong with what the FBI did?
LITMAN: I mean, the short answer is no. Look, it's true that's a lot of firepower. Twenty-nine agents down there, and maybe they could think about it as a policy matter. But what Trump alleges is that it's unusual in the suggestion that it was somehow overkill or militaristic because it's a friend of Don's. Wrong, wrong, wrong again.
Any defendant arrested with a search warrant application on these charges would be treated exactly the same way to safeguard the evidence. Zero credibility to the notion that anything unusual or overbearing was done here in terms of normal --
LEMON: Phil, I want you to get in because I had two law enforcement people last night tell me well, they had to because they had to execute warrants, they had to execute searches. They had to do -- there's a very good explanation as to why they had so many people and they conducted themselves the way that they did. What do you think?
MUDD: Sure. I think it's pretty simple. Look, they're going in early in the morning because they don't want him to prepare. They don't want to go in midday because they don't want anybody saying, hey, there's a bunch of guys coming down the road, get ready. They want a bunch of guys because if you be two people searching a big house and you want to find everything in the house, Don, that's going to -- I want --
LEMON: With that much firepower? Because, and I ask about that last night, and they said well, that's because there were people in the community who were going to surround the house and not let them get--
LEMON: but go on.
MUDD: I think that's a fair question. You could say, do they need to bring long arms, that is a rifle instead of a hand gun, but in terms of the right question ask it's not whether Roger Stone had an aggressive group of people around the house. It's how does this differ from other people surrounding a house for a raid from the FBI? I don't think it's that different.
By the way, the guy spent the entire day in front of news cameras. Clearly, he was traumatized.
LEMON: And, you know, he didn't say -- did he say how nice the FBI was? I thought he said the FBI --
LEMON: He did. So, this is my thing. This is where we're going -- for Roger Stone, right, he made it out. He's fine. MUDD: He's fine.
LEMON: Is this where we're going to draw the line if you think it's excessive force, with someone like Roger Stone who has every means, who's a conspiracy theorist? Is this where you're going to have this conversation around how law enforcement conducts themselves when we have been having and trying to have these conversations around people who don't have the means and the power of a Roger Stone. Phil, I will give that to you.
MUDD: Simple question. Is this the standard protocol of the FBI? the answer is going to come back yes or close to yes. And therefore, I'd flip the question that people like Senator Graham are asking.
My question would be, why do you focus on Roger Stone? Isn't your question was he treated like every other American citizen? Why don't you care about them if you care about him?
LEMON: That's my point. Thank you all.
PROKUPECZ: Well, I was going make a point.
LEMON: Go ahead. Go ahead.
PROKUPECZ: So, I was just going to say I think Roger Stone in our conversations of him certainly leading up to this had always expected the FBI was going to call him and say turn yourself in.
[23:24:58] He did not expect them to come in this way. We've seen this with Paul Manafort, we've seen this with other people, Michael Flynn when he was charge and arrested, he spent just a few hours at the FBI's office and then he went directly to court. So --
LEMON: But, Shimon, who does, who expects it? the thing is, Phil is saying is that, this is what the - this is how the FBI, this is what they do. And so why are you complaining about Roger Stone? And there are other examples of people who --
PROKUPECZ: And we know the reason why the president does it. It's really to discredit the entire investigation.
LEMON: Yes, of course.
PROKUPECZ: He did it with Michael Cohen when they went to his house. He's done it with Paul Manafort, so, yes.
LEMON: And by the way, Michael Cohen had a number of people as well. They had to do to different place, but he said that they couldn't have been more professional and courteous, so there you go.
Thank you all. I appreciate it. See you next time. The president says his intel chiefs were misquoted when they
contradicted him on topics like Iran, like North Korea, like ISIS and Russia just to name a few. But how could they be misquoted in their own public testimony?
[23:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The president in his interview with "The New York Times" doubling down on his claims that testimony of his Intel chiefs was his word, mischaracterized. "They said, 'Sir, our testimony was totally mischaracterized,' Mr. Trump said. I said, 'What are you talking about?' And when you read their testimony and you read their statements, it was mischaracterized by the media."
Steve Hall and Juliette Kayyem are both here. So, let's talk about that. Good evening. Intel chiefs, Steve, were under oath. The hearing was all on camera. Now the president says their testimony was mischaracterized by the media. Gaslighting?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You think? This is good news and bad news story, Don. Let's start with the bad news. The president of the United States is acting like a two-bit dictator in a banana republic. I've seen this having served 30 years overseas.
I've been in places like that where the president gets embarrassed or in a bad position and basically he throws, you know, his intelligence services or his police force or his secret police under the bus. And that's what Donald Trump has tried to do here. He's tried to basically make up a story.
But there is good news here, too. The good news is that the system is working. The system is pushing back. It's not often, as a matter of fact, usually only once a year, that the public, that the press, that citizens get to hear directly from the intelligence leadership in this country and that happens when the threat assessment presentation goes down. There's also a written version of it.
And when you hear it straight from their mouths like we did, when you see them looking into the camera and saying things, when you read the report, then you understand what facts are being presented and what assessment is being presented.
So it's insulting for the president to do that to his intelligence leadership, to say, yeah, I brought them all in and they all said it wasn't true. It's also insulting, I think, to common citizens like you and me. It insults the intelligence to think that we can't figure out and see what these people are saying. So, it's unbalanced. I'm pleased with the good news.
LEMON: Juliette, here is what the sources are telling CNN, that aides were able to calm the president down by saying the full transcripts have more context to what Haspel and Coats said. But do you buy that Haspel and Coats -- they were pretty clear in their assessments of threats to the U.S. JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah, I think we saw the president get played by two different groups today. First of all, his staff who convinced him knowing that he does not read, knowing that he did not read the full report of their testimony, knowing that he likely didn't even read the intelligence assessment and said don't worry about it, the press got it wrong.
And then, of course, the intelligence leaders who played the president by, at least according to his words, trying to calm him down from the ledge. And so, you know, if you think that his friends can play him this easily, imagine what his enemies like the Russians are able to do.
Look, I may be on the more bad side than Steve. I mean, look, there are lies that are delusional, you know, like the size of the inauguration. And there are lies that are desperate, like the Trump people never met with Russians. And then there are lies that are dangerous.
And I think -- I think the president's failure and inability to actually absorb real intelligence as compared to what either Putin or Fox News are giving him is exceptionally dangerous for the men and women who are, you know, doing jobs that you and I can only imagine. I suspect that Steve actually did do.
LEMON: When I read it, I said, they're just saying -- oh, they totally took it out of context, Mr. President. And he just fell for it, right? So, there you go. Juliette, another question, for the record, I just want to play some of what DNI Coats said at his testimony on Tuesday about Russia. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Russia's approach relies on misdirection and obfuscation as it seeks to destabilize and diminish our standing in the world. We expect Russia will continue to wage its information war against democracies and to use social media to attempt to divide our societies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Doesn't sound like he's on the same page as the president.
KAYYEM: No, not at all. And the truth is that the Intelligence Community has been saying this from 2016, during the transition to when Trump was coming in, when you had the full intelligence assessment of the Russians' impact throughout the last two years, everyone from FBI Director Wray to Coats, the head of the DNI, that this has been an ongoing threat.
And so if Donald Trump, you know, sort of process intelligence briefings he got, he would never have seen -- he would never have been surprised what Coats is saying. You and I and Steve and others who read "The New York Times" certainly wouldn't have been surprised by that. I have found that DNI Coats is probably one of the most interesting and least understood characters in this Trump, you know, apparatus.
[23:35:07] LEMON: Yeah.
KAYYEM: He has consistently sort of stuck to what he believes is the right thing to say. And I have to believe he does that to support the agents who are out in the field and let them know that at least there is one person who believes that two and two still equals four in this administration.
LEMON: Yeah, that's a good assessment. Steve, to that effect that Dan Coats said that not only are the Russians likely to meddle in the 2020 elections but they are going to try new tactics, how important is it for the president to be on the same page as U.S. Intelligence?
STEVE: Yeah, I mean, that we even ask that question is ludicrous. I mean, I certainly take Juliette's point that, you know, I was certainly looking for a glass half full-type of situation, but it really is very, very serious.
When you got a situation where a president stands up and makes this vacuous comment, yes, we all got together and it turns out that they told me that, you know, the press got this all wrong, especially on the onslaught that we continue to see from the Russians, you know, going after our democracy, attacking our democracy.
And if I could, Don, I would like to do a small, you know, public service announcement for the American people which is, look, next time you see something online that really makes you mad and you realized, hold on a second, this is a very divisive issue, double check and make sure that you know who's that coming from and you know who you're going to strike back at because the Russians are trying to identify these tension spots, these chasms in our society, and they're trying to widen them.
They're trying to get us to go against each other. And playing into that is a mistake. The fact the president doesn't see this and says no, that's not possible, doesn't mean we as citizens can't figure it out and say, look, we are under attack. I don't care whether you're a Republican or a Democrat. All of us are under attack by the Russians. There's stuff that we can do to get smart to make sure they're not successful, even if the president can't figure it out.
LEMON: Both of you, I want you to stay with me. North Korean officials are in Moscow this week. Are Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un teaming up?
[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump has been very honest about wanting to get along with dictators. Take a look at what he said about Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along, as an example, with Russia? I'm all for it.
If he says great things about me, I'm going to say great things about him. I've already said, he is really very much of a leader.
Donald Trump is a friend of Putin. Well, actually Putin did call me a genius and he said I'm the future of the Republican Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, Trump has also been especially descriptive about his relationship with Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And then we fell in love, OK? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters, and they're great letters. We fell in love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But now, there are some new indications that two of America's most dangerous adversaries, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un, could be teaming up without President Trump. Russian officials say that North Korean representatives have been in Moscow this week, and that they've been discussing denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
Remember, President Trump held a summit last year with North Korea's leader to strike a deal for the rogue nation to give up its nukes. The result was a vaguely worded pledge to work towards denuclearization. But Trump tweeted after the meeting that North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat. But Trump took a step back from that claim this week tweeting this, that there was now a decent chance of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
So could that decent chance now depend on an American adversary? There are some signs the Russian president wants to own his -- wants his own deal, I should say, with North Korea. The Washington Post is reporting that Putin's government made a secret offer to North Korea this past fall.
The offer, Russia would build a nuclear power plant for North Korea in exchange for them dismantling their nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. A top Russian diplomat denies any offer was made, but experts wouldn't put it past the former KGB agent in the Kremlin.
Sources are telling CNN that a summit with President Trump and Kim Jong-un is planned for Vietnam next month. Until then, there isn't much of a deal between the U.S. and North Korea. And based on that new reporting, it makes you wonder, is Putin working to cut a deal with Kim first?
Let's discuss now. Juliette Kayyem, Steve Hall, both back with me. Juliette, what do you think? Could Kim and Putin be teaming up to ruffle some Trump feathers?
KAYYEM: Yeah, I mean, this is so embarrassing that we -- the president of the United States stands with both these men but in particular the leader of North Korea says nothing about human rights abuses or the kind of country it is and basically just wants to be loved and then doesn't get what he wants, which President Trump admitted this week, did not get what he wanted.
And then Putin sweeps in to try to get some sort of sweet deal for Russia but and obviously make Donald Trump look bad. I mean, that's the -- you know, if you ask what's the incentive here.
I think it's important to note also that in the intelligence assessment, something that got lost in all the drama about, you know, whether Trump was mad at the heads of the intelligence agencies, they spent a lot of time talking about the relationship or the growing relationship between China and Russia.
And that should be a particular concern because we -- though Donald Trump talks about America first, right, and we're only going to think about ourselves, the rest of the world could care less, right?
[23:45:00] They are calibrated in all sorts of ways. And I think it's important that when you look at Putin's influence and interest in Asia, that that is something that were sort of like irrelevant to this huge sort of change in sort of the global balance. In the end, we look absolutely ridiculous at this stage given what Trump offered, gave, and begged of North Korea.
LEMON: Steve, do you think Putin is capable of making a secret deal with Kim to denuclearize? What's in it for him?
HALL: Oh, yeah, Putin's definitely -- he's a good dictator. And he's sort of almost the ambassador to the rogue states. And speaking of rogue states, the most confused guy on the planet must be Maduro down in Venezuela. He's like, hey, I'm a dictator, how come I don't get the love? We don't know why Trump hasn't paid the sort of attention that he typically pays to other dictators.
Yeah, there's no doubt Putin sees -- there's a lot of geopolitics here, OK? And Putin sees that there's an opportunity to make some hay for Russia. In other words, cut a deal with the North Koreans. And that is good because he sees everything in a zero-sum game. It's good for Russia which means it's going to be bad for the United States because we're not in the driver's seat in terms of trying to run and make sure that agreement on the Korean Peninsula happens.
It is also good for Russia because China always gets very nervous when Russia starts talking about things on the Korean Peninsula. China kind of sees it as their sphere of influence. So this is great for Putin because it is very disruptive.
The Chinese and the Russians sort of have a love-hate relationship because they have a lot of stuff in common right now. But they also have a lot of things that divide them historically and are going to be problems for them in the future. So, again, this is win-win for Putin. He gets a lot of good things out of this. He makes the United States look bad and he makes China nervous. That's, again, a good thing if you're looking at it from Putin's point of view.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate your time.
The NRA which broke spending records backing then candidate Trump is facing new questions over previously undisclosed ties to Russia. What were high-profile NRA members and donors doing in Moscow in 2015 and why did they lie about it?
[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: CNN learning more tonight about a trip by NRA board members to Russia. A former NRA board president reportedly wanted to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. CNN's Brian Todd has more. Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, we have new information, internal e-mails we've obtained, showing the NRA may have been more involved with this trip to Russia by its board members than the organization has so far admitted. This comes as the NRA is trying to distance itself from that trip, while congressional investigators close in.
TODD: When they landed in Moscow in 2015, the alleged Russian spy Maria Butina welcomed VIPs from the National Rifle Association with this sign reading "welcome to Russia, comrades," followed by the NRA logo. The five-day trip, planned by Butina, reportedly included sightseeing, a visit with a gun manufacturer, and even got a meeting with one of Russia's deputy prime ministers.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Take a look at the people who were in those pictures. They were pretty powerful officials.
TODD: Up until now, the NRA has refused to comment on the trip or to say it was involved. But tonight, there are signs that NRA staffers may have played a direct role. One of the Russian organizers referred to it as an official NRA trip. And internal e-mails obtained by CNN show an NRA staffer worked with Butina on planning and paying for some of the travel.
A source familiar with the matter tells CNN the NRA paid certain travel-related expenses and assisted with coordinating some aspects of the trip to members who went on their own accord.
Top Trump supporter, former sheriff, David Clarke, who posted pictures about his trip, had his $13,000 flight and visa reimbursed, record show, personally by the future NRA board president.
And in an e-mail obtained by CNN from former NRA board president, David Keene, to Maria Butina months before the trip, he says, "thinking about Moscow visit." And Keene was hoping to meet Putin, according to an organizer's e-mail obtained by The Daily Beast. Keene, who was on that trip, has not responded to CNNn's calls for comment. But tonight after reporting from ABC, The Daily Beast and CNN, the National Rifle Association is now going on the record, distancing itself from that 2015 trip. An NRA spokesperson tells CNN, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre was against the trip, did not want any misconception that it was an official NRA trip, and convinced the NRA's president not to go. But Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who is investigating the trip, says that doesn't wash with him.
WYDEN: It is just not credible to say that this was not an official trip. If you just look at the pictures, which have come out, it's got official trip written all over them.
TODD: The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are investigating because of concerns that Russia may have been using the NRA to support Trump.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We heard credible allegations that the Russians may have been funnelling money through the NRA, so, yes, we wanted to pursue this.
TODD: Robert Mueller's team has also been asking recently about the Trump campaign's ties to the NRA during the campaign. A witness tells CNN they asked about how Trump wound up addressing the group in 2015.
TRUMP: I love the Second Amendment.
TODD: And getting its endorsement in 2016.
TRUMP: To get the endorsement, believe me, is a fantastic honor.
[23:54:55] TODD: Maria Butina, charged with being an unregistered foreign agent, suggested the trip was a key success in her campaign to get to know members of the NRA, so she could infiltrate Republican circles and influence U.S. relations with Russia. Her efforts once got her into an event with Donald trump and a chance to ask a question.
MARIA BUTINA, ACCUSED RUSSIAN SPY: I'm visiting from Russia.
BUTINA: So, my question --
TODD: Tonight, the NRA is making a distinction, saying its board members, who it says are not NRA staffers, went on the trip independently on their own, that the NRA spent upwards of $30 million to help Donald Trump win in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
But the NRA tells senators that they received no significant money from Russians, and that they don't use foreign funds for election purposes. We also have to say law enforcement has not accused the NRA of any wrongdoing. Don?
LEMON: Brian Todd, thank you. And thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.