Return to Transcripts main page
Another Failed Campaign Promise; Who is to Blame; Stunning Revelation about a Former Trump Cabinet Member. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 24, 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, CNN HOST: -- weekend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news indeed. The Trump administration reeling from a massive defeat at the hands of members of its own party.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
We often say this is not politics as usual. Well, it certainly not politics as usual for the president to be forced to pull his own health care bill at the last minute when he can't get the votes from his own party.
A staggering failure for the man who prides himself on his ability to make deals. The man who during the campaign promised so much winning that you might get tired of it. Well, he gets a taste of defeat tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We were very close. It was a very, very tight margin. We had no democrat support. We had no vo votes from the democrats. They weren't going to give us a single vote so it's a very difficult thing to do.
I've been saying for the last year and a half that the best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode. It is exploding right now. It's a -- many states have big problems, almost all states have big problems.
I was in Tennessee the other day and they lost half of their state in terms of an insurer, they have no insurer. And that's happening to many other places. I was in Kentucky the other day and similar things are happening. So, Obamacare is exploding. With no democrat support we couldn't quite get there.
We're just a very small number of votes short in terms of getting our bill passed. I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer because now they own Obamacare, they own it 100 percent own it.
And this is not republican health care, this is not anything but a democrat health care. And they have Obamacare for a little while longer until it ceases to exist which it will at some point in the near future.
And just remember this is not our bill. This is their bill. Everybody worked hard. I worked as team player and would have loved to seen it pass. But again, I think you know, I was very clear to that. I think there was in a speech I made who there are very few where I didn't mention that perhaps the best thing that could happen is exactly what happened today.
Because we'll end up with a truly great health care bill in the future after this mess known as Obamacare explodes.
So Speaker Ryan he worked very, very hard. Lot of different groups. He's got a lot of factions, and there's been long history of liking and disliking even within the Republican Party long before I got here.
But I've had a great relationship with the Republican Party. It seems that both sides like Trump and that's good. And you see that I guess more clearly than anybody. But we have a -- I'm not going to speak badly about anybody within the party but certainly there's a big history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: There's a lot to discuss over the next couple of hours here on CNN. So I want to bring in CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, and Mark Preston. Also CNN political commentator, Jen Psaki, CNN political analyst, David Gergen, who Congressman Jack Kingston who was a senior advisor to the Trump campaign, and CNN contributor, Salena Zito.
I should have listened to David Gergen. I said that they would get it passed, I was wrong. So, David, I'm just going to let you gloat on that for a moment, but I'm going to go to Mark Preston first. Mark, disastrous day for Trump. The republican lawmakers for Paul Ryan the worst week in this president's -- in this very short presidency.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Right.
LEMON: Hugely embarrassing as he say. What happened? Who gets to blame here?
PRESTON: I think the blame can be spread a little bit. I think that Paul Ryan for trying to push this bill to the house floor when they clearly didn't have the votes. I believe that Donald Trump is to blame because as the President he should be willing to invest all that he's got into something that he ran on.
I put blame on the Republican Party as a whole to basically try to legislate by campaign promise, which was repeal and replace instead of saying we're going to go in and fix and make better. Although it doesn't sound as good.
And I do think that it is ridiculous for the president to go out there and say this is the democrats' fault.
JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Right. PRESTON: Because, I mean, unless I'm living in alternative universe and I very well might be, the democrats had nothing to do with it. In fact, they're usually not that good strategically and they were very smart not to get involved in this at all.
LEMON: Who on the panel remembers, did any republicans vote for the Affordable Care Act in the House or Senate?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No.
LEMON: So, I mean.
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: I know I didn't. I'm the only one eligible.
LEMON: So, I was -- I didn't quite understand why he said it. Now he maybe was just in frustration. Those guys didn't help us at all. But listen, Nia, President Trump is supposed to be the closer.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right.
LEMON: This is what he promised on the campaign trail. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm going to make the great deals. I'm going to make great deals for our country. I built an extraordinary business on relationships and deals that benefit all parties involved. Always.
[22:05:09] We need somebody with great energy, with great passion, with great deal making skills. And we need a closer. We need closers.
I've watched the politicians, dealt with them all my life. If you can't make a good deal with a politician, then there's something wrong with you. You're certainly not very good. And that's what we have representing us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That last one is particularly saying you.
LEMON: If you can't make a good deal with the politicians...
HENDERSON: There's something wrong with him perhaps?
LEMON: Listen, I think that democrats should not be gloating, right.
LEMON: They should just, they should be if they think they're winners, right, they should be -- because we've said so much about the republicans and the Trump administration being sore winners.
HENDERSON: Right, right.
LEMON: They should be gracious winners in all of this, because it could, it could have easily been them. But he has said this over and over, only I can fix this.
LEMON: I am art of the deal maker.
HENDERSON: That's right. I alone can fix it was his statement when he accepted nomination of his party last summer. And all of this talk about being smarter than the folks who were in those positions, smarter than the establishment and this idea that he was part of this movement, leading a movement and could get it done, and use kind of the will of the people and kind of the power of the people to get things done and shake up Washington and do this.
And remember, he said he would do it immediately. I mean, at some point he talked about repealing and replacing it at the same time.
HENDERSON: he also talked about doing it on day one. And he hasn't done it. And now he's in this position where he's just kind of saying, you know, my name is Bennett and I'm not in it.
LEMON: You're using the - my name is Bennett and I'm not in it.
LEMON: But I'm hearing some revisionist history saying, he didn't say even he said, I didn't say I would repeal and replace right away. He's on day one there are...
HENDERSON: Yes, yes. Over and over and he said it.
LEMON: Tens of sound bites if not hundreds that he's been saying day one.
HENDERSON: yes, he said it like 60 times.
HENDERSON: I mean, this was, and there is this sense of like, he didn't really, he only adopted the language of the Republican Party. He adopted it, he ran with it, and this is what voters expected from him.
And this idea that he can now say it's democrats' fault.
LEMON: Yes. HENDERSON: I mean, I think you'll hear some people like probably Kingston there and Jeffrey Lord touting those talking points, I just don't think it's going to work.
HENDERSON: I mean, so you're going to stand by as premium rise and people lose health insurance and just say it's Nancy Pelosi's fault?
LEMON: Say what you want, Jack Kingston, the president think.
KINGSTON: OK. A couple of things, you know, knowing Donald Trump, this is part of the negotiation.
LEMON: Come on.
KINGSTON: Every single republican.
HENDERSON: Come on.
LEMON: I want to hear this, every. I really want to hear this.
KINGSTON: Every single republican in the room in the Congress ran on repeal and replace. Every single one of them over and over again.
LEMON: You said this last night.
KINGSTON: So now going back home and they got to face a primary opponent who is going to reminding them of that or they've got to get the job done. So, the scenario where they go to the White House and say, Mr. President, we've been thinking it over, we've been hearing from our republican base back home and we have very republican red districts, we actually do need to move something and we're ready to talk, I think that puts him in the upper hand and would not put it past a guy like Donald Trump who knows how to negotiate.
LEMON: You made some of these points last night. But listen, David Gergen, I mean, the fact is, is that the holdouts in the Republican Party they were hearing what Jack is saying, they were hearing that from their constituents, they did not like this bill and they went with what their constituents wanted, not necessarily what the president wanted.
GERGEN: That's true. I think one of the lessons Donald Trump might draw from this is the job as president is to be more than the negotiator and an inside came with members of the Congress going down to the White House.
The first job of the president is to come up with policies of which he's passionate about and not outsource the ideas and the structures of the bill that he was doing on health care that he outsourced it to Paul Ryan and then he sort of came along for the ride.
He didn't do his homework. He wasn't familiar with a lot of the aspects of it, he wasn't a good negotiator as a result.
But very importantly, Don, the other aspect of the presidency which I think he needs to -- which I think it would be good for his team to be thinking about and he could learn about, is that if there's an inside game that you play in Washington, there's an outside game which is extraordinarily important in order to bring pressure on Washington to do your bidding.
And that outside game has been mastered by people like Reagan, or FDR, you can go through the presidents who have done it so well. And that is you build up coalition of forces on the outside, doctors, nurses, hospitals with they all of which went against him on this.
He needed them on his side. he need to get the public. He needed to sell the bill to the public, instead he sold the politics of negotiation to the public instead of telling what was it in.
[22:09:59] So, you go in there with a 17 percent approval rating for the bill and people are listening to their constituents. You know, Don, one last point I'll make it briefly.
GERGEN: Very important for the president. Other presidents have stumbled in the first 100 days. The real issue is do you learn from that? Very important Jack Kennedy with the Bay of Pigs, it was disaster. And he didn't go around pointing fingers at everybody else, he took it upon himself to relearn what he needed to know as president.
He called in Eisenhower, he talked to a lot of other people, why did I get this so wrong, how do I fix this, how to get it better. And working with the Cuban Missile Crisis came along, he was superb leader. He learn how to lead as a president and that's something as president. You know, he's talented but he doesn't know how to be president.
LEMON: He didn't say it's the democrats' fault.
GERGEN: He doesn't know how to be president.
KINGSTON: But remember this.
LEMON: Hold on, hold on, Jack. What do you -- what you make, David of Jack's assessment this is a negotiating tactic on the part of Donald Trump. It's a good spin but I...
GERGEN: I don't -- yes. If you're asking me, I don't understand it.
KINGSTON: Well, here's what I'm -- here's what I'm saying. If I'm a guy who promised to repeal Obamacare and...
LEMON: Repeal and replace.
KINGSTON: And haven't been done and my party is in the majority, then I'm going to be held accountable. particularly in my own primary but generally as well. So, I do think that they're going to start thinking what we need to come up with plan b.
LEMON: Yes. OK. I got to get -- I got to get the others in here. So, Salena. Let's -- I want you to check out these headlines. This is from the Washington Post, it says "The Closer?" Question mark.
"The inside story of how Trump and failed to make a deal on health care." From Reuters, "For Trump it was the lost art of the deal." From the L.A. Time "It turns out Donald Trump is not an artist of the deal."
So he sees himself as the deal maker. How is he going to react to all of this? Are we going to see another Saturday morning tweet storm?
SALENA ZITO, WASHINGTON EXAMINER STAFF: Somebody needs to take the phone away from him right now. You know, I mean, even he can admit -- well, maybe. Maybe he can admit this was not a really great day. The best thing that he could do at this point is move forward on another subject and try to put this behind him.
You know, I saw a lot of things coming out of the White House today about Keystone pipeline and, you know, see solve it...
ZITO: Right. Diversion, it would be really smart. This is what good sales people do, right? And so, I think that's probably his best bet. You know, I interviewed a lot of people today about this out in Ohio and Pennsylvania, you know, no one thought it was a great day.
I think the part -- I think both the president and Congress are going to struggle with the messaging behind this. Especially Congress. I mean, it sort of reinforces that thing that Congress just doesn't work, right.
ZITO: But the president was brought in on this and this was a problem for him today for sure.
LEMON: Yes. Jen Psaki, I want you to get in. Because, Jen, you'd led this and you, I'm sure you're sitting there all they're going I told you so. I told you so. I told you so.
So the question is, is there an opportunity or an opening here for the president to broaden his coalition or his support, bring in the democrats, work with the democrats on fixing the Affordable Care Act or in some way to get them along with other legislative issues that he wants to get accomplished?
PSAKI: Well, the credit here doesn't really actually belong to democrats in Washington. It belongs to a lot of democrats and people across the country who showed up at town halls and went to protests. So, let's start there.
But the fact is, that everyone from President Obama to Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders has been talking about the fact that there needs to be changes to Obamacare, there needs to be more competition in the marketplace. That's the reality.
It certainly not in a death spiral. The CBO said it wasn't. That's the ridiculous republican talking point. But there are changes that need to be made. So, the question is...
LEMON: You're right. The fact just don't bear out on that Obamacare is imploding.
PSAKI: Right. Exactly.
LEMON: The only way -- the only way it will collapse is if republicans who now have the majority want it to collapse. But it is not imploding. He's going to read any fact check and I'll tell you.
KINGSTON: Well, but.
LEMON: Let her make her point.
PSAKI: Now the fact is -- let me finish. The fact is that there are options out there. Now lot of democrats support a public option. If republicans have a better option for bringing more competition to the marketplace they should put that forward. So now is the real test. And certainly democrats have indicated the willingness to come to the table and I expect they would and they should.
LEMON: Yes. All right. Hold that thought. Mark, I know you want to get in. When we come right back, will this go down as the worst 100 days for any president in history. Plus, stunning new revelations about Michael Flynn's work for a foreign government, a firsthand account from an insider.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump made a lot of big promises for his first 100 days but here we are, day 64, with what looks like one failure after another.
Back with me now my panel. And Mark, let me explain that because here's the big picture now. President Trump just failed on health care. The travel ban blocked by the courts twice. He was going to rip up the Iran nuclear on day one. It didn't happen. The wall was going to be paid for by Mexico. That didn't happen. They say no way.
President said he was wiretapped by the former President Barack Obama, not true. All while under cloud of this Russian investigation. There's going to be so much winning. Where he said we're going to -- so much winning that we would get tired of winning.
PRESTON: I'm really tired right now. But it's not about the winning. You know, all kidding aside though, and Nia alluded to this earlier.
LEMON: I'm serious. I'm really serious. Yes. I'm not kidding. I was serious. He said about winning. He said there was going to be so much winning. I mean, listen, there's a whole lot -- there's a long way to go.
HENDERSON: Nowhere to go but up.
PRESTON: Right. There's a lot of track ahead of him to do some lapse on. But this is why it is such a big deal, this Russian investigation is coming back fast. This was sidetracked for a day. It is coming back full force. That is going to take him off message.
You have members of Congress now who might have been scared of Donald Trump, they're no longer scared of Donald Trump. They know that they can defeat Donald Trump on issues. You also have basically inability for the republican leadership and for Donald Trump to get together on the same page and get something done that they've promised for so many years moving forward and have made this campaign promises. And quite frankly, the issues that they want to tackle moving forward, tax reform, that's not easy.
[22:20:01] LEMON: How long does a honeymoon last for?
PRESTON: It's over now.
LEMON: It's over. The honeymoon is over now.
HENDERSON: Yes. And I don't even know he had...
LEMON: But wait. Hang on.
PRESTON: It might be 100 days, but it might have been, quite frankly, it might have been the Saturday after the inauguration when they sent Sean Spicer out to...
KINGSTON: You know...
LEMON: Yes. Jack, Jack wants to jump in. But you have a suggestion for Jack, don't you? PRESTON: Yes, I do on, Jack, as we were talking here and Salena Zito
so smartly said as she often does that somebody should take away President Trump's phone. I am nominating you Jack to you have six hours right now to get that phone out of his hands.
KINSGTON: I'm going to make sure that the Washington Post doesn't run the honeymoon program next time also. But let me say this, you know, he did get the Keystone pipeline today. That was seven years of Obama delay, he just announced that Charter communication is going to have a $25 billion...
LEMON: Jack, that Charter communication thing...
KINGSTON: ... investment for 20,000 jobs.
LEMON: ... that Charter communication thing has been in the work for four years. They announced this last year -- they did the thing last year and they made the announcement today. It nothing to do with President Trump. That is simply not true.
KINGSTON: Well, I don't know about that.
LEMON: All right. Well, you should check it out as we at CNN did it.
KINGSTON: It happened under his watch.
LEMON: Go to cnnmoney.com, it's got the complete fact check on that. The fact checking (Inaudible) Trump's latest White House jobs announcement. Charter said that it would invest $25 billion.
LEMON: This was announced -- this was announced it's been in the works for at least one year. And they're been working on it, right.
KINGSTON: OK. But listen, Don. Anything that happens...
LEMON: For almost four years.
KINGSTON: OK. I'm going to keep going on. Carrier, Lockheed, the growth in the stock market. The investment...
LEMON: The same thing about Carrier. You can look with all of those. Here's the thing. That people should be informed.
KINGSTON: And what about the Supreme Court. We will get it work. LEMON: Jack, Jack, I want the people -- hold on. The Supreme Court is not a done deal yet. I want our people, I want out viewers to be informed. All of these jobs and Carriers and all of this that they've been announcing, people go back and look at the original start dates of this. Many of those had nothing to do with this president except that when they made the announcement, he happened to be president. But go on.
KINGSTON: OK. When you are president and you are the regulatory king of the land...
KINGSTON: ... called Barack Obama versus a guy who says I'm going to deregulate some of these job killing problems and the red tape out of Washington on businesses. What happened, businesses get optimistic again and they start investing, they start expanding and they start hiring people.
And that's exactly what's going on in the marketplace which is why the stock market has gone up so much. And I speak to a lot of businessmen. I used to have an honest job and I was in business.
KINGSTON: And I can promise you, my friends are very optimistic under Donald Trump because they're not going to have things like the Department of Labor changing the definition of fidelity.
LEMON: I think you have -- I think you got a fair point with that. Because the stock market which is -- which is about really about how's people's perspective and attitude on that. And also Gorsuch did do -- people think he did a good job on his hearings and he's probably going to go through. But my point was that it's just not a done deal yet.
David, you said that this was the worst 100 days of any presidency?
GERGEN: So far. We'll have to wait and see.
LEMON: So far, full stop and that's it, right?
GERGEN: Yes. Sean Spicer to CNN sent me a note said, you forgot (Inaudible) William Henry Harrison. You know, he was the guy who caught pneumonia because he refused to have a coat in before rode on Pennsylvania Avenue on his horse. He caught pneumonia and died. Well, that was pretty bad start.
ZITO: He lost the company.
LEMON: You guys..
GERGEN: But if you look at presidents who have gone through the first 100 days, Don, a lot of them have stumbled. There is no question about that.
LEMON: Bill Clinton had a tumultuous first...
GERGEN: He got a note don't ask, don't tell. And remember he Slipped in when wasn't ready for that. It caused uproar. He had some other problems like that. So, all presidents make mistakes.
One of the paradoxes of the presidency is you have to make some of your most important decisions when you're least ready, when you're least educated and least, you know, settled into the job.
Having said that, you know, as he has done in so many other ways, Donald Trump breaks all boundaries, you know. And he's had a terrible week. Terrible week. His credibility was badly damaged in the beginning of the week on this wiretapping business. The clouds come back over the Russian connections as Mark just said, and now his -- now his capacity as president, his deal making capacity are called into question.
I think those are very tough blows for him. I want to make one last point. What has been happening here now is beginning to make it harder to get his next things done. Jack talked about the rally of the markets.
Notably the markets have been going south the last four days.
GERGEN: You know, this is not been a good week because a lot of investors are now worried he's not going to get the big tax cuts that he's promise, he may not get a big infrastructure bill.
LEMON: It depended on this, part of it, right?
GERGEN: Yes. Absolutely. It becomes harder to get tax reform done after failing on health care. Healthcare was a linchpin into getting some savings on the deficits which he could then make it easier to pay for the tax cuts.
[00:25:05] And now he doesn't have that. That's why Paul Ryan, who manned up today by the way, unlike the president said I take responsibility here, I got some things to learn. What he's pointing out, though, tax reform will be harder now.
LEMON: Jen, I want to ask you, because I think that the former president, certainly President Bill Clinton realized that they had to change their ways in order to, or their tactics at least in order to get things done in Washington.
Donald Trump is somewhat of a chameleon but it's been very hard for him to change and become presidential in the normal way that we are used to seeing people. He's saying, you know, I'm going to become so presidential, I'm going to be boring. That hasn't happened yet. He's going to have to change, right, in order to get things done? PSAKI: Absolutely. Look, David is absolutely right, that every
president stumbles at some point in time early later in the -- later in the program either way. But there are some bad habits were say from Donald Trump over the last couple of weeks that included a lack of intellectual curiosity about the bill he was supposed to be selling, he was selling the politics. Obviously that didn't work.
He didn't, he wasn't able to pull a coalition together. He didn't use outside game in terms of using the political capital that helped him get elected. So there are number of things that he's going to have to change.
Mark also said on the fact that tax reform is extremely difficult. There's a reason it hasn't happened in 30 years. Because it's very hard, it involves very tough choices, and again, Donald Trump made a number of promises on the trail about lowering the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, not raising middle-class taxes, that are very hard to do and they are not going to be paid for by the border adjustment tax that is dead in the senate. So, this is also very difficult. So that's next.
KINGSTON: But remember...
HENDERSON: And you wonder also if the people around him are going to have to change. In the beginning of some administrations you also start to see shuffling in White House staffs.
You know, we talk about the failure and the blame to go around, I think you can place some blame on Bannon, you can place some on Priebus, you can place some blame on Kellyanne Conway, in terms of how they went about this.
HENDERSON: In terms how they went about this in terms of how they dealt with people on the hill, threatening them sometimes in terms they put a primary candidate against some of these folks if they didn't get...
LEMON: It's not working. Hang on, Jack -- Jack. I need to get Salena in here. Salena, so he needs wins. And the thing is if he's going to have to change, I wonder that's going -- his folks his base is going to like that but he's going to have to change to get some wins, yes, no?
ZITO: Yes. Somewhat. I mean, American politics is all about geography, right. So if you look at the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
ZITO: It shows that Trump is at about 37 percent. But if you break it down and you at people that live in ex-urban and rural areas, he is about 55 to 60 percent. So, his voters are still willing to give him longer leash than all voters are.
LEMON: We'll see.
ZITO: So, yes. I mean, he's still not losing them yet.
ZITO: But this certainly was not a great day.
LEMON: It's going to be interesting to see the polling after this.
ZITO: Yes. Yes, for sure.
LEMON: Thank you all. I appreciate it. When we come right back, former director of the CIA reveals the shocking and possibly illegal suggestion that Michael Flynn made to members of a foreign government.
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Stunning new revelations tonight about President Trump's former National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn. He of course lost his job for lying about his communications with the Russian ambassador. And earlier this month, Flynn filed paperwork identifying himself as foreign agent who did work for the government of Turkey. Now, revelations about illegal activities discussing during a meeting between Flynn and Turkish officials.
Joining me now exclusively, Ambassador James Woolsey, former director of central intelligence who was at meeting, and James V. Grimaldi, senior writer for the Wall Street Journal who broke the story.
Gentlemen, thank you so much. I'm going to rely on my notes a lot because I want to make sure I get it right. Because I think the wording is important here. So, you attended this meeting with General Michael Flynn and the Turkish government officials this was late last summer during the campaign.
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Yes.
LEMON: What happened there was disturbing enough for you to inform U.S. officials at the time. So, please tell me what happened at this meeting.
WOOLSEY: Well, it was disturbing but it was also confusing. First of all, I was on television show and so I came late to this function. It had been taking place for I don't know, 45 minutes or an hour. And so, a number of issues and points where had already been talked about.
So what I saw and heard was sort of the end of a conversation. It's not entirely clear what transpired because of that. But it looks as if there was at least some strong suggestion by the -- one or more of the Americans present at the meeting to the Turks that we would be able, United States would be able through them to get hold of Gulen, the rival for Turkey's political situation. LEMON: Fethullah Gulen, right. OK.
WOOLSEY: And strongly feared by the current president.
LEMON: Who, so who was at this meeting?
WOOLSEY: I don't have all the names memorized but there were two senior Turks...
JAMES V. GRIMALDI, WALL STREET JOURNAL SENIOR WRITER: Don, let me add to that, there were some government filings by Mr. Flynn and his lawyers that disclosed who were at this meeting on the same date. They included the son-in-law of President Erdogan of Turkey as well as the foreign minister, the equivalent of their secretary of state.
So between what we have from these public documents and what Jim Woolsey has told me, we've been able to piece together what happened. And I want to point out that I've independently confirmed along with Meg Coker and Dion Nissenbaum, the account that we heard from Jim Woolsey.
[22:34:58] When these documents, these foreign lobbying documents were filed with the government by Mr. Flynn, it made reference to this meeting and the staggering amount of money that he and his firm Flynn into a group had received. Half a million dollars for what supposedly was a film and little report that they were going to do for an Israeli gas company.
It didn't add up. And so I pressed Jim Woolsey to say what really was going on. What did you do? And that's where we narrowed down on this meeting.
LEMON: So let's talk about Fethullah Gulen, he's a cleric who Turkey has accused of orchestrating the last summer's failed military coup in Turkey. So what were they -- what were they planning to do with him, James?
WOOLSEY: Well, he lives in southwestern Virginia.
WOOLSEY: He has a green card. He is permanent resident alien in the United States. And he and Erdogan were once very, very close and now he is Erdogan's greatest enemy. Erdogan has contended that he was responsible for the coup attempt last summer and many other awful things besides. He provides the rationale that is his being there, provides the rationale for a lot of the incarcerations that have been followed by.
LEMON: So, they would -- so in terms of discussions there, they were trying to remove him from the country? Was that -- is that kidnap him?
WOOLSEY: They want him -- want him out of the United States and in Turkey. LEMON: Right.
WOOLSEY: And the reason I'm being cautious about how this is worded, is because I wasn't there for much of this meeting. But the -- I would say it was a little bit like if you see something, say something on the train. It was suspicious, it was concerning, and I felt I needed to say something about it to someone. But was it a clear plot they were going to seize him? No. It was in between.
LEMON: So, that's what you -- James Grimaldi.
LEMON: From what you heard, was this kidnapping? Did they want to kidnap him out of the U.S. to take him back to Turkey?
GRIMALDI: I think that what we understood the discussion to be is almost sort of a blue sky, you know, how can we get this man out of the country? You have to understand that the Turkish government, Erdogan, were seemingly obsessed with Gulen and had tried desperately with the Obama administration to no avail to get him extradited.
They had not presented evidence that was sufficient to meet standard in the United States or in a legal court that would get him extradited back to Turkey, and therefore, they were trying to come up with ways in which they could figure out how can we get him out of the country and back to Turkey.
LEMON: So, when you, Ambassador, when you realized what was going on potentially that it was potentially illegal, what did you do?
WOOLSEY: Well, the next day, I told several people, including one mutual friend of the vice president and myself, in order to basically report to the government.
LEMON: It was Vice President Biden at the time, right?
WOOLSEY: But as a friend, not the vice president himself.
LEMON: But he was the vice president at the time, yes.
WOOLSEY: I think that it's fair to say that it was a deeply concerning conversation but it was not one that I could in a court of law, for example, say there was a clear plot to kidnap Gulen.
LEMON: OK. So this meeting happened on September 19th of 2016, right?
LEMON: You resigned as senior adviser to -- I remember I had you on the show. I think it was that same day or a few days after on January 5th of 2017. Why did you say with the Trump team given that what happened was so troubling to you?
WOOLSEY: First of all, these things have nothing to do with one another as far as I know. The only thing that I was doing with the Trump group was I had chosen to offer advice to the Trump campaign rather than the Hillary's campaign and was available but I wasn't being used particularly because General Flynn was the -- sort of traffic cop of who helped on what.
And so, I was not doing anything particularly for the campaign, and then when the transition came, I started doing a great deal of press but I was expressing my own view, I wasn't representing the Trump campaign. And so.
LEMON: Did you ever -- did you ever give your concerns to the Trump people at the time?
WOOLSEY: What I did was, I kept carrying me on Chiron's on television as senior adviser to the Trump transition group and I really wasn't. I didn't want to fly under a false flag. So, I just had them remove that designation. But it wasn't that I was switching sides. I had supported before I supported anyone, I supported the Trump beginning in August, early September and then for the rest of the time, the rest of the campaign I supported him.
[22:40:08] LEMON: All right. I want you to stand by because...
GRIMALDI: The way you describe Mr...
LEMON: Hang on. James, I have to get to the break. And I'll let you get in here but I also want to say that General Flynn is responding to this. We'll hear what he has to say and we'll hear from my guest right after this break.
LEMON: Stunning revelations about former Trump National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn and his work as foreign agent.
Back with me now exclusively, Ambassador James Woolsey, and James Grimaldi, who is a writer who broke this story for us in the Wall Street Journal. You wanted to talk about relationship between Grimaldi and Flynn, right, that they had with the ambassador.
GRIMALDI: Yes. Between Mr. Woolsey...
LEMON: Between Mr. Woolsey and Mr. -- yes, go ahead.
GRIMALDI: Well, Mr. Flynn was really acting as a bit of intermediary, maybe even blocking or preventing from what I understand Mr. Woolsey from having very many conversations with the Trump campaign. And in that sense when he talks about his inability to sort of, you know, converse on this, that's why he stepped back from it as he explained it to me.
[22:45:02] And it seems like Mr. Flynn also was employing him or bringing him along to this meeting. And as Mr. Woolsey explained to me, he was not told that his was going to be the discussion of the meeting, yet, Mr. Flynn's business partner Bijan Rafiekian insisted that he's be there, insisted that he'd be picked up by a car and brought over to the meeting.
And you know, if you're going to have discussion like this, what better than have a former CIA director.
LEMON: Go ahead.
WOOLSEY: One thing I would like to emphasize, is that all Mike Flynn had asked me previously if I serve on advisory group for his Flynn enterprises, Flynn operation and I agreed to do that. I took no money for it, I went to no meetings, I had no telephone conference calls with the Flynn group. I basically had nothing to do with them. They were just a name or a...
LEMON: Do you think either one of you...
GRIMALDI: Also that...
LEMON: ... do you think that he's trading on his relationship with the Trump administration or the incoming administration for favors? Or what's going on here?
WOOLSEY: It's hard to say. James might have a better idea.
GRIMALDI: Well, you know, it's really sort of amazing that he was -- he took half a million dollars from this client for reasons that are still kind of murky and unclear that included this meeting. At the same time he's advising the Trump campaign, the major nominee of the Republican Party, you know. It seems like the two don't necessarily go together. And he was really on I think very shaky territory.
Now I hasten to add that Mr. Flynn and his spokesmen have denied that this occurred at the meeting. But...
LEMON: Let me read their statement, OK. Because a spokesman as you said for General Flynn disputed your account of the meeting, ambassador. And statement tonight saying, quote, "The claim made by Mr. Woolsey that General Flynn or anyone else in attendance discussed physical removal of Mr. Gulen from the United States during a meeting with Turkish officials in New York is false. No such discussion occurred. Nor did Mr. Woolsey ever inform General Flynn he had any concerns whatsoever regarding the meeting, either before he chose to attend or afterwards."
What's your reaction to that?
WOOLSEY: It's true I never informed Flynn. And I would definitely not take that path. I informed other people that I thought were quite responsible. I was -- I don't know what's going through Flynn's mind in taking the course that he took. As I've said several times, including this evening, I'm not claiming
that there was a concrete plan that was being fleshed out at the meeting. But there was a good deal of discussion of that general direction that James so well described, of trying to put Gulen essentially out of action.
LEMON: I have to ask you...
GRIMALDI: I want -- I just add...
LEMON: Go on, James.
GRIMALDI: I want to add two things. One, Mr. Woolsey told several people contemporaneous and I've spoken with them and they've I confirmed that. Separately, we've independently confirmed it through another avenue. And so, therefore, this is not just sort of a one- sided, you know, description that we have.
LEMON: So, I want to talk about him, you know, registering as a foreign agent, also the compensation that he was getting from Turkey and what sort of exposure if any does Michael Flynn have in all of this? We'll discuss that right after the break.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We're back now, we're learning more tonight about former Trump adviser General Michael Flynn and his work as a foreign agent.
Back now exclusively with me Ambassador James Woolsey, and James Grimaldi, the writer for the Wall Street Journal who broke the story. So, we learned that - this month - that Flynn filed paperwork with the Justice Department retroactively disclosing the work that he did during the campaign as an agent. Your report, this report gives insight into what he was doing. So what is this, what was going on? He registered after he was fired for lying to the vice president?
WOOLSEY: Yes. And Mike Flynn apparently has a gift that keeps on giving. Because one of the other things he did in that registration was to register me as foreign agent and I'm not. So, it really is quite striking.
LEMON: How can he do that?
WOOLSEY: Put my title and retired status and so forth in the filing along with three or four other people he may have...
LEMON: Was there anything else in this meeting that you heard or you saw that gives you pause or that gave you pause?
WOOLSEY: In this meeting, you mean the one went back in September?
LEMON: Yes. Or with your interactions with you in this room, or with your interactions with Michael Flynn.
WOOLSEY: I just don't think that you register someone as a foreign agent of a foreign country without asking their permission or without talking with them. I had essentially, after I agreed to be on his advisory board, I had essentially nothing to do with Flynn for month after month after month.
And he I think used that meeting with -- with the Turks, in order to try to create the impression that I was -- and he told people that I reported to him that he was my boss. None of that is true, even remotely true.
LEMON: Do you think that this heard any of this coming out and your relationship with him, because I think seemingly he didn't think that you were interested in helping him at all, do you think it hurt your chances with the administration or any?
WOOLSEY: I don't know. I have no idea. I have no idea.
LEMON: So what do you think of this of him, James, being registered, registering retroactively as a foreign agent after he was fired?
GRIMALDI: It seems to me that something the lawyers really pressured him to do when they looked at exactly what he was doing. They had a more and anodyne description of what actually happened at this meeting.
But I can tell you that the person that Jim Woolsey told to tell Vice President Biden told me that Vice President Biden was very upset about this and pretty angry.
[22:54:56] And I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't tell law enforcement and that might have even triggered some of these incidental wiretaps that we keep hearing about from Chairman Nunes the other day or what have you. And all of this could get end up swept into an overall FBI investigation for all we know.
LEMON: So you think it was Turkey or maybe not Russia, is that what you're saying?
GRIMALDI: It could have been that was one of the things that was overheard in the incidental conversations. You know, what's interesting...
LEMON: Nunes said that the new information had nothing to do with Russia, so when he came out yesterday or the day before.
GRIMALDI: Right. So, but very well could have been Turkey. And in fact, when we asked the Turkish officials about this very carefully in multiple places, they acknowledged they had meetings with Flynn and they didn't say anything about our specific, very specific questions about what was discussed at this meeting. They did not deny that that was discussed in the meeting, they simply said that was not our meeting that we went to. LEMON: I don't know if this is a yes or no answer because I'm running
up against time issue here. But do you think there's -- what exposure if any does Flynn have with this?
GRIMALDI: There's been talk of the Logan Act that he was representing allegedly the U.S. government when he didn't have right to do that. But no one has ever been charged under the Logan Act. I believe Mr. Woolsey knows what the Adams administration?
WOOLSEY: I think he is, I think you're right. The Adams administration I think there is one prosecution.
LEMON: Just real quickly, Ambassador, why now, why come forward now?
LEMON: Yes, why come forward now and say...
GRIMALDI: Because I asked him.
LEMON: A very...
GRIMALDI: I read -- I read as far the records that they filed. These lobbying records and his title is in there. And I wanted to know what he'd done.
LEMON: But I wanted to hear from him. He didn't have to come forward, but why?
WOOLSEY: Well, once he started using my name without my permission, I felt like some kind of an answer was just called for. I just didn't want to sit there silently while he was doing that.
LEMON: Fascinating report.
GRIMALDI: And I was digging, I was going to find out what happened, so I now persuaded him to go on the record with it.
LEMON: Thank you, James. Thank you, Ambassador.
WOOLSEY: Thank you.
LEMON: I appreciate it.
WOOLSEY: You're welcome.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)