tv CNN Tonight With Don Lemon CNN February 14, 2017 8:00pm-9:01pm PST
trump campaign out of step with his own party's position on russia. speaker of the house ryan supported the sanctions and criticized president obama for not implementing them more speedily, why is donald trump not willing to commit with keeping them in place. out of alignment with his own party. >> like any good negotiator, he's dangling all possibilities out there. maybe get russia to help us defeat isis. would be a good thing. doesn't necessarily mean roll back sanctions but got to let options sit on the table. >> had fareed zakaria saying why didn't he take that stance with china, would be better to have good relationship with them, not said glowing things about china but just about russia. argument doesn't make sense. it's talking point. >> but remember first phone call
to taiwan put a signal to china. there is a carrot and stick approach to negotiating as you know. caught all kinds of flack for that phone call to taiwan, yet the last week he said one china policy. >> we're getting into the weeds here but fascinating conversation. thank you gentlemen. i appreciate it. all right. top of the hour. thanks for joining us. breaking news high level advisers close to then presidential nominee donald trump were in constant communication during the campaign with operatives known by the intelligence community. according to multiple former and current officials. president-elect trump and then president barack obama were briefed according to officials familiar with this matter. du get to pamela brown and mark
breften. what more can you tell us? >> high level advisers close to nominee donald trump were in constant communication with russian operatives known to u.s. intelligence. according to several former and current officials. president-elect trump and president barack obama were briefed on the issue. and as you recall during the big briefing according to u.s. officials familiar with the matter. and both the frequency of the communications during the early summer and proximity to trump of those involved raised a red flag with u.s. intelligence and law enforcement according to officials. intercepted during routine intelligence collection targeting russian officials and other russian nationals known to u.s. intelligence and among
several advisers communicating were paul manafort and michael anyone according to the officials we've been speaking for. manafort joined in march and out midaugust. flynn stayed on and resigned as national security advisor last night. we reached out to both. manafort denied any communication with the russians, repeatedly tried to reach out to michael flynn as well. officials emphasize that communications between the campaign staff and representatives of foreign governments are not unusual but these stood out due to the frequency and level of the trump advisers involved. investigators not reached judgment on the intent of the conversations. but adding to concern were intercepted communications between russian officials before and after the election discussing their belief they had special access to trump.
of course could have been inflating the access they thought they had to trump. but fact there were other intercepted communications between top advisers in the trump campaign and russian on the u.s. radar during the summer during the campaign all added to concern. and within the context that during this time don, the u.s. intelligence was beginning to believe in growing confidence that the russians were trying to tilt the election to donald trump's favor. >> and just to be clear president-elect then donald trump knew about the contacts. he was briefed. >> that's right. we are told that essentially the fbi, intelligence community had the information about the intercepted communications between high-level trump people involved in the campaign and russian officials and ultimately fbi director james comey and others felt it was important to be transparent. did a big briefing on the
russian hack, coming out to say we believe the russians try to swayed election away from hillary clinton and in favor of donald trump. all the evidence they had of the communications. told in january shortly before donald trump became president he was briefed on all these details as well as president barack obama at the time. >> and where is the investigation now? still ongoing? lots of details to figure out? >> still ongoing. even when donald trump was briefed about it, still in the early stages. still trying to piece together the why, motive, intent. why these communications were so constant, so frequent. the content of the communications, what it all means. trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. this of course, as you know don, comes at time when michael flynn was caught essentially
discussing sanctions with the russian ambassador and denied it and doj went to the white house and said in fact he did talk about sanctions and wasn't until nearly three weeks later the white house took action after "the washington post" broke the story about the doj warning. >> asked about contacts between the trump campaign and russia. listen to this. >> back in january the president said that nobody in his campaign had been in touch with the russians. now today, can you still say definitively that nobody on the trump campaign, not even general flynn had any contact with russians before the election? >> my understanding what general flynn has now expressed was during the transition period -- we were clear during the transition period did speak to the ambassador. >> talking about during the
campaign. >> nothing concluded to me that anything changed in that time period. >> meeting with israeli prime minister tomorrow but story about russia will continue. >> with sean spicer, perhaps give benefit of the doubt that perhaps he knew nothing about the investigation being ongoing. only have go back to see that donald trump knew about the discussions between the ambassador of russia and mike flynn and took two weeks for his own vice president to learn. give spicer the benefit of the doubt on that. but talked about this last hour when first broke the story and detail started coming out. we didn't have names but now we have names. it's important that these two gentlemen were close to donald trump. doesn't mean have discussion with donald trump nor are we saying that. we have no idea what the context is, but these aren't unnamed advisers or hanger onners as i
had mentioned could be last hour. this is getting very serious. will be interesting to see what the department of justice does and also what congress does now. we know the united states senate will investigate. united states house as of today said won't investigate. will be incredible amount of pressure on house republicans to investigate this matter. >> big picture. what does this mean for the trump white house? >> what does this mean globally? bizarro world we're living in. every day about this hour news breaks putting the white house in turmoil. when you have turmoil on the outside, all it can mean it turmoil on the inside. talking to republicans on capitol hill today and they're growing tired of this. so far been able to stomach it and going along but if you've noticed don't see republicans rushing to the defense of this administration athe this moment.
that's because they feel like they're under fire and having to answer questions for administration that's not giving them any information. >> interesting point. mark and pamela stick around. bring in lieutenant general mark hertling and major general -- marx and wesley clark. former nato commander. thank you so much. thanks for your service. thanks for coming on. we don't know for sure if trump associates coordinating with russian operatives but new details keep coming out. could this become major controversy for this trump administration? >> i think it is already. as mark said just a moment ago, when all of this is swirling around on the outside, you can be sure that inside the white house not much else is getting done as people are trying to get facts together and figure out what is going on. been a mystery to me. never understood why president trump didn't release tax
returns, divest himself of businesses. all along there's been suspicion that for years he's gone after russian money and all deepened by revelations of the contacts. don't know what is in the contacts. maybe somebody does but not released yet. it's incumbent on the white house to clear this up as rapidly as possible. may lead to investigation but shouldn't be pried out like tooth extraction. this is something the white house needs to put together and come clean with, president trump needs to address the country on it in some way or someone in his administration in authoritative way and get this cleared up and let's move on. there's important business to be done for america. >> they keep saying they want to move on. that's the way to do it. how is all this turmoil viewed inside the military? >> it's increasingly troubling
don. not only talking about what some are perceiving strategic advantage more so than ever before on russia in strategic fronts. trying to insert in afghanistan and involved in syria, and -- almost to stalemate. not crimea but in the eastern region of crimea. and what has happened since president trump was elected is reinforcing units going into that area and really having great deal of effect on the ukrainian forces there. not counting some of the things going on in europe across the board with threats to callin agrad and across the baltics and interference with european elections. all of these that russians are trying to take advantage of
truthfully. in addition commanders in the field. you mentioned tony thomas in the earlier show. he's trying to hold special operations command together and just wants direction for things he's doing. two general officers in europe are continuing to train ukrainian forces. all of this is happening while it's turmoil in washington. >> let's talk about this general marx. what the red flag was here, both the volume of the communications and proximity to mr. trump. what does that mean? how much contact would there need to be to raise a red flag? >> don, i think the real issue here is what i would call a reasonable man's standard. there's been a great deal of discussion about the logan act which would not be invoked in this case simply because if you interpret that in literal sense, every communication with foreign
power whether in u.s. government or a priori assuming a position in government would be suspect. challenge we have is that the nature of our relationship with russia has never been more chenkd because of their adventurism as described by mark in ukraine, crimea. elsewhere russia is clearly advantaged when there is turmoil abroad. we pay attention to what is happening on their borders, allows them some comfort and freedom of action within their own borders. we need to be able to pay attention to this closely. general clark nailed it. this president needs to come forward, say look folks, this is where we are, this is my choice for new national security adviser, and this is my relationship with that national security adviser. you hear everybody discussing what the model is for that
relationship. it depends on what the president wants to achieve and how he wants to employ and influence power internationally. it's unique and personal relationship. and that nsa needs to be either a policy guy -- huge mistake. steve bannon assuming increased role there which is i think a mistake but that's a decision the president has made -- or needs to be intergrater, what you look for with nsa to take policy input from the s.e.c. dev and dhf, homeland security, integrate that and present policy polkts to the president. that's where we need to go to get away from this white water. >> there was turmoil of trump associates happening at the same time as hillary clinton e-mails.
why not take action on that? why didn't we hear about that? >> i'm baffled. i don't know. other than the fact that internal investigation and normally doesn't comment on ongoing investigates. but more information coming out and leaks coming because those inside the administration are fearful that the truth will not get out, will be suppressed within the administration because that's the tendency we've seen so far. why not released, i think part of ongoing investigation. should it have been? i think seeing potential for clear and present zank by a foreign government? >> same question to you. >> i think we're going to have to ask the fbi director that. i would say this, don, three different possible explanations for all of this and president
has to take us through this. one is this was innocent talk. talks about the british government and israeli government and people get informed of what the issues are before the election. that's one. second is that maybe president trump and mike flynn concocted this idea you could do a reset with russia, would be like nixon and china, completely flip things around, have a great relationship and be historic and think of the advantages, byllah blah, blah. third is darker with the 35 page paper, with the idea of some kind of pressure put on donald trump, through his finances or previous relationships, for some reason he's being pulled in certain direction which is distracting him from what would normally be the president's focus on national security and taking guidance and information
from the intelligence communities that are loyal to the united states of america. i think you go from the benign to the almost silly and amateurish into something that's much darker. and i think as this starts to unravel, i think the american people have a right to know what is going on. >> generals, thank you. we appreciate your service. thank you so much. coming back, more on breaking news. high level advisers close to then presidential nominee donald trump were in frequent communication during the campaign with russians known to u.s. intelligence. of tiny bubbl, it has long been called the champagne of beers. ♪ if you've got the time welcome to the high life. ♪ we've got the beer ♪ miller beer
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here to discuss, historians. -- and brinkley and jon meacham. it's historian trifecta. nice to have you all. mr. meeacham, what is going on? >> more comfort in the past. making more sense. 1790s, a period in the country with one part allied with france and one with britain. conspiracy feeling in the country but looking at now a serious set of questions about what did the nominee and now the president know and when did he know it. as my fellow tennessean howard baker put it in 1973.
>> douglas? >> reminds me of the watergate period of richard nixon. he didn't have a bad first 100 days in 1969 but the idea of the amount of problems in the white house, leaking, this strange donald trump foot soldiers -- looking at general flynn now, people are going to -- but i don't believe the justice department will pursue that. did flynn lie to the fbi and where does this all lead to? tells you how maybe the whole country was remiss in not somehow getting donald trump to release his tax returns. always called it unprecedented that he didn't and all left scratching our heads and getting grirm and grimmer by the day, things unraveling in the trump white house. >> let me ask you what i wrote on my iphone.
coincidence or not? russia hacks dnc, harmful to hillary clinton. trump says they didn't. consistently defends putin. campaign manager resigns. flynn resigns after doj warns white house. proof that trump camp talking to russia all along, russia celebrates when trump wins. lot of coincidences. >> and add the fact that the trump camp tried to change the republican position on ukraine for some reason, and putin responds to u.s. sanctions by doing nothing. despite russian tradition of throwing american diplomats out when we throw theirs out. >> what is logical explanation? again it could be nothing. we don't know right?
>> here is the reason why this all smells badly. it's that people who understand the challenges for a president knew that the worst thing that donald trump could do in the election was to put himself in a box and to close off his options. and time and again he was given an opportunity of opening his ongss by saying that maybe putin was doing something wrong in crimea. saying perhaps it's right, perhaps it's true, u.s. intelligence community is right about the role of the russians in hacking. but each time he said no. said he didn't believe u.s. intelligence, said the rest was fake news. time and again when he should have opened possibilities he did. which led people who aren't necessarily compeerorial, to say why is he having this romance
with putin. at the same time have people around him clearly engaged in contacts with the russian, why do that when people are already criticizing you for being too pro-russian. >> why? >> part is hubris or arrogance. general flynn was dia, head of defense intelligence agency. he knew that countries considered adversaries are followed and conversations intercepted. yet had conversations with russians. >> ask you john, what is logical explanation. preface it saying could be nothing. what is the logical explanation for all the coincidences or happens to be the time line of how this all played out? or is playing out. >> conventional wisdom on this. if in fact there is nothing in terms of back channel contacts with the highest levels of the trump operation, including
perhaps the nominee and president himself, you have one of the most remarkable confluences of events that many of us can remember. as tim and you laid out. remarkable set of circumstances where trump, a strong economic nationalist, man of enormous pride and swagger, who at every point has deferred to the head of russia. argument for that is that he wants to, as tim's old subject, be like richard nixon and kissinger and use russia in new balance of power. that's possible but there's a reason the law enforcement agencies, the press, i for one hope there's a select committee in the congress that will look into this, because that's how we've gotten out of these big national moments before, watergate, iran-contra. i think we're headed into that
scale of question. because there's really no other plausible explanation but that there's back channel contact as russia attempted to hack our election. >> douglas, i have a host of questions for you but ask you right after this break. we knowt anything. even a "truck-cicle." [second man] how you doing? [ice cracking] [second man] ah,ah, ah. oh no! [first man] saves us some drilling. [burke] and we covered it, february fourteenth, twenty-fifteen. talk to farmers. we know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two. ♪ we are farmers. bum-pa-dum, bum-bum-bum-bum ♪
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back now with my panel. tim naphtali, douglas brinkley and jon meacham. reporting that president-elect trump and then president barack obama were both briefed on the details of the contacts between trump campaign advisers and russian officials. what do we need to hear from president trump? >> i think president trump needs to address the american people as ronald reagan eventually did for iran-contra. national security advisor poindexter and -- rained
indictments. needs to come clean, release taxes. i doubt he'll do it. no idea what his business dealings are. has russia been loaning him money over the years? so many questions here. unusual president 60 donald trump takes a step forward every day and then gets booted backwards two steps and starting to lose people in the republican party, not just mccain and graham, but others starting to say we can't wait to have president pence in there. i think donald trump has to show he's representing all of the american people. come clean. be transparent. talk about fumbling out of the gate and clean up this mess quickly. >> what do you want to say jon? >> what i want to say is that up to now donald trump and his associates have acted as if they have something to hide. >> now answering my question for me. >> i wanted to make clear i
don't have proof of this, it's speculation. informed by the '68 nixon experience where richard nixon, his campaign engaged in conversations with a foreign government, with the goal of affecting the election. donald trump admires nixon and has some people who worked for nixon. doesn't mean going to act like richard nixon but it's happened before in our history. also intercept information at the time but didn't leak because j. edgar hoover wanted to stay chief of the fbi and made sure it didn't leak. but leaked this time. very flobl was collusion of one sort or another between the campaign and people representing russia. and what makes this so dangerous is makes it impossible for donald trump to have a policy
with russia we're not all going to wonder twice about. that is a disaster. >> that is what you think. again you said you have no proof but history shows us -- >> the pattern is the same. >> jon meacham, you wanted to react. >> mark twain alleged to have said that history doesn't repeat itself but it does rhyme. it's rhyming at the moment. these are just big questions and they can be answered. what we haven't seen in the last -- my god it's only been a move, longest in american history, makes april 19865 look like a walk in the park -- >> you sound like you were there to remember it. >> rough one. but this administration, with the fact and alternative fact.
i admire what doug said, but i think the idea that donald trump is going to come out and make a clean breast of things is triumph of hope at this point in time. >> came out if you had no drama obama, all drama all the time trump. what do you think of that? >> that's the way it seems so far. no two polar opposites than barack obama and donald trump. but this idea of alternative facts of the trump administration and brow-beating the press. it's just been so negative and divisive. i'm shocked that trump didn't want to find some way to try to unite the country. it's being disunited every moment. i'm buckled up for a lot of rough months to come because trump has no sense of history. richard nixon read history books
galore, winston churchill and the -- donald trump doesn't read history. maybe doesn't know what dangerous waters he's in right now. conspiratorial mind of everything. demanding barack obama release birth certificate but won't release his taxes. i don't think he still will but we have to put pressure on that to make it happen. >> interesting point. interesting term used today by sean spicer about how trump instinctively thought there with as no violation of the law on the flynn's phone calls. used that several times. that's trump's explicit endorsement of his own abilities. his argument to the american people is he's instinctive deal maker and player. compared himself to babe ruth.
sports writer asking ruth, hey babe, how do you hit the long ball? and i don't know, i just swing at it. he just swings at things and that style may have virtues but now seeing what the vices are. >> sometimes when you swing you miss. thank you very much. coming back, more on the breaking news. high level advisers close tho then presidential adviser donald trump were in frequent community communication during the campaign with russians known to u.s. intelligence. [bullfighting music]
presidential nominee donald trump in frequent communication with russians known to u.s. intelligence. according to multiple current and former initials. administer facing tough questions on all sides about the relationship with russia. discuss with my panel. great pan assembled to discuss this. jonathan you first. get your reaction to the news that cnn is reporting that high level members of the trump campaign regularly communicated with russian nationals. what is your response? >> there's a delicious thing in here don, right after the elections a deputy foreign minister in moscow said we've been in high level communications with the trump
team and spokesman with the trump campaign said that's not true. the russians were telling the truth and americans were lying. russians said this right after the election and nobody believed them. >> now here wear. u.s. intelligence agents say that the frequency raised red flags. take us into the thinking. what is the biggest concern? >> working inside the cia as analyst would always look for indicators. that would be indicator. wouldn't be need at that point to have frequent communication with another country. should be congrattory calls and issues like that, shouldn't be discussion policy at this point. >> same question. what is the thinking here. >> it's common sensical. don't need to be intelligence
operator to ask yourself, under what conditions would members of the campaign be in touch with, i believe the allegations are the intelligence operatives but russians on the other side. raises a lot of questions and be with everybody else, only way to get to the bottom of this is serious investigation. having spent time on the counterintelligence side of things, you have to look at it. under what conditions have contacts. >> you said two scenarios. what are they? >> if you're talking about -- let's just take the topic de jure, general flynn, worst and best case. worst case is perhaps somehow the russians have by obtaining information on him or cutting a deal with him gained control over a guy who is almost at very top of u.s. decision making and
has the most access to most sensitive information in the u.s. government. that's worst-case scenario. best case scenario is you have guy who spent entire career as intelligence officer supposedly well-versed and understood in counterintelligence issues yet deems it's okay to go to russia, take a paycheck from rt, the propaganda outfit from the kremlin and refuse to reveal what he took from them. what scenario is that okay? intelligence it looks bad, political, how explain that. and he obviously has integrity problems. boss caught him lying to him and had to fire him. even the best-case scenario isn't real good. >> what is your response, jill?
>> thing i'm watching right now is what are the russians saying about this and what is the trump administration doing vis-a-vis russia that's a little different. i was very surprised to hear sean spicer saying trump has been incredibly tough on russia. my ears patricked up on that. not what anyone who looks at situation would think, why would -- >> let's play it first. >> president has been incredibly tough on russia, continues to raise the issue of crimea, which the previous administration allowed to be seized by russia. his ambassador to the united nations nikki haley stood before the u.n. security council on her first day and strongly denounced.
>> you said incredibly tough on russia. how is that possible? comment after comment defending vladimir putin, interview with bill o'reilly asked if vladimir putin is a killer, well america hasn't been that much better in that regard. to me and to a lot of americans seems this president has not been tough on russia. how can you say that? >> i just walked through it. there's a difference between president wanting to have understanding of how a good relationship with russia can help us defeat isis and terrorism throughout the world. >> crimea, all of a sudden they're talking about that. remember during the campaign it appeared, although loosely phrased by then candidate trump, that maybe it was okay that russia had crimea because maybe the people there wanted to be part of russia. >> well they do. >> they were pivoting i would
say. >> yes, actually that's true. but the way it was done, many people at least in the european part of the world would say it was done incorrectly. you should have had a real live, some type of referendum. and that was not done. that's another debate. point is what he was saying then is very different from now. i think there's a reason for this pivot. and i think the best way to describe it would be to say that they becoming more catholic than the pope. there could be a bit of ensuring that the administration doesn't look pro-russian by saying no, no, we're tough on crimea, we're tough on ukraine. >> i think there's something else there. >> we'll stand by and take -- >> let me -- >> i'll let you finish on the other side of this break. we'll be right back. flush
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back now, jonathan, jill was saying she believes this administration has changed its messaging here. >> yeah, i don't quite see it that way. i was covering that security council session when nikki haley spoke and i was stunned. i went back and listened a second time and said are they saying the russians have to take troops out or get out of crimea. they had to get out of crimea which is a blind alley for u.s. policy. as a matter of fact most people in crimea want to be part of russia and not part of ukraine. what i think it is is when you are dealing with donald trump on foreign policy, we have to interpret and not translate what he says. when push comes to hard shove. he has yet to show he has the
courage of convictions. we saw that on the taiwan and china deal. we are seeing it again with what haley said. she may be the only one in the administration doing a really good job right now. i think it is that he doesn't have the courage of his convictions. perhaps because he doesn't have any convictions. perhaps the establishment pushes back too hard. >> okay. >> jonathan -- >> go ahead, jill. >> the russians are actually predicting this might happen. they are worried about it. what they are worried about is look at the optics. if the administration is perceived as being pro russian, then perhaps a smart thing is to not look pro russian. you criticize russia. that's where they are fearful. that donald trump even though he wants get relations, et cetera with russia may turn around and
be forced to because he wants to preserve himself politically. he may have to go after russia. >> i want to bring the other panelists in on that. steve, the russians launched a cruise missile in violation of a treaty and have a spy ship off the east coast. what are they up to? >> i would say it's not a coincidence. this is i think what we are seeing others do as well. testing the trump administration. there is an interesting dynamic. all of a sudden, where are the russians in this and perhaps they are in a position where they are trying to predict what president trump's next move is as well. they can't count on just this is what we think he is going to do. it's clear in a new presidency that the russian security apparatus wants to see how close
they can get and see what they can get away with and see what reaction they're going to elicit from the united states. >> a lot of analysts and experts in the media have been asking why is donald trump so friendly to russia. now we have a top official fired and multiple ties to the white house. is this what vladimir putin wants? >> it certainly seems to play into his hands. russia or putin wants to be top of the global order and by probably removing us and turning us into chaos, that achieves his goal, but i think we can get back on track. we need to build another security council and put in a new adviser. kipt we need a commission to be investigating what role russia and his advisers have had to
play. >> lawmakers are walling for more investigations and asking for this to be looked at. for flynn, do you think we will see an investigation anding do you think we will see him under oath? >> flynn? they are saying they want to hear from him and i think you have to eventually try to come to some sort of explanation for the american people of what is going on because seeing the united states in chaos is very bad. it can be exploited by vladimir putin or any other country that wants to make the united states look ridiculous. >> gotta go. >>. >> it makes democracy look bad. >> fascinating conversation. our coverage continues with michael holmes in los angeles. [bullfighting music]