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CNN TONIGHT

JFK's Assassination Details Out of Pandora's Box; Trump Intervenes DOJ's Decision. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired October 26, 2017 - 22:00   ET

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


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[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: But usually father knows best so this could very well be much to do about nothing on the Ridiculist. Yes, I said much to do about nothing.

Thanks for watching 360. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts right now.

DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Breaking news, thousands of secret files on the Kennedy assassination released.

This is CNN Tonight. I am Don Lemon.

It's the one conspiracy theory most Americans can get behind. The one that says Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. Well, tonight we're getting fascinating information about the Kennedy assassination from 28,000 documents just released a couple of hours ago by the national archives.

But hundreds more are being held back. What's in them and why is President Trump going back on his promise to release everything?

Plus, we have some breaking news tonight about the president's role in getting a gag order lifted so an FBI informant can talk to Congress about a Russian uranium deal, a Russian uranium deal that happened whether Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

We're going to get to that and new information in the Russia investigation in just a moment. But first let's get right to CNN's Tom Foreman with the latest on our breaking news, those newly released files on the JFK assassination. This is fascinating, Tom. What have you got?

TOM FOREMAN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, we've got a ton of little things all over the place, Don. One of the latest things we've seen here was that there was an informant in New Orleans -- do you remember the movie "JFK" which is really what prompted the law which forced this release of documents today?

That was the story of a district attorney there named Jim Garrison who was pursuing charges against the only person who was ever prosecuted as part of a conspiracy or alleged conspiracy. That was Clay Shaw. He was acquitted. He was never convicted of anything. Well, now there's information here that there was -- there were

official documents with somebody saying that there was a guy in prison there in New Orleans who basically agreed to lie about Clay Shaw to support this idea that there was a conspiracy. So that's one of the latest things we've run across here.

We've run into a ton of other things like a Cuban intelligence officer, one saying. They were discussing Oswald and one of them said he was a good shot. Another Cuban intelligence officer said, yes, I knew him.

So, all sorts of things like this which are feeding into the idea of those who want to believe in a conspiracy theory and other information suggesting, no, there's plenty of reason to be skeptical of any of those claims. Don.

LEMON: All right, Tom Foreman, Tom, we're going to get back to you throughout the show as you're learning more information. Again, we'll get back to Tom. Now I want to turn to CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger, also CNN's justice correspondent Pamela Brown joins us as well.

Good evening to both of you. Gloria, CNN is learning that the president is unhappy with the JFK document dump. Why is that?

GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, I think he wanted more documents to be released and that didn't occur. And so we're told that he was given a choice. Either release all of the documents without any redactions, even though there have been these problems that were raised by intelligence and law enforcement officials, or release a smaller amount with the redactions. And he decided to do that.

But also, he directed the agencies to come back to him in 180 days and with some fuller documents, if they could. Imagine his consternation that in the 11th hour after 25 years there were these kinds of problems.

LEMON: Gloria, can we turn to Russia now and the president. You have some breaking news on President Trump personally intervening in the Justice Department to give the OK for former FBI informant to testify before Congress. Why did the president get involved with DOJ's decisions?

BORGER: Well, I think that the president decided that he wanted to be more transparent is what I was told. And he made it clear that he wanted this gag order lifted about this undercover agent. He had gotten a request. The Justice Department had gotten a request from Jeff Sessions and the president said I want it done.

And so he directed his senior staff to, as I was told, facilitate the Justice Department's full cooperation with Congress on the gag order. Then the sources said that the White House counsel Don McGahn then contacted the Justice Department.

Now, for its part the Justice Department is not commenting, but there is one source familiar with the matter who told us that the Justice Department made an independent decision, but you know, Don, that this story is one that's been hanging around for quite some time.

[22:04:56] The president only this week called it larger than Watergate because it's about the Russians, and the question of whether they made donations to the Clinton Foundation as a way to encourage or to get the sale of uranium to their company.

And so, this is perhaps a way for the president to get this person to testify and perhaps deflect some of the Russia heat on to his favorite enemy, Hillary Clinton.

LEMON: Interesting. Pamela, and we also have been digging into this relationship between Cambridge Analytica which reached out to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks seeking Hillary Clinton's e-mails. What are we learning about the timeline of the events between Cambridge Analytica and the Trump campaign?

PAMELA BROWN, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, the timeline sheds light on the relationship between the campaign and the data firm. It appeared to have started in June of 2016. That is around the time that the Mercer family, who founded Cambridge Anylitica in part became Trump supporters.

So around that time the two teamed up, the Trump campaign and Cambridge Analytica. At the same time Jared Kushner took overall data operations for the campaign. That was in June.

The following month the campaign makes its first payment to Cambridge Analytica in July. And it was one of many payments totaling nearly $6 million to Cambridge Analytica. Around the same time of that, Don, in July -- actually, two days before the payment, at the time candidate Trump was on the trail talking about the Russians, asking them to hack Hillary Clinton's 33,000 missing e-mails, as you may recall.

And now we're learning that in that same time frame in July, according the Wall Street Journal, the head of the firm actually reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asking him if he needed help with Hillary Clinton's e-mails. All of this within that time frame.

Now, the campaign has distanced itself from Cambridge Analytics, basically saying it didn't rely on it at all during the campaign. It relied on the RNC's data information.

LEMON: I want to bring in now CNN politics editor at large, and that Chris Cillizza. Chris, welcome to the panel.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNN: Thanks, sir.

LEMON: Video of the conference from the May of 2017 surfaced today showing Cambridge Analytica's top digital officer talking about their role in the Trump campaign. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MOLLY SCHWEICKERT, HEAD OF DIGITAL, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA: We started working with the Trump campaign in about June of 2016 when it became obvious that a sophisticated data apparatus would be needed. This data was also used to produce a custom tool kit for the campaign. We then used those to project the priority for each particular state to inform the campaign how much investment they should place on each particular state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Chris, that directly contradicts what the Trump campaign said yesterday. It said, and this is a quote, "Once Trump -- once President Trump secured the nomination in 2016, one of the most important decisions we made was to partner with the Republican National Committee on data analytics.

Leading into the election the RNC had invested in the most sophisticated data targeting program in modern American history which helped secure our victory in the fall. We were proud to have worked with the RNC and its data experts and relied on them as our main source for data analytic -- and data analytics."

How much of a problem is that for the Trump campaign, do you think?

CILLIZZA: Well, that statement from Michael Glassner that you just read in part, Don, is sort of a -- it doesn't answer the question that was asked. It's essentially saying that something -- it's saying well, this is over here, but also we're not going to deal with this question that's being posed to us.

The timeline to me that Pam laid out is the most important thing. We know, you know, within days of Donald Trump saying I wish Russia got those 30,000 e-mails they hired Cambridge Analytica. The issue is when does that head of Cambridge Analytica reach out to Julian Assange because it's right around that same time. We don't have it exactly nailed down.

And the other thing I'd point out, even if he did reach out, we know he did that, do we know that he knew that that the WikiLeaks leaks were from Russia? There's -- it's very specific in terms of the timeline.

I would say put that Glassner statement aside, because it's just not dealing with the heart of the matter here. And the heart of the matter, I think, is what Pam was laying out, which is that timeline, who knew what when and I don't think we know all of those pieces just yet.

LEMON: So it comes out, Gloria, that the Clinton campaign and the DNC funded the dossier, but no one in the Clinton campaign nor the DNC leadership then or now say that they know anything about who paid for it.

BORGER: Right.

LEMON: How is that possible? Who would be authorized to make the decision to fund it?

BORGER: Well, it's hard to know. It could have been -- you know, it could have been independent. It could have been a decision made by the law firm and you try and shield people in the campaign from it.

[22:10:00] You know, it seems like Fusion GPS now is an orphan because nobody wants to claim that they had anything to do with funding Fusion GPS. But we know that millions of dollars were spent.

And I think that is -- it is legitimate to figure out who and why. And, look, I mean, we're not naive here. We all know that there's opposition research that goes on in a campaign and that campaigns like to establish a large distance between the people who are doing the opposition research, funding the opposition research, getting the opposition research, distributing the opposition research and the candidate or perhaps key officials in the campaign.

And that perhaps the job of Fusion GPS might not have been to inform Hillary Clinton so much as it might have been to spread information to journalists and others about potential areas to investigate about Donald Trump. You know, these things work in a lot of different ways, and they don't work in the sunshine. Right?

LEMON: Yes. That is how opposition research...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Yes.

CILLIZZA: No question.

LEMON: Go ahead, Chris.

CILLIZZA: Well, look, I mean, Gloria is a 100 percent right. Look, any good campaign, any campaign worth anything, particularly when you get to the presidential level does a ton of opposition research on their opponent and frankly, a bunch of opposition research on themselves so you know where your weaknesses are.

To me the issue, Gloria touched on this, it is not surprising, I don't think, that Hillary Clinton wouldn't have known about this.

BORGER: Right.

CILLIZZA: Millions of dollars are going in and out of that campaign, particularly towards the end. The same thing is true with Donald Trump. But at some point, look, Perkins Coie and Marc Elias, in particular are under the employ of the Clinton campaign and the DNC.

Someone in that orbit has to have ownership of that. I don't think it's enough to say, well, they were on retainer and we don't know what they did. Someone in that organization, and John Podesta says it's not him, Debbie Wasserman Schultz says it's not her. Robby Mook at least when I -- before I took my kids in the bed and I dialed out for an hour and a half. Robby Mook had not -- the campaign manager had not said anything

publicly about what he knew. We know Brian Fallon has said the communications director has said -- sorry, the spokesman has said I didn't know about this. So someone had to know. It doesn't change the fact, Don, that opposition research is normal.

LEMON: Yes.

CILLIZZA: But someone had to know it was going on and who was funding it.

LEMON: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: So this is where...

LEMON: I've got to run. I've got to run, Gloria.

BORGER: OK.

LEMON: I've got to get to the next spot. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. When we come back, the former director of National Intelligence weighs in on some surprising details on the newly released JFK files. I'm going to ask him why after more than 50 years the intelligence community still wants to keep some of the files secret.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Here is our breaking news tonight. Thousands of files on the assassination of President Kennedy finally released tonight but some still being kept under wraps.

Joining me now is CNN national security analyst James Clapper, who was the Director of National Intelligence under President Obama. Thank you so much for joining us.

There's so much to discuss and so much coming out about these JFK documents tonight. One intriguing nugget is from one of your predecessors in the intelligence community, Richard Helms, the man who was director of the CIA under both President Johnson and Nixon in 1975.

Let me read this for you. He says, "President Johnson used to go around saying that the reason President Kennedy was assassinated was that he had assassinated President Diem and this was just justice. He certainly used to say that in the early days of his presidency and where he got this idea from, I don't know."

Is that folklore, CIA lore? What do you make of that?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: That's first heard from me. I never heard that before. You know, it's quite plausible that President Johnson might have said it, but that's something I hadn't heard before. LEMON: Haven't heard it. So, CIA lore maybe or something like that.

CLAPPER: Well, there was a different standard today about assassinations than in the day.

LEMON: What do you mean?

CLAPPER: Well, it's prohibited. We have an executive order, executive order 12-333 that was originally signed on by President Reagan in 1981 that specifically prohibits assassinations.

LEMON: Yes. I want to ask you. This is about a memorandum, an FBI memorandum. It was from March 6, 1967 where Robert Kennedy has been informed by the CIA, OK. It says, "That's an -- that an intermediary had been hired by CIA and approached Sam Giancana with a proposition of paying $150,000 to hire some gunman to go to Cuba and kill Castro."

Giancana obviously was a mobster. We know about him. Why after all these years the CIA and other intelligence agencies still asking to keep so much of this secret, do you think?

CLAPPER: I really can't answer that because certainly when I was serving as a DNI I had some questions about why after all these years we couldn't release virtually all of this unless there was some specific reason. And I'm speculating here because I don't know, pertaining to partly liaison sensitivities or some interaction with some trade craft that perhaps is still viable. So I really don't have a good answer for that. I'm speculating.

LEMON: Why do you think after all these years people are so fascinated by this?

CLAPPER: Well, I think there's always been an aura of conspiracy about it. There's always been the speculation that Lee Harvey Oswald didn't act alone, that has lingered over many, many years. I was around when Kennedy was assassinated. I was an officer in the air force when that happened. And those doubts have sprung eternal.

LEMON: Let's turn now. I want to talk to you about currently what's happening with the administration and about this new information about Cambridge Analytica was the data operation hired by the Trump campaign. We now know that the CEO of Cambridge Analytica reached out to Julian Assange looking for deleted Clinton e-mails.

Today the Guardian is reporting the company said that they were instrumental in day to day campaign decisions for the campaign. Is that a significant connection?

[22:20:02] CLAPPER: Not in my mind. To me, there's no real smoking gun here in the context of collusion with the Russians. I think it's important to bear in mind that WikiLeaks has always professed its independence and it was not at least a witting tool of the Russians.

So just because someone went to WikiLeaks, who I think many people regard WikiLeaks as just a skill at acquiring information that people don't want acquired, but it doesn't necessarily mean any kind of connection with the Russians.

LEMON: Did you say winning tool or witting...

(CROSSTALK)

CLAPPER: Well, meaning that we held that the e-mails that were hacked from the DNC were hacked by the Russians and then through a cut out given to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks, Assange, of course, denied any connection whatsoever and that the Russians had given them these e- mails.

We had pretty good proof that that's what happened, so that's what I meant by he's not a witting tool of the Russians. Perhaps an unwitting tool but not witting.

LEMON: Yes. The Trump campaign tried to distance itself from Cambridge Analytica. But I want you to listen. This is a senior executive, a senior executive for the company at a conference. This is May of 2017.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHWEICKERT: We started working with the Trump campaign in about June of 2016. When it became obvious that a sophisticated data apparatus would be needed by ensuring that every campaign stop was driven by data and reflecting what was currently being seen in the field, he was able to use his travel time most effectively.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: They're saying that Cambridge Analytica was so instrumental that they drove decisions on where the candidate traveled. What's wrong with that?

CLAPPER: Well, actually, nothing. Although it does seem to contradict the statement that was put out that this company didn't play much of a role. It appears they did. But on its face there's actually nothing wrong with this.

What I -- the concern, at least in my mind, that we ought to be looking for here, was there a foreign nation, meaning read Russia, connection here? If there wasn't, well, I mean, both sides were doing oppo, opposition research.

In fact, in the case of the dossier, the financial -- early financial pedigree of it, I'm told republican candidates during the primary season. And then that work got taken over by the DNC for other purposes. So this sort of thing I'm sure goes on all the time and it could easily go on at levels well below the candidate or even the senior management levels of each of the campaigns.

So I don't know that there's necessarily anything on the face of what I've heard that's nefarious or illegal. What I would be interested in is if there is a foreign nation read Russia connection.

LEMON: I want to play a clip. This is from an interview the president did yesterday and I want to get your thoughts on this. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A wonderful man came to my office a week ago, a very highly respected man and he sat down and he said, you know, it's been very unfair. From the day you have been president, you've been under this little veil of Russia, Russia, Russia.

And with all of this being said, I want to say this. I think it would be great if we got along with Russia. I don't think there's anything wrong with -- you know, they are a power. They're a nuclear power. I think we could have a good relationship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Do you think the White House understands how much of an adversary the Russians are?

CLAPPER: Well, first, I was struck by he said almost the same thing to us when we briefed him when he was then president-elect Trump on the 6th of January. Wouldn't it be great if we could get along with Russia? Well, sure it would, where our interests converge.

And no, I don't know that he understands what Russia is about and the profound threat that Russia poses to undermine our basic political system. And it's not clear to me that he understands that.

They are not our friends. They're not interested in doing good things with us. I may being a little biased because of my long experience with dealing with the Russians, but -- and I just think we need to be very weary of them.

I continue to be struck by the contrast with the commentary that's been made about the decertification of the JCPOA with the Iranians, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for the Iranians not complying with the spirit of the agreement when in the meantime, the Russians are in abject violation of the treaty, the intermediate nuclear forces treaty. You don't hear much about that.

[22:25:01] And so Russia poses a big threat to us both from the standpoint of their aggressive strategic forces modernization. They only have one adversary in mind and what they're trying to do to undermine our system.

LEMON: Thank you, director. Always a pleasure.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: I appreciate it. When we come back, much more on the thousands of files on JFK, John F. Kennedy -- John F. Kennedy's assassination just released tonight, including information about Lee Harvey Oswald's contact in a Russian embassy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Our breaking news, thousands of files on the Kennedy assassination just released tonight, but hundreds more were held back at the last minute. Why and what's in them?

Tom Foreman is back with more details. What are you learning, Tom?

FOREMAN: Well, we are just pouring through these pages here, Don. And there are all these little nuggets coming up. Some of which are interesting, some of which are just confusing.

Here is a really fascinating one that came up here. A memo forwarded by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1966 about the Soviet Union reaction to what had happened. And honestly, what it suggested, there are conspiracy theorists all over the world about it.

[22:29:59] Quote, "According to our source, he said, officials of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union believe this was some sort of well-organized conspiracy on the part of the ultra-right in the United States to affect a clue. The Soviets seem convinced that the assassination was not the deed of one man but that it arose out of a carefully planned campaign in which several people played a part."

They further went on to say that the Soviets were fearful that without somebody clearly in charge here generals in the United States might launch a nuclear attack against the Soviet Union.

It's really quite remarkable how much they were trying to make sense of it. And by the way, the Soviet assessment, according to this source that Hoover was passing on of Lee Harvey Oswald was that he had no connection whatsoever to the Soviet Union, that he was a neurotic maniac who was disloyal to his own country and to everything else.

So the thing is, Don, you mentioned J -- LBJ earlier and the idea that he suggested there was some kind of conspiracy here.

DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Yes.

FOREMAN: We're presenting evidence from Hoover himself here. There were conspiracy theories all over the world saying they thought maybe somebody else was involved.

LEMON: So what about supposedly this contact with Lee Harvey Oswald with the Russian embassy in Mexico.

FOREMAN: Yes. That had to do with few weeks before the assassination -- closer to two months before the actual assassination. Oswald went down there. Remember, he had lived in the Soviet Union. He contacted the Soviet embassy and the Cuban consulate in Mexico City and he appeared to be trying to get visas to travel. He didn't get them from either one.

But there was a phone call that was intercepted where Oswald spoke to a Soviet KGB agent and said something about how is that business in Washington working out and presumably that was in reference to this visa going on there. But, again, there's no sign he ever got the visas and it's not at all

clear that he was coordinating anything there except trying to get visas, presumably, maybe to flee after the assassination attempt or for some other plan.

LEMON: Tom Foreman, thank you very much. We're going to check back with Tom throughout the show as he gets more information.

Now I want to bring in Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and the author of the "Kennedy Half Century." And Hugh Aynesworth, author of "November 22, 1963: Witness to History." Hugh was in Dallas on that historic day.

And we're happy to have both of you gentlemen here. Good evening. Hugh, first your reaction on what Tom is reporting in these documents.

HUGH AYNESWORTH, AUTHOR, NOVEMBER 22, 1963: WITNESS TO HISTORY: Well, from what I've read, and I haven't read that many really at this point, it's pretty much things we already knew. I think that what was held back is what is most interesting. And I think that a lot of people think Oswald made a threat on Kennedy in some of those discussions. I really don't. But eventually we will know because they did have the place bugged and that's what the CIA was worried about, I'm sure.

LEMON: Yes. Larry, to you now. The president started tweeting about the release this weekend. He said, 'Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing as president the long blocked and classified JFK files to be opened.

And then again yesterday, the long anticipated release of the JFK files will take place tomorrow. So interesting. So you predicted chaos and confusion surrounding any possible release. Why is that?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR POLITICS: Because the files that we've read, and like Hugh, we've only read a certain number. I've got a great team here working on it as you all do at CNN. But it's going to take months or maybe years to put this million piece puzzle together.

Don, in this gathering of information, and the good stuff was held back, as Hugh said, but what we got was raw intelligence, loads of rumors, this informant calling the CIA, that informant calling the FBI and they all had hot information, most of which did not check out, which is true in most investigations.

It's confusing. Tom Foreman used the word confusing. And boy, I can back that up. There is no owner's manual to this stuff. There's no clear guide. In 25 years you think they would have put together something that was intelligible for the public, but they did not.

LEMON: Yes. Hugh, explain why you think this new information coming out tonight will only fuel conspiracy theories?

AYNESWORTH: Well, our society leans towards that direction. Everybody wants to be somebody. That's what Lee Harvey Oswald wanted to be somebody. Jack Ruby by wanted to be somebody. And now everybody that comes up with a new conspiracy suddenly is somebody.

I must have covered 40 different conspiracies in my many years as a journalist. And it's just amazing. You're in a small town. You write a story and they say, well, he's got a new theory and he suddenly becomes somebody and it's sad, but that's what our society has come to, I think.

[22:35:10] LEMON: Yes. So when will we learn all the information about this or at least more information? We'll talk about that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: More on our breaking news. Tonight's release of thousands of JFK assassination files.

Back with me now, Larry Sabato and Hugh Aynesworth. Hugh was there on that tragic day and I want to hear more about that. First, I want to get some more information from Larry before we talk what it was like that day.

Let's talk more about what's in the files. The CIA tried to use Mafia figures to kill Castro. That's according to a 1975 report that plans to assassinate Castro were undertaken in the early days of the Kennedy assassination and were led by Richard Bissell who also led the Bay of Pigs operation. What can you tell us about that?

SABATO: Well, there were more plots than you can shake a stick at in the Kennedy administration to get rid of Fidel Castro. I mean, it is absolutely amazing. We have found a document at the highest levels at the White House in this bunch released today showing that some of the senior people in the Kennedy administration wanted to find a way to use biological agents, their term, to wipe out the crops in Cuba to generate a popular rebellion against Castro.

You know, the exploding cigars we've known about for a long time, and the various ways they tried to kill Castro. But this was very inventive. They were hoping that the Cuban people would do it themselves.

You know, Lyndon Johnson always believed, and of course the people who think Johnson did it on that one claimed this was a cover story for him, but he always said that Kennedy's were running a murder incorporated in the Caribbean. They wanted to kill Fidel Castro. He knew about it and he got to Kennedy first. That was Johnson's theory.

But again, we don't have evidence. There really isn't hard evidence that Fidel Castro did it. There's probably a better case to be made that anti-Castro Cubans were involved.

[22:40:00] LEMON: Were you agreeing with that, Hugh? I heard you, were you laughing?

AYNESWORTH: Yes, I do agree with it. Gosh knows how many people our government tried to kill or did kill during that period of time. And that's why they're afraid of releasing this because it will hurt. It will hurt the CIA particularly and to some extent I think it will hurt the FBI. But we must know at some point the truth of all this and stop it.

LEMON: Yes. Larry, what questions would you like to see answered in this whole thing?

SABATO: Well, there are many, but one in particular, I want to know exactly why the CIA and the FBI dropped the ball on Lee Harvey Oswald because he stuck out like a sore thumb, Don. He was one of, I believe, nine U.S. defectors to the Soviet Union. You had to be a pretty strange person to defect to the old Soviet Union.

And then he came back. State Department money helped him come back. Before you knew it, he was campaigning, advocating for Fidel Castro. They were following him. They knew where he was. They were checking in with him. Would you believe that neither the CIA nor the FBI were really communicating, and they never told -- neither agency told the secret service where he was.

I mean, there he was on the motorcade route that Hugh remembers so well in a building under which the motorcade was passing in the days when a president rode in an open car. It's still hard to believe.

LEMON: Yes.

AYNESWORTH: It is.

LEMON: Do you think that -- you said that you believe that this is going to offer more conspiracy theories, Hugh. But do you think that there is -- not that there's everything we have to know here. But that they have the right person, the right theory. Are there still unanswered questions for you? What would you like to see answered?

AYNESWORTH: Well, just like Larry said, I'd like to find out exactly who dropped the ball and why in the Mexico City days. Because it was obvious he wanted to go either to Cuba or Russia, whichever would take him, and neither would. And then they sort of lost him for a day or two. They didn't know where he was.

Now, can you imagine -- and the FBI knew where Oswald worked, but they didn't tell him he was in Mexico City. CIA didn't inform them at all. So there's a lot more to know and there's some really interesting stuff, which I think eventually we will get to see.

LEMON: Yes. Hugh Aynesworth, who was there in November 22nd, 1963 in Dallas, witnessed to history. The author of that book. And also Larry Sabato. Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

We've got more revelations ahead from the newly released JFK files. And when we come back, more and more women coming out with accusations of sexual assault and harassment by powerful men. Why are the women coming forward now? Is this finally a tipping point?

[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: More and more women coming forward with accusations of sexual assault and harassment against powerful men, including a former president.

Let's discuss now. CNN's chief legal analyst Mr. Jeffrey Toobin is here, the author of "The Oath." Tara Setmayer, the former communications director for Congressman Dana Rohrabacker, and CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers. Hello to all of you.

KIRSTEN POWERS, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Good evening.

LEMON: I'm going to start outside of the studio now. Kirsten, to make sure that she gets in here. Kirsten, actress Heather Lind posted her account of a meeting with the elder President Bush on Tuesday in a now deleted Instagram post. And here is some of what she wrote.

She said -- she said, "But when I got the chance to meet George H.W. Bush four years ago to promote a historical television show, I was working on, he sexually assaulted me while I was posing for a similar photo."

OK. So this -- there's a picture, take a look at it. Has been circulating on the internet of Lind with the Bush's. CNN has reached out to Lind to confirm if this picture, the one she is referring to here, she hasn't responded. So tonight Slate has a firsthand account from a writer who says the exact same thing happened to her during a picture with the former president. Your take on these allegations?

POWERS: Well, I mean, you know, he apparently -- the family put out a statement saying that this was something that had to do with his hands. He's in a wheelchair and he couldn't move very well and he purportedly would make a joke about how his favorite magician was David Copperfield which would suggest he did actually understand what he was doing.

Also, I guess I would ask if it was something that was sort of involuntary, why was it only happening with attractive young women. That doesn't really make sense. So, you know, it's obviously inappropriate. And I think it would be very upsetting.

A lot of people, I think, said well, he's 94 years old and in a wheelchair, but it's still really humiliating for a woman, I think, to have to experience something like that. Even, you know, whatever his age is, whatever -- you know, whether he's in a wheelchair or not, he's a former president. He's somebody who is held in high regard and it's an extremely humiliating thing to have to experience.

LEMON: You mentioned the statement they put out. It says, "At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures. To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke, on occasion he has patted women's rears in what he intended to be a good natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent. Others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone who is offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely."

So the president apologized. But can you explain this away, especially when so many women are coming forward? TARA SETMAYER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR TO CONGRESSMAN DANA

ROHRABACKER: I mean, I agree with most of what Kirsten said. I also think that going so far as to say that this is sexual assault is a bit much.

You know, I mean, come on. That's not sexual assault. Inappropriate, yes. Maybe even sexist if you want to go that far with it. I kind of feel like the guy is 90 something years old, give him a break, but a lot of women are probably going to be mad at me for saying that, but I just kind of feel like we need not to water down what actual sexual assault is.

A dirty old man at 90 in a wheelchair cracking a joke and patting on the butt a little bit is not sexual assault. So that's where I think that we need to -- and Jeff can probably this legal definition of sexual assault. I don't think that that constitute...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Does it meet that definition, sexual assault?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: You know, in a technical narrow sense it might. But I just think in a broader sense, you know, women who are being photographed with men are in an unusually vulnerable position, you know, sort of frozen there.

[22:50:08] I mean, think about what happened with Taylor Swift recently. I mean, that lawsuit was about a guy who grabbed her while they were posing for photographs. This happens fairly often. It just shows how sexual harassment is often more about power than it is about sex. It's about showing that I can dominate you, I can treat you shabbily and you're not in a position to respond. I think that's why this position of posing for photographs is a time when there is often inappropriate...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: A 94-year-old man in a position of power, I'm just...

SETMAYER: No, I mean, I just -- what about, OK, we're going to go after George H.W. Bush, then what about all the times Joe Biden who is infamously 'handsy' with people's wives and girlfriends during swearing in ceremonies, I mean, the pictures and the comments about that are joked about, that's just...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But the difference is...

SETMAYER: ... that's Uncle Joe.

LEMON: But the difference is no one has accused him of sexual assault.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Yes. I haven't heard one person...

SETMAYER: I know. That's why I think this woman in particular is just coming out four years later, you're telling me she was that scarred by that. I'm sorry.

LEMON: Well, here is, this is Andrea Mitchell. Andrea Mitchell who is the correspondent over at NBC News tweeted, she said, "Mrs. Bush was at his side. He is in a wheelchair with Parkinson's syndrome. Really?"

SETMAYER: Exactly.

LEMON: "Someone should be ashamed and it isn't 41."

POWERS: Why does it matter his wife was there? I don't understand what the implication is. I mean, they haven't disputed that it happened. Do I think this is, like...

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: Sexual assault though.

POWERS: ... the level of Harvey Weinstein? No, of course not. It doesn't have to have been the worst thing to happen. I think, you know, what Jeffrey said is exactly right. I mean, it's just women are in this vulnerable position. I don't think, you know, men should be patting women on the bottom, you know, no matter what age they are. Is it sexual assault? No. I don't think that's an assault.

But I do think it's inappropriate. I don't think we should just say, you know, he's 94 years old and has Parkinson's so he can do whatever he wants. Again, the point is was he doing this to men? Because it doesn't seem like it. It seems like he was doing it to women. And so, he seems to have some control over it. I don't think it's a, you know, has to be turned into, like, a federal case but I think...

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: Inappropriate not sexual assault. And it seems to Joe Biden.

LEMON: I got to take a break. We'll come back. We'll hear from everyone. We'll be right back.

[22:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Latest high-profile man facing accusations of sexual harassment, political journalist Mark Halperin.

Back with me now, Jeffrey Toobin, Tara Setmayer, and Kirsten Powers. So, last night, CNN shared the stories of five women who accused journalist Mark Halperin of sexual harassment while he was political director at ABC News. Today he is out at least temporarily at NBC and also MSNBC.

He lost a book deal on a 2016 election, lost HBO deal for a movie or a miniseries on the book and show time is, quote, "re-evaluating its relationship with Halperin who has co-hosted the series "The Circus." Mark and, you know, some of his colleagues have peered on this show to talk about that show.

Are the accused finally feeling their swift consequences? What's going on here, Tara?

SETMAYER: I think in these cases, now, this is legit, some of the accusations against Mark Halperin are pretty salacious and, you know, putting your erect genitals on a woman's shoulder when you're in the office with her, she's your subordinate, I say that that's not OK.

And Jeffrey said that that's sexual assault. I agree. You know, the Bill O'Reilly's, the Harvey Weinstein's, I think that finally there is -- there is some vindication now there's some consequence for it because women for so long had to stay silent for fear of retribution which is why the women against Mark Halperin didn't say anything at the time, because they feared for their careers.

And I think that this is a water shed moment, and that we're starting to see some consequence. I don't think we're, you know, completely over this problem for some of these people. But I think now more women feel comfortable doing it and companies are taking action. And that's a good thing.

LEMON: It's a sensitive subject to talk about, Jeffrey. Because, you know, people say where's the evidence. These are accusations at this point. There's no video, there's no confession. There's no -- although there's a statement, I'll read it. But do you understand what I'm saying?

TOOBIN: I do. But you know, I don't think that's such a big problem. I mean, I think when you have multiple women coming forward alleging virtually identical behavior, that's evidence and that's something that if you go to court, juries will believe, judges will believe.

So, of course, in certain circumstances, there are going to be disagreements about what happened. But certainly in the high-profile cases we've talked about here, you know, Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Mark Halperin, Donald Trump...

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: Bill O'Reilly.

TOOBIN: ... Bill O'Reilly.

SETMAYER: He paid $32 million.

TOOBIN: There has not, there has not been a lot of disagreement about the general nature of the harassment and that's really -- you know, and it is good these women are coming forward and getting some measure of justice.

LEMON: Kirsten, let me read the statement first then I'll ask you a question. It says, "During this period I did pursue relationships" -- this is Mark Halperin. "During this period I did pursue relationships with women that I worked with including some junior to me. I now understand from these accounts that my behavior was inappropriate and caused others pain. For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologize. Under the circumstances, I am going to take a step back from my day-to-day work while I properly deal with this situation."

As I read, you know, as I read the question to Tara here, he's losing a lot of things here. And HBO show, a book deal, and on and on and on. Now he understands?

POWERS: He doesn't understand because what he said was he was pursuing relationships. By no measure is how any man pursues a relationship. These were a, co-workers, most of them subordinates and he was pressing his genitals up against them. That is not pursuing a relationship.

He is molesting people or assaulting them. I don't know what the actual legal term would be in this case, but, so it shows that he has quite a ways to go to understand that what he was doing, exactly how wrong what he was doing was.

And I don't -- and in terms of, like, are we -- are people getting their justice through all of this, look, I mean, sort of, but most of these women, you know, at the time, well, all of them, you know, didn't feel like they could complain and, you know, were having to live with this humiliation and shame.

[23:00:06] And that's what it feels like. I can say as a woman who experienced harassment and it's very humiliating and it really affects you psychologically.