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CNN TONIGHT

Porn Star Back to Limelight; Gary Cohn Steps Down from his Post; More and More People Leaves the White House; North Korea Agrees to Have talks with the U.S. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 6, 2018 - 22:00   ET

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


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[22:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, HOST, CNN: Thanks so much for watching 360. I'm John Berman. Time now for Don Lemon and CNN Tonight.

DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Breaking news out of Washington tonight. The Trump reality show continuing and this episode is a dozy. Yes, this is real life. First, breaking news on President Trump and Stormy Daniels. That is the porn star who said she had a, quote, "intimate relationship" with President Trump or with Trump.

Well, she is suing the president to end their alleged hush agreement, claiming that he never signed it. In the lawsuit, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, states that intimate relationship with Trump began in 2006, continued well into 2007.

Daniels signed the nondisclosure agreement in a side letter, just days before the 2016 election. Trump attorney Michael Cohen also signed that day, but the space for Trump's signature under the pseudonym, David Dennison, well, that is blank. And

We're digging into the court documents for you. We're going to have more for you in just a minute on that story. Because that news is just part of another day of chaos in this Trump White House.

Top Trump economic adviser, Gary Cohn, quitting tonight, right in the middle of crucial tariff negotiations. And just about an hour and a half after the president said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There'll be people, I'm not going to be specific, but there'll be people that change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The president would like you to believe that there is no chaos. Nothing to see here. Move it along. In fact, he likes conflict between staffers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I like conflict. I like having two people with different point of views. I like watching it, I like seeing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The president says he likes it when staffers disagree. But you know what he doesn't like? He doesn't like when his staffers disagree with him.

A source telling CNN that President Trump was frustrated and angry with Gary Cohn trying to change his mind. And as always, there's more. A source telling CNN the president has given Anthony Scaramucci the go ahead to continue attacking chief of staff John Kelly during television appearances, including here on CNN. We'll talk more about that, as well.

And yes, Scaramucci himself was fired from his job as White House communications director after just ten days. But, wait, there is more. The president today admitting, admitting Russian interfered in the 2016 election. Kind of.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Certainly, there was meddling and probably there was meddling from other countries and maybe other individuals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And yet, another investigation found that top White House aide Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act, twice. Will there be any consequences? And then, well, there's this, involving what may be President Trump's least-favorite subject. And that is the Mueller investigation.

CNN is learning that George Nader, a Middle East specialist with ties to Donald Trump's team, is cooperating with Mueller. Nader attended secret meetings during the transition between officials of the United Arab Emirates and Trump associates.

Chaos. What chaos? Nothing to see here. Let's bring in Sara Sidner. CNN's Sara Sidner on the Stormy Daniels lawsuit. So, Sara, where do we start? There's breaking news tonight on this adult film star, Stormy Daniels suing the president. What is she alleging?

SARA SIDNER, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: So much. That she was paid $130,000 in hush money and that Donald Trump knew all about it. That's the first time we have evidence in a public court that alleges that.

She also says in the lawsuit that she signed a nondisclosure disagreement, but that it is invalid and that's what she's suing over, because she says that Donald Trump never signed it, though he did know it. And she also says she was pressured and coerced into signing a false statement by Donald Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen.

This is all happening, by the way, with after the infamous Access Hollywood tapes where Donald Trump is heard saying women, that he can grab them in the most private of parts. That's when this all came out where she said, look, I would like to tell my story. And Mr. Trump and the campaign got wind of it, Don.

LEMON: There are so many details in this. What's the timeline here?

SIDNER: All right, so the timeline is this. In the suit, it alleges that there are so many details, but this is all happening, like I said, around the time when we heard all about Donald Trump saying grab them in the p and that he can kiss women wherever he wants.

Let's show you what is exactly said in this lawsuit. It alleges that after discovering that Miss Clifford, who by the way is Stormy Daniels' real name, Stephanie Clifford, she said that Mr. Trump with the assistance of his attorney, aggressively sought to shut her up to avoid telling the story.

[22:04:57] And here is an interesting point. It says and alleges, thus helping to ensure he won the presidential election. Why is that important? Because if he knew about the agreement and he knew about the money paid, that that could violate federal finance election laws. That is a problem.

And there is already a complaint to the FEC about Donald Trump when it comes to this case. The hush money is an issue if he knew about it and if he knew that anyone in the campaign was involved in it, if that helped him get elected, Don.

LEMON: Yes. And I'm looking at a copy of the complaint here and it's a pretty lengthy complaint. I'm wondering in this how recently. Does it -- does it talk about or say how recently Michael Cohen was trying to silence Stormy Daniels, at least according to this lawsuit?

SIDNER: It does. It does, indeed, it was just a couple of weeks ago. It says in there, to be clear, the attempts to intimidate Miss Clifford into silencing her and shutting her up in order to protect Mr. Trump continued unabated, for example, only days ago on February 27th, 2018, Mr. Trump's attorney, Mr. Cohen, surreptitiously initiated a bogus arbitration proceedings against Miss Clifford in Los Angeles.

Remarkably, it says, he did so without even providing Miss Clifford with notice of the proceeding and basic due process. So that is what they're alleging, that she was being pressured.

I want to mention something, Don. We saw a note from Mr. Cohen and that note showed that she signed something saying that she'd never had any kind of affair with Mr. Trump. So that is always going to be out there and in question, Don.

LEMON: OK. So, wait, let me explain this. How does this lawsuit explain Stormy Daniels' signature or Miss Clifford's signature on the statement that she never had an affair with Mr. Trump. Does it explain that?

SIDNER: It does explain that. And I think they had to talk about that, because it is out there. It says that in January of 2018, we're talking about last month, that she was coerced into signing something that was false, a false statement.

And she said she was forced to do it because she was coerced and she was pressured by the attorney through from Trump, but she talked specifically to Mr. Cohen, saying that she was intimidated and coerced into signing this.

I mean, these are really strong allegations. Now, that is, by the way, a copy of the nondisclosure agreement that has been in the news for a very long time, since the Wall Street Journal broke the story. You'll notice there. What do you see? DD, that's the acronym for Mr. Trump's alias, and then PP, which is the acronym for Stormy Daniels' alias.

But her real name, Stephanie Clifford that's her signature right there. It says Stephanie Clifford. And you'll notice one of the lines is blank, that's where Donald Trump's signature is supposed to go.

LEMON: OK. And his apparently his pseudonym is David Dennison.

SIDNER: Dennison.

LEMON: Left blank. Got you.

SIDNER: Yes, and that's what she's saying, Don. She's saying he didn't sign it. So even though they paid the money, he never signed the agreement, so it's not valid and she can tell her story. And she has said through a representative that she plans to tell her story.

LEMON: This is like an '80s nighttime soap opera.

SIDNER: Yes.

LEMON: I don't know if it's Dallas.

SIDNER: Bold and the beautiful.

LEMON: Gnat's Landing, dynasty or dynasty as they call it overseas. Anyway, let's go. Thank you, I appreciate it.

I want to bring in CNN political analyst, Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post, political analyst Kirsten Powers of the USA Today, senior economic analyst Stephen Moore, and political commentator, Kevin Madden.

Kevin, you're up first. I mean, you read this complaint. Stormy Daniels said President Trump's long time attorney Michael Cohen has continued to attempt to silence Stormy Daniels as recently as last week. What's your reaction to this breaking story?

KEVIN MADDEN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I think a lot of -- I think I can pretty much predict what the White House is going to say, which is that this is somebody trying to get attention, trying to drive their own sort of P.R. effort here. But you know, there are some very credible claims.

And the fact that we are even having this conversation should be -- you know, should probably register on the Richter scale, that we're discussing a sitting president being sued by a porn star. But we're having it. And it's part of almost like the routine of today's news cycle, which is the interesting part of it.

MOORE, SENIOR ECONOMIC ANALYST, CNN: Kevin, are you saying that a porn star would actually try to call attention to herself? Shocking, right?

LEMON: Kevin, do you want to...

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: I mean, that's what porn stars do.

LEMON: Stephen, that's your only response? Stephen, is that a porn star is trying to call attention -- a porn star with a very lengthy complaint from California. I mean, it's, you know, hey, $130,000...

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: I mean, she is calling attention. The guy have no idea what...

LEMON: The president's personal attorney. I mean. Come on, brother.

MOORE: Well, look, my only point is...

KIRSTEN POWERS, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Don, let me...

MOORE: Go ahead.

LEMON: Let him finish his point.

POWERS: No, I was just going to say, look,..

[22:10:00] LEMON: I do, I want to hear his point, Kirsten. Go ahead. Go ahead.

POWERS: Yes.

MOORE: My point?

LEMON: Yes.

MOORE: Look, I don't have any idea what went on. My only point, I mean, really, a porn star? You know, who knows what Donald Trump did, you know, 10 years ago, but, look, wasn't this litigated during the campaign when all these women came forward and, you know, people knew about this when they voted for Donald Trump.

LEMON: No, we didn't learn about it, we didn't learn about it, Michael, because of the hush money. He paid her to be quiet. So nobody knew about it until now.

MOORE: I think people knew that, you know, Trump had had some women. And you know, gee, who would have ever thought that we had a president that had sex out of marriage. I mean, certainly not Bill Clinton or JOn F. Kennedy. (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: With a woman who has sex on camera for money? I mean...

MOORE: I don't know what to say about it.

LEMON: That's the facts. You know, I'm not shaming her, that's what she does and does it proudly and good for her. But that's your only response, is that this has been litigated? It wasn't. We didn't know about it. Nobody did.

MOORE: My point was, Don, that people knew there were women in Trump's past and people got past it, you know? And this is something that happened 10 years ago. And I don't think the American people really care about that. They care about jobs, the economy, you know, how the country is doing.

LEMON: OK. Kirsten -- I mean, by the way, most people probably don't make $130,000 a year, which was supposedly the payout, but go ahead, Kirsten.

POWERS: Honestly, I don't know where to start. First, I do want to start with the fact that I don't think it's appropriate to be demeaning this woman. So, you know, while I don't think it's a choice I would make for a career, you know, she is still a person who deserves respect and you don't have any problem with Donald Trump who used to hang out at the Playboy mansion and those kind of things.

So if you don't have disdain for him, then you shouldn't have disdain for her.

As to the point of people already knew about this, as Don has pointed out, people actually didn't know about it. Now I'll actually say, I don't care if he had an affair. It makes no difference to me. I didn't care when Bill Clinton had an affair. I don't care if Donald Trump had an affair.

The difference is the people who voted for Donald Trump do care when democrats do it. They don't care about it when republicans do it.

MOORE: And vice versa.

POWERS: The thing I was going to say...

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: And vice versa.

POWERS: The thing I was going to say earlier, actually, no, I don't even know that that many democrats care about him having an affair. I think using hush money is another story.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Well, wait a minute. What about...

POWERS: That sort of adds another layer to it.

LEMON: Michael, let her finish.

POWERS: Let me just finish to you.

MORE: OK. I'm so sorry.

LEMON: Stephen, I'm sorry about that.

POWERS: The other thing that the -- as to whether she's telling the truth, look, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Michael Cohen had told friends that the reason that he was late on the payments is because he couldn't get in touch with Donald Trump, which completely blows up this story that Michael Cohen was using his own money and that Trump didn't know about it.

He also complained to friends that Trump didn't pay him back, which certainly would imply that Donald Trump was in on paying hush money to make sure people don't know about this.

LEMON: Hey, Josh, I promise I'm going to get you in here. But the real question that I have, Stephen, is you have no issue with whether or not the president or his attorney broke campaign finance law by paying off some...

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: No, no, look, I think we should get to the bottom of that. I agree with that, Don. I mean, the point I was making to Kirsten is, I remember when Bill Clinton was president and a lot of women went after the people who alleged him of sexual misconduct. So that's what I meant by vice versa, that you know, democrats don't have a clean slate here, either.

POWERS: But I didn't. And you and I actually wrote during the campaign about...

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Well, Hillary did.

LEMON: Well, I don't want to go down the rabbit holes. Number one, Bill Clinton is not president anymore.

POWERS: Yes.

LEMON: And has nothing to do with anything. This is the time that we're in now. Donald Trump is the president. His attorney now is accused of this. This was mentioned in this lawsuit currently today. Josh, give me your reaction?

JOSH DAWSEY, POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. Well, Michael Cohen here, we had a story about this today, has also been a subject or at least a person of interest in the Mueller probe, You have, several different incidents where Bob Mueller, special counsel is asking questions about how he interacted in Trump's orbit, Russian projects that he was involved in and different things he was doing.

I certainly think whatever the circumstances are here, you're going to see a lot more of Michael Cohen, who was the president's personal attorney in New York and has known him forever and was kind of seen in Trump's orbit as his fixer and as his body man, so to speak. The person who relied own for some of the more, you know, unseemly tasks, maybe, of Donald Trump's life before the White House.

So I think whether this comes to be or not, I think there are allegations we're all trying to figure out and get to the bottom of. I don't think this is going to be the last time we hear about Michael Cohen.

LEMON: I want to ask you again, and I hate to keep pressing the point here, but listen, there's the salacious quality of it that everyone is like, my gosh, a porn star and what have you.

[22:15:03] But again, Josh, I want to ask you, what if the law was broken here?

DAWSEY: Well, I don't know. And I don't want to be too presumptuous and they claim because I think we're also trying to report. I mean, what we know what's been established, is that, you know, Michael Cohen paid a porn star $130,000 to not talk about her relationship with Donald Trump or not make my claims about Donald Trump.

I don't think we know where exactly the money came from. I don't think we know how it was funneled. I don't think we know exactly how the arrangement was settled. And I think that's why everyone's really trying to get to the bottom of this.

Because it happened a week and a half before the election and there's still a lot of unanswered questions. I mean, obviously, as a guest said earlier, you know, the American people didn't know about this, because $130,000 was paid to make sure that she didn't tell her story.

LEMON: I wonder how the Evangelicals would have felt if they would have known. I don't know. Stay with me, everyone.

POWERS: Gee, I wonder. Yes.

LEMON: Yes. When we come back, just another day of chaos in the Trump White House and the president sued by a porn star, just hours after his chief economic adviser quits in the middle of crucial tariff negotiations. But don't worry, the president said he'll do tariffs in, quote, "a loving way." What does that mean?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: One of our top stories tonight, top Trump economic adviser, Gary Cohn, quitting tonight while some close to the White House see this as a big blow.

A source tells CNN tonight, the White House is attempting to downplay this latest resignation saying it, quote, "a New York guy going back to New York." [22:20:02] That's what they say.

Back with me now, Josh Dawsey, Kirsten Powers, Stephen Moore, and Kevin Madden. OK. So welcome back, everyone.

Kevin, Gary Cohn is out. Is this -- this is about tariffs, they say, or do you think Cohn touted my people on both sides of the aisle as very smart and extremely capable couldn't take the daily chaos anymore? He was just over it?

MADDEN: Well, it's certainly more than just a New York guy going back to New York. I don't think you can underestimate just how much of a stabilizing force that Gary Cohn was in this in his administration.

This is an administration that, you know, doesn't have as deep a bench of experience on economic issues, on policy, so the fact that he was somebody that's respected by folks in the business community, as well as having built really strong relationships with many folks up on Capitol Hill.

And, you know, not really known as a rock-ribbed republican, but respected by a lot of the republican allies that the president has up on Capitol Hill and was critical to helping pass the signature accomplishment so far, which was tax reform.

But that I think is the big concern. Which is that now we have somebody seen as somebody who can keep the president on track and will serve as the stabilizing force inside the administration is now gone.

And the worry is, who would replace somebody like that?

That's a big concern for a lot of people, because you're going into this White House that has demonstrated some level of chaos. It's going to be hard to recruit people with experience and people who are going to be willing to take on a task like that.

LEMON: Stephen, I mean, Gary Cohn was seen as one of the adults in the room. Very knowledgeable about what he did, economics. That's your -- what do you think?

MOORE: Well, you know, I wasn't in favor of Gary Cohn when he first got the job. Gary Cohn actually is a democrat and he had actually favored Hillary Clinton. So I kind of opposed him, but I have to say, I mean, what a record.

Has any president had a better first year on the economy than Donald Trump has with the surging stock market and the, you know, massive increases in jobs and we're seeing all this investment flow in the United States. And you know, as Kevin just said what's happened with the tax cut has been unbelievable and you know that's been one of the great successes and Gary Cohn had a big hand in that.

So, yes, he will be missed, but this idea that he's not replaceable, I don't agree with that. I mean, I tough we've probably gotten calls from four or five people since this announcement was made four hours ago, of really capable people who could fill that position in a minute.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Stephen, can I ask you something?

MOORE: Yes.

LEMON: If everything given I'll just give you everything you just said about the economy.

MOORE: Yes.

LEMON: And if Cohn was so good on that and helped the president out so much and helped America out with this booming economy that you're claiming, then why wouldn't the president listen to him on tariffs? Wouldn't he take his advice?

He said, so far, young man, you have done very well for me when it comes to the economy. If anybody's advice I should be taking, it's yours. Instead of saying, no, this is what I want to do.

MOORE: Well, Don, that's a fair point. Now look, one of the comments you made earlier on the show that I want to contradict is when you said Donald Trump doesn't want people around him who disagree with him. That's flat-out wrong.

I mean, I remember when I first meeting with Donald Trump when I first met him in Trump tower and he asked me and Larry Kudlow to be senior economic advisers for his campaign and we said, Donald, we don't agree with you on trade and tariffs.

And he said, look, we can agree to disagree. He does like people to butt heads a little bit and give him different perspective. I think that's what a president should have. And he makes the ultimate decision.

I don't necessarily agree with these tariffs. I think they're probably a policy mistake. I think maybe we should have tariffs on China, but certainly not Canada and Mexico. But you know, Gary Cohn disagreed with the policy and he's free to leave. But I'm here to tell you I think you're going to see a replacement in the next week who will be an outstanding individual.

LEMON: OK. Josh, what are your sources telling you?

DAWSEY: So Gary Cohn was frustrated that he had been blindsided last week. That Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross and others had, you know, pitch the president on these tariffs, they've gone around the typical policy processes. And John Kelly and Gary Cohn continued to argue against the tariffs and he lost.

But I think, you know, the president's instincts on tariffs have been pretty clear on the campaign trail. He was for them and even back in the 1980's as a developer in New York he was for them, and as you saw this administration go on for months and months and months, there were weekly meetings where, you know, Gary Cohn, Rob Porter, now a departed staff secretary, a number of other senior adviser pushed against them.

Mattis has pushed against them, Tillerson. A broad array of the administration has pushed against them, but the president has continually and repeatedly said that he wanted these tariffs. And this week it seemed like he got tired of hearing the pushback, he got of the economic analysis, he tired of the folks who said he couldn't do it and he did it. Because of his lost his top national economic adviser.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: One quick thing to this. Look.

LEMON: Quickly I got to get Kirsten. Go ahead.

MOORE: OK. Just a quick thing. I mean, Donald Trump did run on tariffs. Every speech he gave, he said, we're going to get tough on trade. And we've got a president who actually does what he said he would do.

[22:24:59] I mean, I don't agree with the decision, but I respect a guy who runs for president and does the things that he promised voters would do.

LEMON: Kirsten, Gary Cohn's position with the president has been tenuous since he spoke out against the president last summer over those racist remarks on Charlottesville. Do you remember that? Here's what the president said at the time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Do I think there's blame? Yes. I think there's blame on both sides. You look at -- you look at both sides, I think there's blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it. And you don't have any doubt about it either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So Gary Cohn literally stood next to the president during those both side -- sides remarks, OK? And despite speaking out against him, he didn't quit then. He stayed on, but he's leaving over tariffs? What gives here?

POWERS: Yes, well, he reportedly wrote a resignation letter after Charlottesville and President Trump talked him out of it. And then as you pointed out, this seems to be the red line for him.

So, you know, I don't know. He's the only person that can answer that question. You know, I think that as Steve just said, Donald Trump, if there's one thing that defines him, it's his anti-trade position.

He has taken both sides of every issue, except on trade. If you go all the way back to the very beginning of Donald Trump, he has opposed trade agreements, he has been critical of trade agreements, he has claimed that that is, you know, the cause of so many economic problems, even when it often isn't, you know. But he believes that it is.

And so it is a little strange to have his economic adviser make that a red line. I suppose he thought he was going to be able to convince him and maybe if he had more information, he was going to change his mind. But I wouldn't expect him to change his mind on this. He may soften in around the edges, but this is still really a defining issue for Donald Trump.

DAWSEY: Don, can I make a quick point?

LEMON: Yes. Quickly, please.

DAWSEY: So, you know, a lot of his advisers say the president's overarching belief is that America is quote/unquote, "getting screwed." And he hasn't really kept up with the data, he fought that for years and he still believes that and nothing that they've told him has convinced him otherwise and Gary Cohn can't do it either.

LEMON: All right, thank you all. I appreciate it. When we come back, the president says he loves ruling with conflict. Judging by the revolving door of staff, he seems to be getting plenty of it. What's the impact on the country?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:30:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Gary Cohn, just the latest in the parade of people leaving the Trump administration, with the ranks of his senior staff thinning, the president insists there is no chaos.

Here to discuss, Chris Whipple is the author of "The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency." And CNN political commentator, Dan Pfeiffer is here as well, a former senior adviser to President Obama.

Gentlemen, good evening. Thank you so much for joining me. Dan, I'm going to start with you. The president tweeted today, claiming, there is no chaos, only great energy in the White House. And that he still has some people he wants to change when it comes to the kind of things that happened. Does it mean that there is great energy in the White House do you think?

DANIEL PFEIFFER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: I mean, just sitting here for 2the last like 15 minutes listening to your show, Don, like the chaos is so palpable, whether it's the Stormy Daniels suit or Gary Cohn leaving in a tiff over tariffs or reading on CNN.com that Trump has authorized Anthony Scaramucci to attack his own chief of staff.

I mean -- like, he can tweet there's no chaos, but chaos surrounds everything that Trump touches. It's been -- that's been true his whole life and particularly true now that he's in the White House.

LEMON: Yes. And I think it's interesting because Anthony Scaramucci obviously he's a news watcher has not denied the stories and I don't think he would freelance anything like that, right, especially about the president's chief of staff. Chris, what do you think? CHRIS WHIPPLE, AUTHOR, THE GATEKEEPERS: Well, you know, there's great

energy in a house on fire or in a nuclear meltdown, too. I mean, this is without a doubt the most dysfunctional White House in modern history. And maybe you can remove the word modern at this point.

You have not only a president who is incapable to have governing, has learned nothing about governing in his first year, he doesn't even seem to know what he's for and what he's against, as we've seen, when he talks about the school shootings or gun control or tariffs. And so, you know, this is a broken White House.

LEMON: Why do you say -- because you said -- you said that this is -- this presidency is in free fall. Because according to one study, more than one in three Trump administration staffers have left the White House in the first year. That's twice the rate of George W. Bush in his first year, triple Obama's first year in office.

I have a list here of the big names, just the big names who have left. But there have been more people who are not big names who have left this administration. You say free-falling.

WHIPPLE: There's no precedent for it. We've never seen anything like it, certainly in the modern era. Just an exodus of almost every competent person, heading for the exits. And that's not just chaotic, it's also dangerous, I think.

For a while, there was an expectation that the generals would somehow be the stabilizing force. The moderating influence who would keep us safe and protect us from Trump's incompetence or recklessness, but Kelly has turned out to be a guy who reinforces all of his worst instincts.

H.R. McMaster seems to also be headed for the exit. And you have to wonder, who out there with any competence or integrity at a senior level, would want to serve this White House. And I'm not sure there are many.

LEMON: Last week, when I had you on, I had other folks, and you know, have my little note cards on my desk and I saved some of them to see if they come back. And this was last week when we were reporting on Hope Hicks and this is the White House.

It says, White House national adviser H.R. McMaster could leave by the end of the month, right? McMaster's departure would mean that the White House will be looking for a third national security adviser.

Trump was fuming after A.G. Sessions publicly pushed back against him. Politico is reporting Gary Cohn may be on his way out because of Trump's tariffs.

Now that's last week during the Hope Hicks.

WHIPPLE: Yes.

LEMON: And then you hear people say, it's fake news, it's not going to happen. WHIPPLE: Yes.

LEMON: People from the White House or White House staffers or Trump surrogates will say, no, none of this is true.

[22:35:00] And then, inevitably, Dan, these stories that we report turn out to be true, and then no one says, oops, I was wrong, they just move on to the next debacle.

PFEIFFER: Right. I mean, the Gary Cohn one is interesting, because Gary Cohn has had one foot out the door for a long time. I mean, his job was to advise the president on economic issues, but he spends most of his time, as far as I can tell, talking to Washington reporters, telling people about how sad he is about working in the White House or how hard he is trying so hard to save the country.

And he's also an object lesson for whoever may be Trump may tap to replace Kelly if he leaves, McMaster laves or Cohn, in that Gary Cohn walked into this White House with a, as a captain of industry. He was like one of the most respected people on Wall Street in elite Manhattan circles. Whatever that's worth and maybe not worth a lot.

And he leaves with his dignity and reputation in tatters, as essentially an internet meme about having stayed through remarks praising Nazis and leaving over tariffs.

And I think everyone has to look at Cohn or Cohn or Hope Hicks and our legal bills and say, why would I ever go work there? And that's a real problem. Because working in the White House, your first year, you're drinking out of fire hose and trying to figure out how things work.

By the second year, you have your feet underneath you. And it's the third and fourth year and if you're lucky the, fifth, sixth, seventh, or eighth where you really can excel. And if people are staying 6, 9, 12 months, they've never going to be ready for a real crisis not the man who manufacture in Trump's Twitter account.

LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. Just a little note for our viewers before we go to break. Gary Cohn, Sally Yates, Michael Flynn, James Comey, Michael Dubke, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Anthony Scaramucci, Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, Tom Price, Omarosa Manigault Newmann, Rob Porter, Hope Hicks, Katie Walsh, Gina Powell, Michael Short, K.T. McFarland, Rachel Brand, David Sorensen, Josh Raffel, Rick Dearborn, Keith Schiller, and a cast of others.

Thank you. I appreciate it.

PFEIFFER: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, we're learning about the man of mystery with ties to both team Trump and a Middle East country is cooperating with Robert Mueller. Well, we're going to tell you who he is talking -- who's talking now and what it could mean for his investigation.

Plus, why Mueller is scrutinizing the president's personal attorney.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Breaking news. Sources telling CNN that a man with ties to both the team Trump, the Trump team, and officials from the United Arab Emirates is now talking to the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

I want to bring in now CNN legal analyst, Laura Coates, the former federal prosecutor, and CNN national security analyst, Matthew Rosenberg, national security correspondent for the New York Times. Good evening to both of you.

Laura, CNN is just learning about another witness cooperating with the Mueller investigation. His name is George Nader, he is a Middle East specialist who attended secret meetings during the Trump transition, which including officials from the United Arab Emirates.

He was reportedly nabbed by the FBI back in January at Dulles airport. This would mean a number of people are now cooperating with the special counsel.

LAURA COATES, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: And we can get another canary maybe singing. There's two points that are really interesting here. Number one, remember that George Papadopoulos was also stopped, I believe, at the same airport, Dulles airport, which is outside the DMV area here, and he was immediately able to have his phone imaged and a grand jury subpoena issued to him at that day to be able to testify in a later date.

Number two, why is the United Arab Emirates go between the conduit of interest right now when Mueller's investigation has largely been about the foreign influence of one country by the name of Russia?

Remember, there was reporting last week that Jared Kushner was somebody who a lot of foreign nations, at least four including the UAE were interested because they believed they could exercise undue influence and try to manipulate him in some way.

So what you're seeing here is Mueller's probe is not looking backward as what happened in terms of whether there was collusion to influence the election that already passed or whether there was an ongoing effort by other nations besides Russia to try to manipulate or exert influence over key (AUDIO GAP) forward. It's very important.

LEMON: It seems like Nader is -- he's like Papadopoulos, right? Someone not many people have heard of. What do you know about him? Anything?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: He's been kind of in the mix on things for years, going all the way back to the Clinton administration. You know, this also brings focus on this meeting that happens in the Seychelles in January 2017, right before the inauguration, which has really puzzled both investigators and journalists for almost over a year now.

It was a meeting between Eric Prince, a very senior Russian who runs an investment fund, that's very close to Vladimir Putin, and the Emiratis. And exactly what went on in that meeting is a source of huge kind of questions. Nader was at the meeting.

And Mueller's team has been asking him about it. That's what we understand. So it brings a focus on to this very kind of black hole in the investigation and in the narrative of what happened that sometime between when Michael Flynn was on the phone talking to the Russian ambassador and when Trump actually entered the White House, there was this meeting in the Seychelles, and that's a big part of what Nader is being questioned about by Mueller's team.

LEMON: And we're learning today, Laura, that Robert Mueller's team has interviewed witnesses and examining -- and examining documents involving President Trump's long-term personal attorney, Michael Cohen. There is no indication that Cohen is a target of Mueller's investigation. But what does this scrutiny of Cohen tell you?

COATES: Well, it really goes back to the porn star, Stormy Daniels. I know her real name is Stephanie Clifford or something like that. But it goes back to that. Because, of course, remember, he admitted recently that he made a personal payment.

He said it was unrelated to the Trump campaign or the Trump organization. But he himself just decided because either he was an altruistic person or just really wanted to give away $130,000 to somebody and did so just of his own accord.

[22:44:56] Well that raised a lot of red flags and suspicion, because it seemed as though that he was acting on behalf of somebody else. Why? Because he said he was merely facilitating a transaction. When he used that word facilitated, it made Mueller's team say, well, obviously you were acting as a go-between.

So a go-between who and somebody else? And of course, it raises issues of campaign finance issues to remind people of what happened with John Edwards and the idea of not reporting different disclosures or in-kind contributions and the what not.

And of course, it makes sense that Mueller's team would investigate this very thing. Because it has so many parallels of what happened with John Edwards.

You know what interested me enough, Don, one of the people who was on the Federal Elections Commission at the time that the John Edwards previous with him I can't think of a name, was having an affair with and talking about flying her privately because of being pregnant, et cetera.

One of the person who said it was not an in-kind transfer or a campaign contribution was now the person who is in the office of White House council, Don McGahn. And so when you hear about the parallels being drawn here and about the potential for someone advising the president or a member of his team in an incorrect way, of course, Mueller's probe is going to include that.

LEMON: Yes. Matt, Mueller's team is seeking all communications between recently fired Trump aide Sam Nunberg and nine Trump associates. That's according to a grand jury subpoena Nunberg got last week.

Cohn is the only person on that list who did not work for the White House or the Trump campaign. Does that shed any light on the investigation scope to you?

ROSENBERG: I mean, I think at this point, the investigation is incredibly broad. I've been tracking this for over a year now and I need a chart to keep track of everyone who keeps kind of coming in and out.

Cohn hasn't worked at the White House, he wasn't part of the campaign, but he is a longtime kind of compatriot or colleague of Trump's. He's been with Trump for years and as it looks like in the case of Stormy Daniels, he's functioned as a go-between, potentially.

And so, I think any investigation that's looking into possibly misdeeds or some kind of clandestine dealing, Michael Cohen is going to work into this. Now, of course, he denies having any kind of misdeeds here or wrongdoing, but he's going to get examined.

LEMON: OK, thank you. Thank you, all. When we come back, could we see yet another high-profile member of the Trump administration heading out the door? We're going to tell you who the president met with and which adviser he could replace.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump insisting today that he has his pick of fop talent for West Wing jobs, saying that everybody wants to work in the White House.

Joining me now is the global affairs analyst Tony Blinken, the former deputy secretary of state and former deputy national security adviser. Tony, good evening to you. Thank you for joining me this evening.

We have been talking about the chaos and revolving door at the White House. President Trump met with a former Ambassador John Bolton in the Oval Office. Bolton is reportedly in the running to replace H.R. McMaster for national security adviser that spot. Is he the right guy for the job?

TONY BLINKEN, GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, CNN: Look, that's obviously up to the president if it comes to that. Mr. Bolton was at the United Nations representing the United States. You may remember he wasn't actually confirmed for the job. He was a recess appointment. But he was certainly a strong voice at the United Nations.

But, you know, the immediate challenge is that there is a huge inbox right now that needs to be dealt with, starting of course with North Korea, where we have seen a major development today. So I would hope actually that McMaster stays in place and tries to grapple with this incredibly complex inbox.

LEMON: The Washington Post reported last week that officials in at least four countries, including Mexico, had privately discussed ways to manipulate Jared Kushner by exploiting his financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.

Tonight we're learning that Kushner he's going to go to Mexico tomorrow to meet with President Pena Nieto. Why would the administration decide to send him knowing that he has been a target, knowing about not getting a permanent security clearance and so forth?

BLINKEN: Well, you ask a great question. I don't have a good answer. You would think that given everything we know, both about these efforts and the fact that we have had the security clearance debacle, that he would not be doing what he was doing, which is basically playing de facto secretary of state on a number of critical issues. And the relationship with Mexico is about as critical as it gets.

But again, it's the president's decision. He picks who represents the country who advises him on foreign policy and who engages in diplomacy. But for the reasons you cited, it's unfortunate that this is not now with the actual secretary of state or the national security adviser.

LEMON: Tony, in a joint press conference today with the Swedish prime minister. President Trump addressed a question about Russia and the midterm elections. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you worried about Russia trying to meddle in the midterm elections.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, because we will counteract whatever they do. We will counteract is strongly. And we are having strong backup systems. And we have been working actually. We haven't been given credit for this but we've actually been working hard on the '18 and the '20 election coming up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So it's interesting because for weeks now the top intel chiefs have been saying that they haven't been given direct order to stop Russia, the Russian interference in the midterm elections. How can the U.S. actually be prepared?

BLINKEN: It's hard to know what to make of the president's statement. The fact of the matter is as best we know there has not been a single cabinet level meeting to deal with the ongoing threat of Russian intrusion and meddling in our elections.

And exactly, Don, as you said, the intel chiefs testifying before Congress have basically been waving a big red flag saying we're not doing enough. And in fact, the president hasn't instructed us to do anything.

So, you know, we are spending a lot of time looking into what happened or didn't happen in 2016. That's vitally important. Mr. Mueller will get to the bottom of it. But as we're doing that we ought to be taking the steps to make sure that 2016 doesn't get repeated in 2018 or in 20. And by all accounts that's not happening. [22:54:59] LEMON: I want to get this question to you. I need to

switch gears to do it here. A bit of remarkable news coming out on the talks about that took place between South and North Korea today in Pyongyang.

North Korea says it is willing to talk to the U.S. about giving up its nuclear weapons and normalizing relations with the U.S. Do you think Kim Jong-un is sincere with this?

BLINKEN: Look, we've been there before. But look, I want to give credit where credit is due. I think the Trump administration has done a good job in sustaining an even building the pressure on North Korea, economic pressure to give it incentive to come back to the table. That's a good thing.

And the fact that North Korea has now said that it is prepared to actually talk about denuclearization is also a good thing. It's been refusing to do that for last eight years.

We're kind of back at the starting line now, Don. Which is where we've been before. The prospect of having discussions, negotiations, talks, the North Koreans usually do a very good job in extending those forever, getting concessions from the United States or from South Korea, on the economic side of things.

And then going back to doing what they are doing. So at best we're at the starting line but it's a better place than we've been. And I think I was actually encouraged that the president's reaction today was measured, sober and hopefully he will keep it that way.

There is an opportunity to at least get a conversation going. There is an opportunity to not have any more at least in the near term testing of nuclear weapons or testing missiles by North Koreans. That would be a good thing. So let's seize the opportunity. But without a rational exuberance, again, we've been there before and often this goes nowhere but it's a better place than we've been in the last six months.

LEMON: Hey, Tony Blinken, thank you very much. And bundle up there. I see you. It looks like snow.

BLINKEN: You get up in New York, it's going to be worse up there.

LEMON: I know, right. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.

BLINKEN: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: We'll be right back.

[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)