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Mueller Team to Release First Charges on the Russia Probe; Dana Boente's Resignation Raising Eyebrows. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired October 27, 2017 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:20]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Here's the breaking news on a Friday night. The first charges have been filed in the Mueller investigation.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

And this news is big. A federal grand jury approving the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. I'll say that again. A federal grand jury approving the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge.

But we're learning that anyone charged, and we don't know yet who that might be, could be taken into custody as soon as Monday. A lot to get to, but I want to start right with CNN justice correspondents Evan Perez and Pamela Brown. They broke the story this evening. Pamela, what have we learned?

PAMELA BROWN, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, this is a significant development in the Mueller investigation that a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. today approved the first charges in this investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller according to several sources briefed on the matter.

Now, as you pointed out, the charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge, but we are told that plans are being prepared for anyone charged to be taken into custody perhaps as soon as Monday, these sources said. It's still unclear, Don, what the charges are.

A spokesman for the special counsel's office declined to comment for our story, but as you know, Mueller was appointed in May to lead this investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. He was given broad authority under the mandate.

And on Friday, top lawyers who are helping to lead the Mueller probe, including veteran prosecutor Andrew Wiseman were seen by our producer Laura Robinson entering the courtroom at the D.C. federal court where the grand jury meets to hear testimony in the Russia investigation.

And the reporters, our producer who were there, saw a flurry of activity at the grand jury room, but officials made no announcements, but now we have learned, Don, that today that grand jury approved the first charges, the indictments in the Russia probe.

LEMON: To your colleague, our colleague, Evan Perez now. Evan, to bring charges like this, who would have had to have approved them?

EVAN PEREZ, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Robert Mueller is in charge of this investigation, Don, but he does still report to Rod Rosenstein, who is the deputy attorney general. And for the purposes of this investigation, he is the ultimate authority.

We're told that based on the reading of the regulations he would have had to bring those charges to Rod Rosenstein for him to review, and if Rosenstein did not view them to be appropriate, then he would be able to say you can't bring them.

So this is part of the way how this would work. The approval process is not exactly a formal approval process, but certainly Rod Rosenstein would have to be able to review these before this was being brought to the grand jury, Don.

LEMON: Charges are sealed under orders from a federal judge as Pamela reported there. But Pamela, do we have any idea who the charges are against and what kind of charges they are?

BROWN: We have a sense of who the charges are against, the person or people, but our understanding is that the people or persons who has been charged have not been notified yet.

Normally how it works, Don, is a grand jury will approve charges, an indictment, that will remain under seal and then there's a process that takes place to get the arrest warrant and so forth which could be a couple of days.

And so the person who is charged may not know until several days after the indictment by the grand jury. And so in this case we're expecting on Monday for the person or the people to turn themselves in for them to be taken into custody. It could be as early as Monday. It could be a little bit later than that. But that is the expectation. And we don't know the charges, Don.

LEMON: Do you think that the person, Pamela, they would have some idea who they are or do we just have a whole bunch of folks sitting around wherever in the United States tonight wondering, is it me? Is it me?

BROWN: Well, I think they would probably have a sense. I mean, there are certain investigative steps that you would take before an indictment including a search warrant on your house, for example, issuing subpoenas. There are certain sorts of warning signs, if you will, that you could be subjected to an indictment or charged. That doesn't mean that you're going to be told flat out that that's going to happen before it happens, but in this case it sounds like, you know, they'll be finding out in a couple days at least.

LEMON: Yes. And if your attorney is worth his or her salt they would probably warn you and say you should expect this. Evan, when I asked her that question, you were shaking your head. Why is that?

PEREZ: Well, you know, I think everybody in this investigation, Don, has a pretty good sense of where they stand. I think the prosecutors who are running this investigation have been pretty blunt, actually.

[22:05:03] They've been very forthcoming with investigation and telling people that these are the charges that you could be facing. They've even gone so far as telling people in particular that this might be a particular charge that you're going to be facing.

So, I think that the people who are most in danger of being charged already have a sense that they are going to be facing those charges. And I think, as you mentioned, you know, look, I mean, there's a lot of people who are being looked at here.

And we've mentioned some of the names in the past few months of covering this story, Paul Manafort, who is a former campaign manager, Mike Flynn, who is a former national security adviser are both people who are facing some very serious issues, tax issues, financial issues, disclosure of ties and money from Turkey and Russia in the case of Mike Flynn.

So, I think all of these men and the people who are involved here are all men do know where they stand with regards to this investigation.

LEMON: How significant of a development is this in the Russia investigation, Evan?

PEREZ: This is huge. Look, this is something that we've obviously -- Mueller has been at this for -- since May, but the FBI started this more than a year ago. And as you've been hearing from the president in the last few days and certainly from republicans more vocally recently, they're kind of sick of it.

They think that it has gone on long enough. Look, I'm not saying that Robert Mueller is necessarily moved by those complaints, but I do think that Mueller given his history, you know, given the experience that he has is very well aware that you cannot, you know, take this too far along because it does, you know, have an impact on the President of the United States.

So it's affecting the way the White House does its business. So I think he knows that there is a finite amount of time he has before he can show his cards and start showing what exactly he's found.

LEMON: Evan Perez, Pamela Brown reporting our breaking news tonight, a federal grand jury approving the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

They're going to continue on with our panel. So stay with us. I want to bring in now Michael Isikoff, the chief investigative correspondent for yahoo News, also CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem, and Susan Hennessey, CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, and CNN political commentator Scott Jennings.

Juliette, when last I saw you were saying that there were going to be some breaks in this investigation. You were expecting them soon. Excuse me. You said before Thanksgiving. It is. But I think you were thinking it was going to be closer. Is this what you were expecting to start this?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: Yes, only because the pace had changed so dramatically in just the last month. The number of people being called in as witnesses, the number of people admitting that they were witnesses, and the number of people that the Senate and House were no longer interrogating in public session.

Plus, let's just remember the counter attack by the Trump campaign and his -- excuse me, the Trump White House and his surrogates to undermine Mueller. I do not know who is in this indictment and I don't think they all are similar for the White House.

In other words, if it's Flynn, that seems to me to be very different than Manafort, who had a sort of really I'd say funky background before he became campaign chairman. Flynn, on the other hand, is part of the campaign. He's national security adviser. He was in the White House.

So the story will continue, but I don't think an indictment -- an indictment does not -- we don't know who it is, so therefore, we don't know what impact this will have on Trump. I think finally, the other thing, and I've been saying this throughout, we do have to be prepared that Trump, President Trump will view that his only move is to fire Mueller.

And I don't know what we do then, but I just think we have to brace ourselves for that now. I don't see what moves Trump has left if this ends up being an indictment of someone very close to him.

LEMON: What you say often comes to fruition, so let's just see. Let's hope that that doesn't happen because then that would take us into a whole different space.

Susan, I want to bring you in now. Mueller has broad authority and we don't know what the charges are. They're under seal by the grand jury, right? So what does this mean for this -- these types of charges or this type of charge? Where could -- what could we end up seeing?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Right. So we're in an incredibly unusual position right now because ordinarily you don't learn of an indictment without knowing at least who has been indicted, some sort of indication about the nature of the charges.

You have to remember that Mueller's scope here, while it is the Russia probe, it's also anything arising out of that investigation. So we really could be seeing a huge range of people, even sort of people really far at the periphery.

Certainly we've seen lots and lots of flurry of activities close to Paul Manafort. Some new information regarding investigations into Michael Flynn. So really this is going to be sort of a wait and see game until, you know, Monday morning, Tuesday, whatever that individual is informed, potentially taken into custody. [22:09:59] So, I think all we can really say for the time being is

this is a very significant development. How significant, though, is going to really depend on who this is and what they're being charged with.

LEMON: Laura Coates, I want to bring you in and get your perspective now. We don't know who is being charged yet. In an investigation like this, what are the tactics? Is this about flipping someone?

LAURA COATES, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, you know, generally speaking when you have these sorts of indictments and you have a number of people who could presumably be on their heels waiting to find out if they're the person whose names at the end of United States versus, then you have the idea that the smaller fish may be used to try to act as fodder for cooperation or an incentive to try to get more information about the next person.

But in this particular case, that may be one of the factors, but I highly doubt that Robert Mueller and his team, their entire goal and their entire criminal probe hinges on a hedging of whether or not the person they charge right now can get more information. They appear to be very, very focused.

And again, any prosecutor who is reasonable, which we expect them to be, is intending to bring a charge or have an indictment on a case they can actually win a conviction on, not just one they can use as leverage in a cooperation agreement or a plea agreement.

And it's really important to note, here, Don, when you talk about the notion of collusion, when you talk about all the names that have been circulating that Evan Perez mentioned from the Paul Manafort's to the Michael Flynn's to Donald Trump, Jr., to perhaps Roger Stone and the list goes on and on, we're not really talking about any small fish in this category.

We're talking about all people who had a very prominent role in their positions and are very, very close to the inner circle that led to the Oval Office. And so you do this theory that perhaps in cases where there's multiple people that maybe you are trying to lure a bigger fish with a smaller fish but here I'm not sure who the smallest in this bunch would be.

LEMON: Interesting. Mr. Isikoff, now you. What does this say about the speed of Mueller's investigation?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Well, look, you know, I actually would have thought he would have been moving even more swiftly than this when you go back to the search of Paul Manafort's residence back in July. I would have expected an indictment very quickly after that. Manafort himself has said he's been told he's been indicted. The presumption is he's gotten a target letter.

Whether this is Manafort or not we're just going to have to wait until Monday. But I'll tell you what's going to be really interesting. Obviously the first thing we all want to know is who has been charged, what the charges are.

But how will this be publicly announced? Will Mueller have a press conference the way attorneys generals normally do when they bring big indictments? Will he answer questions from the press or will he just, you know, have the grand jury return the indictment and put it out in a press release? He's been --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Michael, he's been pretty quiet. He's been pretty quiet.

ISIKOFF: Absolutely.

LEMON: I mean, it's doubtful that he would do that, right? Because he's pretty steady, quiet, keeps everything close to the vest.

ISIKOFF: He's normally quite tight lip which is why it's quite unusual to have this sealed indictment become public before he makes it so. So hats off to Evan and Pamela --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I think it's probably --

ISIKOFF: -- for getting the story. It's probably because the reporters were present and they saw this flurry of activity in the grand jury room and then they did some digging and found out. But otherwise they probably would not have found out, Michael. Maybe.

ISIKOFF: However, hats off to them. But my point is, yes, Mueller doesn't usually talk to the press.

LEMON: Yes.

ISIKOFF: But it is traditional when a big indictment is brought, either by an attorney general or a special counsel, to have a press conference and answer questions.

LEMON: Yes.

ISIKOFF: I'm going to be very interested to see whether Mueller follows that route or not.

LEMON: Well, why don't we ask one of the reporters or both of them who actually broke it? So Pamela, you know, again, saying that he's usually tight lip, the fact that the press got ahold of this story before or even while it's under seal from -- well, CNN got ahold of the story while it's under seals of federal order from a federal judge.

BROWN: Right. And of course, we won't speak to how we obtained this story or sourcing or anything like that, but my sense is, is that Mueller wants to keep this quiet even, you know, come Monday, Tuesday, whenever the arrests happen or the arrest happens. They want to keep this quiet. That's been their M.O. from the beginning. And I think that you will continue to see that. That's just the way that they've been operating.

And so I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't release a statement or hold some sort of press conference. I would be surprised if he did, in fact. I think Evan might agree with me, right, Evan?

PEREZ: Absolutely. I think we are not looking at another Jim Comey here. I mean, this is the un-Comey of special prosecutors. So I think what we're likely to see is perhaps, you know, we'll learn when somebody is arrested and that will be the end of it until we hear the next shoe to drop.

[22:15:04] LEMON: Scott, we -- Scott, we have not heard -- not yet heard from the White House tonight. What kind of a reaction do you expect from this administration?

SCOTT JENNINGS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I'm thinking about it on a couple of fronts, Don. Number one, as you've pointed out repeatedly, we have no idea who or what, which means we don't have any idea if this has anything to do at all with Donald Trump.

We know Manafort has been investigated for a lot of things that he was involved in but predated his work for Donald Trump. If the indictment comes down and let's say it's Manafort. Let's say it has nothing to do with his work for Donald Trump, I would expect the White House to react to that in the way they have in the past which is to say this investigation may have gotten well beyond what we're trying to really find out which is about Russian collusion.

Number two, I'm wondering how the White House is thinking about Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein this weekend. If Rosenstein was briefed on this, this could ratchet up the president's ire against one or both of them. We know he's been upset with them in the past.

And so, overall, what I'm waiting to see is once we know who and what, that will then give us a lot of information about how the White House is going to react to this and you know, depending on how that comes down, it might not be well. I would advise them to keep cool, particularly if the indictments have nothing to do with anything going on in the Trump campaign because it could mean that they've not found any evidence of collusion, which of course would be a great outcome for the president himself.

LEMON: Is it possible that it has nothing to do with the Trump campaign when all of these folks worked for the Trump campaign, Laura?

COATES: No, it's not possible that it wouldn't derive from the initial objective and the charge that was laid out under the statute that actually allowed Robert Mueller to become special counsel.

But remember, his goal was not unlike what's been said in social media, et cetera, about the president to had a witch-hunt and a fishing expedition. Instead, it was actually far more nuanced and specific. It was to investigate things that arise from this collusion and things that may be tangentially or may relate from coming out of it. And so this would arise in some way or have some relationship to either how it started. (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: It could collusion. It could be meddling. It could be bank crimes.

COATES: It could be obstruction. It could be things any activity --

JENNINGS: How would Paul Manafort's lobbying activities be connected to -- how would Manafort's lobbying activities or financial transactions from years before the presidential campaign be connected to Trump? I think that's what people would want to ask.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: That's a good question.

COATES: Sure.

LEMON: Laura, let me take a break and we'll answer that question on the other side. We're going to -- Evan and Pamela, thank you so much. Great reporting. We appreciate that. Everybody else stick around. When we come back, much more on our breaking news. A federal grand jury approving the first charges in the Mueller investigation. We'll be right back.

[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're back now with our breaking news tonight on the Russia investigation and it is a CNN exclusive.

A federal grand jury has approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. That is according to sources briefed on the matter.

The charges are still sealed under orders of a federal judge, but plans have been prepared for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are.

My panel is back with me. Also, CNN political analyst Mr. Carl Bernstein joins us as well.

Carl, I have to get -- your overall thoughts on this? Is this just the beginning? Because some are saying, you know, I heard Jack Kingston say, let's hope this is the end.

CARL BERNSTEIN, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: It's a landmark and it's an early step in a sprawling investigation that the special counsel, Mr. Mueller, is conducting. We don't know definitively yet tonight who it is that has been indicted or those people who have been indicted.

What we've seen all week, though, is once again the President of the United States instead of encouraging this special counsel to get to the bottom of the Russia investigation and what happened and what Russia did and whether or not there were any members of his entourage, Trump's entourage involved in encouraging the Russians to interfere, the President of the United States has sought to muddy the waters by once again making Hillary Clinton the issue instead of the conduct of the president himself and those around him.

It's very conspicuous. We've got a long way to go in all of this and let's all sit back and see what develops.

LEMON: As I sit at home and I watched the TV the last couple of days and I said I wonder is Hillary Clinton the president of the United States? What is going on here?

BERNSTEIN: Well, again, Donald Trump is trying to make the conduct of the press the issue throughout his presidency. Now he's trying -- look, his tweets, his methodology has worked and it got him to be president of the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Stand by. To prove your point. We have a tweet from the president, Carl, and I'll let respond. Here it is. It's about Hillary Clinton and the New York Post story called how team Hillary played the press for fools on Russia, diversion. So?

BERNSTEIN: Incidentally, I think this is a time for deadly seriousness about what's going on here. There are very serious allegations accepted by the intelligence leaders of the United States, including those under Donald Trump.

The Russians interfered in our electoral process, and there is an investigation into whether Donald Trump and those around him had foreknowledge of those attempts and what their relationships were with Russians, business relationships that might have made them vulnerable to Russian objectives.

That's what Mueller is investigating. And he ought to be able to have the opportunity, without the president of the United States trying to sabotage his investigations, to follow through.

If there is nothing there, Robert Mueller has every ability and he's called on to deliver a report. I would expect if there's really nothing there that Mueller will make a report that says there is nothing there. Donald Trump ought to be saying to his people I want you to go talk to Robert Mueller. I want you to turn over everything you have. I want to talk to Robert Mueller.

This is a first step in the following way. Mueller, according to the attorneys of many individuals who have been investigated, is attempting to build a case, learn what is happening by starting with smaller people, maybe indictments, setting an example of jail time that they might face for whatever their misdeeds might have been here. And then go after other people.

Mueller has 21, 24,000 e-mails turned over by the White House that put people who work for Trump, for the White House, in his campaign, in his family, under threat of perjury if they do not cooperate with these investigations. [22:25:02] So we've got a long way to go here. And if there is no

there there, we have every right to expect that Robert Mueller would say so. But we also -- you know, I do go back to Watergate and think of a time when republicans were those who said we will put principle above party. We want to see these investigations of Richard Nixon proceed. Let the facts come fall where they may. That's really what we need now.

LEMON: SO how do you think the administration should respond or should they respond at all?

BERNSTEIN: I'm not going to give the administration advice. It would be presumptuous of me, except to say every citizen would hope that the president of the United States and those around him, particularly if they maintain there's no there there would do everything possible to cooperate in this investigation. And so far we've seen just the opposite.

LEMON: All right. Carl Bernstein, I want you to stand by. Susan, I want to bring you back in because is it possible that the White House might have seen something coming? Is that why we have been seeing this concerted effort to divert attention away from the Russia investigation and attack Hillary Clinton, as we have seen once again in a new tweet tonight?

HENNESSEY: Well, it's unlikely that the White House was sort of aware that an indictment was going to issue tonight. Again, grand jury secrecy is an incredibly serious matter. It's not something that's likely to have leaked. It's probable that even the deputy attorney general might have been briefed on this sort of at the last minute. Right. So this is a very close held information.

That said, you know, the White House certainly has ties into the Justice Department. We've seen that they've sort of overstepped the bounds in the past in order -- you know, violated some of those rules of not having contact. And so it is possible that they've perceived something sort of ramping up, right.

So even if they weren't aware of the specific fact that they're about to get an indictment, just sort of had a general sense of hey, the next big shoe is going to drop here. This really is becoming quite serious and that's what spurred really this kind of bizarre flurry of activity related to Hillary Clinton and this uranium, and certainly attacks on Robert Mueller as well.

BERNSTEIN: Let me just add that those of us who are following this know that the White House has known for quite some time that it is very likely that indictments were coming quite soon, that there were going to be one, two, three indictments. This is no surprise to the White House. So let's just get that out there.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, Carl. I appreciate it. The rest of you I want you to stick around. Scott, I will get your question answered not to worry, but we wanted to bring Carl Bernstein on because of his knowledge about investigations like this. So we appreciate that. When we come back, much more on our breaking news, the first charges

from Robert Mueller's Russia investigation approved by the federal -- a federal grand jury. We will be right back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:31:25] LEMON: We're back now with our breaking news. The first charges filed in the Mueller investigation.

My panel is back with me. So, Laura, I think Scott's question deserves answering. Scott said what does this have to do with the financial activity for whoever it is. It could be Flynn, it could be Manafort. It could be someone else if it's not connected to the Trump campaign?

LAURA COATES, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, the directive --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: What does that mean?

COATES: Yes, well, the directive that Robert Mueller has in order to be special counsel and how he was brought in was to investigate this claim of collusion and possible collusion and ties with members of the Trump campaign and perhaps a foreign government.

He's also able to lead into things that arise during the course of his investigation. He's not supposed to just ignore any other criminal activity that he might come across. That would be nonsensical for somebody to come across any other material in the course of the investigation and simply say you know what? That's not directly tied to the collusion, therefore I'm not going to follow through on it.

So, he does have some expansive authority. But certainly, Donald Trump has talked about this issue being a red line in the sand and talking about, look, you cannot go into the finances. But that really is a request that could fall upon the deaf ears of the special counsel, whose directive is very, very different.

Now, it's not to suggest that he can just use opportunity to investigate claims that never even came up in the course of his investigation. But certainly if he's investigating members of the Trump campaign of 2016 and before and Paul Manafort is somebody who was the head of that campaign, it's fair game that he would come across information relevant.

LEMON: Scott, do you want to weigh in on that? Does that satisfy your question?

SCOTT JENNINGS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Yes. I think I agree that it would be nonsensical for him to not investigate things that come up, but if those things have nothing to do with Donald Trump, the question to me was, how is the White House going to respond.

Well, that's how I would expect them to respond is to say, well, what the special has uncovered here has nothing to do with my campaign or any Russian collusion. Obviously we're deep into speculation here, but that's the rabbit hole we're going down.

Regarding Manafort and Flynn, I actually think Flynn hits closer to home. He's the one who actually took a job in the White House before he was fired. Manafort was fired during the campaign.

And if you'll remember way back at the beginning of the investigation, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer spent some time at the podium distancing the president from Paul Manafort. So to me, Flynn, if it's Flynn, that hits much closer to home than Manafort who got fired from the campaign and never actually worked in the White House.

LEMON: Michael, your head is nodding. What do you --

(CROSSTALK)

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: I agree totally with that. Flynn would be much more damaging for the White House than Manafort. A couple points. First of all, for what it's worth I can tell you that attorneys for both Manafort and Flynn are telling colleagues that they have not been notified that their clients are the target of this -- are the subjects of this indictment.

So that doesn't mean they're not because it may well be that the people who have been indicted, their lawyers have not been notified and that they're going to be surprised on Monday. But Manafort and Flynn's lawyers are both telling colleagues that it's not them.

But as far as the scope, I mean, it's also worth noting that a lot of the activity that we know about is really unrelated to anything to do with the core allegations involving Trump and Russia.

[22:34:59] For instance, Politico just moved a report earlier today that the realtor who sold Manafort his condo in Alexandria in 2015 was before the grand jury recently.

So, you know, that would seem to be far field from any of the core issues that people are looking for in this investigation.

LEMON: Yes.

ISIKOFF: That doesn't mean that's all Mueller is doing. It's clearly not. He's been interviewing people at the White House relating to the obstruction issue, you know, a whole host of areas. But it's why it's so important, we're just going to have to wait and see what the precise indictments are.

LEMON: Juliette, I'm wondering --

(CROSSTALK)

SUSAN HENNESSEY, NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Don, can I jump in on that.

KAYYEM: I think that's right --

LEMON: I want you to respond. Hold on, Juliette. I want you to respond.

KAYYEM: Yes.

LEMON: But would he be doing it in this fashion if it was something that was not even tangential or not even related to this investigation? Go on?

KAYYEM: So I think it's very possible, and I agree with Scott as I was saying earlier, if you're the White House and this indictment is real and it's coming down, your fingers are crossed that it's Manafort, because you have a narrative. Manafort comes in. He's got this shady past. No one knows how he really got into the -- with Trump, and he's soon gone, right?

As compared to Flynn, which how do you explain Flynn? He's brought in by Trump. Trump holds on to him much longer and then he's out.

And so, it is very possible in the conduct of an investigation that involved Russia and the election that the ties that Manafort had to Russia become a subject of investigation and even if they don't link to whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia are still illegal, right, and still are worthy of an indictment.

So to me, we don't know yet. This is a big deal that we know about a sealed indictment. So I just want to make that clear. You know, this does not happen. And so we don't know what's in it. We don't know what the charges are in it.

And if you're the White House, they will not keep their cool, but if they were to take my advice, you have a much better story if this is Manafort than if it's Flynn, Don Junior or worst of all Jared Kushner. And if it's those last two, then we start talking about pardons. I mean, that's when -- you know, he's not going to let his son and son- in-law get indicted. So, just wait. We don't know, if you're the White House.

LEMON: Yes. Hey, Laura, I've got to ask you something here. We're just getting -- learning, getting some information about Dana Boente, the U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of Virginia submitted his resignation. Do you see any potential coincidence in the timing here? What's going on?

COATES: It is very surprising. Remember, Dana Boente was the EDVA, U.S. attorney of the eastern district of Virginia. You might know him most recently because he was the person to replace the fired Sally Yates when she refused to impose or tried to back up -- I think it was the first travel ban, I want to say that was implemented by the Trump administration which ultimately failed.

And so he was somebody who stepped into that role. But it's also important to note because the EDVA, the eastern district of Virginia is the place where many of the subpoenas were issued from relating to financial documents and subpoenas to colleagues of none other than Michael Flynn.

And so if it arose from that particular district, the fact that he has now resigned, I think, as of today, it seems very coincidental. Now, where that actually -- where that rabbit hole leads and whether you can say a plus b is equals c, I don't know what the c equals.

But I find it very, very curious that somebody who is in charge of overseeing the subpoenas underlying an investigation into Michael Flynn, one of the people who this collusion investigation has led to or at least mentioned resigns the same day, perhaps, as an indictment has been issued for an unnamed person. I find it quite curious and I'd be curious to see where that rabbit hole leads and whether it was of his own volition or whether it was forced in some way and related to Michael Flynn.

LEMON: Stick around. It's only been, what, nine months. And here we go. Thank you all. I appreciate it. Thank you, Juliette Kayyem, Michael Isikoff, Laura Coates, Scott Jennings, and Susan Hennessey.

When we come back, much more on our breaking news. The first charges from the Mueller investigation filed tonight. Fareed Zakaria will join me to discuss what all of this means. That's next.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're back now with our breaking news. The first charges file in the Mueller investigation. The charges under seal tonight by orders from a federal judge.

Let's discuss with Fareed Zakaria, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS joins me. Fareed, I've been wanting to get you on and get your reaction to this. First I want to get what do you think of all this breaking news tonight that the federal grand jury in Washington has approved the first charges?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN: Well, it does suggest that Mueller did not feel he had to go on a very long fishing expedition in order to find enough to take some action. We don't know what it is. Nobody is talking. The Mueller team, by the way, never leak. It's a very tightly run operation.

But it does suggest that they felt there was something there that was actionable. It hasn't taken them that long. We don't know where -- you know, where it will lead in terms of to the White House, but I do think in this context we should all remember who Robert Mueller is.

This is a Marine Corps veteran, served in Vietnam, U.S. attorney of unimpeachable integrity. Was appointed director of the FBI by the conservative republican George W. Bush and served as the longest serving FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover. That's the guy you're talking about.

So, you know, when people, particularly when you hear Fox News and such smear this guy, this is a person who is widely respected, both sides of the aisle has this extraordinary history of public service. I don't think he's going to casually throw indictments around.

LEMON: Fareed, you know, it was only just -- it was just a couple of days ago that President Trump told a bunch of reporters that the link between the Clinton campaign and the dossier was a disgrace and that the Russia thing was a hoax and that the hoax was going to turn around on the democrats. Did he speak too soon?

[22:45:11] ZAKARIA: I think he spoke too soon and I think he makes some mistake here in talking about it all the time. He should say, you know, let's see where the investigation goes, because we really don't know whether he was involved in any way. What we do know is that the Russian government did make some kind of very intense effort to involve itself in this last presidential campaign.

There's a story in the New York Times which is also very significant today which just a few hours ago which says that -- remember, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort? She claims she had been acting alone. The Times story using multiple sources says after she met with the Trump campaign, she briefed the chief prosecutor of Russia, a very powerful man, very close to Vladimir Putin on exactly what happened in the meeting.

It makes clear that the Russian government was very concerned about it. And Putin himself in the last few days at a forum called the Valdai forum essentially repeated the kind of Fox talking points about how the Hillary Clinton campaign was involved and there were no -- you know, nobody wanted to deal with the issue because there were a lot of DNC donors.

This is -- this is the whole thing is very bizarre. It suggests that the Russian government was very interested in reaching out to the Trump campaign to try to get these sanctions against key Russian officials and oligarchs, people very close to Vladimir Putin dropped. That was what they were looking for from the Trump campaign.

So, we still don't know whether they could -- you know, whether there was collusion, whether they were involved. But the idea that there's nothing there in the light of these two stories, the CNN exclusive on Mueller and this Times story about the lawyer having briefed the Russian government, all I can say is there's even more smoke today than there was before.

LEMON: Fareed Zakaria, the host of Fareed Zakaria GPS, thank you very much. I appreciate that. And you can catch Fareed's show Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern. And when we come back, more on our breaking news. The first charges filed in the Mueller investigation, what message does this send to the administration?

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Here's our breaking news tonight, the first charges filed in Robert Mueller's investigation.

Let's discuss now, CNN political commentator, Jack Kingston is here, political analyst Kirsten Powers, and political commentator Angela Rye. Good evening all of you. Very serious information but so much for a quiet Friday evening as everybody I'm sure was hoping.

Jack, I'm going to ask you first, Robert Mueller appointed in May to lead this investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Five months later - charges. What kind of message is he sending with this first charges do you think?

JACK KINGSTON, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, the good news might be that the investigation is moving on. And I think that everybody, democrat and republican, would probably like to see this thing get over with. I think it is a distraction.

I think the bad news is maybe he's rushing it because he's coming under criticism about the money spent and his possible role in this Uranium One that he knew there's this informant out there who is saying that there was bribery and it happened under Mueller's watch in 2010 when he was there. I'm not sure if that's the reason or not. I'm just saying there is some --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You're just throwing it out there.

KINGSTON: There are some who believe that.

LEMON: I was just -- that was just a couple conspiracy theories that you threw out there. But go ahead.

KIRSTEN POWERS, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Right.

LEMON: Kirsten, what do you want to say to that?

POWERS: Yes, I mean, Jack, I just -- that's -- you are really just throwing something out there that I don't think there's any real -- there's anything to back up what you just said. You know, there's no reason to believe that he's rushing anything.

I think he's known as a professional. He's well respected. He's somebody who has been, you know, I think tight lipped during this and has done a professional investigation. So I don't think we should question that.

But I agree, it will be nice to actually have some really -- real information to discuss and look at and to see if there's, you know, who this person is, and I think, you know, how it affects the White House is going to depend a lot on who it is. If it's -- if it's Paul Manafort, I think there's going to be one kind of reaction. Obviously, you know, worst-case scenario is you would see something more like a Jared Kushner or Don Junior. In which case that's going to be, you know, a ten-alarm fire.

LEMON: Angela, I want to bring you in. The president -- and unless you want to respond to this because I want to read a tweet, did you want to respond to any of this?

ANGELA RYE, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: No, I want to hear your tweet, Don.

LEMON: OK. So, here's the -- the president tweeted this today, he said "It is now commonly agreed after many months of costly looking that there was no collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with H.C." Sort of repeated what Jack just said there, looking at, this is -- this is costly, it's costing so much money, this should be over. How does this tweet look now in light of this news, this blockbuster news?

RYE: Well, one, I think it's really interesting, right, this -- these charges are supposed to be sealed. We're not supposed to know -- the earliest we may know is by Monday. So the fact that he is saying he's cleared in effect is really fascinating to me because it may mean that there is some leaked information.

One of the things that I do want to point to is there's a very clear timeline of events that brought us here and I think that for many of us, Congressman Kingston just mentioned that we want this to be over, right, we're ready to be done with Russia.

But I would harken your attention to those damn e-mails and how much time we spent on those. There are a million smoking guns when we talk about Russia. The first set of the events would be the firing of Jim Comey, right? I mean, this is something that he acknowledged in the letter that we've yet to see but it's in Mueller's possession. And we also know that he kind of admitted to that in an interview with Lester Holt on NBC News.

I think we also should point to everything that he said about Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He kind of wanted him to quit. There were conversations about him quitting. And the reason for that is Jeff Sessions' recusal. So, I don't that he's been cleared, and I certainly think that we could point to his behavior on the fact he, in fact, he also knows he's not cleared.

LEMON: Jack?

KINGSTON: You know, I think Angela is right, there are a million smoking guns and a million ways to go when it comes to Russia because we would all agree that Russia has been trying to influence American elections and American policy for decades as we have tried to do that with other countries, ourselves.

But, you know, one of them is Bill Clinton received $500,000 to give a speech to a Russian bank --

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: Wow, Jack.

[22:55:01] KINGSTON: -- that had ties to the Kremlin while his wife was secretary of state. While his wife was secretary of state, a Canadian company that was requiring Russia -- uranium --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Jack, can I stop you there? Jack, we went through on the campaign.

RYE: Don.

LEMON: We talked about this. KINGSTON: But now it's being investigated.

LEMON: There has been no new information that changes any of the conclusions for every fact check that has been done about this, that Hillary Clinton knew about -- if she does, if there's -- listen, if there's an investigation, it should play out.

But the Hillary Clinton knew about this, there were nine departments in the government independently of each other who signed off on the uranium deal and to say that Hillary Clinton -- and the State Department was one who had a very small role. To say that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton had any sort of influence over nine departments in the federal government in order to get uranium moved and sold and what have you, it's a conspiracy theory. And it's been debunked many, many times.

KINGSTON: Well, but Congress will now be looking into it and if it is a conspiracy, and it's just a bunch of bunk, then it won't go anywhere, but it does bother me and it should bother everybody that this company gave $2.35 million to the --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But, Jack, do you understand what I'm saying?

RYE: Jack, why aren't you bothered by the other things going on?

LEMON: It did bother -- it bother people. It bothered people -- this supposedly happened in 2010. It's been investigated since 2013 or 2015. Now it's being brought back up. Sure, if you want to investigate it, keep going on and on and on. To keep throwing that up as a talking point, it just -- it just --

(CROSSTALK)

KINGSTON: It's relevant.

LEMON: .. it's embarrassing.

KINGSTON: But Don, it was only this week. It was just this week that Congress has decided to investigate it. And I can say this --

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: But why is that? But Congressman Kingston, wait a minute, real quick, Don. You know, I worked there. And Congressman Kingston, you served in the House. You know people all of the time with these special committees have political intentions with the point the investigation. The reason why there was a special committee on Benghazi for so long that dragged out throughout the election was politically motivated so let's not act like it's not in republicans' best interest.

(CROSSTALK)

KINGSTON: Let's just say randomly a couple of investigations that are going on now.

RYE: It's not a republican best interest to throw out a few red herrings. And let me give you this. There's a reason why you had to go to Russia during the campaign as well. Like, there is -- there are clear ties to the Russian government and Donald trump campaign. I'm not alleging any wrongdoing on your behalf.

KINGSTON: Angela, I'm glad you brought that up. Because number one, it wasn't during the campaign. It was in December and it was a post- election --

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: During the transition.

KINGSTON: It was a post-election election summary that my international law firm did all over the globe. Including in Australia, including in China, including in Europe, including in London --

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: How many trips --

LEMON: Angela, I have to let him respond because I have to get to the break. So, I just want to make it clear since you brought that charge.

RYE: Sorry.

LEMON: You said it wasn't during the campaign, it was after the campaign.

KINGSTON: Right.

RYE: The transition period.

KINGSTON: Right.

LEMON: All right. I got to go because I'm getting in trouble because I'm not going to the break. Thank you very much.

When we come back, President Trump tweeting tonight just as we're learning the first charges in the Mueller investigation have been announced. I'm going to tell you what the president is saying next.

[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)