Return to Transcripts main page
Niger Ambush; Obama, Why Are We Deliberately Trying To Misunderstand Each Other; Trump Calls Congresswoman Wacky; Remembering The Fallen. Aired 11-Midnight ET
Aired October 19, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[23:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't have empathy. That is the problem.
DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: That is got to be the last word. Appreciate you all. I will see you next time. This is CNN tonight I am Don Lemon it is 11:00 p.m. right here on the East coast and we are live with new developments tonight. The ambush in Niger that killed four U.S. Troops has turned into unseemly fight about politics, but what happened on the ground and why didn't those brave Americans know the extent of the danger they faced. Plus former President Barack Obama tonight calling on Americans to turn away from the device of politics and back to the ideals that made this country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why are we deliberately trying to misunderstand each other and be cruel to each other and put each down? That is not who we are. It was those ideals provided to us by our founders that drew waves of immigrants to our shores, that drove waves of troops to storm beaches away to save democracy, it was those ideals that led generations of Americans to march for workers right, and women's rights and voting rights, civil rights and LBGT rights to expand the reach of our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Let's get right to the controversy over the Niger raid, three senior officials telling CNN defense secretary James Mattis is dismayed that he still doesn't have all the facts about the deadly ambush that killed four U.S. soldiers and want to know why the body of sergeant La David Johnson was recovered nearly 48 hours after the attack. CNN Correspondent Barbara Star has more. Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, the Pentagon said there was an around the clock search for Sergeant La David Johnson after an ambush that nobody expected.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: The Green Beret were leading the 12 men team on a visit to village elders, they had done 29 routine patrols in the area over the last six months. This time it was all out combat. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a reason we have U.S. Army soldiers there
and not the Peace Corps, because we carry guns. And so it is a reality and part of the dangers that our troops face in these terrorist camp pins.
STARR: According to initial reports soldiers just left the meeting and were back near their trucks, to meet up with those who had stayed behind. They walked right into an ambush.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A fire fight is unlike any other human endeavor. It is confusing, loud, terrifying. There's blood, screams, danger all around.
STARR: A military investigation is under way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had we anticipated this sort of attack we would have absolutely devoted more resources to it. To reduce the risk. And that is something we're looking at right now.
STARR: But what is known is disturbing. The troops have been told it was unlikely there would be opposition in the area. Now the U.S. believes it was 50 ISIS fighters who attacked them, ISIS was armed with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. The Americans had their rifles. The U.S. troops fought back running for cover, calling for help, 30 minutes later, French jets flew over the battlefield trying to scare of the ISIS fighters. They have no authority to fire on them. It was close to an hour before French military helicopters and a U.S. contractor aircraft came in to evacuate the dead and wounded U.S. official say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they know what is going on the area, where they sharing it with the right people? Did the African country knows something that the U.S. advisers did not know and they didn't share? That is another area. Third area might be, how do you evacuate if you have potential casualties?
STARR: Tough questions now face the Pentagon and the President. What happened during the fire fight? How did Sergeant La David Johnson get left behind? Was he killed instantly? What does the White House know? All important questions to understand what went wrong. Especially how did Sergeant Johnson get separated from his fellow soldiers, when the evacuation aircraft took off they were one man short. No one can yet say why Johnson wasn't picked up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. military troops does not leave its troops behind and I ask you not question the action of the troops who were caught in the fire fight and question they did everything they could in order to bring everyone out at once.
STARR: Because nobody knew if he might be alive still, plans for a secret navy seal rescue mission were made, sergeant Johnson's body was found nearly 48 hours later. Nobody can say why and how he was left behind.
[23:05:03] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why so many officials out in public today, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis and several administration officials tell me it was a deliberate decision to try and get the narrative back that the administration felt was out of control and they wanted to be very much part of how the story was being told. Don?
LEMON: Barbara Starr thank you so much. I appreciate that. I want to bring in our CNN military analysts Colonel Sergeant Cedric Leighton and Colonel Steve Warren also Philip Mudd CNN counter terrorism analysts. Gentlemen thank you so much for coming on this evening. Colonel Leighton I am going to start I think you, the troops were told it was unlikely there would be opposition in the area, instead there are 50 ISIS firefighters, can that be called anything about an intelligence failure?
COL CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET), MILITARY ANALYST, CNN: No Don, it can't. I mean it is an absolutely intelligence failure and one of highest magnitude when it comes to special operations mission, this kind of a mission requires a degree of intelligence over watch. Now the type of mission that they were engaged in, it was something called foreign internal defense. Those typically go without as much protection as some of the other more sensitive special operations missions. But nonetheless they should have had a full picture of what the threat was, should have understood exactly what they were facing, and we should have had some degree of foreknowledge and forewarning of what the ISIS troops were doing, the ISIS terrorists were doing.
LEMON: Listen, it's important to find out what was going on, on the ground and when exactly happened why did we lose those four men. The President could be trying to get to the bottom of about that or reassuring the American people that he will get to the bottom of it. Instead he is tweeting this out saying the fake news going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson who was secretly on a very personal call and gave a total lie on content. Well General Kelly and other members were on the call I wonder if they were on secretly. What do you make of this?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Unbelievable. Let's understand where this started. We have a man who is dead. He is not coming back, Don. He left a widow. He left a family. And we have the President of the United States who starts this by comparing himself favorably in terms of being of griever in chief to his predecessor, you want to talk about politicizing. Why is he making this a political issue? And I agree with him, we had a Democratic congresswoman who decides not only that she wants to agree with the family which we all should welcome. She wants take a shot at the President as a result of what she said she heard on the phone call. Here is a recommendation, for Democrats and Republican. The families get to grieve, we grieve with them. If you have anything to say other than this is a tragedy and Americans should respect the tragedy get some duct tape out and shut up. A man is dead. And his child will never learn to fish with his father, play football with his father and we talk about whether we're better than President Obama and how bad have President Trump is, we got to cut it out now.
LEMON: Thank you so much. No true words had been spoken. Colonel Warren I want to bring you in the conversation now. You were a spokesperson for Secretary of Defensive James Mattis today and he was asked about this investigation this is his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY GENERAL: most of our troops is under investigation, we and the department of defense like to know what we're talking about before we talk, the U.S. Military does not leave its troops behind and I would just ask that you not question the actions of the troops that were caught in the fire fight and question whether or not they did everything they could in order to bring everyone out at once. I would also ask you don't confuse your need for accurate information with our ability to provide it immediately in a situation like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So as a layperson watching, you know, Americans question everything, it's part of being an American. Listen, so I don't understand. Maybe he meant something else, shouldn't question, no one is questioning the devotion or patriotism of these troops, but people want to know what happened and no one deservedly so than the family members of those men who died.
STEVE WARREN, MILITARY ANALYST, CNN: That is exactly right. People do want to know what happened secretary Mattis I believe is exactly right, he wasn't there, I wasn't there on that fateful day but I'm completely confident that those troops on the ground conducted themselves with honor. Until we see anything to contrast that, that is my truth. I do believe the secretary probably feels there has been, maybe it's just in our use of our language left behind. This is a soldier in the middle of fire fight was separated from its outfit, this things happens in training and certainly happen in combat.
[23:10:06] A fire fight is unlike any other human endeavor. We talk about Barbara Starr mentioned it. It is confusing, there's bullets flying, there's danger, there's multiple aircraft from different organizations, French aircraft showed up, contractors, there's guys wounded, guys dead, they're trying to get people out at different times, this is not a pre-planned operation. So certainly not until they get back to the rear I think it's reasonable to understand that it wasn't until they got into a safe area that they did their head count and realized we're missing one guy let's go back and find him and that is exactly what they did.
LEMON: Colonel Leighton the Washington Post released video of a gold star widow receiving condolence call from the President earlier this year. Let's take a listen together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm so sorry to hear about the whole situation, what a horrible thing, he was an unbelievable hero and all of the people saying how incredible he was and just an amazing guy. A great hero.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you President Trump, those words are very kind. He was an amazing man, amazing husband and amazing soldier. I couldn't be more proud of my husband.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That was, that appeared to be handled very well, a very tough phone call. It's tough for the President of the United States or anybody to have to make that call. How do you think he handled that?
LEIGHTON: I think that one he handled very well. It's pretty clear he showed compassion and things you would want a commander-in-chief to show. I know having been a commander myself, of course at a much lower level, that is one of the toughest things you have to do is inform somebody of the death of a close personal loved one or a family member, it's one of the hardest things you ever have to do and it's that there's no role playbook for that. It hasn't really been written and it's written differently for every single person. It also shows that each one of these cases is different. It really requires an understanding of not only, you know, what the victim is, who the person is who died, but also what the gold star family is going through and that is sometimes hard to achieve.
LEMON: Senator John McCain the chairman of the senate of the armed services committee said he might not wait for the department of defense to finished its investigation, before issuing a subpoena, this was the National Security adviser H.R. McMaster's response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It hurt my feelings. I love and respect Senator McCain. I think we have from a perspective have done quite a bit with staff and members of congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: How long do these investigations take and is it fair to say it's too soon to know what happen?
MUDD: Well let's break it down into two pieces, are there some mere facts that are known, the answer has to be yes. There's been interviews with others on the raid. The intelligence business is about understanding the adversary, in this case a small ISIS group of people, the intelligence you use could be everything from drone footage to intercepted communications, to human sources within the organization. It's not clear to me we will ever fully understand what was going on with the ISIS cell there, so, we have facts now but for people to say halfway around the world that we fully understand what happened there, we have one side and we will now have the other side. One quick final comment, Don, remember this is why I'm with the White House and Pentagon. In the United States, in Las Vegas, Nevada, you had cameras everywhere. You had law enforcement everywhere, and days more than a weekend we're still changing a timeline that you would think you would know in 24 hours. This stuff is not easy and can't even get it right in the United States sometimes.
LEMON: Colonel Leighton, I will give you the last word.
LEIGHTON: Don, I think it's absolutely right what Phil said. Niger is a very isolated country, doesn't have the same infrastructure that we have, and it is a place where it's the pointy end of the spear. That is what special operations forces do, they go to the pointy end of the spear and try to make life better for all of us.
LEMON: Colonel Warren I want to hear from you as well.
WARREN: Well this is a fact. We have a difficult situation in Niger. We have troops in one of the most remote areas on earth. There is no eyes up above watching every step of this. And again, it is confusing. Combat is an amazing, horrifying thing. And it's difficult to put all these pieces together. The answer to your original question that it will take some time, this will take a month to put together all the pieces together and to analyze everything and come up with a finished product. So we will have to be patient.
[23:15:15] LEMON: Thank you gentlemen. I appreciate it. I want to take a moment now to remember the American heroes in amidst of this, all of this. Sergeant La David Johnson was one of four U.S. Soldiers who lost their lives on October 4th in Niger where they were helping local forces fight terrorists. Staff sergeant Dustin Wright was 29, he came from a deeply rooted in military service all the way back to 1812. The family said he is the first service member that they have lost in 205 years. 39 year-old Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson was a chemical and biological, radiological and nuclear specialists who earned dozens of awards and decorations, he leaves a wife and two daughters. Sergeant Bryan Black was a 35 year-old Green Beret medic, he learned the local dialect in Niger, so that he could communicated directly with the people, and he is survived by a wife and two sons. And 25-year-old Sergeant La David Johnson who lost his mother as a young boy and was raised by relatives, married his childhood sweet heart, he is survived by his pregnant wife and their two children.
LEMON: President Trump can't resist tweeting again tonight taking shots at Congresswoman Frederica Wilson calling her a liar. Let us discuss now, CNN political commentator Charles Blow is here, Republican Strategist Joseph Pinion, CNN political commentator David Swerdlick and Alice Stewart may join us in just a moment. So, General Kelly today talked about being a gold star father himself, something in the past he has declined to do. What was your reaction to that David Swerdlick?
[23:20:26] DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So look General Kelly as a marine officer and gold star father, I think he had a wide lane to come out there and speak his mind today. If anybody has the moral authority to talk on this it's him and there were a lot of good points that he made in his speech about the ultimate sacrifice that our men and women in uniform make. My one criticism of General Kelly speech was when he veered off into not just talking about our discussion about gold star families and he started to say he is dismayed for instance we have a lack of respect for women, for religion and for those other institutions, he named institutions that his boss President Trump has not had a lot of respect for. I thought do you know who you work for. That is where I thought he took it a click too far. On the other hand, nice to have a gold star father settle down and speak on this issue.
LEMON: I spoke about that in my opening earlier in the show. You know he went back on attack to Congresswoman Wilson who had this to say earlier today to our affiliate WSBN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP FREDERICA WILSON, (R) FLORIDA: You mean to tell me that I have become so important.
That the White House is following me and my word this is amazing, it's amazing, that is absolutely phenomenal. I have to tell my kid that is I'm a rock star now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So she later put out a statement taking the high road but she, I don't, do you think Joseph, and she should have made that comment?
JOSEPH PINION, CHAIR, CONSERVATIVE COLOR COALITION: Absolutely not. There's nothing amazing about what has occurred right now.
LEMON: Do you think she was being sarcastic.
LEMON: It's inappropriate?
PINION: It's inappropriate. At this point in time there's a man who is dead. I spoke to a friend the other day, I said there was a time in humanity when two nations that fought each other would stop war and go and literally collect the bodies, because we understood we had that shared respect for humanity even when our differences literally had driven us to war. So if we can't get back to a point in civilized society where we can have some type of respect for people who have literally lain down their lives if that can't be sacred than something is truly broken in our spirit.
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, but the problem is Mr. Trump has initiated this and many of the fight he is involved in is either him initiating it or responding in a way he doesn't have to, in a way that is antagonistic. It can't go unmentioned there's a special level of spite and going out of one's way to engaged with people of color and women standing up for themselves. That is a very curious facet of this particular President's behavior and demeanor. I don't know what it is, because I'm not in his head but I do see the pattern, whether it is the mayor of San Juan, whether it is this congresswoman, whether it is Kaepernick, these people are not even on his level. These are not state heads. These are smaller people. He wants to punch down when they are people of color or women, what is that? LEMON: Listen, I've been thinking of that since it happened, people
say he is always about race, it's not necessarily always about race.
BLOW: It's about race until it's not.
LEMON: So someone said this today, this is a gold star mother, she said this on CNN's air, and I want to get your response. Let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE DEFORD, GOLD STAR MOTHER, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: The sentence that he said after that, which was, I suppose it must hurt anyway speaks more to his personality and his feelings about maybe people of color. That it just didn't, it didn't ring true. It didn't ring sincerely to me. And I was, frankly, appalled at what he said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[23:25:00] LEMON: David, and Alice joins us by the way, but David I heard you agreeing when Charles said what he said, what do you think of what that woman said?
SWERDLICK: So yes, just sort of to piggy back on what Charles said. Here's where I come down. We have seen a lot through the Trump administration and throughout the Obama years, the patriotism of African-Americans being questioned in big and small ways. President Obama didn't wear the flag pin. Colin Kaepernick being called unpatriotic for doing what I think is a very patriotic protest, you can go on and on down the list. Then comes along the family of a African-American army ranger sergeant and somehow his family is the one that gets embroiled with this war of words with the President even if the President truly disputes the accounts of what was said as the commander of this soldier, as the leader of the free world. If he can't find it in himself to squash this and say something that consoles the family rather than stirs that up. It's just another wound in this ongoing discussion. It doesn't mean that he is a racist, but it is like why does it had seem to happen so much when people of color are in the mix.
LEMON: Isn't this indicative why people of color, Charles have disdain for this President, because he doesn't understand what is insulting and what is not.
BLOW: Some is insulting, some is policy. What the Justice Department is doing is outrageous when it comes to drug policy and reverting to use of private prisons all these thing that is have real material impacts on people's lives, so people have a right to be upset about that. Then there's a tone and tenor that he uses particularly when talking to and about African-American people and why should they support you and why not. That relationship is fraught. And that is a problem and I don't understand what it is, like David said, why you can't just get over it, just suck it up sometimes, why can't you just be bigger. The idea you feel you have to fight these particular kinds of people is really problematic.
LEMON: He called an African-American family who lost a loved one and that call seemed to go particularly well.
PINION: I think to make this solely about race.
LEMON: Listen it was a white lady who was a gold star who brought it up.
PINION: I think again, I think this is much more profound than race. You look at the issues we talked with Donald Trump having an inability almost a constitutional inability to say maybe I made a mistake, or could have done things better, I think humanity 101 dictates if somehow after you spent an entire month, saying that somehow people kneeling for the flag is unpatriotic, that literally the words coming out of your mouth had left a grieving widow more aggrieved than before you got on the phone with her. I think someone get on the phone and say my goodness that is not our intent. So I believe there's much documented evidence that there's an inability to communicate effectively with people of color from this administration that just can't be denied. I think ultimately the focus on that issue right now and not the broader, almost macro issue we're facing right now is that this administration seems to lack the ability to just say we made a mistake or that was not our intent, let us circle back around now and make you whole.
LEMON: Alice I need to get you on the break. I promise you will be the first one, but when we comeback, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You notice I haven't been commenting a lot on politics lately.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He is commenting on politics tonight and take a wild guess who he called out over and over again while back on the campaign trail.
[23:32:55] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: President Barack Obama jumping back into politics campaigning for Democratic candidates in the governor races in New Jersey and Virginia calling out of the policy of President Trump while avoiding mentioning his successor's name.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You notice I haven't been commenting a lot on politics, lately. But here's one thing I know, if you have to win a campaign by dividing people, you're not going to be able to govern them.
You won't be able to unite them later if that is how you start. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Back now with my panel. Alice you first, as I promised. President Obama has been pretty quiet since he left the oval office but tonight he is clear where he thinks we are as a country. What's your reaction?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he as well as former President Bush have said, enough is enough and it's time to speak out. I think what we heard from President Obama was that the politics of today have become nasty and divisive and it's time to change that and clearly as we heard from former President Bush earlier he had a similar sentiment that things are nasty in politics. There's a divide in this country and things are certainly not headed in the right direction, according to him, and it appears that these two former Presidents have a lot more in common than our current President, the problem is the current President is the current President and he was elected by the people and he is the one that is leading our country forward. I think with regard specifically to the Virginia race, I think President Obama would be well served if he wanted to attack President Trump that is fine, but he needs to really focus on getting more Democrats out to vote and getting more Democrats out there to elect their chosen candidate, if he wants to win this race, because it is about just attacking Trump, it is about energizing the Democrats and getting them to vote which they failed to do in this past presidential election.
LEMON: Funny you said that, because here's part of his message to Democrats at the rally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[23:35:06] BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You all are getting a little sleepy. You get a little complacent. Now this is not my opinion, this is the data. This is the data. You all during Presidential elections everybody gets excited but when it is an off year election suddenly, what, there's an election going on? Huh? So as a consequence folks wake up and are surprised, how come we can't get through congress, or through the state house, because you slept through the election?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: David, some people did get a little bit sleepy during the election.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Yeah, definitely. First of all President Obama is still the best retail politician in the country, he showed that today. He is making two points there, one is a matter of strategy for Democrats and that if they want to take back the White House in 2020, Democrats have to come out and vote in ways they didn't in 2016. Another point he is making is a broader one that cuts across both parties whatever you think of President Trump or President Obama's tenure these things aren't happening to us, we're the voters, people have to take some level of ownership for what happens and I think he is encouraging people to say this is not just a show you're watching. Go out and participate.
LEMON: Again P.R. locker writes, about black voters having to save the day saying groups focus on civil rights and racial justice and working to encourage minority voters particularly black voters to turn out on election day, as an opportunity to combat racism and white supremacy and send the message to Washington at the moment of high racial anxiety among minority groups. Do you agree with that? And if so, do you think it will work?
STEWART: No. I mean, that was the strategy of Hillary Clinton and didn't work for her, to divide this country based on racial issues. This is about electing a candidate and finding the candidate who connects with issues important to you, jobs, national security, someone you feel will represent you and your values, whether the state house or the White House. And if the Democrats want to continue down their path making this about race or racial inequality then they will continue to lose. They need to find someone who connects based on the issues that are important to people. That is jobs and security. And until they recognize that it they're going to continue to be in this same situation.
LEMON: Charles you twitted your frustration and you were saying that it really irks me that America keeps asking black people especially black women to save it from itself and blaming them if they don't. Explain that.
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, obviously everyone should participate. I'm a vote every time every line kind of guy. We need to reframe the question here. Which is, it's not that black people should be rushing, we should be burden on them to come save us, half of the country is voting affirmatively for people like Donald Trump. This is not the black people there's like 90 percent plus black people voted Democrat in the last election and the election before that and the election before that. Half of white America is doing this. I think we have to constantly reframe that to say what is happening there? It's not just on these black people's shows. I heard so much after that election about if you had just come out and voted more, black people didn't come out in the same numbers, you didn't do this, you doesn't do that, hmm at a certain point that begins to degrade, because when I look at the exit polls, what it shows me is a majority of both white men and white women voted for Donald Trump. Start there. If you have questions start there. If you want to know who gave us this man start there. If you think by appealing to black people is playing racial politics and dividing the country no it's just talking to people with respect and encourage them on their own issues to go out and vote. But don't then turn around and say it's your fault. It's not.
LEMON: Joseph I got to go. I am sorry, we will get you next time. Thank you all. We are getting new information about President Trump personally interviewing a select few of a dozens of candidates for U.S. attorney where they come and what they have to do for the president's property holdings, we will tell you about that.
[23:43:36] LEMON: The White House defending President Trump's personal interviews for candidates for key U.S. Attorney General positions that happen to be in his backyard. Let's discuss now. Jamil Jaffer is here the former associate White House counsel to President George W. Bush, and former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti and John Flannery. Good evening to all of you. Thank you for coming on. I want to start with you, President Trump personally interviewed two candidates for influential use in attorney positions in Manhattan and Brooklyn, one of the positions for southern district of New York which oversees the Trump tower this means the U.S. Attorney there would have authority to investigate cases related to the President's dealing and we know the two candidates who interview with the President have connection with the law firms with close Trump confidents what's your reaction to all of this?
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes I have to say Don, it's very concerning and surprising to me. There have been reports that the U.S. attorney office in New York is investigating Trump businesses and here you have the President doing something that is very unusual. President Obama never interviewed U.S. attorney candidates in person or his predecessors did either and here we have the president of the United States taking a personal interest in who the chief prosecutor is in that particular district where there is ongoing investigation of Trump businesses.
[23:45:05] I think the people at home could understand why there might be a concerned, you know all of the time when we meet people in person or feel indebted to them, and subconsciously it can have an impact on our decision making and here whether it does or not can just create the appearance of in impropriety.
LEMON: I want to ask you John, the White House didn't deny that the president conducted this interviews, saying these are individuals that the President nominated and the senate confirms, under article II of the constitution, while it is rare to meet with candidates before their nomination, it seems the president technically isn't doing anything wrong? Is that correct?
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I don't agree we can't ignore the circumstances, we have a President that has in my opinion already obstructed justice. Maybe should tape the interview, because it turns against judges and prosecutors, the same ones that he praises even moments before he abuses them. And it is awfully clear by his pattern of conduct that the only reason that he wants to meet and interviews these people is to protect himself. This does terrible things. We talk about the law the appearances of doing it orderly and conducting it fairly and he has no concern about that. And so, I think the outcome can only be bad. We saw him fire the U.S. Attorney in New York before he got to finish a case involving major influxes of money that was washed from Russia. And there are all sorts of involvement of this President in that town. And we have a similar problem for another prosecutor who is apparently interviewed by the President in D.C. She was part of his transition team and one of her expertise involve foreign corrupt practices, in other words, bribery abroad. So it is very distressing that he would do this.
LEMON: Let me ask you, Senator Blumenthal a Democrat weighing in on this today, lets' listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, U.S. SENATOR FROM CONNECTICUT: Appears inclusion (inaudible) Trump campaign advisers are sad because collusion between (inaudible) possibly considering criminal charges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Is this a conflict of interest?
JAMIL JAFFER, FORMER ASSOCIATE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I don't think so, Don. This is a tempest in a tea pot. President interviews U.S. attorney candidates before he interviews the Attorney General, interviews the deputy Attorney General, here is all sorts of folks in the Justice Department and the idea this is inappropriate is incorrect. In the case mentioned by Mr. Flannery that he did confirmed the U.S. attorney in district of Columbia, I happen to know person of great integrity and notion these people would be influenced by the President ask the appropriate question is completely speculative and actually totally false in the case.
LEMON: Do you want to respond John?
FLANNERY: Yes, I do. Lu is a person who is on his transition team who was lifted out of the cabinet, was interviewed and is in a district where there are issues and conflict perhaps between the special counsel and that office, because perhaps he decides to indict rather than refer for the impeachment if that is the conclusion of the investigation, she'd be in that position to duel with him, if you will, and she should withdrawal from some situation if it comes up. But she should are never been appointed in the first place.
I think its error to say its speculation, we have a long track record of this President not caring one bit about what is regular, what's decent, or what is lawful. It's about his self-preservation. Like he has an albatross around his neck that he killed and he can't get rid of it and it drives him to distraction that he could be prosecuted or his close confidents would disclose what they did in the election.
LEMON: Stand by everybody, I have to take a break. We will have more on the other side when we come back, the CIA force to walk back their own director's comments about the Russian investigation. We will break that down, when we come back.
[23:53:19] LEMON: Russian meddling did not affect the outcome of the election. That is what the Director of the CIA said today and then an agency spokesman had to walk back his boss's claim. Back now with my panel. Renato, let's listen to those remarks. It's from CIA Director Mike Pompeo earlier today at a conservative think tank. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: The intelligence community's assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So what's your response?
MARIOTTI: Well, first of all, it's impossible to know I think at this point whether or not it affected the election because we haven't investigated this issue. There are 21 states that had voting systems that were penetrated, and there hasn't been investigation and we understood to do that.
LEMON: We know that that is not accurate. The intelligence concluded that Russia did indeed meddle in the election, but no conclusion was reached about whether the meddling affected the outcome of the election. A CIA spokesperson had to quickly issue a correction. Here is what it says. It says the intelligence assessment with regards to Russian election meddling has not changed and the Director did not intend to suggest that it had. So why the CIA Director would minimize or mislead about Russian interference in the election? John?
FLANNERY: Could be politics. I think we have an estimate of a lack of intelligence today, and I think that it's amazing how many times it's like a child does something wrong and then they have to run around and clean it up.
LEMON: Jamil when the Director of the CIA makes comments like this, does it undermine the credibility of the intelligence community?
JAFFER: Look, Don, I think this is more of a tempest in a teapot. The Director simply misspoke. He referred to what the intelligence community's assessment was. They have directly assessed that Russia did meddle in this election. The question is did it affect the outcome. We have no evidence to suggest that. He said the assessment didn't. But that is right. They did not assess that.
[23:55:18] LEMON: And why do you say it's ridiculous?
FLANNERY: Well, it's ridiculous because if you're spreading all these lies and half-truths and things to affect the election, to influence it, then obviously it has an outcome and it didn't help that Comey piled on toward the end before the election based on in same material that went to his office from the Russians accordingly.
LEMON: Renato, quickly, do you want to say something?
MARIOTTI: Well, I just honestly what we need to do is come together as Americans and investigate what Russia did in this election and unite against Americans against their efforts in the future. LEMON: Thank you so much, gentlemen. I appreciate all of you joining
us this evening and I appreciate you joining us as well. That is it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow night.