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Mystery Op-Ed Writer Shaking the Trump's White House; A Two-One Punch in Two Days. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 5, 2018 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: You told John Kasich to come on my show and tell me that we look-alike?

LEMON: No, I said make sure when you go in there, say, hey, Don, it's good to see you is what I said.

CUOMO: And you know what he said in response?

LEMON: What?

CUOMO: Don is a good looking guy, but he's in horrible shape.

LEMON: Chris?

CUOMO: He said he met you and he shook your hand and it was like shaking a doughnut.

LEMON: Chris, we all know that's not true. If we weren't on TV, I would have some rough stuff to say about you.

CUOMO: That's what he said.

LEMON: But I'm not that low. When you go low, I go high. So, I got a serious question for you.


LEMON: And by the way, I liked your optimism, I thought you were right on with that. Do you think people, when they're in the middle of it, they realize they're on the wrong side of history? Do you think they know that?

CUOMO: No. Because I think--


HANNITY: George Wallace realized he was on the wrong side of history when he was in the middle of it? Go on.

CUOMO: Well, look, first of all, you have people ignorance and arrogance is a deadly combination. You have people who should know better but don't. And they believe they know what's right. That's a dangerous thing. We saw a lot of that in the '60s.

What we're seeing today, I have a different read on. People are willing to forgive too much based on what they like from this administration. I like my taxes. I like the strength. I like the less regulations. The way he does I don't respect politicians anyway.

LEMON: At what cost?

CUOMO: That's what I think is a mistake.


CUOMO: They're forgiving too much in the name of too little.

LEMON: I just -- every day I just -- I think about it, the people who are just allowing everything to happen and just saying, this is OK, that's OK, that's OK, that's OK, but for -- you know, my taxes are better and all of this.

In 10 years, when you're looking back over the course of history, what will you say about these things, all of those people in the moment who thought that they were right and then history has been a really, really harsh judge of them. I think that people should keep that in mind every single moment in these times that we're going through right now.

CUOMO: I think it's a good point and I think information is power, and the more they get, the more they see power tested. The better for them.

LEMON: Yes. I got to go because I got -- you've seen this letter, you have read it. I want the viewers to get the full force of this.

So, Chris, I'll see you tomorrow's job. Thank you very much, sir. MACDONALD:

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

And what happened today is a really stunning moment, unlike anything any of us have ever seen.

A senior official, a senior official in the Trump administration writing an explosive and anonymous op-ed piece for the New York Times declaring that he or she is part of the resistance to the president and his policies. Working from inside the administration to thwart parts of his agenda.

This is so extraordinary. It's so unprecedented that I want to read every word of that op-ed right now. OK, so pay close attention, it begins. "President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader. It's not just the special counsel looms large or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump's leadership or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hell bent on his downfall."

"The dilemma which he does not fully grasp, is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worse inclinations. I would know, I am one of them. To be clear, ours is not the popular resistance of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous."

"But we believe our first duty is to this country. And the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump's more misguided impulses until he is out of office. The root of the problem is the president's amorality."

"Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making. Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives, free minds, free markets, and free people."

"At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright."

"In addition to his mass marketing of the notion that the press is the enemy of the people, President Trump's impulses are generally anti- trade and anti-Democratic. Don't get me wrong, there are bright spots that the near ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military, and more."

"But these successes have come despite not because of the president's leadership style. Which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective, from the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief's comments and actions."

[22:05:08] "Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims. Meetings within veer-off topic and off-the-rails. He engages in repetitive rants and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill- informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back."

"There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next. A top official complaint to me recently exasperated by an Oval Office meeting, at which the president flip- flopped on a major policy decision he made only a week earlier."

"The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren't for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private they have gone to great lengths to keep the bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful."

It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room, we fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what's right, even when Donald Trump won't. The result is, a two track presidency."

"Take foreign. In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia, and North Korea's Kim Jong-un and displays little genuine admiration for the ties that bind us to allied like-minded nations."

"Astute observers have noted through, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track. One where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly. And where allies around the world are engaged as appears rather than ridiculed as rivals."

On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin's spies as a punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its maligned behavior."

"But his national security team knew better. Such actions had to be taken to hold Moscow accountable. This isn't the work of so-called -- the so-called deep state. It's the work of the steady state."

"Given the instability many witness, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until one way or another it's over."

"The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency, but rather, what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him, and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility."

"Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation. We may no longer have Senator John McCain, but we will always have his example, a lode star for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue."

"Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them. There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by every day citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one. Americans."

So as I said, that is extraordinary. And it's explosive. And the chaotic White House, the writer describes, it sounds very familiar. Because in Bob Woodward's new book "Fear," he quotes White House chief of staff John Kelly describing President Trump as unhinged and saying, he's gone off the rails.

Woodward also describes former chief economic Gary Cohn stealing a letter off the president's desk to keep him from signing it. And quotes Defense Secretary James Mattis responding to the president's reported threat to have Syrian leader Assad assassinated saying, "we're not going to do any of that." We learned all of that just yesterday. And today we had this op-ed. Part of a rising chorus, raising alarms about this president. Trump reacting and proving what everyone just said, all of his critics, right. As usual he reacted with insults and accusations.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you tell me about some anonymous source within the administration, probably whose failing, and probably here for all the wrong reasons. No. And The New York Times is failing.


[22:09:57] LEMON: But we're learning that behind closed doors, paranoia is spreading inside the White House. That is according to multiple sources, the president tweeting, "Because of course the absolutely outrageous claim that the Times should turn over the writer of the op-ed to the government."

Turn over the writer to the government. That's not how America works. That is how despots and tyrants govern. Strong men who value power above all, not the president of the United States, who was sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

And our Constitution offers a remedy, if members of this administration truly believe that President Trump is unfit, it is the 25th amendment, which lays out the process for declaring the president unfit to fulfill his duties.

The writer today's op-ed says some in the cabinet whispered about the amendment, but no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.

But if you believe what you said about this president, you face a stark choice. Work in secret to thwart his agenda or take a stand publicly.

Let's discuss now with the best person I know to talk about all of this, and that is CNN contributor John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel. Thank you, sir. What did you think of this letter today?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Dynamite. I can't imagine the New York Times taking that anonymous op-ed unless it was somebody with a lot of power in the White House, a lot of position, a lot of knowledge, they just don't do that.

LEMON: You became the resistance inside the Nixon White House in the Watergate?

DEAN: I did at one point.

LEMON: And ultimately came forward to become a key witness here. When you saw all of this playing out, what did you think?

DEAN: I found Trump's reaction kind of Nixonian to be frank. LEMON: Didn't he prove exactly what Bob Woodward is saying in his

book, and what the writer of this op-ed is saying?

DEAN: He did. He did. What Nixon did when he had leaks, he put wiretaps on reporters and White House staff. I wouldn't be surprised if Trump would do the same.

LEMON: An educated guess, an idea of who this unnamed person is? Unnamed senior administration official--


DEAN: Kelly would be high on my list.

LEMON: You think so?

DEAN: Yes.

LEMON: Really, why do you say that?

DEAN: The off-the-rails remark that you repeated is in that op-ed as well. And that was his remark.

LEMON: Lode star referring to John McCain, is that a military term?

DEAN: Yes. That's a very military way of thinking about it too.


DEAN: Yes.

LEMON: But we don't know.

DEAN: We don't know.

LEMON: Here's the interesting to me. As the president spoke today saying the New York Times wrote a story with an unnamed anonymous source. The New York Times didn't write the story. This is an op-ed from someone, a senior official, the New York Times published it.

DEAN: I think they added to it too. The paragraphs are very short.


LEMON: And it's very precise. But ultimately someone else wrote it.

DEAN: Yes.

LEMON: Yes. And not the New York Times didn't write it.


LEMON: It's not a source, it's an unnamed official, senior official. The president tweeted this out earlier this evening, and here it is, what he talks about treason. He says, treason? Question mark. That is a legal term, treason against -- its treason against the nation, not the president?

DEAN: That's right.

LEMON: And then he followed it up with this tweet, he says, "If the gutless anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for national security purpose turn him or her over to the government at once."

DEAN: That is frighteningly dictatorial. It's not going to happen in our system. Someoby -- it's like his tweets over the weekend where he wanted to have two congressmen -- criticize his attorney general for prosecuting two congressmen who were Republicans. That's the sort of thing that's nonsense.

LEMON: You think that these tweets add to it, just like his statements today prove what people say in Woodward's book, what the person who wrote this op-ed said, he's proving them right. Do you think though that this is proving that he is unhinged, concerns about that or reports about that?

DEAN: He certainly acts unhinged, Don.

LEMON: I think turns someone over to the government?

DEAN: You know, he's thinking like Putin would think, you know. In that conversation he had with Putin, where he wanted to turn over our ambassadors to send them back to Russia, to be interrogated.

LEMON: This person is a senior unnamed Trump appointee, and he's saying that they're gutless, he or she.

DEAN: I think they got a lot of guts.

LEMON: You do?

DEAN: They do.

LEMON: You think they should have done something else or they did it just right?

DEAN: They may do something else, we don't know. First of all, we don't know if it's a group, too. There may be more than one person in this.

[22:14:53] There was some ways you can read that op-ed, it could be a group of people, who are coming forward. but, you know, so, I can't say it's one person for sure.

LEMON: You think we'll learn who is it is?

DEAN: Yes, we always do.

LEMON: Sooner or later?

DEAN: Later.

LEMON: You remember when no one for the longest time knew who deep throat was? And all of a sudden, you know--

DEAN: And a lot of bad guesses.

LEMON: And a lot of bad guesses. That's how deeper it was. So between this, there's a Woodward book, there's the Times op-ed, this is a one- two punch, and then there's Omarosa's book, there's also Michael Wolff's book. A constant drum beat. And as I call it the drip, drip, drip, right? The people who are questioning his fitness for office.

And what's interesting is that, you know--


DEAN: He is not fit for office, Don. He is somebody who -- you know, while he successfully was elected, he doesn't have -- he doesn't have the knowledge, he doesn't have the experience, he doesn't have the background to be president of the United States. And he's denigrating the office.

LEMON: So the excuse is always, his supporters won't care or won't give a damn. That's not really an excuse, is it?

DEAN: For a while they'll feel that way, and when his inability to be an effective president, and he really is an ineffective president. They will be impacted by that, and that's when he will start losing them.


DEAN: It will happen.

LEMON: If you had told me when I was a kid, watching the Watergate hearings with my grandmothers, you know, Yehay (Ph) tiny little thing. Watching those and watching our president leave the White House in a helicopter. If you had told me I'd be sitting here discussing with John Dean discussing something similar happening in the White House. I would have tell you that you're lying, there's no way that you know that. And here we are.

DEAN: And if you had told me having gone through what I went through, it would happen again. I wouldn't have believed it in my lifetime.

LEMON: John Dean, I want you to stay with me because when we come back, the writer of this op-ed raises serious charges about President Trump's fitness for office. But are anonymous charges really the best way to prompt change?


LEMON: And we're back now. Multiple sources telling CNN Tonight that "The New York Times" op-ed by senior administration official has amplified the sense of paranoia inside the West Wing. The feeling growing that the White House is under assault from within. John Dean is back with me. Also joining us, CNN presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley, and CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers. Good evening to all of you, before I bring you in I just want to talk to you, John, about something when I was saying I watched it with my grandmother as a kid. I was six or seven years old. You said something about African-American.

DEAN: Now, I told you after I finished my testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee, which was the broadcast you were watching, I caught the polling and the group that I ranked highest with in believing my testimony was African-Americans. It was a very high number.

LEMON: Why do you think that is?

DEAN: I didn't know at the time. That's why I asked you. I'd like your explanation.

LEMON: My explanation is that if you know it when you see it. You know bigotry. You know racism --


LEMON: -- you note as a racist and you known when someone is lying to you because you have experienced it and you developed a sixth sense about it. Just as someone is me who was molested as a kid, I understand that people aren't always who they present themselves to be in public. And so, you develop this sense about people that is, you know, that it's sort of an extra sensory perception, so to speak, but other people just may not be able to pick up on. Listen, African- Americans warned people about this president, especially black women. A lot of people didn't heed that, and here we are right now.

Douglas, I want to bring you in because it -- you know, their -- is there any historical precedent for this, meaning this letter, members of the administration speaking out this way about a president they serve?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No, there's nothing at all like this in American history. Now, we've had the mystery of anonymous before -- I mean, back in 1947 George Cannon working for the state department famously wrote a Mr. X article. He was Mr. X. And Cannon wanted to warn us about the dangers of the Soviet Union. He had to go over boss's heads and he wrote this famous article about containing Soviet expansionism.

This synonymous person in the "The New York Times" is talking about containing the president of the United States. It rings completely true with Bob Woodward's research and many other reporters. And so, we in a constitutional crisis in our country right now. If we're going to compare it, I think it might be Nixon at the end when, as John Dean knows, he listened to the Nixon tapes and Nixon would bark out all sorts of orders and sometimes people wouldn't listen to him any more like Henry Kissinger would say yes, sir, and then not listen. This seems to be a thin blue line of patriots working within our federal government that are keeping an eye on Donald Trump's deeply erratic behavior. LEMON: Hey, Douglas. Can I ask you -- do you think maybe it's just someone now who is afraid? I talked to Chris about this earlier. If people -- when they're living if they don't realize that they're on the wrong side of history, they think they're right. I'm sure bigots and racists, and all those people who supported Nixon they thought that they're on the right side of history, and they were bamboozled. Do you think this person may just say, you know, I want to be on the right side of history and they're doing it maybe just for that reason?

BRINKLEY: Absolutely. Person or persons. And you know, there are some good people in the trump administration, like Dan Coates, who was somebody who, you know, realizes the horror of what happened in Helsinki and people like General Mathis (ph). So, we won't know -- I don't know when we'll find out who anonymous is.

I mean, as you rightfully pointed out, it took Vanity Fair decades to break it with Mark Felt. But this person is stuck their neck out. It's very brave. They didn't get paid or made money doing this. And it's -- I think a public service and the fact that Donald Trump didn't ignore and started screaming the word treason and now wants "The New York Times" to cough up the reporter. It smacks of Nixon and his war against journalism. And so, we're living on Nixon times 10 right now.

LEMON: Yeah. On steroids. Kirstin, I've been wanted to speak with you as well because you know we often sort of commiserate about these issues. And I've just been -- I've just been wanting to hear from you.

[22:25:02] And just let's reiterate some of this. If you have an unfit president, there is a remedy. There is a congressional -- there is congressional oversight. There's impeachment. There is the 25th amendment. The answer isn't supposed to be stealing documents from the president's desk or writing anonymous op-eds. So, is our government failing us right now?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, I would say so. And I actually am going to have to disagree a little bit with Douglas because I think that the brave thing to do would be to resign and speak publicly. And because this is being done anonymously, you have a whole swath of the population that just isn't going to believe it, and they're going to say, this is "The New York Times." They're just out to get Donald Trump.

And I actually -- I actually don't think "The New York Times" should have done this for the reason I just said. I think it's the type of story that you report out and you have multiple sources for. You don't rely on one person to tell a story like this about the president. So, presumably if this person is telling the truth, which I think they are because it comports with what we've been seeing, then you report it out and you find other people to corroborate it and you do a really well reported piece. Otherwise, I think it looks like them being out to get him. I'm not saying that's what they're doing.

I'm just saying that's what it looks like. And I think that this person should resign and I think all the other people who are doing this with him should resign and speak publicly. That's the only way it can be taken seriously and you could have hearings and actually investigate with people are seeing and make it public.

LEMON: Yes. You want to respond to that, Douglas?

BRINKLEY: Can I respond to that?

LEMON: Yeah.

BRINKLEY: Yes. I mean anonymous might come public yet. We don't know. I mean this hasn't even appeared in the newspaper yet. But I think the concept is that in order to keep a balance on Donald Trump, people -- it's important when Donald Trump wakes up tomorrow, he knows there are people in the White House that are keeping an eye on him that they're monitoring his behavior.

He's deeply paranoid and perhaps a deeply sick man. And I think if everybody -- you either have to leave and quit and make a big deal out of it, and that may happen. You might lose General Kelly or somebody in the coming weeks or you start putting up a warning flair like this, and perhaps the John McCain funeral reminded this individual of patriotism, duty, honor, country that's evoked the anonymous --

POWERS: No, I --

BRINKLEY: So, I partially agree -- I partially agree with you, but I just don't know if -- I would say give it a couple weeks and see where this person comes public.

POWERS: Douglas -- if you're going to do something like this, if what he's saying is true, which I believe it is, then you don't come out and tell everybody what you're doing, you just keep doing it and protect the country. Now that the president knows this is going on, he's going to be trying to fear (ph) people out and fire them and get rid of them.

So, I don't understand the point of going public in the first place, unless you're going to really come out and have a bunch of people making these accusations and having facts to back it up because -- I'm sorry, Donald Trump actually has a right to be upset about this, any president would be furious if someone working for them was doing this.

BRINKLEY: Well, of course, and I agree with that, but whistleblowing is part of American history. People are in government and they blow whistles, (inaudible) did that when he was (inaudible). George Cannon, as I mentioned, was worried. So, all --


POWERS: But I'm not questioning --


LEMON: -- all your points, we'll take it, all of you -- both of you. But listen, I just want to -- we have John Dean here. John, I want you to put a button on it. I think Douglas brings up a very good point that I've been thinking about for the last five days or so after watching the former presidents on Friday give their eulogies and all you have to do is play the sound bite of George Bush, the sound bite of Barack Obama, and sound bites from Donald Trump back to back, and then you. It's just the start what has this nation come to?

DEAN: You wonder how his base reacted if they even bothered to watch that funeral, exactly how presidents do sort of inspire --

LEMON: When they spoke, I kept saying, this is what president's sound like.

DEAN: That's right. And that has been the tradition. George Bush isn't a great speaker, but he gave a nice talk. Barack Obama is a wonderful speaker and gave a wonderful eulogy. And that's what a president should do.

LEMON: Well, should --

DEAN: Should.

LEMON: -- the operative word. Thank you all, I appreciate it. When we come back, the writer of today's "New York Times" op-ed says he or she is part of a steady state, a steady state, not a deep state. James Clapper is going to respond to that and to a specific quote from Bob Woodward's book pertaining directly to him. That's next.

[22:30:00] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT, ANCHOR: So the anonymous Trump official who wrote that New York Times op-ed says the resistance inside the administration is not the so-called deep state, but the steady state. So let's discuss that now. Joining me to discuss is CNN Security Analyst James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence.

Director, I really appreciate you joining us on this night. This is very serious. This is a bombshell. What did you think of the Times, what the Times published today?

JAMES CLAPPER, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: Well, this is a classic example of one man's whistle-blower is another man's leaker. And I think on one hand this will be reassuring, I think, to many people who are very concerned about this administration and this President, and on the other hand, as we've seen, given the reaction from the White House.

And I am sure from others, that this is the height of disloyalty and all that. I do think, and I guess I am in the former camp a bit, because I do find it somewhat reassuring that there are people serving apparently at senior levels who think about the country and the constitution over personal loyalty to the President.

Now having said that, I would also observe that it would have been better if this person went public, and that may be yet to happen. We'll have to see. But it would be more compelling I think if someone went public.

LEMON: Yeah. They're welcome to come on this show. We'll put them in shadow and change their voice if they'd like to do that. We'd love for them full face and full voice and come on and say who they are. Listen. I just want to read a portion of the op-ed, OK, about the writer's effort to by a stabilizing presence in the White House.

[22:35:00] Director, here is what they say. They say isn't the work of the so-called deep state. It's the work of the steady state. Given the instability, many witnessed there were early blisters within the cabinet of invoking the 25th amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the President. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.

So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until one way or another. One way or another, it's over. So the writer talks about the whispers of the 25th amendment and says that we will do what we can. Who do you think this anonymous writer is? Do you know?

CLAPPER: No, I don't. And I am -- I would just be taking a wild guess. As I said earlier, I do think it's someone who is genuinely in a senior position, perhaps a very senior position and perhaps in the White House, who had access and to be able to make these kinds of observations. And I am sure that the New York Times considered that, that they wouldn't have published this...


LEMON: The way that they did?

CLAPPER: On an anonymous basis unless they viewed this person as credible, and of sufficiently senior stature to make those comments.

LEMON: Do you think we'll ever find out who wrote it eventually?


CLAPPER: Oh, sure. In this town, yeah, I mean everybody else has mentioned how long, you know, eventually found out who deep throat was. I am sure it won't take that long.

LEMON: And that was decades later, though.

CLAPPER: Yes, it will be quicker now.

LEMON: Yeah. Of course, it would be quicker now. The White House is still dealing with, though, the fallout from Bob Woodward's soon to be released book. One quote is directly related to you, during your briefing for the President-elect Trump at Trump Tower. And here's what he said. He said about you, I don't believe in human sources.

These are people who have sold their souls and sold out their country. I don't trust human intelligence and these spies. Can you confirm that quote?

CLAPPER: Well, first, I have been interviewed by Bob for two or three of his books, and he is a very skilled questioner.

LEMON: How long did you say you've been interviewed by him? I'm sorry.

CLAPPER: Two or three -- I mean a couple of his previous...


CLAPPER: And I found him to be a thoughtful, thorough skillful questioner, very skilled questioner who prepares. And what he did here, my recollection is, I didn't feed him that quote. What he does, though, typically is feed you or posit something and then ask you to respond. Corroborate or not. And it is pretty accurate as to what the President-elect at the time thought about human intelligence.

And I have to say in fairness that he's not unique. There are others that feel the same way, that, you know, people selling out their country for us. And that's true. People -- we recruit people who for a variety of reasons, some altruistic, some financial or a combination thereof to talk to us. And, you know, there's those who have an aversion to -- we didn't dwell on it at the time.

And we just went on with the briefing. He didn't just say it to me. He said it to all four of us who were briefing team, in addition to his own people who were in the room, five of whom are no longer in the administration.

LEMON: So it's accurate. This is accurate.

CLAPPER: Yeah. It's pretty close.

LEMON: Yeah.

CLAPPER: Exactly.

LEMON: So much has been made about the accuracy -- you know this is just another negative book, and it is anonymous people, but it's accurate. President Trump is denying a report from the Washington Post today that there is talk inside the White House about replacing the Defense Secretary James Mattis, saying that he is very happy with him. Mattis has been a member of Trump's cabinet since day one. Do you think his job is in danger?

CLAPPER: Well, you never know. I sure hope Jim Mattis, who I have the highest regard for, respect for, and admiration. And I hope for the sake of the country that he stays in that position. But, you know, with the curial President we have, one never knows. So I hope he's not in jeopardy. I hope he stays in that position. You know one more thought, Don, just getting back to Bob Woodward's book.

And of course, this comes in sequence with the previous books. And on -- you don't really have to read the books. You can just, you know, read the tweet storms. And one would hope, and I guess I am being very naive here. But I got to say this. All this would perhaps prompt the administration and the President himself to maybe contemplate the introspective about why all this is happening. Why are people speaking out? Why has this op-ed appeared as though it's always someone else's fault. Sorry for being naive.

LEMON: No. Introspection is I don't think a characteristic of this President. [22:40:08] CLAPPER: Yeah.

LEMON: Yeah, sadly. Thank you, Director, I appreciate it your time.


CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.


LEMON: And your service to this country. Thank you very much.

CLAPPER: Thank you.

LEMON: When we come back, paranoia in the West Wing intensifying according to multiple sources. We're going to go inside the escalating witch hunt in the White House. That's next.


LEMON: The Trump administration on the attack just hours after the New York Times published a damning op-ed from an anonymous administration official. In a statement, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called the writer of the piece -- called for the writer of the piece to resign. And in a tweet, the President tried to question whether the writer exists at all, at the same time, making the outrageous demand that he or she be turned over to the government.

[22:44:57] Let's discuss now. CNN Global Affairs Analyst Susan Glasser is here, and CNN Contributor Michael D'Antonio the author of the book, The Shadow President, The Truth About Mike Pence. Good evening to all of you. You said something was -- you know I thought it was very interesting when you sat down and you said don't ask me to explain how all of this works. It's so complicated, right?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: No. I can't explain it. You know this is a President who every day brings us another visit to crazy town. And I think that the writer of this op-ed, it can either be viewed as something that's going to push the President over the edge so he'll do something self-destructive, or he'll begin a kind of Torquemada, you know, inquisition of people in the White House trying to get to the bottom of who's writing things, who's talking to Bob Woodward. It's going to be ugly for the next few months.

LEMON: It's really inexplicable. Susan, did you want to say something? I heard you react there.

SUSAN GLASSER, GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, CNN: Well, it's -- you know, another reminder, right, that Donald Trump doesn't like to be managed. The adults in the room have been around from the beginning of the administration, what happened to the previous set of adults in the room. They didn't write an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times. HR McMaster, Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump fired them both.

Arguably, both of them not only opposed him often in policy disputes inside the White House, but he had a sense that they were trying to manage him in almost exactly the way that the anonymous writer of this op-ed has come out today and essentially said we're here protecting you and not participating in this Trump thing.

That's something that President Trump is very likely, it seems to me, to react against the same way that he seized control over his administration earlier this year, over the adults in the room.

LEMON: Let me ask you this, Susan. This is according to the Washington Post. Aides are texting each other. The sleeper cells have awoken. The Trump (Inaudible) told CNN I guess it is open warfare on Trump. I mean it sounds like the White House is under siege, doesn't it?

GLASSER: Well, I mean they have had many embattled moments. And my guess is this is not the last of their embattled moments by anything. I think the drum beat, this week in particular, coming right after the first reports about the Woodward book came out. Then this op-ed drops, you know, really just a day later into the same news cycle.

There's a sense that, you know, Trump is being attacked on all fronts. It's right after last week's extended funeral rights for John McCain. You pointed that out earlier in the program. I think that already had Donald Trump feeling embattled, besieged. There's one report in the Post tonight in that same story, where Trump is confiding to someone, saying well, I don't know that I can trust anybody any more, except for my own family.

Omarosa, his former confidant who has also written her own book, you know, she tweeted out earlier today, well, even his family might be against him. And so you know you have this sense that's also in the Woodward book of a President who's hostile, who is alone, shouting at the TV, feeling embattled, feeling like he can't trust anybody.

What kinds of decisions are going to emanate from a President who's in that state of mind?

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, the Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is not denying the authenticity of the op-ed report, but the President now questioning the person even exists. The 25th amendment has been mentioned, including, well, somewhat by one of the President's advisers spouses. We'll talk about that when we come back.


[22:50:00] LEMON: The Trump White House in turmoil tonight in the wake of that New York Times op-ed written by an anonymous official who says he or she is part of the resistance inside the administration, back with me now Susan Glasser and Michael D'Antonio. So Michael, there is portion of the op-ed in the paragraph that discusses how cabinet officials considered invoking the 25th amendment, OK.

And it reads like this. It says so we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until one way or another it is over. I mean there is a sense that -- there is a group of people within the administration who think the Presidency is doomed. That's what it sounds like to me. D'ANTONIO: I think they -- there are many people who think this

Presidency is doomed. I think there are lots of folks who are poised to usher Mike Pence in as a replacement. So this is now creating a cleavage within the Trump based. You've got the ravage fans, but you've also got evangelicals who really signed to Donald Trump because of Pence.

And they assumed that he would be the man keeping the President on a straightened arrow, and Trump actually was paving the way as God intended for Mike Pence to be President. So this is a situation where the President...

LEMON: Are you saying a soft coup is happening?

D'ANTONIO: Well, this is what social media is ablaze with tonight. And there are signs I think in what this writer produced, that reflect the governor and now Vice President Pence's point of view. The words like his -- use of the word lodestar, which is what he called John McCain a week ago.

LEMON: I know. I see it on social media. People retweeting that speech and the times, the time or the times that he has said the word lodestar. But listen. I want to bring Susan in. Susan, it was interesting to me because we saw George Conley. She's the husband of a Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, retweet a portion of the op-ed, mentioning the 25th amendment.

George Conway has long been a Trump critic, right. That's so secret, but that connection has to upset this President. How do you think he feels about it?

[22:55:08] GLASSER: Well, he was described in the Washington Post tonight as having had a volcanic rage upon the publication of this op- ed. My guess is given that we already know that he's prone to fits of temper already that that is probably a very accurate description of President Trump's feelings upon realizing that this is somebody at a senior level within his White House.

I think it's important to note he does take the New York Times very seriously for all of his rhetoric about the failing New York Times. He continues to have the lens of, you know, a property developer from Queens, and the validation provided by the New York Times op-ed page, a sense that they have not would have granted for anonymity to someone except for a very senior official, especially given the likelihood of that eventually we will find out who this person is.

It means to me that Trump, whatever the public statements that they put out in the White House understands that this is a real person and therefore represents a real threat to his presidency. So I think it's a very significant moment, especially combined with the reporting in the Woodward book. You know this is not a Michael Wolff book. It is not a book by Omarosa, OK.

Bob Woodward has written books, probing investigative books. I think this is the eighth President he's written a book about. You know he gets his facts right, and the details are damning and astonishing, and they tend to corroborate this notion of a resistance inside the administration that perceives themselves to be constraining and stopping the President from doing what he wants to do.

LEMON: I think you're so right on what you said about the New York Times, and if you look at the two news organizations that he criticizes the most are the two that he respects most, and the two can hurt him the most. The two has the most credibility.

D'ANTONIO: Absolutely.


LEMON: That's CNN and the New York Times. I got to run, but quick.

D'ANTONIO: OK. I think he's also terrified that there is now a source that is feeding the New York Times, the truth about what is going on in the White House.

LEMON: So much for fake news.

D'ANTONIO: Yes, sir.

LEMON: We'll be right back.