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James Comey's Upcoming Testimony; Charity as Front for Trump Organization. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired June 6, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: There is so much breaking news for you tonight and we're going to bring you up to date on all of it, so I hope that you're ready.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
Here are the stories you need to know about right now. And they all have broken within the just last few hours. Sources telling CNN James Comey expected to say President Trump misinterpreted his conversations with him.
On top of that the Washington Post reporting the director of national intelligence told associates back in March that Trump told him if he could convince Comey to back off the Flynn investigation.
And there's more, the New York Times is reporting Comey told Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to leave him alone with the president. That's how unnerve he was by their contacts.
Sources also telling CNN tonight that Sessions and Trump have had a series of heated exchanges. A senior administration official telling us at one point Sessions threatened to resign. And tonight, the White House still cannot, cannot or will not say whether the president has faith in his attorney general.
And meanwhile, a Justice Department spokeswoman insist tonight, Sessions is not stepping down. And a CNN exclusive. Russian hacking didn't end with the election. U.S. investigators believe that fake news planted by Russian hackers, blew up into a crisis among U.S. allies in the Middle East.
That, as Forbes magazine reports that hundreds of thousands of dollars raised by Eric Trump's Foundation for a children's cancer charity was channeled into the Trump organization. OK. You got that? I told you it was lot and it is. But we'll get you through all of it in this broadcast tonight. So, stick with us.
Let's get right to CNN's Evan Perez and David Chalian, also Michael Isikoff, the chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News, and CNN political analyst, Tara Palmeri. All right. A lot to get to, Evan. So I'm going to start with you. Good
evening, by the way, to all of you. Tonight we have an escalating crisis between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Trump. What do you know?
EVAN PEREZ, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Don, we were told that there have been a series of heated conversations between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the president. A lot of this stems from the fact that back in February the attorney general decided that it was time for him to recuse himself from the Russia investigation about a lot of criticism, including the fact that he hadn't disclosed some meetings with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
If you remember the president was sort of surprised, definite surprised that the attorney general had recused himself and he sort of blames that fact for the fact that now the investigation has grown and has become a bigger crisis for the White House.
Now we're told though that Justice Department officials are frustrated themselves. They think that, you know, the frustration goes both ways. Because they believe that certainly the firing of James Comey was poorly handled by the White House and the president sort of threw more fuel on the fire by his tweets and some of his comments that link that back to the Russia investigation, making things a lot messier for the attorney general and for Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General now. Don?
LEMON: David Chalian, to you now. Here's what Sean Spicer said about Jeff Sessions earlier today at the White House in the press briefing. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you describe the president's level of confidence to the Attorney General Jeff Sessions?
SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have not had a discussion with him about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said that there was a development.
SPICER: I'm just -- I'm asking -- I'm answering a question, which is I have not had that discussion with him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't say if it he has confidence in his attorney general?
SPICER: I said I have not had a discussion with him on the question. I don't, if I haven't had a discussion with him about a subject, I tend not to speak about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So David, and tonight the White House still can't say whether the president has confidence. Though we understand and I heard Jim Acosta reporting on this a little bit earlier, I understand that we may get a statement later on. What is going on?
DAVID CHALIAN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, CNN: This is astonishing. I mean, it doesn't -- it should not require a conversation with the president to know if he has confidence in his attorney general. This is one of the top cabinet members, one of his most loyal supporters for the longest period of time during the campaign season and the spokesman who's speaking on behalf of the president either, a, doesn't have access to the president's thinking, which is a problem to then be the spokesman for him.
Or b, feels that he needs to check in maybe every day on every high level cabinet member or staffer to know if the president still has confidence in him.
So what you have now is the president of the United States, Don, letting his attorney general just dangle in the wind out there and hang out over all these hours of still not being able to say that the president has confidence in him and now waiting to see if indeed we get a statement. Imagine being in Jeff Sessions' shoes and what that feels like tonight?
LEMON: Yes. One can only imagine. Hey, Michael, I have to ask you about this New York Times report as well. Comey tell Jeff Sessions he didn't want to be left alone with President Trump. I mean, this is something that could be potentially be corroborated by Sessions and speaks to Comey's concerns, right?
[22:05:05] MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Right. Well, look, obviously we're going to have to hear from Comey, we will hear from Comey on Thursday. But just a couple of notes on the Sessions' story which are worth pointing out.
First of all, that there been that the president has expressed frustration with Sessions and there's been heated talks. Look, the president does have a habit of blowing up at people. Seeming fits of rage and then a minute later he's talking as though nothing had happened. I've had experiences with Donald Trump like that, lots of people had experience with Donald Trump like that. But...
LEMON: Yes, but today that point, Michael, that doesn't give you much confidence if you're supposed to be a president -- you know, in the president's inner circle.
LEMON: He's supposed to have your back. You're supposed to have his back.
ISIKOFF: Absolutely. I agree. But I do think this has to be looked at less charitably as part of the larger picture here. We know and we're going to hear more from James Comey about the president trying to get him to back off the Flynn investigation.
We know from new reporting tonight he also talked to the director of national intelligence about getting the FBI to back off. Why was he so upset that Sessions recused himself from this? Because that meant that his guy, his political appointee would no longer control that investigation and the president felt like he was losing his ability to shape, influence what the FBI was doing.
And that does raise the questions of what the president was so concerned about and whether there was an effort to obstruct justice. We're not there yet but we've got to hear from all the key players now.
LEMON: OK. Let's get to the back story, though, Tara. Because reportedly, the president blamed Sessions' recusal for where he is now with the Russia investigation. But isn't it all the president's own making?
TARA PALMERI, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: I mean, the issue is that Sessions really wanted to take politics out of the Department of Justice. He consulted with the Department of Justice members and he asked them, you know, what do you think I should do? Should I recuse myself? And they said that he should. And he thought that he was bringing more honor to the office and more integrity and in effect he displeased the person who hired him.
And that's why my sources say that he went to the president about two weeks ago and offered his resignation because he felt that he served at his pleasure and that if he had disappointed him in some way that he should move on. But at the end of the day his real thinking was that he wanted to take politics out of the Department of Justice and that he wanted to show that he was above it.
LEMON: Hey, David Chalian, you could see the countdown clock there on your screen. Just hours away, 35, or almost 36 really hours away from the former FBI director's testifying before the Senate intelligence committee and now we are learning he's expected to say that Trump may have misinterpreted his conversations with him. That's going to be a major bomb shell on Thursday if that happens.
CHALIAN: Yes. I mean, this is part of what we're all waiting to hear. And our colleagues Gloria Borger and Eric (Inaudible) and Jake Tapper and others reported out sort of what Comey is coming prepared to say on this one.
Because remember, Don, do you remember that when he fired Comey, in the letter he referenced these three separate occasions where he told me that I was not under investigation. Well, apparently, we're now learning that Comey is going to the Hill and testify sort of the context around those conversations. Where maybe Donald Trump emerged from conversations with Comey with some interpretation that he had been told he was under investigation, even though that may not have been Comey's intent going into the conversation.
There must be some sort of characterization that Comey gave perhaps that left Donald Trump with this interpretation. But from Comey's perspective we may hear him say that that was a misperception on Donald Trump's part walking away from that conversation. You remember though, he told Lester Holt, the president did, in that
NBC interview about the in person meeting and the phone call conversations where he did indeed feel that he walk away with that impression that he has been told he wasn't under investigation.
LEMON: Yes. He said -- he said in interview and he also, I mean, he put it in the letter. So Tara, here's what David was talking about. He said President Trump wrote in this letter, Comey, when he fired him. And I'm sure everyone remembers this.
"While I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau."
That was a letter to Comey. I mean, so and we hear that Comey he's just going to give his account and his answers to what he is asked and not make any judgment about whether it was obstruction or anything like that.
So, senators will be left with their own decision on who to believe, the president or the former FBI director.
PALMERI: Right. And you have to know that Comey is actually knows what it's like to be on the other side, on the side that's actually grilling, you know, a witness and I don't know -- I think that using the word miscommunication that's obviously a very missing phrase.
[22:10:02] LEMON: A misinterpreted?
PALMERI: Yes. I mean, to say that they've spoken three times. I mean, we'll find out if they had actually spoken three times and the actual details of the conversation that's what we've been told will come out from this.
And you know, we're going to have to see if the president was being in fact factual, or if Comey is maybe massaging the truth about how much he did tell the president and maybe perhaps he did assure him in some ways or other. But you know, at the end of the day I think the word miscommunication is not enough to explain their conversation.
LEMON: Evan, I want you to jump in here and I'll ask you it's not just Thursday's testimony with Comey, as soon as they're going to question the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, the deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers tomorrow. What could we learn about this Russia probe with all of those people that we're going to hear from?
PEREZ: Right, Don. I mean, this is sort of like the warm-up hearing. Look, I think you can bet that Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence is going to be asked about this Washington Post report and other reporting in recent weeks about his interactions with the president and whether or not he was asked to pushed the FBI to sort of put aside the Michael Flynn investigation.
You can also bet that Rod Rosenstein is going to be asked questions about his interactions with the president especially with regards to the firing of James Comey, the FBI Director.
Look, part of the issue here though, is that these men are all trying to make sure they're not adding to the headlines, especially Rod Rosenstein who, basically has turned over this investigation to the special counsel Bob Mueller.
He is in a position now where he's going to try to essentially deflect all the Russia questions over to Mueller who is now in charge of that investigation. It's important to make clear, however, that Rosenstein is not recused from this investigation.
As a matter of fact, when Mueller is finish with the investigation, he ask to come to Rosenstein and if he makes some of recommendation for charges or for something to be turned over to Congress, Rosenstein is going to have to make the final call as whether or not there is a referral to Congress to handle perhaps impeachment or whatever final answer comes from all of this.
LEMON: I feel we need to be handing our premiers to our viewers so that they can follow, a work book to follow along. Seriously, it's a lot.
Michael, I have to ask you, because I wonder if the White House is prepared to push back, if President Trump is prepared to push back. Because I saw the report today that Kasowitz, he had trouble, he's hired him as his outside counsel. But you're reporting that he tried to hire other law firms but was turned down. That he's having -- he was having trouble finding representation.
ISIKOFF: Absolutely. There were top lawyers at at least four major law firms, prestigious firms, top notch lawyers. They were all approached by the White House about representing the president on this and for all, and all of them turned the White House down, which is pretty extraordinary.
Now there were a number of factors sited. In some cases, they had existing commitment, upcoming trials. They had clients who had gotten subpoenas already as part of this investigation so they were conflicted out.
But the continuing theme was would the president listen to their advice? Would he do what they say? And when you talk about some of these guys like Ted Olson or Brendan Sullivan, you know, the preeminent people in their field, they're not going to take a client if they can't run the show and the client is not going to do what they tell them to do.
LEMON: All right, stick around, everyone. We have another breaking news story, other breaking news stories that we haven't talked about in depth. When we come back why U.S. investigators believe that fake news planted by Russian hackers blew up into a crisis among U.S. allies in the Middle East. [22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: More breaking news tonight. The U.S. believes Russian hackers planted a fake news report that sparked a diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf.
Back with me now my panel. So Evan, let's talk about this. U.S. investigators have uncovered new information on a cyber-hack in Qatar that is helping to drive a new Middle East crisis among the U.S.'s closest allies. What more have we learned about who is behind this hack?
PEREZ: Well, that's right, Don. U.S. investigators believe that Russian hackers were behind a cyber-bleach against the Qatar state news agency. The hackers had planted a false news report that was friendly to Iran and critical of President Donald Trump. That is now being used by Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies as a reason to carry out an economic and political blockade of Qatar.
The U.S. and Qatar officials tell us that the FBI sent in a team of investigators to Doha to help the Qatari government investigate the alleged hacking incident and the allege involvement of Russian hackers would of course add to concerns by the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that Russia continues to try to use some of the same cyber hacking measures on U.S. allies that it used to meddle in the U.S. election in 2016.
Now Qatar as you know hosts one of the largest U.S. military bases in the region. And U.S. officials say that the Russian goal appears to be to cause a rift between the U.S. and its allies in the region, Don.
LEMON: So is it, the investigators really this Russian government or these Russian hackers? The government in fact behind this, is that what they believe?
PEREZ: Right. It's not so clear whether the U.S. has tracked the hackers in this incident to Russian criminal organizations or to the security services that are blamed for the election hacks here in the United States.
One official told us that based on past intelligence however, not much happens in that country without the blessing of the Russian government. As you know, today, President Trump was tweeting criticism of the Qataris that smearing what you're hearing from the Saudis and others in the region.
In his tweet the president didn't actually mention the hack but he voiced support for the regional blockade of Qatar and he cited Qatari funding for terrorist groups. I should note that the Qataris have rejected those accusations. And the CIA and the FBI both declined to comment for this story, Don.
LEMON: Michael, Evan just mentioned the president's tweet today and I'll put it up. He said, "During my recent trip to the Middle East, I stated that there can no longer be funding of radical ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar. Look." [22:19:57] So, Michael, it appears that President Trump is taking credit for allies cutting off ties. But now it seems he got ahead of himself.
ISKOFF: Yes. Look, this is a very complicated. First of all, if the is correct this would be a classic example, maybe the preeminent example of fake news really influencing public policy, world diplomacy and threatening military confrontation. And that is at a level far beyond anything we've been talking about when we talk about fake news here in the United States.
But the other point is if this again can be traced back to Russian government hackers and that's a key point, it is also a vivid illustration that whatever steps were taken by the Obama administration in those last few months to try to retaliate or respond to the election hack and whatever the Trump administration has done, not much in this area, nothing has worked.
The Russians would seem to be unimpeded and the responses to date have been ineffective and if that's the case, then we really got to rethink what our cyber strategy is vis-a-vis Russia.
LEMON: And Tara, we were just reporting not too long ago, a week or two ago that there was some fake news that influenced James Comey's decision about the Hillary Clinton investigation as well.
PALMERI: Right. And this is the issue. And fake news has been used to even influence our president as well as Politico has reported that some of his aides have actually put stories in front of him because he doesn't use a computer and he doesn't look through blogs himself, that they're printed out and given to him.
And he's been influenced by articles that were presented to him and some of them not actually factual. So it's not just a matter of influencing officials, it's been used to influence our own president and I think there needs to be a real, you know, clarification between what is legitimate news and what is not.
And you know, and the problem is that the president keeps throwing around this word fake news and people are becoming more and more confused and people are using it against him at the same time.
LEMON: Yes. I think people are confused. That's to what fake news is. So, David, you have to wonder whether the president, you know, is he being briefed on these matters before, you know, he makes a comment on them or before he's taken to Twitter.
CHALIAN: Well, we know the president's being briefed but how that briefing...
LEMON: Is he with this thing?
CHALIAN: ... impacts what he puts out on Twitter is not at all clear. And we should make clear for our viewers that -- what Michael was just talking about and what you're talking about fake news possibly having this kind of impact, this is not the definition of fake news that Donald Trump uses when he hits the mainstream media and pools he doesn't like.
LEMON: Donald Trump's definition of fake news is anything that's not glowing or positive about him.
ISIKOFF: It's this program, Don.
CHALIAN: We're actually talking about what is the real fake news problem. And go back to what Evan reported, Don, which is just really intriguing if you look at president's tweet now, because if indeed these Russian hackers who were creating these fake news, their goal as Evan was saying was to drive this wedge between the Qataris and others in the Middle East.
Well, Donald Trump played right into that with the tweet. He sort of aided and abetted their effort in doing that, driving a wedge between our own partners in the region. It is an odd moment of tweeting of his to say the least.
LEMON: OK. So here's...
PALMERI: I think it's...
LEMON: Go ahead, Tara.
PALMERI: I was going to say I just think it shows you how impulsive his tweets are, I mean, we know that he often dictate them to staff literally down to the capitalization of the words.
LEMON: But I think you're going to where I want to ask you the question, so then you can weigh in. Because remember the last time we were discussing whether the press whether it was the official record, whether it was policy, his tweets and what have you. And then Sean Spicer said today that it was. They are official. They're straight from the president.
So if they're official. OK, so, that's what they say. But can they be treated as accurate then, Tara?
LEMON: Because they're not always accurate, most of the time they aren't.
PALMERI: Right. And we saw that with the misspelling from the prior tweet, which is just a late night tweet that was, you know, fired aup off.
LEMON: Or about the mayor of London and on and on.
LEMON: Or about the president wiretapping Trump Tower. Go on.
PALMERI: It shows an impulsiveness, it shows the president just acting on his gut which helps him in the campaign, but you know, governing is very different than the campaign. And also I mean, it's not on White House proclamation.
So I think in a way they're trying to skirt around that but now, you know, that little Twitter check marks is basically the same thing, that if it's verified it's coming from the President of the United States. You're getting his thoughts and you're also realizing that a lot of the statements he's making not just on Twitter but to people personally perhaps world leaders, maybe isn't as informed.
I mean, if he's tweeting it off to the whole world, I mean, how much is he actually carrying on? Like we saw with the classified information he passed on to the Russian ambassador.
[22:25:02] I mean, he didn't know that it was classified information as we were told. But it's just showing you how he feels so confident with information and maybe isn't as concerned about if it's factual or not which is brings us all back to the fake news beat.
LEMON: Fascinating. Thank you all. I appreciate it.
PALMERI: Thank you.
LEMON: Yet more breaking news to tell you about new questions tonight about the Eric Trump Foundation run by the president's son. And Eric Trump is speaking out about it.
LEMON: All right. I want you to pay attention closely to the story. A lot of numbers are involved and I have the person who wrote it to explain it. Because there are new questions tonight about the Eric Trump Foundation run by President Trump's son.
So here to discuss is Dan Alexander who broke the story for Forbes. So Dan, 2007, this was the first Eric Trump Golf Tournament took place raising $220,000. It seemed like a really great formula. A free Trump golf course and the goods and services were all donated assuring donors that every penny possible went to charity.
But after about four years things change and I just want to read part of your piece and I'm going to let you weigh in, OK?
[22:29:59] You said, "In reviewing filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, it's clear that the course wasn't free, that the Trump organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization. Golf charity experts say the listed expenses defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament." So explain this, where did the money go?
DAN ALEXANDER, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, FORBES: Well, that's the big question. You know, what we know is that in 2011 after years of running this without big expenses, Donald Trump comes in and he tells his son and the charity I know that you're doing a good thing. I know this is for kids of cancer. But you're holding this in my course and we're going to charge you.
And so they are charging him. And you can see the expenses go up immediately when he does that. And they continue to inflate over the years, keep on creeping up, keep on creeping up. And as that's going on the accounting that the foundation is doing doesn't make much sense.
They list one golf tournament every year and the numbers seem too high to be just one golf tournament. And then you have former board members who are saying well, sometimes we would count other events that we worked with, some years we wouldn't. But they always only listed as one event. There's a lot of murkiness there. The one thing that we know is that Donald Trump's company is getting paid by his son's charity.
LEMON: OK. And so we saw the numbers up on the screen. And that was, I mean, that was a lot of money that they had to pay back to dad, right, to Donald Trump.
You have two sources that have told you that President Trump then, just Donald Trump at the time is the one who commanded that the Trump Organization started billing his son's charitable foundation to hold a tournament there.
ALEXANDER: That's correct.
ALEXANDER: That's correct. There was one guy who was at the time at the course who was sitting in on all the meetings and he says basically, Donald looks at this and he says, hey, these events is getting, you know, it's getting to be a pretty big thing and we're not just going to support this. Everybody gets billed. Apparently, you know, he said he totally flipped how to cow and said, you know, if you're going to be holding an event in my course, you're going to be paying for it.
LEMON: Let me ask you this because we put those numbers up. Why would the price of a tournament suddenly triple in one year, why is that?
ALEXANDER: Well, it looks like there are a couple of things going on. But the first explanation is that's the first year that Donald Trump says you got to pay.
LEMON: So the first year they didn't pay?
ALEXANDER: In the early years it looks like they were paying just outside vendors maybe. LEMON: Got it. OK.
ALEXANDER: But their total expenses are still about what you would expect for a total golf tournament. So, even if they were paying the club, so it's not entirely clear if they were paying only vendors or where exactly all that money is going. Then in 2011 it becomes much more clear.
LEMON: So shortly before the spiking costs, the Donald J. Trump Foundation donated $100,000 to the Eric Trump Foundation. Why was this donation made and what happened to it?
ALEXANDER: Basically it was a business deal. They said, hey, we're going to start charging you but to make up for that we're going to give you a donation from the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Sounds good, you know. The charity doesn't lose any money, everything is good.
The only catch here though, is that the money in the Donald J. Trump Foundation was not Donald J. Trump's. It was other people's money. So then he makes an agreement, all right. Other people's money is coming into my foundation then he hands $100,000 to his son's foundation, and then his son in turn pays his club.
So you have money that starts as other people's donations where they think that they're giving to charity and it appears to end up as revenue at a Trump club.
LEMON: OK. These are your words. You say this has more in common with a drug cartel laundering money than it does with charity practices.
ALEXANDER: That's right.
LEMON: Explain that.
ALEXANDER: Yes. I mean, you know, you talk to charity people about this and they're just floored. You know, they say how could you arrange something like that? And when you look at it you're taking money that starts as one intent, starts as charity money given to an organization and on the other end it becomes revenue for a company.
LEMON: I understand that you asked Eric Trump for an itemized list of expenses. What was his response?
ALEXANDER: There was no response to that. Once we started asking the tougher questions, that's when they shut down.
LEMON: OK. And has he responded?
ALEXANDER: No, not yet today, although he did send out a tweet that said, you know, hey, I've raised $16.3 million. I think he's on TV right now, you know, and he's talking about a bunch of different things but also saying hey, I raised a lot of money for...
LEMON: Here's the tweet then I'll let you response. ALEXANDER: Sure.
LEMON: He said "I raise $16.3 million for terminally ill children at the St. Jude with less than -- at St. Jude for less than 12.3 percent expense ratio. What have you done today?" So you think he's trying to distract from your story or by saying, and has he done some good thing?
[22:34:56] ALEXANDER: He certainly has. You know, this is a guy, again, we can't forget this, even given all the weird shady stuff going on in this foundation, this is a guy who comes out of college and he decides I want to raise money for a children's hospital that does cancer research. That's a good thing. And they raise...
LEMON: But that he's raised money, but it doesn't and still, it doesn't make up for this...
ALEXANDER: It doesn't forgive -- it doesn't forgive what they did later.
LEMON: Yes. OK. Let me read another part of your piece. You said "In order to understand the Eric Trump Foundation, you need to understand the Donald J. Foundation. The president was never known for giving his foundation much money and from 2009 to 2014 he didn't give it any at all. Outsiders still donated though, allowing Trump to dole out their money. Allowing Trump to dole up their money to a smattering of more than 200 charities as if it were his own with many of the donations helping his business interest."
So the board of the Eric Trump Foundation started as a group of Eric Trump's friends, right?
ALEXANDER: That's right.
LEMON: And with no business connections to the Trump Organization. Did Eric Trump start out with all good intentions for this charity event and then sis it just sort of snow balled into something that maybe...
ALEXANDER: It looks like he starts with great intentions and then in 2011 his dad started gets involved. And his dad says you got to start paying the club. He puts Trump Organization employees on the board. The board members who are Eric's friends they're dropping off the board.
if you look back 2015 which is the most recent years that we have document on this, the board is made up of 17 people. Two of them have the last name Trump. Six of them are Trump Organization employees and one of them is $16 million of business with the Trump campaign. So you're looking at a majority of the board who are financially dependent on Donald Trump. At the time that the board is making the decision to hold a golf tournament at a Donald Trump course and pay the organization...
LEMON: He hasn't responded to you, Dan. What question, what would you want to ask Eric Trump right now?
ALEXANDER: Well, I think the first thing is there any plausible explanation for this? You said that all of the expenses were paid for. You said that you guys weren't charging. You said that you weren't on food, you said that you weren't on drinks. Where did all of this money go?
If you break down the expenses of the tournament how could -- how could one tournament cost this much? Were there other tournaments that you guys were lumping in with this one tournament? There's just a lot of questions about the accounting of all of this.
LEMON: Dan Alexander from Forbes, thank you very much.
ALEXANDER: Thanks so much.
LEMON: I appreciate it. When we come right back, the White House in turmoil and President Trump's agenda hanging by a thread as a flurry of breaking news stories hit a White House in crisis in tonight.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Fired FBI director James Comey is set to testify on Thursday and sources are telling CNN more about what he is expected to say.
Let's discuss now with CNN political commentator Ana Navarro is here, CNN contributor Jason Kander and Scott Jennings, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush.
Good evening to all of you. So glad to have you on. So keep up, everyone, a lot to talk about. Ana, sources are telling CNN that Comey is expected to say President Trump misinterpreted his conversations with him. What's your reaction to that?
ANA NAVARRO, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Man, I want these sources to stop telling me anything, OK. I want spoiler alerts on all of these sources saying thing. I am looking forward to this testimony, Don. I haven't looked forward to anything this much since the episode of Dallas and who shot J.R.
So let the excitement build up, let us hear what the man is going to say. Don't start ruining it for us. Look, I think there are so many questions that are going to be asked and that need be answered. And I suspect this is not going to be the end of it.
What we learn today about Dan Coats who's going to testify tomorrow in front of Congress tells you that the warm up act is going to be pretty good in itself. This is a tele-novella that keeps going and going and going. I kind of feel like I've got to, you know, we all have to start keeping a diary, you know, crazy crap that happened today because I already forgot the crazy crap that happened last week.
LEMON: Well, yes, you're right. I was going to say something else but I will just move on. So Scott, we're told that James Comey is going to dispute President Trump's blanket claim that he was told he was not under investigation multiple times. Here is what the president said to NBC, this was just last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a very nice dinner and at that time he told me you are not under investigation, which I knew anyway. So he said it once at dinner and then he said it twice during phone calls.
LESTER HOLT, HOST, NBC NEWS: Did you call him?
TRUMP: In one case I called him, in one case he called me.
HOLT: And did you ask him are you under investigation?
TRUMP: I actually asked him, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So he also wrote that in a letter to Comey. So is the president not telling the truth here?
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, look, I think we have a classic he said, he said. Comey is going to say one thing, Trump is going to say another and apparently, according to the reporting today, that Comey is not going to testify that Donald Trump was engaged in obstruction of justice in that sound you hear, that low hissing sound is the air coming out of the balloon of all the liberals who were hoping tomorrow was going to be the end of the Trump presidency.
I think you can smell the cooking on Capitol Hill. And what you smell is maybe nothing burger cooking up. Comey, I don't think is going to say anything that's going to live up to the expectations of liberal democrats who want to see Donald Trump running to watch in D.C.
So, I think Ana is right. We're going to see obviously more hearings with other people. But I just don't think tomorrow is going to be as dramatic as some people wanted it to be and as bad as some people wanted it to be.
LEMON: Well, Scott, he said he was going to lead the investigation part to Robert Mueller and that he just wouldn't pass judgment on and just reveal their conversations and ask questions from the senator. I don't think he's saying from senators, I don't think he's saying there's no there, there.
He's just saying I'd rather leave the investigating; I'm not the head of the investigation anymore. I'm going to leave that to the people who are investigating. JENNINGS: Well, sure. But this guy has a long and storied career in
the FBI. He was the head of the FBI. A Justice Department official that's been involved in some major stuff.
A U.S. senator, I imagine is going to ask him in your professional opinion which probably matters more than just about anybody else in the country. Did he engage in obstruction of justice?
[22:44:59] If he won't answer or isn't able to say yes, I really think that's going to deflate, you know, what people were wanting Comey to do to Trump tomorrow. I also he's got tough questions to answer, was your May 3rd testimony accurate? Your deputy on May the 11th said, hey, we don't think anybody is pressuring us on Russia. He's got a couple of tricky questions to answer himself. So we'll get some Trump news tomorrow but Comey has got a few sticky ones to get out of tomorrow as well.
LEMON: Jason, how do you respond to that, do you think he'll just say I can't answer that question or I won't answer that question or I'll take the fifth on that?
JASON KANDER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I would say that that is so wrong if Scott got the day of the hearing wrong. It's actually Thursday. That's how wrong everything he said actually was.
I mean, look, a couple of things. First of all, the reason that James Comey is unlikely to say that President Trump obstructed justice is because that's a legal conclusion. And he's a professional and he's not going to reach a legal conclusion. He's not a judge, he's not a jury. He's just going to do his job.
And the second part of this is the idea that it's a he said, he said between the two of them. Look, if this really happened over a dinner, if James Comey said pass the salt, I'm sure what President Trump heard was you're not under investigation.
So it's not a misinterpretation. It i a he said, and the first he is a guy who is over and over again said things that are completely untrue. He's doing it every single day and multiple times a day and the other guy is James Comey. So I'm going to go with him.
LEMON: All right. Is Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, on thin ice because the president won't say if he has confidence in him even tonight. We'll discuss that when we come right back.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: All right. Back now with my panel. So let's continue this conversation on the breaking news.
So Jason, also tonight we're learning President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have had a series of heated exchanges over the last several weeks since Sessions recused himself from the probe, from this Russia probe. Things got so tensed that Sessions even threatened to resign. What do you think of that? KANDER: I think that it's pretty clear that President Trump thought
that he was shutting down the Russia investigation whe he fired James Comey and that didn't work, and now he's really irritated and realizes that the chief confrontation he's actually looking for in attorney general is someone who can shut down the Russia investigation.
Given the fact that Attorney General Sessions had to recuse himself for ethical reasons he is unable to shut down the investigation, so President Trump feels that he can't do the job which President Trump apparently sees as protecting President Trump exclusively and not apparently protecting or pushing for justice in United States of America.
LEMON: Here is House minority leader Nancy Pelosi's take on working with the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES MINORITY LEADER: Well, it's unusual but as I've said if you want a job at the White House know your blood type because you are going to be thrown overboard at some point or discredited, and you see that happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So the reason I play that, Ana, is because the White House won't say tonight if the president has confidence in Jeff Sessions over six hours after this Press Secretary Sean Spicer, you saw in the briefing there, declined to do so, Sessions is one of the president's closest and earliest supporters, so does Pelosi have a point?
NAVARRO: Well, Don, first I'm not sure that the White House not saying that the president doesn't have -- does have confidence in Sessions, it's not a good thing for Sessions.
The last time we heard that was about Michael Flynn who, you know, they professed to have great confidence in and was out a few hours later, so it might be good for Sessions. Look, I think it should be standing a chill down the spine of everybody that's working in the White House. In the sense that nobody more than Sessions was helpful to Trump.
He was the first one in the Senate who was helpful to Trump. He was out there apologizing for Trump every time Trump did something insane and absolutely crazy, and stupid, unforgivable, Jeff Sessions was loyal to Donald Trump from start to finish. And so if Jeff Sessions is on thin ice everybody else is under water.
LEMON: So why can't he say, Scott, why do you think the president will not say whether he has confidence in Jeff Sessions?
JENNINGS: I don't know, maybe he doesn't want to participate in a, you know, a generated drama tonight. I do think that you've a new president...
(CROSSTALK) KANDER: It sounds like the politics.
JENNINGS: ... who is not from politics. You got a -- you got a new attorney general who, you know, in a new job as well, two guys trying to get used to each other in tough jobs, so, sure. I'm sure that he has heated conversations with a lot of people.
I know this, Jeff Sessions has been around long enough to know if he wanted to resign he just would have, simply offering to resign and now the big deal is being made out of it. I don't know. It feels to me like maybe it's being over dramatized tonight for the sake of, you know, the news of the day. And I just wouldn't read too much into it until, you know, something actually happens of real personal nature of which it is not just the case tonight.
NAVARRO: You see I think completely the opposite. I think he actually wants to generate drama. I think you're going to see President Trump generate all sorts of drama between today and the end of James Comey's hearing.
Brace yourself because God only knows what could happen in the world generated by Donald Trump on Thursday. Right. I think, you know, I come at practically everything he does from the perspective that he is trying to generate drama that he's trying to distract us that he is throwing a shiny object in front of us so that we chase and we don't stick...
LEMON: Well, Robert Costa of the Washington Post is reporting that he may live tweet Comey's hearing, so Ana may have a point there.
KANDER: Don, can I jump in for one second on the...
NAVARRO: He might be dancing Lambada on Thursday to get us distracted.
LEMON: Go ahead, Jason.
KANDER: Before I move on from Attorney General Sessions I think a point that should not be lost here is if he ends up resigning or if he gets fired it's going to be because, as I said, because President Trump can't get him to shut down the Russia investigation because he's recused himself.
But what should not be lost here is he's a terrible attorney general. I mean, the choices that he's making when it comes to sensing, when it comes to drugs versus rehabilitation, the fact that he very may well have purged himself already, I think twice or at least lied on official forms twice.
I mean, refused to disclose meetings with the Russians like this person should not be attorney general, it may be that he gets fired simply because, because, this is the irony, and this is the sad part of this, because he chooses to make a single ethical choice under pressure which is recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
[22:55:03] That may ultimately be what gets him fired. And that's life in the Trump White House.
LEMON: Scott, I know you want to jump in so let me read this and then I'll let you jump in. This is from the Washington Post -- I'm sorry, the Wall Street Journal's editorial board it writes in part. "If this pattern continues Mr. Trump may find himself running an administration with no one but his family and the Breitbart staff. People of talent and integrity won't work for a boss who undermines them in pubic without thinking about the consequences."
Are we far away from that now, what do you think of that?
JENNINGS: Well, I mean, obviously we haven't seen a lot of resignations out of the White House. We had a couple of people go but in mass. And we haven't had much turn over. I read a tweet tonight before we went on the air. Sean Spicer is now outlasted George Stephanopoulos' tenure when he worked for Clinton.
So, there's -- you know, I think people are trying to make a lot of this personnel stuff but no personnel stuff is actually happening. I think the president really wants is wins. And I think that's what the republicans in Congress want is wins.
What we're not talking about right now is Obamacare. I think a little movement happened today among the Senate republicans on repealing replacing Obamacare, but here were are sitting here tonight talking about non-existent personnel issues that haven't actually come to pass.
LEMON: Why do you think the president is not talking about that?
JENNINGS: When Mitch McConnell saying we may be voting on Obamacare by July.
LEMON: Scott, what do you think the president is not talking or tweeting about that?
JENNINGS: Well, he made a statement from the White House today after meeting with congressional leadership and was talking about the agenda a little bit. But again, all of this agenda stuff is being swamp by discussions of non-existent personnel matters.
I don't dispute that there are going to be people that come and go but let's talk about it when it happens. Let's not try to predict. We've been hearing predictions that Reince Priebus is leaving. We've been hearing predictions about Spicer. We've been hearing predictions after predictions on personnel.
A lot of it just hasn't come true and all that time we're not talking about the real serious policy matters that I think the American people want us to talk about. And right now I am telling there may be vote on Obamacare repeal and replace in the Senate before July the 4th and that is a big story that is breaking today.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, everyone. I appreciate it, gentlemen and lady, thank you so much.
We'll be right back.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)