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Former Acting Attorney General Warned the White House that Flynn Was Blackmail Risk; Kushner Family Conflict of Interest? Aired 11:00p-12:00mn ET
Aired May 8, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:34] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: The former acting attorney general warning the White House that a top aide to President Trump was at risk of blackmailed.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
Sally Yates telling Congress that she alerted officials in January that Michael Flynn, the President's first national security advisor could be blackmailed by the Russians. He wasn't fired until weeks later.
Also, Kushner family conflict of interest? Jared Kushner's sister dropping her brother's name while trying to convince wealthy Chinese investors to put millions of dollars into a Kushner real estate project. White House on the defensive now insisting the President's son in-law is not involve.
And Barack Obama fighting to save Obamacare. We are going to hear what he is saying about his signature legislative achievement.
But I want to begin with the testimony of Sally Yates and bring in CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown who has been following this very closely.
Pamela, thank you for joining us. We heard the long awaited testimony by Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general and what she told the White House council about General Flynn. So take us through the highlight said, will you?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. So Sally Yates broke her silence today in this hearing on Capitol Hill. And she revealed for the first time, Don, that she discussed Michael Flynn with White House counsel Don McGahn on three separate occasions starting two days after the FBI interviewed Flynn when he was still the national security advisor.
Now, she said she initially wanted to visit the White House to share concern that Flynn could be blackmailed by the Russians. The reason being she said was that Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador but lied about it to top White House officials including the vice President who as we know went on television denying that Flynn never discussed sanctions. She said the second time they met was the next day when (INAUDIBLE) has several questions including whether Flynn can be criminally prosecuted. And there was a third conversation about allowing White House officials to see the underlying evidence of Flynn's behavior.
Now her account of the chain of events undermines Sean Spicer's claim that she merely gave a vague heads up about the situation - Don.
LEMON: So listen. I'm sorry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's critical that we get this information to the White House because in part the vice President was unknowingly making false statements to the public and because we believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Pamela, the key question about collusion came up. What have we learned today about that?
BROWN: So when to come to the collusion, Sally Yates said that she couldn't comment on that. Of course, there was an ongoing FBI investigation into that matter. So she said she couldn't comment.
Now, James Clapper on the other hand, he said that he stands behind his earlier comment that he did not see any evidence of collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russians before he left his post on January 20th. Now, he also acknowledged that he was unaware of the FBI's counterintelligence investigation in to this matter because it was so tightly held. And there was one interesting exchange, Don, that he had Senator Graham when he was asked if he ever found a situation where Trump business interest in Russian gave him concern? He simply answer he couldn't comment on that because that impacts the investigation -- Don.
LEMON: Pamela, thank you so much.
BROWN: Thank you.
LEMON: Joining me now is Senator Amy Klobuchar. She is Minnesota Democrat who is a member of the subcommittee.
Senator, thank you so much for joining us.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Well, thanks Don. It is great to be on.
LEMON: Sally Yates made pretty clear that she gave the White House counsel Don McGahn a forceful warning about General Flynn. That he could be blackmailed, more than a heads up as Sean Spicer put it. What's your reaction to her testimony today?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think first of all, it was very important to dismiss this idea that it was a little heads up like it mentioned at a cocktail party or, you know, hey, inaugural parade. This is something where she had two formal meetings with other staff there and went through her reasoning that he had been compromised and disclosed to them in detailed the discussions that he had with the Russian ambassador and then it was obvious, I would say, that he had been lying at the time based on what he said to the vice president and others. And the amazing thing is that two days later they have him there with the President of the United States on a call with Vladimir Putin for an hour and then allow him to stay for 18 days.
LEMON: So having said what you just said, Sally Yates had two meetings and a phone call with a White House counsel, Don McGahn. Still it took them 18 days for the President to fire him. Why do you think that took so long?
[23:05: 07] KLOBUCHAR: I don't know. It may have been the loyalty. It may have been they dismissed it. Ti may have been this organization, whatever it was, it is not right because you have a situation. And I was the one that asked both director Clapper and former attorney general Yates, I said, you know, when you have someone lying on tape, you have him saying one thing on tape and then lying to the vice President, isn't that the kind of material that could be blackmail and they both said definitively yes. And in fact, these are the kinds of things that Russia has used against other people in the past, the old sex life and videotapes. And here you have him on tape saying one thing and then lying to the media and lying to the vice President of the United States.
It could be used for blackmail and that's why they took it so seriously. And I have no idea why the White House didn't do the same.
LEMON: Let me ask you about the President because before the hearing the president tweeted this. He said, ask Sally Yates under oath if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to the White House counsel.
Republican senator Grassley did ask that. And let's listen and then we will talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: As far as you know has any classified information relating to Mr. Trump or his associates been declassified and shared with the media?
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: Not to my knowledge.
GRASSLEY: Ms. Yates?
YATES: Not to my knowledge either.
GRASSLEY: Next question. Have either of you ever ben an anonymous source in a news report about matters relating that Mr. Trump, his associates or Russians attempt to meddle in the election?
CLAPPER: No. YATES: Absolutely not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: She was emphatic about that. Some people have called the President's tweet witness tampering. Do you see it that way?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think his question was answered very clearly. That's what I have to say. I mean, it was asked in fact by the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and both witness answered it. He has been on a tweet-a-thon today as you Don. And that also included in another tweet where he basically blamed President Obama for all of this because Flynn had once worked for President Obama. He seems to forget that President Obama had actually fired General Flynn. And for the news reports we see today had also warned President Trump about not hiring General Flynn.
So it is just one thing after another where they received these warnings and then just decided no, we are going to keep him in because he was loyal to the President. And I think when you are dealing with such an important job like this and you are dealing with Russia where director Clapper made clear they are going to do this again. That they were successful and they were emboldened, you don't put that person in as your national security advisor.
LEMON: It's been said that, well, maybe the President had some sort of animosity towards Flynn. And that's how the White House - that's what Sean Spicer said. That the president, the former President clearly had animosity towards Michael Flynn and that's how President Trump took it when they met at the oval office and President Obama warned him about not making Flynn his national security advisor.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, do you think the FBI agents have the same thing when they asked him questions. There were multiple warnings. And at some point you can't make excuses except to say this was the wrong choice. He shouldn't have been in this job. And one reason that I would like to see an independent commission out of Congress is so that we could have a group of experts to look at what happened here but mostly look at for going forward.
KLOBUCHAR: Because this wasn't just one incident with one political party or one candidate. As director Clapper made clear today, they are going to do it again. And they just tried it last week in France and they are going to do it again.
LEMON: I have a short time left here, Senator. I just want to ask you, did you - what have we learn? Do we learned anything new?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I didn't know the details of Sally Yates' meeting over at the White House. I thought that was pretty incredible. I was not aware of just how ferocious former director Clapper was about the fact that this is going to happen again and a major warning he gave us. And the fact that we have to educate our citizens and take this on to protect our democracy. And then finally, I thought that all of us asked questions about what really matters here and that is there was Russian interference in the election. Let's stop pretending there isn't and figure out how to fix this going forward. And I don't think Sally Yates could have done a better job including how she went one on one with Ted Cruz which is not for the faint hearted and came out of it, I would say, on the higher ground.
LEMON: Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you so much.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
LEMON: Let's bring in now ambassador R. James Woolsey. He is a former director of the central intelligence agency. Thank you, ambassador, for coming on.
Sally Yates testified today. Not only did the justice department have evidence that Flynn lied to the vice president, but at the Russians did too and could blackmail him. As a former head of the CIA, is it a dream come true for Russian intelligence to have a national security advisor in that position?
[23:10:14] AMB. R. JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Well, if all the statements are accurate, yes, it would be an advantage to the Russians.
But (INAUDIBLE), I think we are looking at the wrong election. Because if you want to make sure that we don't have a Russian to take over of American voting, and we want to make sure we protect our electoral system, we have got to do something to these voting machines that we have now, 25 percent of which are they have no paper. They are only electronic which means once they are hacked you can't do an effective recount. It is utmost urgency to get the voting machines for our election fixed. We can go back anytime we want and look what happened in this past election. Form special counsel offices. Do whatever you want. It doesn't matter. We might learn something and that would be good. But the main thing to do is to protect the system from Russian hacking and everybody else's hacking in the next election. Russians are never not interfering with all sorts of other countries --.
LEMON: Ambassador, your point is well taken about that. And I think people would like to at least have a system where there are, you know, you have some checks and balances with the system and then you can go back and do a recount.
But in regards to this hearing, here we are today, this is where we are now. There was a hearing today. James Clapper spoke and Sally Yates spoke. And specifically talking about the vetting of Michael Flynn and the warning. Why didn't that at least raises a red flag in this White House about vetting him, about Sally Yates, about the current President who was Barack Obama then? Why didn't that at least raise a red flag?
WOOLSEY: I don't know but it may have been that President Trump didn't believe what President Obama said. It may have been that what President Obama said was not accurate, I don't know. LEMON: Wasn't he getting classified briefings at the time? And
wouldn't it be preview to classified information from President Obama and from Sally Yates and from the justice department?
WOOLSEY: He being Flynn?
LEMON: No. He being President-elect Trump. He was getting classified briefings at the time. Wouldn't they have shown him this information?
WOOLSEY: I don't know. It depends on whether it's information or not. It depends on whether it is accurate or not. I don't think on the outside here we have any way of knowing whether those things are true.
LEMON: Well, I think - my question is and I asked someone earlier. I think it was Jack Kingston. This isn't just a President whispering in someone's ear saying, you know, we have -- I'm telling you a rumor or this is possibly happening. It seems like they were emphatic about. This is happening. You should not appoint this person. And then Sally Yates went over to the White House to tell them that he shouldn't appoint this person because there were issues with it. This wasn't just someone whispering in someone's ear and maybe you like the guy, maybe you don't. This is they had intelligence.
WOOLSEY: Whisper or not it depends really on what that intelligence was and whether it was pressing and right to accept what President Trump was being told. He may have thought it was not valid. I don't know. I don't know what it was.
LEMON: Yes. The thing, the question that I had as was listening this all day, how would it behoove Sally Yates or a President of the United States, Barack Obama, to give information because they didn't like to give else information about Michael Flynn? It makes absolutely no sense to me that they would even do that. How does it benefit either of them to have some sort of vendetta against Michael Flynn? He is not even that big -- why would they care?
WOOLSEY: I don't see that it does but what intelligence is full all the time of misunderstandings, misstatements, misidentifications, confusions and messes. And it is really extremely difficult I think under circumstances like we are facing now to pause exactly who is telling the truth, exactly who is emphasizing what too much and so forth. And say I think we are working on the wrong election. The one to fix is the next one.
LEMON: Well. And I mean, it is important also to go back. We can learn as you admitted earlier, as you said as much, we should learn from that.
LEMON: A number of senators, let me get back to the issue, a number of senators tried to undermine Yates' testimony questioning her motivation and saying that she is a partisan person and one person even called her a partisan hack today, a commentator here. What is your impression?
[23:15:08] WOOLSEY: I have never met her. I have never talked to her. I would say from the brief exposure to her television presentation, she seemed to me to be a truthful straight forward individual. But I don't know. And I have been deceived before successfully. You and I might be deceived again.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, ambassador. I appreciate it.
When we come back more on Yates' testimony about General Flynn.
Plus, why she says the President's first - his firs travel ban is still unlawful.
[23:19:42] LEMON: Former acting attorney general Sally Yates testified today all about the warning the White House about Sally Yates. But also about talked about why she opposed the enforcement of President's travel ban which caused here her job.
I want to bring in now CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, a political commentator David Swerdlick, national security analyst Juliette Kayyem and Kaitlan Collins, a White House correspondent for "the Daily Caller." I'm not sure that made sense, it was me or the prompter.
But anyways, Jeffrey, let's talk about this. First, I want to ask you about President Trump's tweet this morning before the judiciary. He said ask Sally Yates under oath if she knows how classified information got to the newspaper soon after she explained it to the White House counsel. She talked about - I mean, she answered a similar question saying she had nothing to do with the leak. She was emphatic about that. But what is your reaction to this?
[23:20:27] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, it just shows how the norms of presidential behavior have changed under Donald Trump. I mean, this is clearly an attempt to intimidate her. It is implicit threat to prosecute her for lying. And he is the President of the United States. He runs the justice department. You know, in an ordinary presidency, or frankly in every other presidency, the president would never threaten someone on the eve of their testimony in this way. But now, you know, we have become (INAUDIBLE) to it even though he has only been president for a little more than 100 days.
LEMON: But is this him trying to make this about leaks and not about the warning that he got from Sally Yates and from the former president?
TOOBIN: Well, yes. And that's what the Republicans did all day today is instead of talking about the substance of the hearing which is, you know, what was Michael Flynn's relationship with the Russians and what did the administration know about that? They were obsessed with the issue of leaks which is a way of diverting attention from the core issue. LEMON: Yes.
Juliette, I mean, it gets - it does get frustrating because the answers that you get from folks. You see it at the hearing and you see it play out as well on, you know, on these panels on television. It is not necessarily about the truth, it is really about partisanship. And the Republicans are trying to change the focus of the hearing. You know, Democrats come on - they are going to support what they think about it as well. When is it just going to become about what is the truth in all this and not about partisan bickering and trying to, you know, lie to the American public?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, there will be a moment, and I'm pretty confident of that, and there is going to be moment in which it has decided what this investigation is actually about. But today was in truth a very bad day for the White House. You not only had Sally Yates sort of a protagonist giving these really interesting detailed account of what she did. You had Jim Clapper not to be forgotten, the former ODNI who basically reminded all of us that this is about Russia and our election. You had all to decided, I tell you White House counsel Don McGahn does not - did not serve the President well if Sally Yates' testimony is accurate. And then you have, of course, Trump who I sort of describe that a Shakespearean chorus out there. Just sort of giving this salvos by twitter. But clearly making us all wonder what he is so nervous about.
LEMON: Let's look at this. Let's look at this timeline. I want to put it up. This is involving General Flynn, Sally Yates and the travel ban. So Yates was acting attorney general for ten days now, OK. November 10th, Obama warns Trump about Flynn. January 20th, Yates becomes acting attorney general. January 26th, AG Yates notifies White House about Flynn concerns. And then January 30th, the AG Yates directs the DOJ lawyers not to make legal arguments defending the President's executive order on immigration and refugees, the travel ban. Also, January 30th, AG Yates is fired. February 10th, Trump says he is unaware of reports on Flynn. February 13th, report Flynn maybe vulnerable to blackmail. And February 13th, Flynn resigns as national security advisor.
David Swerdlick, in those ten days, she warned the White House about lieutenant general Flynn, told the department of justice not to enforce the president's immigration order. Is there a bigger thorn in the President's side than Sally Yates right now?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Probably not at that time and probably not today. One thing I think in addition to the fact that she took that action to countermand the executive order and those private at that time, they are public today, warnings to the administration about General Flynn. What I think also image-wise make her a thorn on the administration, is that what if you watch these hearings today she was unflappable. Didn't blink, didn't flinched, didn't mince words and the administration and that after them, the Republican senators who questioned her Cornyn, Cruz, Kennedy. They couldn't get her to budge or to equivocate on a position. She was ready with all of her answers and that made it hard for them to tell the story the Republicans and that that the administration wanted to tell. You know, the idea that they were going to sort of push back on the story that she had to tell just completely went flat today because Flynn was such a strong witness.
LEMON: Kaitlan, do you think the White House and Trump supporters see it that way? The way that David has just lay it out?
KAITLAN COLLINS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, DAILY CALLER: I don't think they see it that way. Because if you look at Donald Trump's twitter timeline from today, he barely even mentioned Mike Flynn. And all of his tweets after the hearing today, Mike Flynn's name is not brought up. When the majority of that hearing was supposed to be about what Mike Flynn did and didn't do and what the president knew and what he didn't know. So I think we are walking away with this with his supporters just believing that the media is posting on the wrong story here.
SWERDLICK: Don, the fact that Flynn is not mentioned in those tweets is a sign of weakness for administration. The hearings started out about Flynn. Those senators try to change it to the executive orders on travel. President Trump couldn't mention General Flynn in those tweets because General Flynn underscores all this smoke around the administration about Russia. He wanted to go away from it and distract from it. And again, Yates whether people believe Yates or not she was unflappable.
TOOBIN: I would like to explain to a visitor from outer space that we are analyzing the news development based on Donald Trump's tweets about the news developments. And it was like what is - I mean, who cares? I mean, we are trying to analyze the news here, not like what Donald Trump tweeted about the news.
COLLINS: Well, it is also worth noting that the Trump administration has repeatedly broken with what the Obama administration did on health care, visitor laws, taxes, you name it. But when it comes to Mike Flynn and his security clearance, they are more than happy to go back to that and the Obama administration who was in office when he was issued his security clearance. But Barack Obama did it named Mike Flynn his national security advisor.
TOOBIN: You know, again, this is so surreal. The whole idea that, you know, the Obama administration, they didn't take his security clearance away. They fired Mike Flynn. How can Barack Obama be blamed for Mike Flynn. I mean, it is just so --.
KAYYEM: Can I just add a little point just to pick up on sort of some of (INAUDIBLE) that Jeff has alluded to. I have been focusing on Jim Clapper because he sort of the quiet storm in all this. He also, in his own way, undermined the narrative by the White House about Flynn. Remember, Trump supporters have been saying, well, Jim Clapper said he never saw anything about collusion. And today, Clapper admit it. I can't imagine it was easy for him that he was essentially out of the loop. That he didn't know about the FBI investigation until Jim Comey announced it at the hearing just a couple of weeks ago. LEMON: Roughly, he has been there for what, four months? He hasn't
got in that briefing and he has been involved in four months. So it would be interesting if he did.
KAYYEM: Right. But that was one argument. But he was there until January 20th that when he had said I didn't see any evidence of collusion. He had no idea that the FBI investigation was going on. So he's taken away a huge argument by the Republicans. And I think they didn't quite notice at this stage how damning his testimony was as well to their narrative and talking points.
LEMON: Thank you all.
When we come back. Jared Kushner's sister mentioning their father's ties to the Trump administration while courting Chinese investors. The question is, did she cross unethical line?
[23:32:29] LEMON: There has been a controversy brewing tonight over conflicts of interest in the Trump administration. Nicole Kushner- Meyer who is a sister of President's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, name dropped her brother and his role in the administration as part of the real estate pitch to wealthy Chinese investors. The Kushner project makes you serve a controversial visa program which allows investors a fast track to a green card in exchange for $500,000 investment.
Let's discuss now. William Cohan is the author of "Why Wall Street Matters" and political commentator Jack Kingston, former senior advisor to the Trump campaign is here as well.
What is going on here? It's not as if the Kushner family doesn't know that their brother is in the White House. It is just they know the brother is in the White House. What are they doing?
WILLIAM COHAN, AUTHOR, WHY WALL STREET MATTER: There's no way to spin this one, Don, to make it seem like they didn't know what was going on. You know, the Kushner family has had many interactions with the Chinese investors, with Chines government over the years. They have already got that $50 million investment from the Chinese people who are interested investors, who are interested in having this fast track visa program.
LEMON: (INAUDIBLE) for her family's New Jersey properties. HE said 2008 my brother Jared Kushner joined the company as CEO and recently moved to Washington to join the administration.
COHAN: I mean, the Kushners, Jared and Ivanka, sat next to Mr. and Mrs. - President and Mrs. Xi at the state dinner. I mean, so that got broadcast to Chinese investors, wealthy Chinese people all over the country. They know exactly who the Kushners are. They know exactly what this pitch meant. They know exactly and what this means of program is all about. And they know exactly what it means that President Trump is the guy who can green light a visa or not. So there's no way to spin this other than this is pure corruption and it's despicable. LEMON: We do have Jack Kingston.
Jack, he says there is no way to spin it. It there a way to spin it?
JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER RO THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, I think there is a question about this program. This program has been out there for many years and I didn't know that it is out there. The Chinese like it as a way to get in America. And certainly Jared Kushner's sister who by the way is entitled to (INAUDIBLE). She --.
LEMON: Is she entitled to use her brother and the administration? Isn't that the whole thing that everyone has been so concerned about conflicts of interest, a monument (ph) clause? Yes, there is a controversial EB-5 program. But the question was more about should Jared Kushner's sister had known better? And is she just grifting now? And is the administration OK with it? Are you saying it's OK for Jared Kushner's sister to use him as leverage to get some sort of business deal?
[23:35:12] KINGSTON: Let me give you a parallel that we have seen many times that actually happens quite often when we have an ethics to pay on Capitol Hill. And that is that some members of Congress are married to lobbyists. In one case, there was a Democrat Senate leader whose wife is a lobbyist during the McCain-(INAUDIBLE) debate. And frankly, we had these broad sweeping laws said that they weren't entitled to make a living independent of their spouses and corps and Congress on a bipartisan bases --.
LEMON: What does that have to do with Nicole Kushner and Jared Kushner?
KINGSTON: Well, I think the reality is, is that are we saying that anybody who has a family member in an administration is not entitled to be involved with an existing law and doing it legally which is not been --?
LEMON: No one said that. But do you think it's OK for her to use her brother as leverage, to put her brother's name up there and his relationship with the administration? She can do business. She could use this controversial EB-5 program. Does she have to mention that she is a Kushner and that her brother is part of the White House?
KINGSTON: I think she needs to be very careful with it. I think that your point is a good one. But I still say probably we should look at this program in general and in terms of family members and people who are in Congress who are in decision making position --
LEMON: OK, Jack. That is something else on that. We will talk about that. That has nothing to do with this now. That's a whole other show.
LEMON: That's the same they can.
LEMON: We're talking about Jared Kushner and his sister and the White House. We are not talking - that's a whole another show.
COHAN: And influence.
LEMON: And influence.
KINGSTON: But that's exactly what we're talking about.
LEMON: Here is what press secretary Sean Spicer had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jared has done everything to comply with the ethics rules to make sure he had nothing to do with him per se. He wasn't involve. And secondly, I think we talked before this, the president and Congress are looking entirely at how to look over all entire visa program, all the various visa programs and whether or not they are serving the purpose they were intended to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Is that the same talking point that Jack is using now? What do you think?
KINGSTON: If it is I didn't see the show before.
COHAN: I think I agree with - I can agree with Jack one thing but it pains me. And I think that the visa program is subject to potential influence peddling and controversy. And it has been that way for a long time. It probably should be reviewed. In fact, the Kushner family has benefitted as I said before to the tune of $50 million form these investments. And what they do, it is horrible actually that they induce wealthy, mostly Chinese investors to get a low rate of return on their investments in exchange for a fast track to get a visa to this country and they are not even getting a fair rate of return on their investments.
LEMON: Jack, the Kushner family has apologized. Kushner company said today that the name drop at the event in Beijing on Saturday was not intended to be an attempt to lure investor investors, that's a quote from them, to one of its projects in New Jersey. The company said in a statement Ms. Meyer wanted to make clear that her brother had stepped away from the company in January and has nothing to do with the project. Do you think that is enough?
KINGSTON: I think number one, we want to make sure that Jared has complied by the law. And it sounds like everybody is in agreement that he has. Then number two, what are you allowed to do if you are relative of somebody who is in an influential position and there is a law regulation on that, certainly the sister has to comply by it. But I can tell you this. That this program has been out there for many years. And I do know former government officials who have gone to China and talked about it. And when you are a former say congressman or former state department employee in foreign country that title means more.
I'm an ex-Congressman. It doesn't mean anything in the United States. It shouldn't mean anything. I served. I'm out of it. People aren't impressed with that. But overseas, it as a little more cachet and being a relative to somebody who is out there and does have cachet. But this program I think, this could be a good excuse on a bipartisan basis for everybody to take a look at.
LEMON: OK. I have to go. Quickly, William.
COHAN: Well, Don, I just want to say on other thing. This is the second time. I mean, the Kushners were involved with trying to refinance 666 Fifth Avenue which is their biggest investment with (INAUDIBLE) insurance company to billions of dollars. And that was to shut down at the end of March. So this is the second time already that Jared Kushner who is supposed to be leading the charge with the Chinese has been involved with this kind of --.
LEMON: I'm out of time. Thank you very much.
When we come back former president Barack Obama making his first public comments on health care after the House voted to repeal much of his signature plan. We will tell you what he said.
[23:43:45] LEMON: Here tonight with my panel. CNN political commentator Peter Beinart, Alex Conant, the former communications director Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, Mike Sucks is scripts political correspondent and CNN contributor Salena Zito. The gang is all here.
Welcome everyone, by the way.
So Alex, you are the new guy here so I'm going to start with you. The former acting attorney general Sally Yates, you saw her testifying today saying that she warned the White House multiple times that the national security advisor Michael Flynn had lied, that he could be blackmailed. The White House, it took 18 days to fire him after the story broke in the media. Can they defend that?
ALEX CONANT, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, MARCO RUBIO FOR PRESIDENT: Well, they are going to have to try, right? I mean, I don't think we learned a lot in her testimony today that hadn't previously been reported or at least talked around the edges about. And in terms of the actual sequences, look, Mike Flynn is gone. Like he was fired. He does not need to be a headache for the Trump administration moving forward because they fired him. And so I think the less they can talk about Flynn, the more they can look to the future.
LEMON: That was my question. So why they keep defending him and keep, you know? And wouldn't they just sort of want to move on?
CONANT: They did not encourage the House to have these hearings today. They want to turn the page on this and move on ASAP. I think the less they can say about it. Look, today was just one day for this White House or it is just one day and they had other bad days. And I don't think we will be remembering this for very long.
[23:45:05] LEMON: Alex said two things here. He said he didn't think we didn't learn anything that was always hanging around the edges out there, he said. And two things, why do you think it took so long for them to let Flynn go, 18 days?
PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It seems like he had a pretty close personal relationship with Trump. I mean, he was like Trump really liked him. Trump had actually considered him to be VP. There come back that seemed according to our new reporting today to have less of a rapport with his successor H.R. McMasters. And most people think is much more confident guy.
And also, this is, you know, one of the things we know about Donald Trump now, after a couple of years of watching him on the national scene is that he punches back no matter what whether it makes any strategic sense or not. He will punch back at anyway. He punch back at (INAUDIBLE), right. And you know, he just punches back wildly at everyone whether his advisors think it makes any sense or not.
LEMON: You think he was just being loyal? Do you think that he maybe they genuinely didn't know how to handle this? That is was a barrage of evidence. Maybe they didn't believed it at first. And then all of the sudden it is like, well, there is a barrage of evidence that he did lie and the straw that broke the camel's back was actually lying to the vice president of the United States, you know. If they just didn't know how handle the situation?
BEINART: It is possible. I mean, look. This is also Donald Trump has never really given evidence that he takes the whole Russia issue seriously at all. I mean, it is really pretty remarkable when he stand back. He would think that the notion that Russia interfered with our election would be the president of the United States was considered that a national security problem. But Donald Trump actually never really acknowledged that he think that is a national security problem. He only sees it through the prism of his own political interest and his own ego.
LEMON: I think that is probably - that has change now.
Salena, I want to move on now and I want to switch gears and talk about health care. President Barack Obama received the profiled of Courage award at the JFK Library yesterday and spoke out for the first time on the House bill to dismantle his signature health care law. He urged Congress to stand up against the repeal and take - I want you take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope that current members of Congress recall that it actually doesn't take a lot of courage to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential. But it does requires some courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirmed. Those who often have no access to the corridors of power. I hope they understand that courage means not simply doing what is politically expedient but doing what they believe deep in their hearts is right.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Salena, those comments, any impact on the health care debate, you think?
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Probably not. And I'm just being honest. You know, the health care from the very beginning has very - has always been a very politically charged policy. From 2009 when it begin when the president took over and he had a full House and a full Senate that were, you know, in his majority until today. You know, this is -- both parties have ideals and core values and how they think government should be involved in health care. It cost President Obama his majority -- the majority of his party in his House and eventually his Senate. Now, the Republicans sort of face the same thing.
Here's what I would caution about, about the health care bill. I think what we have right now with the health care bill is sort of like half time at the super bowl, right. Falcons were up 21-3. And everyone thinks this is how it is going to end. But I think this bill is not anything of what it's going to look like. And once the Senate gets its hands on it, I think we are going to have something completely different.
LEMON: And Mike, here is the difference here. And I think that people in Washington are taking account of this. Senators and Congressmen, we are seeing very this similar fiery town halls like what we saw back in 2009. Republican Congressman Raul Labrador from Idaho is under fire for his response to a town hall, attendees' concerns about how the House bill would impact Medicaid recipients. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're mandating people on Medicaid except dying. You are making a mandate.
REP. RAUL LABRADOR (R), IDAHO: No one wants anybody to die. That is line is so indefensible. Nobody dies because they don't have access to health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Listen, Mike. He went on to explain himself and, you know, his response is more elegant. I will put it up there on the screen. He said in he is responding to a false notion that the Republican health care plan will cause people to die in the streets which I completely reject. And then he goes on to explain his position. How damaging was that exchange for Labrador and the Republican Party, you think?
MIKE SUCKS, SCRIPTS POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: For Labrador, not very much. He is in a pretty safe district. The people out there in the town hall were there to boo him. That doesn't necessarily reflect the majority of his voters in the district. But it's a ready-made ad line for Democrats to run, against pretty much any Republican who voted for the AHCA Trump care- Ryan care, Obamacare repeal and replace, whatever you want to call it. So we will be seeing a lot of that in the coming year as Midterms heat up. But I want to stress this about what he said. When he clarify this
thing, we know that they were dying the street. People can go to the emergency room. Remember, that was a line that Democrats when they were in power, Obama when he was in power, snack down repeatedly saying yes, but that will drive up - that's a free loader issue and it put - cost on everyone else who is buying insurance.
And it seems the Republicans in passing this, want to get rid of that free loader a bit. Want to give it to the mandate where everyone would be able to pay what they want to pay as opposed to insure the most informers (INAUDIBLE). So that explanation he gave doesn't quite wash and in fact, I mean, Politifact would get it a well and said that there are mostly reports saying that the access to Medicaid is what increased the rates going away. That is overrate of saying it. But without Medicaid in the state that didn't expand Medicaid which higher rates were actually worse that the state that did expand.
So, you know, he is not really telling the truth there even if he was telling the not truth in artfully.
[23:51:31] LEMON: Well, my question is Alex is that alternative truth. Here is a thing. Because Democrats are writing the campaign ads and writing that, you know, for 2018 now saying whether they are jumping (INAUDIBLE), I don't know. But how concern if you are running as Republican in 2018? How concern should you be?
CONANT: Well, it depends a lot on your district. But if you are a Republican member of Congress who has gotten elected, and I'm not saying that you are going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to vote for that bill. You have to at least try to deliver for the voters what you promise you are in to. That's what the House of last week --.
LEMON: Even if it is bad legislation?
CONANT: Well, look. The Senate is going to improve the legislation, so, which I think is an important staff.
LEMON: I got to run. Thank you all. We will be right back.
[23:55:59] LEMON: He is just out of college but this week's CNN Hero is already making a huge difference in the lives of Cambodian children. The problem lack of access to something we take for granted, a simple bar of soap.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When children do not wash their hands they are vulnerable to illnesses which unfortunately can take their life. No child should suffer because there simply wasn't soap available. My hope for Cambodia's youth is for them to understand that they can take their health into their very hands.
Very good, yes. Just by a simple act such as hand washing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And to see how (INAUDIBLE) is using soap not only to save lives but to boost the local economy and help the environment, go to CNNheroes.com. And while you are there nominate someone you think should be the 2017 CNN hero.
That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I will see you right back here tomorrow.