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Tension Growing in the White House; High-Profile Lawyer Defending Trump; Unexplained Collision. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired June 16, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, tension rising inside the Justice department.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
The source of that tension, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for his handling of the Russia investigation and his surprise move to appoint Robert Mueller, a special counsel, to oversee that probe.
President Trump taking aim at Rosenstein in a stunning tweet. The president acknowledging that he is being investigated for firing former FBI Director James Comey and blaming Rosenstein for what he calls a witch-hunt.
Will President Trump fire Rosenstein? Speculation is growing in Washington that he might unleashing a potential political firestorm. A lot to get to tonight.
I want to get right to the breaking news and CNN's Justice Department correspondent Evan Perez. So Evan, let's talk about what you're learning, The new reporting I understand that you have on some of the growing tension going on over at the Justice Department, over at the Justice Department over this Russia probe, what do you know?
EVAN PEREZ, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, that's right, Don. Everything goes back to Rod Rosenstein's decision to bring in Robert Mueller as a special counsel. Look, that has unleashed the anger of the president, as you saw from that tweet that he sent out earlier today.
And it also applies to his fellow colleagues at the Justice Department where the attorney general sits a floor above him on the fifth floor of the Justice Department. A lot of consternation and, frankly, anger at the way that Rosenstein has handled this.
The attorney general was surprised, to say the least, that they were going to bring in Mueller. At that point, it looked like Mueller was going to be interim FBI director. So he was surprised by this announcement by Rosenstein and now we know that Rosenstein himself may end up having to be a witness in this investigation, Don.
LEMON: So listen, is there a good chance that we could see the Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein recuse himself in what do you think?
PEREZ: Look, I think we're walking very quickly towards that point. As I mentioned, you know, he very may -- very well may become a witness in this investigation simply because he wrote the memo that President Trump used to fire James Comey, the FBI Director.
And it's widely believed that the firing of Comey is going to be a part of Mueller's investigation into whether or not the president was trying to interfere with or obstruct the Justice Department's investigation.
So all of this is going to come to a head pretty quickly, pretty soon because we believe that Mueller, once he's done staffing and looks at all of the evidence, will make a decision of whether or not this becomes a full-blown investigation of the president, Don.
LEMON: All right. Evan, I want you to -- thank you for that. But I want you to stay with me. I also want to bring in CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein, senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny, legal analyst Laura Coates, the former federal prosecutor and political analyst Tara Palmeri, White House correspondent for Politico.
So here we go, guys. Jeff, you first. We're seeing a frustrated president today, at least on Twitter. You could see that he's frustrated. Writing this, "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt." What do folks around the president saying about his complaint?
JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Don, there's no sort of guessing what his mindset is. We all know what his mindset is. We can see it here in real-time.
But I am told that these tweets that we've been watching for the last several days and indeed the last several months, but particularly on this matter are less spontaneous than you might think.
The fact of the matter is, he's basically trying to take the reins of the communication strategy here at the White House, the talking points, if you will, and send the message out early in the morning about this and that witch hunt message, he wants his core supporters to believe and in many respects they do.
But the challenge here is this. I mean, this is a different type of fight that he's ever been in. He --according to one person he spoke to in the last 24 hours who I talked to today said that he's doing this as a political fight and he wants to win this political fight and take the matter into his own hands.
But the challenges with that is like, yes, it's a political fight in one level but the more serious matter in this is not political at all. It's legal. So that is the challenge here. All of his lawyers have advised him to stop talking, you know, to stop commenting on this sort of blow by blow.
But clearly he was sending a message or talking about his displeasure for Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general here. So, we'll see where this goes as Evan is just saying. I mean, this is definitely -- and perhaps the president is trying to urge this towards a recusal. He's certainly is weighing in on this here. So we'll see how he tweets
over the weekend here. But the president is basically now a one-man communications shop leading the strategy on his own and be damn the consequences.
LEMON: Carl, I want to hear what you have to say about this. Because democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is concerned that President Trump might try to fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller and deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
She said put out a warning. Here's what she said. She said, "The message that the president is sending through his tweets is that he believes the rule of law doesn't apply to him and that anyone who thinks otherwise will be fired."
[22:05:06] So what happens, Carl, if the president fires the special counsel or if he fires the deputy attorney general?
CARL BERNSTEIN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: First of all, he has the authority to do so. And we seem to be heading towards a constitutional crisis approaching one, if we're not already there yet, because we have an authoritarian-inclined president who is taking the reins, as Jeff just told us, and his political strategy is to act in an authoritarian way rather than see the legal lawful procedures proceed.
And there has been what certainly what FBI believes and reporters covering the White House believes a cover-up in the White House because this president has not told his people, OK, there's this investigation going on. Let's see the facts.
So we're heading toward a real collision here and at the same time, he has the authority to do this. I don't think there's any question that Rosenstein is going to have to recuse himself and the president, I think, would like to see him recuse himself, in which case another deputy general made Rachel Brand would become the acting deputy attorney general. But the real question is...
LEMON: What a mess this is.
BERNSTEIN: Well, it's a little more than a mess because the real question is -- and I believe and said last night on the air, that Trump's strategy that Jeff just outlined playing to his base is probably a smart one from his point of view if he doesn't give a damn about the country and trying to unite the country in some way, but playing to his base and we're going to play into a constitutional crisis if this keeps going.
Because the only thing that will stop the collision is the Congress of the United States looking into impeachment in some way and republicans are very reluctant to do that and especially reluctant as long as he, the president can keep this base aroused. And so far, he's kept them aroused.
LEMON: Hey, Evan, I have to ask you, what do we know about Rachel Brand?
PEREZ: Well, she's actually a long-time republican official, obviously. She's not known, however, as any kind of ideologue. She worked in the Bush administration. And look, President Trump picked her.
She, in the last few years, served on a privacy and civil liberties board that will look that -- overlooked the surveillance and intelligence agency. So she's an expert in national security, Don. She's not an expert in prosecutions and in doing these types of cases.
So it's going to be interesting to see whether or not she has to assume the role of overseeing this investigation. Certainly, Don, not what she was expecting when she decided to take the number three job at the Justice Department.
LEMON: Laura, let's talk about the House Speaker Newt Gingrich weighing in. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Technically, the President of the United States cannot obstruct justice. The President of the United States is the chief executive officer of the United States. If he wants to fire the FBI director, all he has to do is fire him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I mean, Laura, this is coming from the man who voted to impeach President Bill Clinton for obstruction of justice. So what gives here?
LAURA COATES, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Perhaps the word he meant instead of can't is shouldn't try to obstruct justice. To suggest that the President of the United States is somehow immunized from all criminal conduct or allegations against him would be entirely false.
Yes, he has the absolute prerogative to fire an at-will employee who serves at his pleasure and that was in fact the FBI Director James Comey. However, he does not have the bandwidth in order to be able to fire for an unlawful purpose or certainly one with a criminal intention and wrongdoing.
And we don't yet know whether or not he in fact had that criminal intention but we do know that he suggested to not only the Russian ambassadors but also to Lester Holt that he in fact did it because of the handling of the Russia investigation and it alleviated a great deal of pressure on himself.
The hypocrisy is drifting from the words of Newt Gingrich and also really just seems to be tone deaf to a very key issue. The idea that the President of the United States can do no wrong is a fallacy that democracy does not allow.
LEMON: Yes. And here he is, this is him on NBC News talking about what Laura said. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was going to fire Comey. My decision. It was not...
LESTER HOLT, HOST, NBC NEWS: You had made the decision before they came into room.
TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. There's no good time to do it, by the way. They -- they would...
HOLT: Because in your letter you said I accepted -- I accepted their recommendations.
TRUMP: Yes. Well, they already...
HOLT: So you had already made the decision.
TRUMP: I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.
HOLT: So they....
TRUMP: He made a recommendation. He's highly respected. Very good guy, very smart guy. The democrats like him. The republicans like him. He made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:09:56] LEMON: OK. So if you listen to that and you look at today's tweet, he's contradicting himself, because originally it was said, well, he fired him in his letter because Rod Rosenstein.
TARA PALMERI, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Right.
LEMON: And then he says, no, I was going to fire him anyway. It didn't matter. And then now...
PALMERI: I know. Well, President Donald Trump is obviously punching into the air. He's punching at whatever is around. This is a typical crouch for him. He's always on the defensive and he knows what it's like to be on legal battles.
Let's not forget when he was in the private sector as a real estate tycoon. He was often the subject of legal inquiries. The New York State Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman investigating him for Trump University, for allegations of sham and fraud. And what he did ws he (AUDIO GAP) discredit (AUDIO GAP) Schneiderman on Twitter.
He would often tweet things about him before he had events so that reporters would have to ask Mr. Schneiderman about them at the event. He also, there was a large profile in the New York Observer which was owned by his son-in-law Kushner at the time that actually alleged a lot of things about Schneiderman but basically said that he was not, you know, a scrupulous person and said to the point of saying that he was wearing eyeliner.
Like, they were trying to assassinate his character. So this is actually part of the Trump playbook.
PALMERI: And according to my source in the White House, they say that this is very typical of Trump. You know, he feels like there's no one out there defending him and the words that he wants. He's unhappy with the way that his communications department is dealing with this, and in fact, they really can't deal with this because they've been instructed by lawyers not to comment.
Because if they start commenting, they will get, like they will get thrown into this whole legal disaster and they are certainly not making enough money to afford lawyers at the, you know, the hourly rate that they cost so they are keeping an arm ting. But Trump feels that he's out there on his own fighting his fight on his own and he's punching into the air and not sure who the enemy is.
LEMON: At a certain point, I mean, it's always good to listen to your attorneys because that's why you hire them.
PEREZ: Hey, Don, I mean, today his lawyers were actually surprised when they saw the tweets. They didn't know what was going to come. And so, look, I mean, there's some consequences to this, potentially, for the president.
LEMON: Yes. Jeff, President Trump is adding another high-profile attorney to his Russia legal team, speaking of, you know, what are you learning?
ZELENY: Well, we're learning tonight that he's adding more fire power to his own legal team. John Dowd is the lawyer who he's hired. And this is a long-time prosecutor in one life but he was hired by most famously by Major League Baseball to investigate Pete Rose, the betting scandal. And it went on from there.
But he also on the defense side, defended Senator John McCain in the Keating 5 scandal. You know, some more than three decades or so here. So he is someone who has a deep experience in prosecutions and defense. So he will be joining the president's growing legal team here.
But the question is, no matter who the president brings on, can anyone sort of persuade him or dissuade him from weighing and engaging in this respect. And the reality is, probably not.
Politically speaking, him doing this probably is, you know, keeping his support high among his base and his core supporters. Many of whom believe, you know, there is a witch hunt going on, but he's sending out those talking points.
But the president talking to Roger Stone and other friends of his who do believe this is a witch hunt, you know, he is hearing their advice.
LEMON: But surely, Jeff, he's not going to take the advice of Roger Stone.
ZELENY: Not necessarily answering this from his lawyers.
LEMON: is he?
ZELENY: Well, we'll, see. I mean, he, Roger Stone says that he should fire Bob Mueller and fire Rod Rosenstein. We'll see if he does that, but interestingly, Roger Stone was in New York today and talked to our colleagues at CNN Money. He used the same word witch hunt, the president has been using, Don.
LEMON: Yes. All right. Thank you, all. I appreciate it.
I have some breaking news to tell you about right now. It's off the Coast of Japan. The seven U.S. soldiers are missing after their navy destroyer collided with a merchant ship. At least four have suffered injuries, including the ship's commanding officer is hospitalized in stable condition.
Search is underway for the missing soldiers. Naval officials say that the USS Fitzgerald suffered damage to its starboard side above and below the water line.
We're looking at pictures right there resulting in some flooding. Again, I'm going to linger on these pictures a little bit. But there, the ship is there out in the ocean. The ship is operating, though, I should tell you, under its own power. U.S. naval vessels and aircraft on hand to assist.
We'll keep an eye on it for you and we'll continue to update you.
When we come right back, will the president fire special counsel Robert Mueller, the man investigating him, or the deputy attorney general. And what will the consequences be if he does? Expert legal advice, next.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump tweeting that he's being investigated as part of the Russia probe angrily blaming Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for what he calls a witch hunt.
I want to bring in now John Flannery, the former prosecutor for the southern district of New York, Matthew Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney, CNN legal analyst Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate special prosecutor.
We brought the heavy hitters here. We're not messing tonight seriously. So Richard, I want to start with you. Because tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of when five men were arrested after breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C.
There have been so many comparisons to Watergate over the past weeks. Do you think that we are on the verge of another Saturday night massacre?
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, 45 years since then and it sure looks like it. It looks like we've got a simmering tea kettle here and the president seems to be testing the waters about whether he ought to go ahead and fire Bob Mueller who has received bipartisan acclaim.
You look in the dictionary for public servant and you see Bob Mueller's picture. He was an outstanding choice and is doing his job. He's doing nothing other than doing his job.
The president just can't pick the opposing team, you know, if you're playing baseball, you don't pitch -- you don't pick the person who pitches for the other team.
[22:20:03] You don't say you can only have three infielders. You don't mess with the criminal justice system in this way. And the fact that he wishes to test the waters on firing Mueller has gotten a lot of attention in Congress and you saw Senator Feinstein today making the statement that there should be consequences in the Congress if the president goes ahead and does that.
And Watergate, Archibald Cox, the man who was investigating Nixon, was fired for no reason that passed muster and that cause the attorney general and the deputy to resign rather than do that deed.
BEN-VENISTE: The president is on very tenuous ground here, Don.
LEMON: Yes. I've got to ask you, John, because Roger Stone who is a political operative and the friend of the president and considers as you know, Richard Nixon a mentor is saying that he is hoping for a Saturday night massacre.
And we can put up this quote. This is a quote from CNN Money. He said, "I'd fire Mueller and Rosenstein for wasting the taxpayers' money." He said, "This is a witch hunt." Do you agree with Richard that the consequences of a Saturday night massacre would be so severe for this country and the president?
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER NEW YORK CITY FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: They would be severe. I think they'd be even more severe. Because we've had the kind of suspense leading up to this. We already have been fired Comey and then we find out that he had given advance notice to Rod Rosenstein that he was going to get rid of Comey anyhow and it turned out that Rosenstein wrote a memo that in fact didn't correspondent with the real motive of Mr. Trump, which was the investigation was pending, which has put him in kind of a trick board seat because if he were to fire Mueller who he appointed, he'd be firing the person who is in fact investigating him as well.
So it's a Chinese puzzle, it's multidimensional puzzle. And all the bad pieces point at Trump and his seven dwarfs who might turn against him in the investigation. And Rosenstein and Jeff sessions who I saw one thing -- one ad said that we have a man who has amnesia and can't remember anything and he still holds down a very demanding legal job every day.
LEMON: Do you have specific questions for the deputy attorney general?
FLANNERY: Yes, I do.
LEMON: What are they?
FLANNERY: Well, they would -- they'd be pretty simple. Exactly what were the conversations that you had with Mr. Trump and/or Jeff sessions before you wrote the memo? What was your direction on that? And when did you have information after you wrote the memo about what Trump was going to say?
Was it when you watched him talked to Holt on TS show in which he admitted -- this is a case in which you have Mr. Trump doing something that Nixon never did?
FLANNERY: Which is, instead of shooting himself in the foot, to borrow from the British analogy that we had recently, he shot himself in the head.
FLANNERY: And it's metaphorical but it's critical I think.
LEMON: Matthew, we have a couple of different questions for you. Do you -- first of all, do you think that Rosenstein should recuse himself?
MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: If there is any evidence that this investigation is about obstruction of justice in the firing of Jim Comey, then he has to. I mean, that is a direct conflict.
But I took his, you know, Rod's kind of strange tweet -- he didn't tweet actually. That was the president that strangely tweeted, but his statement from last night about not believing the leaks and the unsubstantiated sources and unknown sources that we shouldn't trust those, I took that to mean that maybe there isn't an obstruction of justice investigation going on.
LEMON: We have, President Trump added another lawyer to his team. I discussed, Matthew it in the last segment. Plus, we've seen a number of associates of the president lawyering up. And there they are. What does that tell you?
WHITAKER: Well, it tells me a couple of things. First of all, because of what Bob Mueller is doing by adding a dozen lawyers to his team, that this is an expanding investigation and the response to that is, as you would expect, those who think that they may be in the crosshairs of this investigation, getting lawyers, but also these are people who have real jobs, for example, the vice president, among others, who have hired lawyers and you know, they need to continue to do their jobs.
And so having a lawyer that can interact with the investigators, can represent you and take some of this pressure so you can do your real job I think is an important thing and but you know, it also, you know, lawyers made this world great, didn't they? So it's good to have a lawyer on your side court.
BEN-VENISTE: It's entirely -- it's entirely appropriate that they do so.
LEMON: Richard, why that John Dowd to this Russia investigation?
BEN-VENISTE: John Dowd is an experienced criminal lawyer. Mr. Kasowitz, while a good civil lawyer doesn't have the kind of experience that John has in the criminal cases, and so the president ought to get the best advice that he can.
[22:24:58] He can afford it and he needs it. And the real question is whether he will listen to advice because he continues to make statements that will not help him when the rubber meets the road.
LEMON: Yes. Go ahead. What did you want to say?
FLANNERY: I was going to say, John Dowd and I, when I was in the southern district and he was the main justice we prosecuted a congressman from Pennsylvania in a bribery case and he was a great trial lawyer. But a lawyer is only as good as the facts.
And to think that one is on the wrong end of the criminal investigation can go about their business, you spend a lot of time in terms of client management trying to help a person have the will to help you defend them and to live realistically with what's going on and tell you enough so that you can defend them.
There's nothing worse than finding after the investigators something that you find should have told you. And that happens a lot with political figures.
LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
BEN-VENISTE: Hey, Don...
LEMON: Yes. Quick, please.
BEN-VENISTE: The only difference between Watergate and this situation is actually Watergate there were crimes that occurred and right now we have no evidence of any crime happening.
WHITAKER: Well, we'll see about that. We'll see about that.
LEMON: Everybody on the panel is like, oh, well.
FLANNERY: Well, good for you. You're on the Christmas list for the president.
LEMON: That was a mike drop there, Matthew.
FLANNERY: Let Mueller do his job.
LEMON: Thank you. When we come back, Carl Bernstein will tell me why he thinks this is a watershed moment for the president.
[22:30:00] LEMON: Tonight, sources are telling CNN that President Trump's tweet acknowledging that he's under investigation came as a surprise to his legal team and White House aides.
Back with political analyst Carl Bernstein. Carl, we have a lot to cover so let's get through this. You say today is a watershed moment. Why do you say that?
CARL BERNSTEIN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Because Trump's strategy is now apparent and it's being talked about by some around him and that is to stop this investigation in its tracks, to stop it no more whether it involves firings of Mueller, Rosenstein, but to stop it in its track and at the same time to prevent a move for impeachment. You would think that the two might be mutually exclusive but he's trying to do both at once.
LEMON: Yes. OK. So let's talk about these tweets. Trump, this is one of two tweets. he says, "I'm being fired for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director." He says it's a witch hunt.
Is he contradicting himself because in the interview with Lester Holt he is saying I was going to do it anyways, it doesn't matter what Rosenstein said.
BERNSTEIN: He's not contradicting himself in the sense of strategy once again, and that is let's get Rosenstein out of this thing. That's his objective. Rosenstein will recuse and let's stop the investigation at all costs because he does not want any more penetration of the facts of this matter involving his own finances, those of his family, whatever contacts there are with Russians. He wants it to stop.
And once it -- if he can do that, then he needs to stave off impeachment with republicans joining in a move for impeachment. He thinks he can do that and partly because he is going to get a health care bill in the next couple of months with the republicans he believes and probably with good reason that will also get him some political capital.
LEMON: So, Dianne Feinstein has clearly had enough, basically saying in the statement she put out today, "This was a blatant violation of the president's oath of office." How do you respond to that?
BERNSTEIN: She is saying that he's an outlaw president and he is moving towards being an outlaw president and at the same time, he is allowed to do the things he is doing unless the Congress and the United States says enough and moves to impeach him.
LEMON: What happens next then, Carl?
BERNSTEIN: We don't know. We are in the midst of something that we've never been through before. Partly because it's not just about the legal ramifications or even the constitutional ones. It's also about the comportment, emotional stability of the President of the United States which many people in Congress are talking about in very, very upset ways.
They've never seen a president who behaves like this. And they question his emotional stability and his temperament and whether he's really suited or fit for the presidency. And that's an underlying element of what we're going through as we approach what may well be a constitutional crisis.
LEMON: I've been wanting to get your response to this, Carl. Newt Gingrich saying quote, "Technically the President of the United States cannot obstruct justice." What do you think?
BERNSTEIN: That's it's nonsense because the president of the United States in the case of Richard Nixon was -- there were articles of impeachment passed by the House judiciary committee accusing him of just that, of obstruction of justice.
And he would have been found guilty of obstruction of justice by a trial in the Senate of the United States. He's playing wrong and not just for the first time.
LEMON: What are you hearing from people inside the White House, Carl, is the president getting angrier?
BERNSTEIN: The president is isolated. He's furious. He really does believe, I think, that this is a witch hunt. He has little understanding, I think, of what the Salem witch trials were about or what the McCarthy era witch hunts were about and how draconian they were. And meanwhile, he goes on in his own draconian way here in this authoritarian fashion.
But his fury is something -- in fact, there are reports today about him yelling at the television set through the afternoon as he's watched the reporting going on.
Look, he is a mercurial Raeganholic (Ph) inclined figure. Those who know him and knew him in his apprentice days talk about him being a Raeganholic (Ph). That's what we're dealing with here. We are dealing with his temperament and investigations are closing in on him and he knows it.
[22:35:00] He does not want his life, his campaign, his finances examined by lawful authorities. It's as simple as that. And that is what he's trying to avoid. He might feel persecuted. He might feel that this is a witch hunt and he is determined to stop those investigations and that's why we're in such a precarious moment.
LEMON: Having your life and your business dealings and your finances exposed, it's called being the President of the United States. Carl, thank you. Always a pleasure.
When we come back, Eric Trump's wedding planner reportedly tap to head federal housing programs in New York and New Jersey. More on the latest questionable hire by the Trump administration.
LEMON: The Trump organization's former event planner could soon be in charge of federal housing programs in New York and New Jersey, according to the New York Daily News.
Let's talk about it now with CNN political commentators Keith Boykin, Margaret Hoover, Andre Bauer, as well as political contributor Michael Nutter. Good evening to all of you. Michael, your reaction to the New York Daily News report about the president's former event planner?
[22:40:02] MICHAEL NUTTER, POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: Yes. Don, as a public servant and one who cares about public policy and public service, I was tremendously disappointed. I mean, the president has basically said to the people of New York and New Jersey, especially poor people and those in need, to drop dead.
I don't know what kind of vetting would even allow someone with the reported background to get anywhere near an interview, let alone this level of a job. The HUD region 2 office is probably the largest in the United States of America.
LEMON: But obviously billions of taxpayers' dollars.
NUTTER: Billions of dollars. It's the Housing and Urban Development. It's not the housing and event planning or housing and, you know, urban decoration. It's a serious operation. You know, you think about hurricane Sandy and the impact that it had on New York and New Jersey. That HUD office played a significant role and it's probably still doing work.
NUTTER: So I mean, just -- this makes no sense.
LEMON: I want to bring the rest of the panel in because we have limited time. Keith.
NUTTER: Sure. LEMON: What do you think because it seems like he's going back to what some would consider a weak team of loyalists. You live here in New York City, in the New York area. You know how important this job is, how big of a job it is.
KEITH BOYKIN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: It's an important job and it's a devastating blow I think to the people in this community to have this kind of appointment and an example of nepotism, if you will. We've seen this with the appointment of people like Jared Kushner and his administration.
But also it's a reflection of Trump's inability to vet anyone. Michael Flynn spent 24 days as the national security adviser. He appointed people like Monica Crowley who was caught up in the plagiarism issue. He couldn't keep Chris Christie in the position as transition director, so he had his transition to having Mike Pence during the transition and Mike Pence didn't do a good job of vetting anyone. I mean, this is a guy who picked Ben Carson to run the Housing and Urban Development who had no experience in housing.
LEMON: But do you think there are people, some people may not be associated with the campaign or was that report, or maybe he can't get people who were qualified?
BOYKIN: I would assume, even for Donald Trump, that people would want to have an important position like this if they know they can do the job seriously.
BOYKIN: And maybe they don't know...
LEMON: I mean, I should say with the administration, not the campaign. Margaret, can we take a look at -- go ahead. Margaret, first I want to get your response. What do you think?
MARGARET HOOVER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Look, I hate to disagree with all of these democrats because, you know, I try to be a republican -- a responsible republican voice here.
But look, I worked in the Bush administration and in every administration, there's a little bit of politics of patronage but not to this degree. I mean, this is just offensive. And I don't mean politics are patronage, but I do mean there's people you know, there's people you trust and you put them in trusted positions but they have to be qualified. OK?
HOOVER: And they have to have like a breath -- it has to pass the sniff test and this doesn't pass the sniff test. You know, I wouldn't go so far as saying that (Inaudible) to saying to drop dead but there are 400,000 people that rely on billions and billions of dollars that are dispersed through this, the most important regional position at the Housing and Urban Development executive branch office.
So this is disappointing but it is more of what we know about Trump, which is a lot of politics are patronage, a lot of cronyism at the expense of competence which is not draining the swamp.
LEMON: So Andre, I want to ask you. The Daily News run an update today reporting that federal housing officials have appeared to have backed away from appointing Lynne Patton and this seems to be exactly what they did with Sheriff Clarke as well. So what do you make of this?
ANDRE BAUER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, number one, she doesn't even allocate the dollar. She reports back to Washington but the person she's replacing worked for the New York Department of Housing for reservation she was parks advocacy group before she had the prior person.
I mean, this is coming from a group that celebrated when Caroline Kennedy became the ambassador to Japan. And the only thing she knew about Japan was what she's seen in the Kung Fu movie.
BOYKIN: That's a great line, Andre, you know, but the problem is...
BAUER: What does she know about...
BOYKIN: They are traditionally people who were donors and things like that.
BAUER: Event planner?
BOYKIN: Especially if it's an uncontroversial person.
BAUER: OK. So he's replacing the advocacy group.
BOYKIN: We're talking about a bureaucratic position as the Housing and Urban Development, you don't pick a wedding planner. If I wanted to do Eric Trump's wedding, yes, I would pick -- I would Lynne.
BAUER: So, the parks advocacy people prepare the last person.
BOYKIN: And the other people he's picked to are not qualified, including Donald Trump.
LEMON: One at a time. One at a time.
BAUER: President Obama worked for the Parks advocacy group and that person was qualified.
LEMON: The Parks advocacy group isn't that...
HOOVER: But Andre...
LEMON: Go ahead, Margaret.
NUTTER: That's a community.
HOOVER: I mean, look, Andre, she's actually perfectly qualified to run large-scale events. She should work if they trust her and they want to put her in a good position in the office of public engagement in the White House, where you put on the events for the president in the East Room, in the estate ding room, on the South Lawn, the Easter egg roll.
[22:45:04] I mean, that's the kind of skill set that is translatable to the White House for somebody that you trust and that happens in the White Houses.
BAUER: But Margaret, the last person that has this job...
HOOVER: But that is very, very different. The person who has this job -- no, no, the last person -- you know who the last person was? He is the mayor of New York City now. In 1997, Bill Clinton appointed Bill de Blasio to run Housing and Urban Development.
BAUER: No, no, no. That's not...
HOOVER: Not the last person but one of the previous people.
BAUER: The last person...
HOOVER: That is the precedent for this kind of job, somebody who is deeply qualified in public housing issues. All right. That is what is common...
LEMON: OK. So hang on. Hang on.
BOYKIN: Well, this is not the president's background. Are you really are defending this?
LEMON: Andre, have you ever been to -- do you know how big the parks, like the New York -- like the Central Park, one of the biggest parks in the world and -- listen, I'm not here to argue for or against but when you say the parks advocacy group, you'd have to think about how big the parks department and the role parks play in the New York City area. It's not a job like planning a wedding. It's actually a big deal. BAUER: I ran all senior housing in South Carolina so I do know. I
actually had it under my agency. But I'm telling you this. Trump wants people in there to not have a lot of experience in government. He wants people to come from the outside and that's why people voted for him.
BOYKIN: Come on.
LEMON: Let Michael Nutter get (Inaudible).
HOOVER: That's fine, Andre. You can make an ideological point like that.
NUTTER: NO. These are executive positions. This is serious business.
HOOVER: You can -- you can make a point -- you want...
BOYKIN: The problem with not having government people in position of power and responsibility is Trump doesn't know anything about government.
BOYKIN: I could see if it was a person who had a lifelong experience, like Hillary Clinton or even a George W. Bush.
BAUER: We don't want those people.
BOYKIN: No. But I could see some -- but you don't want -- you don't want a country or any organization where not only the leader has no experience but the people who the leader appoints have no experience. That's a recipe for disaster, Andre. And that's what Donald Trump is having.
NUTTER: So then the new message is, no qualifications required? No qualifications required?
BAUER: Caroline Kennedy...
NUTTER: No qualifications required.
LEMON: All right. Well.
BAUER: Double standard always.
HOOVER: Here's what I just want to say, Andre, really quick. LEMON: I'm going to declare...
HOOVER: Andre, Andre...
LEMON: Quick, quick. Please.
NUTTER: This is disgusting.
HOOVER: Andre, when you take people from outside -- when you take people from outside and you say you want people from outside government, that's fine. Take people from outside government. But take them with comparable skill sets, not people who have no idea what the issues are regarding public housing.
BAUER: She's been working at HUD already for several months.
LEMON: All right, I've got to...
NUTTER: No, she's got by the office.
HOOVER: For six months.
LEMON: OK. That is not being confirmed. OK. Get out of here. Anybody here who want to declare their run for presidency right now? OK.
BAUER: Caroline Kennedy, ambassador to Japan.
BOYKIN: No qualifications required.
BAUER: No qualifications.
LEMON: I said we'll be right back.
HOOVER: I name it when...
LEMON: And you didn't hear me with all the noise. We'll be right back.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Jeronimo Yanez, the Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year has been found not guilty of all three charges including second degree manslaughter.
The case gained national attention partially because Castile's girlfriend broadcast the shooting's aftermath on Facebook live. Protesters have hit the streets in St. Paul.
I want to get to CNN producer Bill Kirkos, he joins us now the phone. These are live pictures we are looking are live, correct? Yes, live pictures that we're looking at now. So Bill, where are you, describe the protests around you.
BILL KIRKOS, PRODUCER, CNN: Hi, Don. I'm in the middle of a protest right now. These started about an hour ago, a little more in downtown St. Paul at the capital. They started marching west on University Avenue through different St. Paul neighborhoods.
This crowd right now has probably swelled to about 2,000 people. St. Paul police are staying at least 1,500 to 2,000, and I would definitely agree with that. Every time we step over a little hill here you can see these crowds stretching for blocks and blocks.
They're loud, they're peaceful, they're respectful when they go through different neighborhoods but they're mad, and this crowd isn't split among ethnic divisions, either. It is a mix of everybody. I would say a majority of this crowd is actually white. There are whites, there are blacks, there are the front -- the front of the crowd as you can probably imagine with lots of these protests are younger people on bull horns trying to rally and very loud, but as you go further back into the crowd you see a mix of everybody.
KIRKOS: And some of the slogans you hear, just are related to Philando. You know, guilty Yanez is one of the things they keep repeating over and over.
LEMON: And Bill, I need you to stand by. Because I want to get some perspective on this. Thank you, Bill, by the way.
I want to bring in Judge Glenda Hatchett, attorney for Philando Castile's family. And we'll keep those pictures up, judge, as we look at those protestors.
GLENDA HATCHETT, ATTORNEY FOR PHILANDO CASTILE'S FAMILY: Sure.
LEMON: You're saying, they are about what 2,000 people according to him. You have spoken to Philando Castile's family. I'm sure they know about these protests. How are they doing?
HATCHETT: As well as you can expect, Don. I have been in Minnesota literally for more than two weeks monitoring the criminal trial and I'm still in awe, as you and I talked about, of the strength of Valerie Castile has exhibited in this.
But this is really, really hard. I will tell you frankly, I mean, you know, you have known me for a long time and I don't pull any punches that this is not only for me difficult, for them far beyond description, but really the question, Don, tonight is if this can happen to a Philando Castile who is fully compliant, who has no felony record, who is not fleeing, who is not fighting with the police, who is doing everything he possibly can to do what he's asked to do, and he still dies.
That is the question not only for the people in St. Paul tonight, not only for the Castile family, but for this entire nation.
LEMON: And, judge, if I can just interject here.
HATCHETT: Sure. Please.
LEMON: And If I can the video of the aftermath, caught in video in this Facebook live video that we're looking at it now.
HATCHETT: Yes, yes.
LEMON: I don't have to remind people that, you know, how graphic it is. It's just unbelievable. How do you think they -- considering all of this, the jury reached this verdict?
[22:54:55] HATCHETT: I can't understand it. I cannot understand it. The Supreme Court, bottom line, has said that -- that police officers can use lethal force when there's a reasonable basis to believe that their life is being threatened, bodily harm or death, or someone else's.
In this situation, Philando Castile had a permit to carry a gun. He says, officer, I must tell you I have a firearm. He gave him his insurance and then he was asked for his driver's license. But before he could do that, he shot seven times at close range. Five of those bullets hit Philando. One was less than two inches from Diamond, i.e. the second and third counts in this complaint, and a few inches from her daughter in the back seat.
We are grateful to Diamond because had she not done that live streaming, we would have really never had a perspective on this.
HATCHETT: But, Don, when you see the dash cam video which was shown for the first time in court to the jury, I don't understand how they reached this conclusion, I don't.
LEMON: I have to ask you, the officer is no longer an officer. I wonder if that provides any solace. I don't know about that.
HATCHETT: No, it doesn't.
HATCHETT: It really doesn't.
LEMON: So then, what's next? What's next for this family?
HATCHETT: What's next for the family is that Valerie is committed through the foundation to do good work. Robert Bennett, who is my local counsel there who is a federal civil rights attorney and has the best track record in Minnesota, we're going to be meeting on Monday.
But I want to go back just for a minute to this. I have to tell you that the prosecutors in this case did an excellent job under the leadership of John Toy who is the lead prosecutor. And Don, I don't know what else they could have done. I don't know how we could have had a stronger case and them come to the conclusion that this was reasonable.
His partner didn't see a gun. His partner didn't react. He didn't even have his gun out.
HATCHETT: I don't understand it.
LEMON: And judge...
HATCHETT: And I'm really disgusted by it.
LEMON: Judge, thank you. I go to get to the top of the hour.
HATCHETT: I understand.
LEMON: But we appreciate you joining us here on CNN. I want to tell the viewer if you are looking at live pictures now, this is from St. Paul, Minnesota and protesters are out tonight in force there. They're upset about the officer in this case who shot and killed Philando Castile. Not guilty on all charges.
We'll continue to update that. Again, our thanks to Judge Hatchett. When we come back the president shooting off a series of controversial tweets again and they're getting him into a lot of trouble.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)