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Officials From Four Countries Discussed Exploiting Jared Kushner; Trump Versus Mueller Is A Battle For America's Soul; Mueller Team Ask About Trump's Russian Business Dealings; POTUS Tweet That He's Target Of A With Hunt; Atlantic, Trump Friend Roger Stone Communicated With WikiLeaks During Campaign; Who Is Tougher On Russia. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired February 27, 2018 - 23:00   ET



[23:00:10] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: This is CNN tonight. I'm Don Lemon. It is 11:00 p.m. here on the east coast. Live with breaking news tonight out of Washington. We're learning multiple huge stories following multiple stories tonight and we'll catch you up on everything. First the breaking news on the Russia investigation. Sources telling CNN tonight that Robert Mueller's team is digging into a period when Donald Trump was trying to do deals in Russia while trying to decide whether or not he would run for President. One source says, among other topics Mueller is asking question about the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, questions including who paid whom. Much more on that in just a moment.

Then there is news that on any other night would be our top story. Jared Kushner denied access to top secret intelligence. The president son-in-law and senior White House adviser who is operating on an interim clearance had the access downgraded last week after the chief of staff John Kelly made changes to the security clearance system. And we are learning from officials from at least four countries have reportedly discussed how they could use Kushner's business dealings and experience in financial troubles to manipulate him. That is according onto the "Washington Post" which also reports that those countries, Israel, Mexico, China and UAE acted on those conversations. The report goes on to say that a source said top White House officials were worried that Kushner was, quote, naive, and being tricked by foreign officials. I'm bringing in now CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. Jim good evening to you. What are you learning tonight?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Don, my colleague, Gloria Borger, Pamela Brown and I are told that investigators for Mueller have recently been asking witnesses about Donald Trump's business activities in Russia prior to the 2016 Presidential campaign as he considered a run for President. This according to three people familiar with the matter, the lines of inquiry indicate in Mueller's team is reaching beyond the campaign to explore how the Russians might have sought to influence Trump at a time when he was discussing deals in Moscow and beginning that Presidential run. Mueller, of course, was appointed to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. But that also includes in his investigation links between Trump associates and Russians and any issues that might arise in the investigations. That said the President claims any investigation of the family personal finances would be in his view a breach of the specials counsels mandate.

LEMON: What else can you tell us about the kinds of questions that Mueller is asking witnesses?

SCIUTTO: It's reaching into a whole host of things that happened before the campaign really kicked off. Including exploration of a Trump tower property deal in Russia, including the 2013 Miss Universe campaign, including very specific questions along the lines, questions who was in Trump tower -- in the hotel room in Moscow during the discussions of the deals with the Miss Universe campaign, who was there, who would have had access to it, who was in charge of security, drilling down then on that time there as well as questions about other business dealings, Trump tower, in addition to that, questions about whether -- what knowledge witnesses had of claims by Russia that they had compromising information on Donald Trump. This of course, as you know, Don -- you and I have talked about this a number of times -- is one of the things included in the Steele dossier which was funded by political opponents, Democrats, of Donald Trump during that election campaign.

LEMON: Jim, I want to you stick around because I want to you join the group of folks that we're going to have to discuss this. I want to turn to the news and Jared Kushner lost access to top intelligence. Joining me now CNN Global affairs analyst David Rohde and also National security analyst Juliette Kayyem, good evening to both of you. Juliette, does the security clearance matter in the sense that nothing prevents President Trump from telling Jared Kushner whatever he chooses.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That is exactly right. But if Donald Trump does do that, goes down that path, it's going to be very risky. I would expect that would leak the fact that Jared Kushner is acting in the same way that that would leak. I think this is actually a big deal. I think it's more of a signaling about Jared Kushner's sort of growing isolation. You know and his job would be different. His job will be more difficult. I take a step back and say, why the heck did he have the jobs in the first place? There is nothing in his background that would have made him sort of, you know, give him the privilege -- I want to put it that way. It's a privilege to be able to help the United States in terms of national security. And as we all know, Jared Trumps flouted the security clearance process and flouted the experts of the state department and the national security agency, and in the end couldn't get the security clearance.

[23:05:10] And one has to assume that is because the FBI finally said this guy has too much, too much that we cannot clarify to be able to hold or receive the greatest secrets of this country has.

LEMON: Is it damaged -- has the damage already been done, David, because it's not like he can say I take back what I've seen. I'm sure he has seen a lot even with the interim security clearance. And some of the things that, you know, probably he should not have seen.

DAVID ROHDE, GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, CNN: Yes, the danger here is this massive debt his company is in. He paid one of the highest prices ever for a building here in Manhattan. He was at least a billion dollars in debt. One of the concerns is the Chinese -- in particular there were Chinese investors who would help him shore up this building which really threatened the whole real estate empire. That is how they were trying to influence him. There is a parallel to this, the investigation into Trump business dealings before the election. Donald Trump was struggling to get cash after the recession. American banks would not loan to him because he defaulted on loans. There has always been suspicion among journalists in that did he get Russian funding at that point before he ran for President? He denies it. And there is no proof of this. But again Mueller can look at bank records and things that none of us can look at.

LEMON: Getting back to Jared, how effectively can Jared or anyone in that position, Jim, do their job not having clearance?

SCIUTTO: So the difference between a top secret security clearance, which Jared had on an interim basis and a secret clearance, is enormous in government. Listen, on any day -- it would be in a year but particularly now, because the reflexes in government is to classify at the highest level, you know things you wouldn't think would be needed to be classified at that level. So it's a real obstacle to being of an adviser to the President on essential national security issues without having access to top secret security clearance. And just to give an example and Juliette knows this as well as me, you know, this means he couldn't have access to intelligence based on sources and methods, right? You know how this intelligence was gleaned or on sensitive intercepts of foreign communications or even sensitive satellite photos.

All the things essential if you're advising the President, say on Middle East, national security issues or North Korea, et cetera. It's a huge distinction. And listen, a top secret clearance, it sounds like a very, you know finite group of people. But the truth is there are hundreds of thousands of people with that clearance right now today. So folks that can't reach that level, I mean it's a much lower level of government official. It's hard to see how Jared Kushner keeps the same, you know, value, right as an adviser to the President on the issues without the level of security clearance.

LEMON: Julia and I know you want to get in here Julia, but let's explain to the viewers. He had interim clearance and access to top secret information and more highly classified information like the president's daily intelligence briefing. That is huge. Go on. KAYYEM: It is huge. I want to get to Jim's point. I think it's

really important. Jim and I -- we both have gone through the process. We say a lot about Jared Kushner. Was he corruptible? Is he arrogant? Is it nepotism? But for those of us who serve in the government, certainly those who are still serving in government, it was incredibly disrespectful I think for what Jared Kushner did. As the "Washington Post" story shows, it really made the professionals, the experts who -- we do rely on even though they're made fun of a lot of times by this administration. They had to sort of twist and turn to try to get information -- at one stage in the post article they explain at one stage McMaster, the national security adviser is told in his own briefing that because of Jared Kushner's sort of inability to get the security clearance and some of his I guess shenanigans in terms of financials, at some stage we're told McMaster is told we're worried other countries are trying to influenced Jared Kushner. Think of the Intelligence agent who are risking lives and the law enforcement agents. It is just so disrespectful. I think whatever our politics are, I think people have to realize what a horrible position this put so many people who are protecting our nation, military, the agent, all of them.

SCIUTTO: Here is another thing Don.

LEMON: Let David get in just quick Jim.


LEMON: Because this is an important point, the "Washington Post" reporting the four countries that she is talking about privately discussed how to leverage Jared Kushner based on his business dealings, lack of foreign policy clearance, the countries you mentioned, United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico. Does anything stand out to you about that list?

[23:10:09] ROHDE: They are all key players. The United Arab Emirates is very involved in the Palestinians. Israeli negotiations, I mentioned China earlier. They are all just doing their jobs. What Kushner did was he met along with this foreign countries without members of the staff from the national security councils, McMaster's experts. And talks just like a couple of colleagues of mine a New Yorker wrote about this. Particularly the meeting with Chinese officials. He was alone and he didn't know what he was doing. There was tremendous concern about what he shared in those meetings.

LEMON: Go ahead, Jim Sciutto.

SCIUTTO: The point I was going to make if Juliette or I or David or you was applying for security clearance and we had $10,000 in gambling debts. The FBI agent who is interviewing for the clearance would consider that material. That would be a risk for blackmail. The idea of someone like Jared Kushner that has hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, right, is relevant to inquiries about your -- you know your capability of holding that security clearance, right, and you are seeing in this "Washington Post" story that other nations around the world looked at him as vulnerable, because of that. And we're looking for ways to take advantage of that. It's relevant. It's not just a thing out there that, like, newspapers talk about. It's a relevant thing to questions when people are coming up, you know, for security clearances. It's another thing, as Juliette said, you know it's about standards as well. You know, if you or I went through that process that would a relevant question. So it should be a relevant question for the President's son-in-law as well.

LEMON: For everyone, right. Thank you, David, Juliette, Jim. I appreciate it when we come back I'm talking to the man who says Robert Mueller is the best of America and President Trump the worst. And he says the battle between them is one for America's soul.


[23:15:35] LEMON: Our breaking news tonight sources telling CNN that Robert Mueller's team is digging into a period when Donald Trump was trying to do deals in Russia, while trying to decide whether he should run for President. Two sources say Mueller's investigators are asking questions about the timing of Trump's decision to run and as well as potentially compromising information the Russians may have had about him, all of it bringing us once and close to an epic confrontation between Trump and Mueller, that could decide the future of America. So let us discuss now, CNN political commentator Mike Shields a former chief of staff for Reince Priebus on the RNC and Max Boot is a senior fellow at the counsel and foreign relations and the author of "The road not taken."

Good evening, gentlemen. Max you first. You wrote a great article in the "Washington Post" entitled Trump versus Mueller is a battle for America's soul. And you say the war between the two isn't just a struggle between the fates of Trump's presidency. You say battle for the soul of America. Because each of them represents a recognizable American arch type. Talk to us about that.

MAX BOOT, COUNCIL FOR FOREIGN RELATIONS: This is something that occurred to me while I was reading an interesting article in the post that examined the parallel lives of Robert Mueller and Donald Trump. It occurred to me they were such figures representing such polar opposites in American history, that Mueller is this man who is inspired by devotion to country, who wants to put service to the community above his personal self. He volunteered to fight in Vietnam, led a rifle platoon in combat. When it would have been easy for somebody like him who came in a (inaudible) background to avoid the draft. Later on he became a prosecutor. He was -- ran the criminal division at the Justice Department and briefly went back to private practice in the 1990s but hated it and volunteered to come back as a prosecutor for the U.S. attorney's office to combat the epidemic of homicide in the District of Columbia. Which is like a general volunteering to become a private in war time. So Mueller to my mind really represents the best of America. Whereas Trump is just the opposite. He is somebody who has never served the community or anybody but himself. He dodge the draft, did not take part in the anti-war or civil rights movements in the 1960s. He basically devoted his entire life to pursuing wealth and women. And that you know -- he has shone scant regard for anybody else. To me he is the classic American arch type, a scam or scuff law, somebody in the 19th century would have been peddling patent medicines in the 20th century or now peddling time shares or penny stocks. Kind of the wizard of Oz classic conman. To my mind Donald Trump is the worst of America and I find it very telling and distressing that the Republican Party chooses to revere Donald Trump and revile Robert Mueller. I think their values exactly backwards.

LEMON: OK. I want Mike to weigh in. Let's put up the quotes here. You mentioned a lot of what you said in the article. You said that both men came from families of wealth and attended elite institutions meaning Mueller but felt compelled to serve his country during the Vietnam War when most his classmate were avoiding the draft. He volunteered for the marine court and on and on and on. And then you talk about Donald Trump you said was also born to privilege. Didn't take part in civil rights or an anti-war movements. Won five draft deferments. Including one for bone spurs to devote his life in the pursuit of women and wealth. The two men born of privilege and born of wealth, but two different paths different choices. Do you agree with anything Max said, Mike?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I -- certainly Robert Mueller seems like an honorable guy. You say there is a war between them? But the President hasn't attacked Robert Mueller or his character the way that Max is attacking the President's character here. I think what's really interesting about what Max wrote is it's nothing about policy or what's going on in the country. It's just a personal attack of the President of the United States and who he is as a person. I'm guessing Max you don't know him. But you decided to attack him in this column which is almost not relevant to anything that is happening. In the country. I want you guys to put yourself in the mind or in the family of someone living in Michigan who lost their job, has been driving school buses and trying to make ends meet, trying to put food on their table, wondering if their kids will stay in their town or move out of their City, because the economy is so bad.

[23:20:10] And suddenly this wealthy guy gives up his private life runs for office starts passing policies and gets a tax cut passed. And economic policies to the point where that family now has more money in their pocket is able to pay for their kids to go to college. I don't think they can.

BOOT: When did that happen?

SHIELDS: That is literally happening -- I know that a lot of people.

BOOT: Mike.

SHIELDS: A lot of -- Max hang on you read your whole column on TV let me finish talking. I know a lot of people watching -- a lot of people in the media don't understand the scenario I just describe. But consumer confidence is the highest has been since 2000.

BOOT: I think people understand that but that doesn't necessary believe that.

SHIELDS: They don't care their own lives not personal attacks. LEMON: That is not necessarily true none of that has played out.

That would be great if what you just said was actually playing out in America. People may want that.

BOOT: It's true.

LEMON: You may want that to happen. But it hasn't happened.

BOOT: Can I jump in briefly Don, because it's true the economy is doing well because President Trump inherited a growing economy from President Obama, but I have to laugh at a Trump defender like Mike suggesting that somehow there is something untoward about me attacking the character of Donald Trump when Donald Trump in fact spends a substantial portion of his presidency, talking pretty much everybody under the sun, from Oprah to Jay-z to Adam Schiff to Chuck Schumer. Pretty much everybody, he is a one man Don Rickles attack machine. This is what he spends a lot of his time doing and he constantly attacked the FBI, the department of justice. He does attack Robert Mueller. He just tweeted not long ago that this is a witch hunt. This is what Donald Trump does. Ok.


BOOT: He doesn't pay attention to people's business, he is too busy spewing insults on twitter.

LEMON: Let him respond, because a lot of Americans Mike to your point did voted for President Trump knowing that he wasn't a model citizen go on.

SHIELDS: Yes I mean exactly what you just said is exactly wrong, Max. He is focus on the people business and you're focused on attacking him.

BOOT: Oh come on, give me a break. Donald Trump attacks people all the time.

SHIELDS: Hang on. Hang on. I know you're very angry at the President hang on a second.

BOOT: I have good cause to be angry.

SHIELDS: Clearly you don't come from the situation that I just described of the Michigan family and you have the luxury of being very angry.

BOOT: Oh, please.

SHIELDS: Some people don't have that luxury.

OK. Look the fact the matter is what you wrote is, you have every right to write what you wrote. It's not just relevant to a vast number of Americans who are suffering.

BOOT: It's very relevant to Republicans who are attacking.


SHIELDS: And that is why the President won in the first place. He is enacting the policies he is enacting. Despite people attacking his character every day. And he is focused on getting policies done to help the American people.

LEMON: So it's only relevant in, Mike, to one particular family that you think is important, the only family -- that is the only representation of American.

SHIELDS: No, what I'm trying to say is that -- and I believe that there is a media obsession.

LEMON: Let me finish I promise I'll let you finish.

There are a lot of people like Max, probably the majority of Americans are offended by how much the President attacks other people and his character, and that he, you know -- the way he attacks people for add whom he attacks for no apparent reason. He is the President of the United States of course he gets more scrutiny than anybody else. Why does he continue to attack other people? To that point he does spend a lot of attacking people.

SHIELDS: If I was advising him, my advice would be not to do that, because I think it distracts from his successes he is having in his administration. But my point is, there are millions upon millions of Americans who are suffering through of the worst recovery in modern history. And they don't care what the President tweets and don't care what people attacking his character.


What they care about is whether or not they can actually afford things. What they care about if is if their personal situation is getting better.

LEMON: But Mike why don't you put the credit -- the onus where it is due. The former President, Obama, pulled all of the people you are talking about out of the worst recession since the great depression. And you're giving all the credit to this President when he inherited probably the best economy that any President in modern history has inherited. So then why don't you -- why can't you understand that it's not all Trump's doing? And he is not representing most of America. He didn't win the popular vote and people are upset even you by the way he attacks people why won't you say that.

SHIELDS: The popular vote thing look that is -- I'm sorry that is just -- that is not the election that we run in the country. Los Angeles County is a larger population than 35 of the states in the country so that is irrelevant.

LEMON: I agree on you on that. I'm not contesting that -- that he won fair and square as President of the United States. But you're saying most people millions of Americans where more people voted against this president than voted for him. More people are outraged by his behavior than people who accept it. [23:25:09] BOOT: And if I could just quickly jump in Don, I think

Mike is right. There are people who are benefitting from these economy but there are also millions of people living in fear because they're going to be deported by Donald Trump. They're the dreamers who the promise he has betrayed to them of protecting them from deportation.

SHIELDS: Even though he offered a plan to protect the dreamers.

BOOT: There are millions of school kids who are afraid to go to school, because Donald Trump won't do anything to control the epidemic of assault weapons in America, he won't stand up to the NRA. So believe me there are a lot of people have a different opinion and a very different view.

SHIELDS: You talked about policy which differentiate from the column that you wrote.

LEMON: I got to go.

SHIELDS: The column you wrote attacked the President as a person.

LEMON: Thank you both.

BOOT: And Donald Trump has exhibited no character throughout his life. That is what I was pointing out. Robert Mueller is a high- character individual. And it's revolting to me the Republican Party is trying to tear down Robert Mueller and standing up for Donald Trump.

LEMON: We'll be right back.


LEMON: Our breaking news tonight, CNN learning that Robert Mueller's team is asking witness about Donald Trump's business activities in Russia prior to 2016, the 2016 Presidential campaign, while he considered a run for President. That news coming on a day that started with president doing what he does best, anger tweeting. I want to bring in now CNN Presidential historian Timothy Naftali and senior political analyst David Gergen. Good to see both of you. David I haven't seen new a while. Welcome back. Good to see you. I'm starting with Tim.


LEMON: The President on a twitter streak this morning about the Russia investigation. He says witch hunt. Words he tweeted out over a dozen times. Guess who else used the phrase? Richard Nixon about Watergate. So, are either of these a witch hunt?

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I mean obviously the President is really unhappy today, because of what happened to Jared Kushner. It's a big blow to him, not to be able to have a member of the family step in and help him with things he doesn't want to read. He can't get that help anymore. I think the President is losing control of his White House. And so when that happens he reacts the way Nixon used to react when things didn't go his which by ranting. That was a rant. Look, we already learned with the most recent -- the next to most recent indictment that if this is a witch hunt there are witches, because in fact the Russians were participating in an active measures campaign to influence the election. The extent to which it mattered we will learn. But the fact of the matter is there were Russians in the United States doing things that President Trump said didn't happen.

LEMON: Neither of them is a witch hunt by the way. That is the answer to the question. I know you wanted to talk about -- about Jared Kushner now. Do you agree with Timothy that the President is upset about this about Jared Kushner's the security clearance being downgraded because they apparently knew yesterday?

And also Hope Hicks testifying today, it he losing control of the situation around him?

GERGEN: I think he has to a considerable degree. But of course the President is upset about the Kushner story. But I think he is going to be even angrier about the story that CNN has that Mueller is now going back and looking into his -- Trump's associations with Russia back before the campaign. Many of those are his financial dealings. He drew a red line saying if Mueller gets into my finances that is way over beyond the parameters of his investigation. I think a collusion is coming on that point, because Mueller is likely to go deeper and deeper into finances and Trump is likely to get angrier and angrier. There is one collision there. And another collusion that is coming between Jared Kushner and Kelly. And that is there is no way that having lost his top secret clearance -- there is no way that Kushner -- Mr. Kushner can continue to be the -- to direct American diplomacy in the Middle East. There is no way he can be in charge of things are going with Mexico. There is no way he can do -- be in the middle of talks with China about trade. It's not just a question of what he can't no longer read. He can't be in the conversations in the morning for the daily briefings of the President, because there will be top secret things discussed there. He can't be in a lot of conversations about the Middle East. Because there will be top secret items discussed there. He is going to be basically not only stripped of secret clearances but stripped of power. I think that is going to bring a clash. Either the President has to support what Kelly has done, which he won't be happy with 2or got to support Kushner or Kelly would leave.

LEMON: How can you be in charge of Middle East peace and the country trying to manipulate you is part of the Middle East.

NAFTALI: We don't know. And it's only a matter of speculation. But I can't believe that President Trump would have allowed Kelly to make this decision.

LEMON: He didn't know something.

NAFTALI: If he didn't know something. And the "Washington Post" is reporting is quite striking. And if the U.S. government has information that shows that people have been taking advantage of Kushner's business vulnerabilities, the President had to accept the fact the he could not have top secret clearance. That is a big problem for Trump.

LEMON: Go ahead David.

GERGEN: In that case if Jared Kushner really is in that situation he ought to be thinking about resigning. What this also underscores -- Tim, you're the historian here -- it's the folly of trying to run the White House like a family business. No other President in history has packed the White House with as many basically with kids and in-laws as this one has. And they haven't done it, because it invites trouble. There are so many conflicts that arise of people trying to take advantage of the President's son-in-law, you know, seeing him as vulnerable. This whole idea was a bad one. They would be so much wiser now for Jared and Ivanka and others to move back and let this White House have a more traditional.

[23:35:15] LEMON: You think that will happen.

GERGEN: Approach to making policy.

LEMON: Frank Bruni was on earlier David, he says he believes it's the beginning of the end for Kushner -- the Kushner's I should say.

GERGEN: I don't see -- he can -- you know, he may want to stay. But I think it's going to be very, very uncomfortable for him to be shut out of meetings he used to sit in and be one of the kingdoms. That is going to be very difficult for him. Somebody has to worry a lot about his organization which has the huge debt with a big payment coming up. Do they really want to be in a situation where that is being scrutinized? Where is the money coming from? What sources overseas? You can just imagine how difficult. I just think things are closing in on the President. And I'm sure he is very unhappy about that. And I don't see -- he has to make some very tough calls here in the next weeks and months.

LEMON: I have to go. I'm sorry. Thank you both. When we come back I'm going to speak to the man who wrote the book on Robert Mueller and ask him what he thinks about Mueller's investigation to the President's business dealings with Russia.


[23:40:15] LEMON: The President already planning his re-election campaign, announcing today that he is bringing back Brad Parscal as I should say, excuse me, who ran his 2016 digital efforts. Parscal promoted the campaign to campaign manager for 2020. That comes as we are learning more tonight about Robert Mueller's investigation, including his question about Trump's past business dealings in Russia. Let's discuss now Garrett Graft is here a CNN contributor and the author of Threat Matrix also Nicholas Thompson the editor in chief of Wired magazine. I'm so glad to have you both here. Let's talk about the Robert Mueller reporting here about investigators that he is looking into the President's business dealings before the 2016 campaign. What do you think of that? GARRETT GRAFT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that this is exactly what we

could have expected by Mueller to be doing. And that if we're only seeing public reporting about it now, that doesn't necessarily mean that this hasn't been an avenue of the investigation that is been under way for months probably. I mean, this is -- this gets to the core of who Donald Trump knew in Russia, who might have been in a position to exert influence either due or undue on Donald Trump or his business associates.

LEMON: So do you think this still falls under Mueller's purview?

GRAFT: It absolutely does. This goes right to the core of Rod Rosenstein's instructions to Robert Mueller to investigate Russia's influence on the election and all matters associated thereof.

LEMON: So -- I want to talk to you, Nicolas about the Atlantic obtained the private twitter messages tweeting long-term Trump confidante and former campaign adviser Roger Stone and WikiLeaks it contradicts what Roger Stone said about not being in communications under oath with WikiLeaks. How significant is this development?

NICHOLAS THOMPSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, WIRED: Well it's significant in that it shows WikiLeaks was not particularly truthful. Roger Stone was not entirely truthful though he tried to push back.

LEMON: He says they only communicated through an intermediary, right?

THOMPSON: He claimed only through an intermediary. And when he was testifying he didn't communicate with Assange. He is trying to get some wiggle room in there in his communications. The big Question is, we know that they communicated in mid-October of 2016. The huge question is did they communicate beforehand? Did Trump have advance knowledge about what they were putting out there? This doesn't answer the question. The exchange we have in the Atlantic which is extremely interesting doesn't answer the absolute crucial question.

LEMON: So what does it mean for Stone? Does anyone know?

GRAFT: Well, we were talking about this a minute or two ago that I think part of what's so interesting is this has always been one of the most strange unanswered questions of this, that we have sort of seen that there was this avenue of communication that Roger Stone was sort of out there saying, hey, guys big stuff is coming. Just you wait and how did he know.

LEMON: And Guiliani, same thing.

GRAFT: Now that we know for instance that George Papadopoulos was also out there saying, you know, in the drunken boast to an Australian in a London bar, you know, that this -- that he knew that there was dirt out there too. How did these people know the things that they were whispering in advance of when these dirt began to come out?

LEMON: Nicolas I want to know what you think of Parscal because he ran the highest successful digital operation for the 2016 campaign for Trump and now he is going to run the entire 2020 campaign. What do you think?

THOMPSON: The story is kind of amazing. When he gets hired to run Trump's digital operation, he certainly has no national political experience. He is known for kind of setting up Trump's web page and you think of the people running the Hillary Clinton operation which involves Eric Schmidt right? Known for running Google. So you got a real discrepancy and yet Parscal was able to set up an enormously effective operation that help win Trump's presidency. How did he do it? Kind by using Facebook really well. Using the most obvious thing right in front of him and using extremely well and having a candidate who was built for social media too.

LEMON: What do you think -- do you -- he -- it's interesting because you have this idea -- that social media and some sense or digital media somehow helped the President. People were passing around fake news. That had to weigh into the president's or maybe Brad Parscal knows something and the President knows he knows something so there you go.

THOMPSON: So I think the reason they picked Parscal there are a lot of things that helped Trump digitally writers. Russian operation that we know about. There is the fake news, Macedonians -- fake stories about the (inaudible) of Donald Trump, but there is also this enormously effective ad targeting that Trump did. He took databases of his Reuters.

[23:45:05] The people who bought his (inaudible), uploaded them to this sophisticated tools that Facebook had built, custom audiences. He used that extremely well to find new voters, o get people to follow him, to like his page and get out the votes and go to rallies. And Parscal built that apparatus. They ran all kinds of interesting tests on what is working and what's not there is a lot of other stuff circulating about Trump online. Why he did well online, but there was this direct marketing operation that he ran that Parscal did.

LEMON: There is no link between Brad Parscal or anything untoward when it comes to that but just think it is very interesting --

THOMPSON: There could be, I mean we don't know, that is part of the Mueller investigation. As Garrett has laid out in the Wired pieces which are amazing. You explain the part about Cambridge Analytica.

LEMON: Quickly because I got to go.

GRAFT: This was also a week after Trump's campaign manager was charged with conspiracy against the United States. So Trump's looking for someone that he has -- knows will be loyal. And knows his best interests at heart. And Brad Parscal is someone who is actually allowed to tweet on Trump's behalf. I mean that is sort of all you need to know about how trusted he is by Donald Trump.

LEMON: Thank you, Garrett, thank you Nicholas.

THOMPSON: So much fun to be here.

LEMON: We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:50:09] LEMON: Testimony today from admiral Mike Rogers, the head of the NSA in response to the question from Democratic Senator Jack Reed, the admiral says President Trump is not given him the authority to fight Russian election interference by confronting the Russians directly. The White House response, blame Obama.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These charge, he is in charge of cyber command. Why not give him the authority?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Nobody is denying him the authority. We're looking at a number of different ways that we can put pressure. This President as I told you last week has been much tougher on Russia than his predecessor. Let's not forget this happened under Obama. It didn't happen under President Trump. If you want to blame somebody on past problems, then you need to look at the Obama administration.


LEMON: If you look back and Monday morning quarterback, President Obama could have done more to stop the Russians from interfering in the election. But President Trump is claiming that the facts prove he has been tougher on Russia and that is not true. So let's compare. September 2016 at the G20 meeting in China, President Obama pulled Vladimir Putin aside and to warn him, compare that to what President Trump said happened whether he asked Vladimir Putin about the election meddling. Most recently November 2017, quote, he said he didn't meddle. He said he didn't meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times, but I just asked him again and he said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they're saying he did. And then there is the issue of sanctions. President Trump still has not hit Moscow with one single sanction to punish it for election interference even though congress passed a law requiring him to do just that. And President Obama on October 7th 0f 2016, the Obama administration formerly accused Moscow of stealing and disclosing emails from the DNC and others. On December 28th, President Obama took steps to punish Russia sanctioning four Russians and five Russian entities for election interference. The Obama administration also ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the country and close two Russian compounds. The Trump administration considered returning those compounds to Russia but hasn't been able to make a deal. Let's discuss now. CNN political commentators Bakari Sellers and Paris Dennard both joins me. Good evening, gentlemen. Bakari, so is there any comparison in your mind between President Trump's response to Russian interference in our election and the Obama response?

BAKARI SELLERS, FORMER HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: No, not at all. But first let me say in hindsight, I think that everybody wishes that Barack Obama would have taken more steps, would have warned the public. But what we do know that is come out since then is the reason that the 44th President did not put the country on notice of election interference is because Mitch McConnell would not sign a bipartisan letter just coming forth and saying what was happening. And the President at that time Barack Obama did not want to give the appearance of interfering in an election without this bipartisan effort. But the fact remains that under Barack Obama, we sanction Russia to the point where the economy was fundamentally crippling. Look, fast forward now to where we are with Donald Trump, we don't understand why Donald Trump fears Vladimir Putin so much. We don't understand the pressure points that Vladimir Putin is putting on this administration to paralyze them from doing anything to protect our interests.

LEMON: And why is it that the President the question is still implemented sanctions pass overwhelmingly by the majority, the majorities of both parties in congress, how he can say he is tough on Russia, Paris?

PARIS DENNARD, NATIONAL DIVERSITY COALITION: Well, I certainly hope that the President does impose sanctions on Russia and sanctions on other nations that he and the national security individuals that are working hard for our nation deem necessary. But I think whether or not President Obama was tough on Russia or President Trump is tough on Russia, you know, these are just political talking points or political points of trying to score. At the end of the day, what we need to get to the bottom of is whether or not Russia meddled in our elections and if they did, we need to see how far that goes out.

LEMON: Did you say if? If they did.

SELLERS: That is not an if. That is the problem.

LEMON: They said that they did.

DENNARD: Well, if it was an open and shut case, then Robert Mueller would be ending the investigation and be case closed. And I think he is still investigating this one issue. I think he should investigate.

LEMON: He is investigating the extent of the effects of the meddling, not whether they meddled.

SELLERS: That is not true. That is inaccurate. The fact is that we know, our intelligence agencies have come out and said that Russia has meddled in our elections. That is a fact. That is a fact from our intelligence agencies. And you want to talk about the Mueller investigation that, is something different. And Robert Mueller just recently, he just charged 13 Russians with interfering in our elections. So if you want to look at that, you have that as some burden of proof. Bu the fact remains I'm going to bet on our intelligence agencies versus the words of Sarah Huckabee Sanders or anybody else.

[23:55:05] LEMON: OK. I want to get to the next subject. I think it is important. Today we heard from former President Barack Obama recordings release from a secret off the record speech last week at an MIT conference. He said his administration avoided having any scandals that embarrassed them. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things I'm proud of in my administration was the fact that, and I think these thing are connected, we didn't have a scandal that, you know, embarrassed us. There were mistakes. We would screw up, but there wasn't anything during those years. I know that seems like a low bar. But that is a small thing.





LEMON: Can we say that the Obama White House was drama and scandal free, Paris you first?

DENNARD: No. I think that he might can say they didn't have scandals per se as portrayed in the media. But there are certainly things that were scandalous like fast and furious or the issues that happened in Benghazi that went unresolved or what happened with Loretta Lynch on the Tarmac. There are a lot of things that we can say that are scandalous. He can say not scandal free. But there were things that were disappointing.

LEMON: Go ahead Bakari. Quickly please.

SELLERS: No. I was just going to say the number is 5-0. Five people indicted under the 45th President's administration, 0 indicted under Barack Obama.

LEMON: Don't forget this scandal. There was the scandal of the tan suit that so many people got upset with. I think that is a big scandal.

SELLERS: And the Dijon mustard. That doesn't compare to the four magazines and spanking a porn star, it does not compare.

LEMON: thank you guys, I appreciate it. That is all we have time for us. That is it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.