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CNN TONIGHT

Another Bombshell from the Trump Administration. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 9, 2017 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: CNN Toning. I'm Don Lemon.

Let's put it as plainly as we can. The President of the United States has fired the man investigating his campaign's ties to Russia. Fired him. Shocking confusion tonight on Capitol Hill around the country and around the world.

And now questions being raised on whether there is a cover up going on. This is definitely not politics as usual. We have said it before but it's never been more true than it is in this moment.

So let's get right now to our correspondents and our reporters and our contributors. CNN's Gloria Borger, Dana Bash, Jeff Zeleny, and Pamela Brown. Each with their own unique reporting on this. Jeff, I'm going to start with you. History in the making. What are you learning?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, we're learning that the White House at this hour tonight is still in full crisis mode here. They're trying to explain what happened. They were not expecting, believe it or not, the fallout that has happened in the several hours since the firing of the FBI director.

I just walked by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's office just a few moments ago here. It is filled with aides, filled with advisors, they are trying to strategize the way forward.

And this comes after several hours ago, the White House said look, we're done talking about this for the evening. We do not expect to address this anymore. That was not the reality here. Because they know that they have a bad narrative on their hands not just with democrats with republicans on Capitol Hill as well.

But let's go back and take a look at this very brief letter the president sent to the FBI director, hand delivered to the FBI late this afternoon. The second paragraph of this letter perhaps says it all.

Let's take a look at it, Don. It says, "While I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you were not able to effectively lead the bureau." Now all of this is coming, the White House is explaining the firing

because the director of the FBI had lost the confidence of the bureau. He said the deputy attorney general and the attorney general had made this recommendation to the president.

But in their memorandums and letters that they sent out here, all of them are talking about the Clinton investigation, the 2016 campaign. They say that Director Comey did not handle himself properly in that investigation.

In the president's letter he does not mention the Clinton controversy campaign one time. He brings up his own investigation, the Russia investigation trying to make a point on that. Don, this is not the end of the story. It seems to me it's just the beginning of yet another chapter in Washington, another controversy, perhaps the biggest one yet with the Trump administration.

LEMON: I think you're absolutely right. As astonishing as that paragraph in the letter is, it's also astonishing to say that they didn't perceive at the White House, Dana Bash, weren't prepared for this reaction, how big this reaction would be. Can you tell us about that, who is that naive in the White House that would not realize that this would be a big story?

DANA BASH, CNN'S CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It seems like that was pervasive. Naive as your word not mine but I think it's probably pretty appropriate here, Don, given the fact that I was told by earlier tonight. Right when this news first broke, that by a source familiar with discussions inside the White House, that they did not expect this to be the political explosion that it was.

And it was hard for me to even believe that that was really the case because it was so obvious. It doesn't take somebody like me or others here on the panel who have covered politics or you know, have studied history to know that this is a really, really big deal.

But the way that it bore out as Jeff has been reporting and taking pictures of the scramble that has been going on outside of the White House in the dark with White House officials trying to do damage control.

And it's not as though this was an event that the happened to them. This is an event that the White House did in and of itself. Meaning, this is not like, you know, many, many times there's damage control that happened in Washington because a force outside or an event outside occurs.

This was something that was created by the president and the Justice Department. But you know, the president himself is the one who said you're fired to James Comey and the fact that they were not prepared for the fallout. And we're talking about the fall out, we're talking about the fact that this has not happened in this way since Richard Nixon's administration.

We're talking about the fact that republicans who are loathe to criticize the president like the Senate intelligence chair Richard Burr putting out a statement and even issuing a tweet saying he's very concerned about this. It is that kind of reaction that they clearly weren't expecting and its mind boggling that that's the case.

LEMON: Gloria, I want to bring this. And Dana, you may not have it because it just happened as you were saying that you were mentioning Burr.

[22:04:58] But Jeff Flake who's a republican from Arizona, Gloria, now tweeting out saying "I have spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rational for the timing of Comey's firing and I just can't do it." It's not just democrats, it's republicans as well.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is republicans. And remember, you know, Jeff Flake was not a Donald Trump republican but Richard Burr was a Donald Trump republican and I think right now, you know, the balance of power here is going to be really important because we have to see how Congress reacts to this.

Congress is going to want to investigate exactly what happened here. You don't fire your FBI director as he's investigating your campaign and Russia hacking of the election just willy-nilly. And they're going to want to talk to Comey I am sure and they are going to want to talk to Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein, I am sure who wrote this letter.

And let me say one other thing. Rod Rosenstein long letter detailed a lot of complaints that a lot of democrats had about James Comey that he shouldn't have gone on, you know, July fifth after he cleared Hillary Clinton and the e-mail controversy and said OK, but she's reckless. And that he shouldn't have sent that letter on October 28 and turned the election upside down.

Maybe that's why, Dana, you know, the White House wasn't expecting this to be such a disaster...

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: That's exactly right.

BORGER: ... for them. But you know, that Rod Rosenstein doesn't speak for the president who, at the time these events occurred, was applauding them. So, you know, maybe...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Is this a firing in search of a cause, Gloria?

BORGER: Well, I think it's a firing in search of rational, right. And the rational here was provided by the deputy attorney general, but and the deputy attorney general I am sure believes it as do lots of other people in this country, democrat and republican.

But I don't know that Donald Trump really believes what the attorney -- what deputy attorney general wrote because he was applauding Comey when he said that Hillary Clinton was reckless. He would have liked to have seen her indicted sure, but you know, I don't recall him complaining about Comey's words at that time. LEMON: Yes. And the president-elect also as a candidate applauding

James Comey at the time as well, and also as president as well.

BORGER: Yes.

LEMON: Saying he's taken some heat, you know, he's got a strong backbone. Pamela, here's what the really important question. Comey was over seeing this Russia/Trump investigation fired by the people he is investigating now. So who is in charge? What does this mean now for this investigation?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That is part of what makes this so extraordinary, Don. And as of tonight, the former deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe is now the acting director at the bureau and this investigation is still being over seen by the deputy attorney general who we're just talking about Ron Rosenstein. The person that recommended the firing of James Comey to the president according to this letter.

You know, career FBI agents and prosecutors are still working on this case. It is still moving forward. They are issuing subpoenas as we reported tonight. But of course, something of this magnitude happening could certainly have a chilling effect among the investigators. Just the perception alone.

I mean, as you know, Don, there are already growing calls particularly from democratic lawmakers for an independent prosecutor to take over this investigation. And Rosenstein has said previously during his Senate confirmation hearing that he would indeed appoint a special prosecutor if in fact necessary. And so I wouldn't be surprised if you continue to see these calls.

LEMON: Pamela, you also have some reporting tonight regarding grand jury subpoenas have been issued in this FBI Russia investigation. What can you tell us about that?

BROWN: That's right. So we learned that just in the last couple of weeks federal prosecutors y have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn seeing business records as part of this ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year's election.

Now the subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI's broader investigation that began last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia. They were received by associates who worked with Michael Flynn on contracts after he was forced out as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014.

Now Robert Kelner an attorney for Flynn he declined to comment as to the Justice Department, the FBI, and the U.S. attorney's office. But you know, just looking at the circumstance here, just in the last couple of weeks, Don, you have these subpoenas issued to associates of President Trump's former national security advisor.

[22:09:58] And it's just remarkable to think that the man who was overseeing this full investigation James Comey has now been fired by the president.

LEMON: So that information that you're giving now is exclusive information that you're giving. Gloria, I want to go back to something that we talked about. Let's go over this letter from Rod Rosenstein. He's the deputy attorney general now and is going to be acting director.

In a memo he points to this press conference that Comey held back in 2016 during the campaign saying he wasn't recommending charges against Hillary Clinton. He's pointing to how the Clinton investigation was handled. Really? Why are they pointing out how the Clinton investigation was handled?

BORGER: You got me. Look, I think it's something Rod Rosenstein probably believes that it was mishandled as do lots of other prosecutors. You know, and I think...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: That was July of 2016, though.

BORGER: Right. And I think a lot of people believe that that was a mistake. It's not a prosecutor's job to tell people why he did not indict somebody, for example. And he also went after him for his testimony last week on why his choice between conceal or speak but - but you have to put this in a wider context.

We are talking about now President Donald Trump who didn't find anything wrong back then with Comey's behavior nor did he find anything wrong with the letter Comey sent to Congress saying that he had to reopen the Hillary Clinton investigation and so you have to wonder whether, you know, Trump is saying, Donald Trump is saying I want to fire this guy. Give me -- give me the reasons here.

LEMON: Yes. Stand by, because I want to bring someone. We'll get back to you guys. Stand by because I want to bring in now Congressman Elijah Cummings and also Congressman Eric Swalwell. Both of them democrats. Good evening to you. Thank you for joining us. Congressman Cummings, I'll start with you. Your reaction to tonight's event.

ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I'm not surprised. It seems as if when Ms. Yates appeared yesterday I said to myself we're going to have to a new issue tomorrow and we have constantly seen, Don, this movement of hocus-pocus when something seems to get close to the Russian investigation. The next thing you know we've moved on to something another issue.

But there is something that your guest don't seem to understand. One of the reasons why -- Comey came to our committee, the oversight committee back in the summer and made this announcement of how he thought Hillary Clinton was sloppy but he wasn't going to prosecute.

I told him at that hearing, I said they are coming after you, that is the republicans don't like what you are doing and they are going to put you on trial. The thing that your guests don't know is that after that decision was made not to prosecute, they basically -- the republicans on the oversight committee subpoenaed almost every single document in the FBI file.

And I think that what happened with Comey is that he came back later on closer to the election to make those announcements because I think he was concerned that they would come after him. That's what I believe.

But again I think the timing is horrible. I think I mean, if we look at it, Don, he, the president treated Flynn far better than he treated the FBI director.

LEMON: Yes.

CUMMINGS: I mean, the FBI director didn't even know he was being fired and while Flynn had 18 days after the president even knew that he had lied to the vice president.

We've got to get to the bottom of this. I think the fact that there is a grand jury and that questioning is being opened up, I think you're going to see a whole new escalation of this case.

LEMON: I want to ask you something, Congressman Swalwell because I know you both of you, congressman have been privy to information, classified information and you know what's happening with the investigation.

There is reporting tonight, CNN and others as the Washington Post said, reporting that the White House and attorney general have pushed the FBI to pursue leaks rather than pushing them to pursue what the investigation was about and that was possible collusion to from the Trump campaign with Russia. Do you anything about that, Congressman Swalwell?

ERIC SWALWELL, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Don, I hope that's not the case. Or country was attacked by Russia. There's a serious FBI investigation going on into whether any U.S. persons were involved and to make that a priority over protecting our democracy would be a serious misjudgment.

As far as firing FBI Director Comey to the average American this stinks. The United States is a democracy. The president can't fire the person who is investigating him. That violates bed rock principles of independence.

[22:15:01] And so, Elijah Cummings and I, both also wrote legislation to have an independent commission. We think that's the most comprehensive way to get to the bottom of what happened and to make sure that we never find ourselves in a mess like this again.

LEMON: Your colleague who is the ranking intelligence committee member Adam Schiff put out a statement and it says, "The decision by president whose campaign associates are under investigation by the FBI for collusion with Russia to fire the man overseeing that investigation upon the recommendation of attorney general, the attorney -- and attorney general who has recused himself from that investigation raises profound questions about whether the White House is braisingly interfering in a criminal matter."

Congressman, do you see it that way that end, what is the resource if so?

SWALSWELL: Jeff Sessions should be nowhere near the firing of Director Comey. He was supposed to be recused. And remember, Don, he was supposed to be recused because he was asked by the Senate if he had any contacts with Russia during the election. Twice he said no.

We learned later because of press reporting that he had. And so for him to be involved also raises questions and on the judiciary committee where I serve I think we should have Jeff Sessions before us to explain just exactly why this was not -- just exactly why he was involved in this why he was supposed to be recused.

LEMON: Congressman Cummings, the deputy attorney...

(CROSSTALK)

CUMMINGS: I...

LEMON: Go ahead, congressman.

CUMMINGS: I'm just going to say I agree totally with Congressman Swalwell. I was shocked that we had a letter coming from the attorney general with the recommendation. I assumed that any recommendation would be solely that of the deputy attorney general who I know quite well and I think the world of. He was our U.S. attorney here in Maryland for over 10 years, Rosenstein.

But I think Rosenstein now has a duty -- I think we're going to have to do two things. One, I think we need to have that independent commission as Congressman Swalwell and I put forth, but I think we also have to make sure that an independent counsel is appointed by Rosenstein.

Because in some kind of way I think you basically have to have both. One checking each other.

LEMON: I want to ask you, Congressman about a little bit more about the deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said. He recommended this firing because of how Comey handled the Clinton investigation, pointing the Comey's press conference on Clinton and pointing the Comey's letter before the election. But I want you to listen to President Trump when all that happened and then we'll discuss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I respect the fact that Director Comey was able to come back after what he did.

It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they're trying to protect her from criminal prosecution.

He's become more famous than me. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So congressman, the president, the president didn't mind how it was handled then. So what changed?

CUMMINGS: I think whenever things are going to...

(CROSSTALK)

SWALWELL: What changed was that Director Comey...

LEMON: Congressman Cummings.

SWALWELL: Yes.

CUMMINGS: Yes. I think whenever things are going the president's way it's fine with him. When they're not going his way it's not fine with him. I mean, come on, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see this and I think that's why we have now moved from one issue to another and we will see that over and over again.

Basically what we need in this whole process is integrity, transparency and if anybody wants to see what transparency and integrity is all about, all they have to do is rewind the tape of Sally Yates and Clapper yesterday. Those are the type of public service -- servants who make sure that we preserve this democracy and preserve our system of justice.

LEMON: Congressman Swalwell, some republicans right now are saying, well, wait hold on a second, Director Comey was disliked by democrats too. Nobody was happy with him. What's your response to that?

SWALWELL: Well, whether people were happy with him or not, he came to Congress in March and told Congress and the American people that the president's campaign was under criminal and counter intelligence investigations. At that point unless Director Comey committed a crime he should have been untouchable.

That's the only way we could have an independent prosecution -- and independent search for the truth by the FBI that would be credible and make progress. And now the president has violated that principle of independence and I'm very concerned for our country.

LEMON: So you think we'll see a special prosecutor?

CUMMINGS: Don, one of the things that we are missing here, too, is it, it is not normal for one whose under investigation -- I practiced law for over 20 years. One who is under investigation whether they are associates under investigation to be doing things that stand in the way of that investigation.

LEMON: Yes.

CUMMINGS: Or saying things. You see what I would tell my clients is we're going to cooperate with the authorities and move on and not be constantly making comments. [22:20:05] And I think that's the way this should perceive. The

president should not be involve in all these tweets about how he doesn't think, this is happening, or that's wrong. Let the process play itself out.

LEMON: That was the opening to our show tonight that this is not normal for the person investigating this administration now fired by this administration and by this president.

A quick question, do you think we'll see a special prosecutor, Congressman Swalwell.

SWALWELL: I hope we do. I hope we have an independent, a special prosecutor and that that person is able to find the truth and do it with independence so that anyone that worked with Russia is held accountable because our democracy is counting on it.

LEMON: Thank you, congressmen. I appreciate.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

LEMON: And I want to say any republican congressman out there anyone who wants to come on, you're welcome to come on this program. You went later on CNN will be live throughout the day and throughout the evening.

I want to bring in now CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, and CNN legal analyst Laura Coates. So here we go again. You have said, you have been very outspoken about this, Jeffrey Toobin.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, sir.

LEMON: Do you think -- do you think that there is a cover up here. This is just beyond the realm for you.

TOOBIN: Well, you know, I don't know whether there's been a cover up. What there has been is a travesty. You know, I can't speak to the ultimate motivations of the president and why he did this. But the fact that he did this will disgrace his memory for as long as his presidency is remembered.

You know, there is only, you know, one date that will be remembered after January 20th so far in the Trump presidency and it's the day of the Tuesday night massacre. This is the day that Donald Trump fired the head of the FBI. The only other time the head of the FBI has ever been fired was William Sessions by Bill Clinton and that was politically uncontroversial.

So never in history have we had an FBI director fired by a president who was under investigation by the FBI. And it's just wrong and it's obviously.

LEMON: Alan, some were saying this is a constitutional crisis, too for the president to fire the man investigating him. Do you agree with that?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, look, I think there are four separate questions that you have to ask. Should Director Comey be the Director of the FBI? The answer to that is no. He shouldn't be the director. He should have resigned on this show I call for him to resign.

He lost his credibility. Second question is should it be the President of the United States who makes the decision to fire him? Not while he's under an investigation. Third where I disagree with my friend and former student Jeffrey, is who he appoints next.

If he appoints a man or a woman of great integrity this date will not go down and remember in history, because we will have been prove wrong that it was some kind of a cover up if he pick somebody who can pursue the investigation.

Fourth, how about an independent commission, not a special prosecutor. There isn't probable cause, but to have an independent investigation not done by Congress but done by people appointed by Congress. They can then decide whether to appoint a special prosecutor or recommend a special prosecutor. So I think we have to separate out those four separate questions.

LEMON: What do you think is hypothetical if he appoints someone you say.

TOOBIN: Who's to say he wouldn't fire this person too? Look at his record so far. Sally Yates, gone. Pete Bharara told that he was going to stay. Gone. James Comey, gone. All three of whom had the potential to investigate or end trouble the Trump presidency.

DERSHOWITZ: All three appointed by democrats. All three appropriately replaced by a republican. But what we think is the...

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Wait, it was appropriate that James Comey -- why do they have 10-year terms?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, I think it's appropriate that he not be the director of the FBI. I think a lot of this is his fault. I think he should have resigned. He said have looked in the mirror and said to himself I am not trusted by democrats, I am not trusted by republicans, I am not trusted by the American public and he should have resigned.

LEMON: Yes.

DERSHOWITZ: Now he didn't and that puts the president...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let's put that picture back up. Laura, don't -- I haven't forgotten about you. Let's put the picture back up. The three people who are investigating this president or the administration fired. DERSHOWITZ: Yates was a hold over. She was going to go, it was only a

question of which day. She was going to go and be replaced. Generally the U.S. attorney is replaced and Comey is a unique situation. He really messed up.

LEMON: Yes.

DERSHOWITZ: He may have changed the results of an election. He could not be --he could not be the head of the FBI with credibility.

LEMON: Yates wasn't investigating but she was the acting attorney general.

DERSHOWITZ: That's right.

LEMON: Do you find that -- do you find this fishy at all, Laura?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely I do. I mean, this is obviously a fig leaf and the president was looking for a reason to fire James Comey but you know what. James Comey gave him a reason.

[22:25:01] Everyone is focusing on the fact that he had a testimony back last summer as one of the reasons why he should have been fired perhaps by then Attorney General Lynch. But last week's testimony gave additional reasoning.

Remember, he had the opportunity to say whether or not he was wrong for having done what he did and whether or not his motivation was in furtherance of the credibility of the department and of the FBI or whether it was some type of gratuitous task or journey for him personally.

And the letter that I saw today from the deputy attorney general -- I have suddenly a different (Inaudible) when we talked about that before and my take on it is that they were focusing on this particular point in time and Comey's refusal to accept responsibility that he was in fact wrong.

Now don't get me wrong. This is still a pre-textural reason, but he walked right into the actual trap and gave him the reason that they needed.

DERSHOWITZ: I agree.

COATES: And remember also he said my only choices were either to speak or conceal and it showed a complete lapse of judgment. To recognize there was a very third obvious opportunity for him which was to follow the protocol of the department.

And I have to say as a former prosecutor with the Department of Justice he was wrong to usurp the role of the attorney general. And what he said was, and he's a democrat, he said I actually had the nerve to call the attorney general, then attorney -- then-Lynch and say I'm going to have a press conference but I'm not going to tell you what it is about. That was insubordination and he renewed and provided a different and a

more comprehensive reason for that last week. So he walked into it. I think it was a bit of bravado and a bit of his lack of foresight to recognize that he had walked into a trap.

DERSHOWITZ: I agree with everything you just said. That read so rare but I agree with every single word you just said.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: I think...

LEMON: Jeffrey Toobin, go ahead.

TOOBIN: No, I mean, look, I think Comey made some mistakes in the Hillary Clinton investigation. I agree on that point. But these were not, it had nothing to do with his firing today. If he was going to be fired for his behavior with the Hillary Clinton investigation, he should have been fired on January 20th.

Plus, there is currently an inspector general's investigation of Comey going on. Why they didn't wait for that? The only reason he's being fired is because he's investigating the president. This whole Hillary Clinton thing is just preposterously irrelevant. Do you really...

(CROSSTALK)

COATES: I agree.

TOOBIN: Does anyone really believe that Donald Trump fired James Comey because he was too mean to Hillary Clinton?

COATES: Absolutely not.

TOOBIN: I mean.

COATES: I don't think that -- and I think the question itself assumes the hyperbole that I have not given. I don't believe that the reason that James Comey was actually fired was because of simply that fact that he was abusing his power last year.

I think the curious dates here are when did Rosenstein take office, about 14 days ago. When did Comey testify before Congress again and really have the audacity to talk about what he thought he was still justified it had to come forth.

TOOBIN: It's all irrelevant.

DERSHOWITZ: But I do, no.

COATES: You know, six days ago. You know, I'm not saying, it is relevant in terms of what I think they will come out as giving the comprehensive basis for why he was fired. That's what they're going to say.

(CROSSTALK) DERSHOWITZ: I think...

COATES: Now what I think actually happen was they were looking for a reason and he gave them one because he was ignorant to the fact that he had not honored his initial role as no longer being a prosecutor and the final arbiter but as somebody who wanted to in his, you know, I'm paraphrasing here, to put on the cape.

And when he was kept off by his furious and frustration with Loretta Lynch on the tarmac he said that's what capped it off for me. Well, what capped it off for him at that moment in time was he still believes that he had the right and the authority to act the way he did not.

DERSHOWITZ: Here's the question we don't really answer too.

LEMON: Go ahead.

DERSHOWITZ: Here's the question we don't know the answer too. Rosenstein's letter on its own is absolutely correct. Rosenstein absolutely believes that he should be fired because of the way he handled the Clinton thing.

Remember, Rosenstein in non-partisan. The question is did President Trump ask Rosenstein to come up with that letter? Or did Rosenstein come up with a letter on his own and then President Trump say, I have an independent man of great integrity saying I should fire him. I want to fire him, and now I have the reason. So I think that's the real question. What came first the chicken or the egg?

LEMON: Jeff, go ahead.

COATES: And you know what, his track record -- sorry, his track record here, Alan, you make a good point. His track record here is somebody who has said when you talk about the travel ban and Giuliani. I want to do something that's wrong. Figure out a way to make it the right thing to do and the right and justifiable thing.

Now we have an opportunity again. I want to get rid of James Comey. Give me a reason. Did he gave you a reason? That's the one we're going to go with. His track record makes this suspicious and justifiably so suspicious.

[22:29:59] DERSHOWITZ: And he can eliminate the suspicion by appointing a terrific woman or man to be headed the FBI and agreeing to have an independent investigation. Then what Jeffrey is speculating about although it may be true will be proved to be untrue by his later actions.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: That's all after the fact, though, Jeff. Go ahead. The timing is suspicious.

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, I just think my learned colleagues here, my betters are over thinking this whole thing.

LEMON: I agree with you.

TOOBIN: Is that, you know, they wanted to get rid of this guy and they got rid of him. And Hillary...

(CROSSTALK)

DERSHOWITZ: Who is they?

TOOBIN: ... it's Sessions and -- well, I mean, I don't know. I am baffled by Rosenstein's involvement in this whole matter.

DERSHOWITZ: And you know him.

TOOBIN: I know. You know, I don't know him well but I interviewed him and I heard nothing but good things about him.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So, to Alan's point, do you think that Rosenstein at this point just came over and said, you know what, I think this key should be fired, especially considering his testimony yesterday.

TOOBIN: I don't know.

DERSHOWITZ: We can point that out.

TOOBIN: I don't know what Rosenstein's role in all of this is. But there has to be some person in the United States government who could just open their eyes and say you know, you don't fire the FBI director when he is investigating you.

DERSHOWITZ: I agree with you.

TOOBIN: You don't do this because the only other time there's been a comparable event in all American history is October 20th, 1973, the Saturday night massacre when President Nixon fired Archibald Cox. That's the only comparable event and somebody in that administration has to have said, you know, this is not going to look good.

LEMON: I think that one of the most important thing you said tonight, Jeffrey, was sometimes the answer is right in front of you. That the most obvious answer is the answer instead of looking around corners for other areas.

DERSHOWITZ: But sometimes it's more complex.

LEMON: Yes, yes, sometimes. All right. I want to -- thank you all. President Trump offering no further comment tonight after firing FBI Director James Comey but sending out presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway who said to Anderson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, DONALD TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: The president himself -- excuse me -- is not the substance of an investigation. And most importantly, are you talking about the folks who were involved in the campaign?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes.

CONWAY: OK. Well, you said the people around the president. Are you talking about people who were on the list of advisers?

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Well, some of them were may -- some of them may still be around the president. Some of them, I don't know exactly who is being investigated. There was an ongoing investigation by the FBI.

CONWAY: Exactly. But we know who is not the subject of the investigation, Donald Trump. But again, you want this to be about Russia when this is about quote, "restoring confidence and integrity at the FBI." Morale is low.

COOPER: You want this to allegedly be about restoring confidence in the FBI but I'm not sure anyone...

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: No, I'm just tweeting the deputy attorney general...

COOPER: ... as many people believe this doesn't restore confidence in the FBI. In fact, a lot of people are raising questions about saying it destroys people's confidence in the FBI about whoever the president may appoint is now going to be in charge of an investigation into people who have been close to the president during the campaign any potential collusion with Russia.

CONWAY: And today's actions had zero to do with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I want to bring in a close confidant of President Trump, and that Christopher Ruddy. He is a CEO of Newsmax and Newsmax TV. It's good to have you here especially on the site. Why do you think -- thank you for joining us. Why do you think the president fired James Comey?

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, NEWSMAX CEO: I think he made it pretty clear that he wanted to have someone that he got a recommendation from a former Clinton administration Justice Department official Rod Rosenstein saying that what he did as FBI director was not consistent with the neutrality of the bureau. So he decided to act and ask for his termination.

I think if the president did anything wrong here was waiting this long. I think when he was exonerated he should have ask for Comey's resignation. And the reason is he had lost the confidence of both democrats and republicans. Not only the Hillary Clinton e-mail press conference which is the basis of the Rosenstein letter but a lot of democrats. If you go back you look at the clips, Don, you'll see that they were calling for Comey to resign because of the investigation he launched into Hillary in the closing days.

LEMON: So you agree that the timing by him waiting, as you say, he should have done it on day one, right? Is that what you're saying he should have done it?

RUDDY: I think he should have done it earlier.

LEMON: Earlier.

RUDDY: But I don't think he wrong. I think he used, it would have been better served, let's put it that way.

LEMON: Don't you think the timing makes it looks suspicious now?

RUDDY: Well, I don't think and you keep making comparisons in other guest have on the show about Watergate. That was the middle of a major investigation.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I have made Watergate, but go on.

RUDDY: OK. But it's been going on throughout the night and the truth is three times the director of the FBI told the president you're not -- there's no evidence. We know that Director Clapper has said there's no evidence. Other officials have testified...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: There's no evidence of?

RUDDY: Of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. There's no evidence of any wrongdoings.

LEMON: That's the whole point the investigation is not finished. And also since you bring that up it was very strange that he would, the president would just sort of mention that in a letter that he sent to the media and to the FBI, and actually to the FBI director notifying him of his firing.

[22:35:14] RUDDY: So everything we say is really have to be cleverly and carefully looked at. One of the things you said earlier was that this was stopping the investigation. The president has not stopped any FBI investigation.

LEMON: I never said any investigation.

RUDDY: Well, by firing, you mentioned earlier that...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I said where does this lead the investigation not that it sounds the investigation. RUDDY: There's no investigation that's being stopped. So he's not

acting to thwart anything so why is there anything suspicious? If he was saying to the FBI close down your Russia investigation, I think that would raise serious concerns, but he's not saying that.

And I think the proof of the pudding here is going to be who he picks as the successor. And I think he will pick someone who's very bipartisan and respected. And when they do that I think any questions. But look, the House and Senate committees are investigating this, there's an independent investigation going on out of the Justice Department on this. So I don't think we really have anything to worry about.

LEMON: So who might that person be that he is going to appoint do you think?

RUDDY: My God, I don't know. I'm not in that legal law enforcement world, but I'm sure there's a number of highly qualified people. And I'm sure with the scrutiny that's going to come with that he's -- the president is going to -- if you look at all his choices for the cabinet that he's picked largely for the government. These are not 'a' people, they're 'a-plus' people.

So, and he has people, he has a number of people in that cabinet very independent of him have great experience. So I think people are not, we don't have anything to worry here. And I think that people are making a lot more out of this than they should be.

LEMON: Can I ask you some, because there's also some concern. Because we've been talking about this investigation where you say there is no evidence. You said there's no evidence thus far.

RUDDY: Correct.

LEMON: The investigation is still going on. Not that there is definitively no evidence until the investigation comes to conclusion. There's also reporting tonight from CNN and from the Washington Post.

It says that "the White House and the attorney general have pushed the FBI to pursue leaks. The FBI did not want to pursue leaks they thought the most important part of the story was the probe into Russian collusion, possible collusion with the Trump campaign."

Do you know anything about that? Why would the president and the administration...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: We know that...

LEMON: ... be pushing the FBI or any agency to turn their investigation one way or the other?

RUDDY: Sure. Well, the president I think is frustrated when he's talked to be about this in the past and he said it very publicly that they want to investigate everything relating to his administration or to Mike Flynn.

But when there's clear evidence of classified conversations he had with four leaders, clear evidence of other classified discussions that Yates had with counsel's office, all of that stuff is leaked and no one in the press -- and it's illegal and no one in the press is saying hey, let's investigate that.

LEMON: Is that not a separate...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: So don't you feel...

LEMON: ... is there not a separate investigation from this investigation?

RUDDY: Sure, it may be. But why is the FBI and others not interested in pursuing those investigations.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But they are really held with every reason that they because I would not know. I'm not with the FBI. The media is not with the FBI. But wouldn't the FBI have a legitimate...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: You look like an FBI agent.

LEMON: Well, I've been told that before. I mean, I look very official. But wouldn't the FBI have a legitimate reason not to pursue leaks. Maybe they know something that we don't or they don't think it's a viable investigation because leaks should not be investigated without the leaks, Flynn would still be there. Without the leaks, Richard Nixon may not have had...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: I think there's been a selective decision to only go after to look the other way at any leaks that are harmful to the Trump administration and they're very focused on anything that a Trump official may have done or somebody associated with the campaign.

There seems to be a lack of fairness. And I think there's a lot of frustration by the whole White House about how they're being treated here. I think the president made a good decision because there's been a cloud under Comey, you know if you go through all the CNN clips. A lot of CNN people, a lot of democrats were calling for his head.

And I actually thought that it was inappropriate for him to come out a few days before that election and make a comment about an ongoing investigation into Hillary's e-mails.

LEMON: So having said that, that was part of the rational that we were told, CNN is told that they didn't believe that the White House that it would be this fallout because they thought democrats would be on board. Did they really not think that there would be this much fallout? Do you believe that?

RUDDY: I'm not -- I can't really go into the mind of what the White House thought would happen or not happened. But it was pretty clear to me there was a lot of criticism with Comey, there's been a lot of media criticism of his recent testimony.

A lot of people though that he wasn't really acting in a neutral way like Director Muller had or even Director Sessions or Director Freeh. Nobody accused them of the same degree of partisanship that we were seeing here where he would clearly like to talk about open investigation the way he did about Hillary's e-mails just seem inappropriate.

[22:40:04] And Rosenstein laid that out in his memo.

LEMON: Have you spoken to the president since he made this decision?

RUDDY: I have not.

LEMON: You have not spoken to him. Do you think that this administration feel, feels that they are above the law?

RUDDY: Absolutely not.

LEMON: Thank you. You can go on.

RUDDY: Well, I don't think there's anything they have done. They willing to - what they do feel is that the enforcement of the law should be done on a communicable basis. So if there's classified data being leaked at various government agencies to undermine the president including his classified conversations with heads of state, you and I have talked about this in the past, why isn't that being investigated by the bureau.

But something Mike Flynn said which I don't really think was illegal that he talked about the trade sanctions with the Russians. I don't believe it was a violation of federal law to begin with.

LEMON: I love having you here but I have to go. Those are good questions for the bureau that I cannot answer because I'm not in the bureau. And please convey...

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: Can I nominate you that you would be interested...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Yes. Please to the president he's welcome to come on anytime. And I'll sit down with him anytime. Thank you.

RUDDY: I will. I will definitely do that.

LEMON: Always a pleasure. Thank you very much.

I want to bring in now Karen Finney. Karen is a former senior and senior spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's campaign. Karen, good evening to you. What did you make of Chris Ruddy have to say.

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Great spin. I think the thing we need to keep in mind, I mean, let's think about how incompetent this has been and how erratic this now seems.

You know, if you, I mean, the FBI director is involved in a lot more than just this investigation, you know, Hillary Clinton's e-mails and the investigation into Russia. Think about counterterrorism. Think about, you know, any number of things and the fact that the White House didn't -- did this without seeming to have someone or some candidates ready to go to replace him seems odd.

It also seems odd that, you know, given the fact that we know that there is already an internal investigation by the inspector general at the FBI looking into this matter with Comey, why not wait to the end of that investigation?

So the timing I was, you know, sort of joking with some of my colleagues in the green room that, you know, given how well Sally Yates did yesterday, we should have expected this to something like this to come today. Because I think it shows how far this president is willing to go to change the headlines.

LEMON: This is...

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: And it's very disturbing.

LEMON: This is Rod Rosenstein, he sent this letter, this memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, right, who, by the way, have now said he was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

FINNEY: Right.

LEMON: Or anything that had to do with Hillary Clinton as well. So, as you and I have discussed, this is from the letter.

FINNEY: Right.

LEMON: It says, "I cannot defend the director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton's e-mails. The director was wrong to usurp the attorney general's authority on July 5th, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution." What do you say to that, Karen?

FINNEY: Well, what I say to that is that certainly was not the position of Donald J. Trump during the campaign and when this initially happened. I mean, he was praising Comey. So if he had any real concerns about his behavior I guess the question I would ask the president so therefore do you agree that it was inappropriate for Director Comey to send that letter to Congress 11 days before the election.

I mean, he certainly had no problem with that. Let me point out one other thing, Don. LEMON: Yes.

FINNEY: I love the fact that within this document that Rosenstein did he actually quotes and references a document we put out from the campaign and he cites a former attorney general under the Bush administration and the fact that there were almost a hundred other former officials.

Well, that's the document that we actually put out from our campaign. So he's citing our campaign materials to make this argument. And again, I think what we can escape is that the timing of this we just can't, you know, underestimate what that means in terms of what was happening in the investigation and the concerns that the White House may have had about, you know, who controls that investigation.

And I think, you know, think about just the chain of events here. So, you know, the assistant attorney general who sends this letter is the person who is in charge of the Russia investigation. So he then sends a letter citing, you know, even campaign documents from the Hillary Clinton campaign to Jeff Sessions who you know, is apparently misled Congress to then send that to Donald Trump.

I mean, there's so much in here that is so suspicious and so suspect. I think what the Trump administration does not yet realize is that what they have bought themselves is an independent counsel. And having been part of an administration where that happen I can't imagine that any credible republican would deny that the only way to restore any kind of integrity here would be to have an independent investigation.

[22:44:59] LEMON: All right, Karen, we're out of time. Thank you. I appreciate you coming on, Karen Finney.

FINNEY: You bet.

LEMON: We have more on the breaking news tonight. The White House confirming President Trump will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrow tomorrow.

Now I want to bring in CNN global affairs analyst David Rohde, historian Jon Meacham, and CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem, and CNN political commentator Jason Miller and Kevin Madden.

You said something that was I think, David, very important to me about this decision tonight by the president. What did you say about that?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I don't understand the timing. I mean, you just mentioned this meeting with Lavrov tomorrow. It's sort of at least a political error. If he's completely understood that there was no collusion...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Did you say he will come to regret this, do you believe he will come to regret this?

ROHDE: I think politically yes, because he has relit the Russia fire. Again, you know, if he's completely innocent he's just, you know, got all the suspicion going, he's energized the democrats and it's just an unforced political error.

LEMON: yes. All right. So, listen, the new thing that we just got now that he's going to meet with Lavrov. What do you think tomorrow performance.

ROHDE: Again, they could wait, they could roll this out, they could have given Comey notice. You know, his meeting tomorrow with the Russian foreign minister. You know, democrats don't trust Donald Trump. Maybe that's not fair to Donald Trump. But again, this is just going to energize democrats, raise new suspicions. And you know, this is a huge issue.

There was a comment earlier about the leaks. There was story at Reuters wrote that I wrote which was, you know, about information about a phone call between Putin and Trump. There was some details about nuclear accords that Trump didn't know. That's embarrassing information.

You know this is an investigation into colluding with a foreign country to change the outcome of a presidential election that is so much more grave and embarrassing details about the president's phone call.

LEMON: Jon, I want to bring you in now. The president firing the FBI director who was leading the federal investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia. I mean, how does this look.

JON MEACHAM, HISTORIAN & AUTHOR: I don't think it looks particularly good and I want to win the understatement cookie for the week. Look, no presidents ever done this in exactly this way. President Clinton let Jeff Sessions go 24 years ago or so whenever that was on an ethics question.

You know, this is the one analogy that has already been well chewed over but it was the virtue of being true is that of President Nixon. President Nixon fired Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor in October of 1973, and it was one of the most significant presidential assaults on the rule of law in our history.

And I think we're witnessing something akin to that. Donald Trump doesn't like, I mean, it's a dorky phrase here but it's important, divided sovereignty. It's something that goes back to the Greek city states. The idea that you have a rule of law and power is divided among different bodies so that you have a balance. Balance is not what he wants. He wants control and I think that's what we're seeing tonight.

LEMON: I want to read something. This was just tweeted by the president saying, "Crying Chuck Schumer stated recently I do not have confidence in him, James Comey, any longer. Then acts so indignant."

MEACHAM: Well.

LEMON: Kevin Madden, I want to bring in Kevin Madden. Kevin is with us. Kevin, what do you think of that?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that argument holds up for only a short period of time. I mean, it is true that democrats up on Capitol Hill have expressed that they have lost confidence in James Comey. But that only answers one question, which is why didn't the president then do it when he first came into office?

And I think there will be continued to be questions about why the president took this action now. Now, Rod Rosenstein did lay out a rather cogent argument in his -- in his letter today. But there are still remaining questions.

And to go back to what Jon said whether you're a republican or democrat, if you are firing the FBI director who is leading an investigation into your campaign, that is not good look. And against the backdrop of that investigation they're going to continue to be more and more questions, there will be more and more calls.

I think as chaotic as tonight feels, we are only at the very genesis of the chaos of this decision. You're going to see congressional hearings being called, you're going to see congressional calls for a special prosecutor. There will have going to have hearings for whoever the new FBI director will be. This is going to be a -- this is just the beginning.

LEMON: Jason, how could the White House know, how could they not know that this would be a big story that the fall out would be what it is now.

JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm not sure if that report was entirely accurate. For sure the White House would have known that there would have been significant amount of blowback from democrats.

But again let's talk about the democrats where we're seeing all this blowback from. They are the same folks who are calling for the president -- or for President Obama to fire Comey last year.

[22:50:00] And so I think President Trump is right when he's calling Senator Schumer. I mean, the only thing I would say to the president...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: The president he didn't call out Flake. He didn't call out the other senator who had issue with it.

MILLER: Look, Nancy Pelosi had lost confidence in him. We saw Congressman Jerrold Nadler wanted him fired. You had liberal columnists wanting him fired. Valerie Jarrett wanted Comey fired. I mean, this is -- I mean, look, Don...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You can want him to go and also think that it was...

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: I have been watching TV -- Don, I have been watching TV all night tonight and nobody is standing up and saying James Comey should still be in his job. People might have an issue with the timing possibly. And I think that's a debate. I agree with what Kevin said I would have done it on day one. So it would have been slightly different.

I think President Obama should have fired Comey last year. So there can be an argument about the timing but there's nobody standing up and saying that Director Comey should still be in that position. He lost the confidence of his people.

LEMON: Jason, what do you -- if President Obama had fired James Comey.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I do

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: He absolutely should have.

LEMON: What do you think would have happened -- you would have been on CNN screaming to high heaven that this was some sort of political stunt by the Obama administration.

MILLER: No, but look, the indecisive back and forth trying to, Director Comey trying to rationalize what the heck he was doing with the Clinton investigation last year. I mean, it shows that he just completely lost control of what he was doing.

And I think we need to get someone in there who's going to follow the rule of law, who's going to actually take the FBI and do what they need to be doing. And I think for all the people freaking out tonight, talking about investigations, look...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Jason, did you praise -- did you praise Comey when he made his decision about Hillary Clinton when he came out and said we have some information about Hillary Clinton and our investigation is back open? Did you praise him?

MILLER: Well, the thing about Director Comey is if you stay around long enough he's going to find a way to make everyone in town mad. So I'm sure at some various point last year I was frustrated, I'm sure at certain point I probably like some of the moves he was making but at certain point this all adds up.

That he's out there in decisive nature he's trying to rationalize what he is doing. We need an FBI director who is going to enforce the rule of law in a rare -- in a rare...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But Jason, you didn't say that, nothing has changed since then. He made the decision. All he has done is come out to explain the decision that he's made so nothing has really changed with his decision making, right? He did it. You praised him and now you're saying that he should go.

MILLER: No. I mean, there were and there was also plenty of criticism as well. I think Senator Lindsey Graham hit the nail on the head tonight when he said that we need a fresh start at the FBI. Even see moderate senators like Susan Collins step forward saying the same thing.

But again, Don, the point that I made when he came on board nobody is standing up saying that Director Comey should still be the director of the FBI. Again, I mean, he should not be leading and I think that's ultimately why Trump removed him from this position.

LEMON: Juliette, go ahead.

KAYYEM: I will answer Jason's question or about who will stand up. There are a lot of people who may have criticisms about how Comey acted or behaved in the last couple of months both from the right and from the left.

But there are very few people who find any justification at this present moment to fire Director Comey in the middle of an investigation. And just getting to the timing issue to remind Jason in the last 48 hours between the Yates and of course Clapper investigation, some murmurings from the Senate that they wanted information about President Trump's financial dealings.

And of course, now CNN is reporting regarding the grand jury. That's a whole lot of reckoning for the Trump White House.

MILLER: But hold on, that has nothing to do with Director Comey.

(CROSSTALK)

KAYYEM: And so the idea that -- but Jason, do not -- do not interrupt me tonight please. Because you were talking for a while. Do not interrupt me tonight.

This is serious and it is nonpartisan. There's an investigation going on about whether the Russians, let's remember who the enemy is, actually had an -- were influencing our election. That investigation has now lead to specific investigations about people around Trump and we have reason to believe base on CNN's reporting that involves Flynn.

So that is what is going on here and the firing, the idea that this firing is somehow not only justified but that the timing is just identified discounts almost all of the activity in the last three weeks that is heading toward serious allegations not against Trump but against his associates regarding either republican influence in the campaign or financial dealings with the republicans.

So you cannot surround yourself now with some notion that because people from the right and left criticize Comey that the firing of the person in charge of the investigation is justified. It does not hold. LEMON: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: So Juliette, even you think -- even you think...

LEMON: I've got to go. I've got to go.

Thank you all, I appreciate it.

[22:55:00] Jon Meacham, I want you to stick around. I want to bring in now a man with the unique perspective on all of this. John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel, and also Jon Meacham is going to stay with us the historian as well. Welcome to the panel, John Dean. What's your reaction to the breaking news tonight?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, it's certainly not Saturday night massacre two. It doesn't quite rise to that level. It is clearly botched as well. The White House did not handle it well. They have acted in a way that raises the suspicions that you're hearing on your panel. They're widespread.

I'm hearing on the radio and some people are confused about history and think this was another Saturday night live. It was -- or Saturday night massacre. It was not. That was a unique situation where the prosecutor, the special prosecutor was doing exactly what the president had instructed him he did not want done. They reach testing the other. And the prosecutor lost and they shut down the special prosecution office. That was the massacre.

LEMON: Yes. Jon, since you mentioned that I want to put this. This is from the Nixon Library tonight. They tweeted, this is that "Fun fact, President Nixon never fired the director of the FBI but he did fire the special prosecutor and the attorney general and deputy attorney general re-signed." Will there be any further fall out from this as well as Kevin Madden says?

MEACHAM: That's a great question and I think that one of the things that we have to figure out is to what extent, what was the impetus for the events that lead to today? There is the memo from the deputy attorney general, there been questions raised about when did that start? Did someone in the White House ask for a pretext to get rid of Director Comey.

If they did that why did they do it in May and not in January or at any point going back and it's just a general point is there's going to be a lot of talk and there already is and the president has tweeted about this apparently about hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is interesting but it's not dispositive in this case. The rule of law is dispositive and there are very reasonable people asking very reasonable questions about whether the President of the United States has something to hide in terms of the campaign -- his campaign and potential collusion with Russia.

He has dismissed that. He has called it a ruse. He's called it fake news and what he's used to is when he makes a declaration like that we're all like 4th graders at a soccer game. We chase the ball to the other side of the field. I think we have to do everything we can at this point to stay in position.

LEMON: I asked, John, I asked Chris Ruddy who is a friend of the president if the president and this administration feel that they are above the law. He said no. What do you say?

DEAN: Well, you know, I don't think they are deliberately trying to flout the law here. There's always been question to me with this president of a lack of experience and not really understanding the job and not bringing in people who do understand how the White House works.

This could have all been avoided, Don. They certainly, all they have to do is look at history and see how easy it would be to replay what they're getting tonight so I think there's two things that might be going on.

One is a possible sinister motive but we don't know that. We don't have those facts. The other is incompetence which is if there is not a sinister motive, is the other alternative.

LEMON: Jon, are you troubled by this?

MEACHAM: Very much so.

DEAN: Am I...

MEACHAM: Sorry.

LEMON: Jon Meacham.

MEACHAM: Very much so. I think that it's a -- I think that they wanted a result and they found a pretext for it. And I think that we have a real question going forward about the separation of powers and the rule of law, and I haven't been someone who's, you know, thrown myself in with the authoritarian narratives about President Trump but this is not a step in the right direction.

LEMON: John Dean, I want to ask you because of a serious question that was -- quickly here, Evan Osnos a staff writer for the New Yorker said a serious question, "Where are Comey's files right now? Who controls them? After Nixon fires special prosecutor office was sealed. Important. That is important."

DEAN: It is indeed. What would happen in a circumstance like this is very much unlike what happened with the special prosecutor when he was shutting that office down but they literally sent the FBI over to do it. So my phone was unfortunately was ringing there. I didn't...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: That's OK. Go on.

DEAN: Anyway, the files I'm sure are secure. They're in his office. I don't know of any reason why he wouldn't be given access back to his office, to go in and get his personal papers and personal belongings. This was somewhat hand-fisted the way it was handled. It's unfortunate that he was out here in Los Angeles to give a speech, a recruiting speech.

LEMON: Yes.

[22:59:58] DEAN: And was not given any foreign warning as to what was going to happen and that's why it's kind of mysterious why they did it this way when it was found to create a reaction that is happening.

LEMON: John Dean, Jon Meacham, thank you so much.

DEAN: Thank you.