tv CNN Tonight With Don Lemon CNN March 2, 2017 9:00pm-10:01pm PST
from any investigations into last year's election after he met with the russian envoy twice. he vowed to disclose those meetings. >> i don't recall any discussion of the campaign in any significant way. it was in no way a coordinating of an effort by doing anything improper and i don't believe anybody in that meeting would see or believe i said one thing improp onner or unwise. it was a sad thing to be attacked like that, but i think we explained it and we intend to move forward. >> a senior trump official said the president's son in law and former national security adviser michael flynn also met with the ambassador at trump tower in december. >> california talk radio host and california republican national committee member and
attorney from seattle washington and former cnn bureau chief. thank you all for being with us. let's start with the president who is standing by the attorney general. >> mr. president do you have confidence in the attorney general? >> total. did he recuse himself? >> i don't think at all. >> did you know that during your campaign? when were you aware that he spoke to the russian ambassador? >> i wasn't aware. he probably did. >> less than enthusiastic defense from the president. the white house issued a longer statement a short time ago. he is an honest man and could have stated it more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional. it's a way of saving face for
democrats that everyone thought they were going to win and it's a total witch hunt. is that how sessions will survive this because of his relationship with the president? >> he survived it. it's about attacking donald trump and finding anything and the democrats have no power in washington, d.c. believe me. this is their ongoing narrative to try to find fault and a narrow area they can exploit. does anybody believe the russians got trump elected? they need a psychiatrist. does anyone believe russians hacked into the machines? no. does anyone believe they tried to influence? all government dos that. most mead with ambassadors all the time. he made up a mistake and went to the extreme level and recusing
himself for possible investigation. he was saying he survived this, but we did see gop lawmakers say that jeff sessions should recuse himself. let me ask you this. how much of a wedge will this drive between the white house and the gop? do you see that down the road? >> it has potential to. this is scandal after scandal. russia, we need a full independent investigation as to what degree russia was involved in influencing or attempting to influence our elections here in the united states. they are doing it in france and around the world and have been doing it for a long time. it's shocking that republicans would be refusing to investigate that. i don't care if it's a democrat or republican. when a foreign power is attempting to influence our elections. >> i want you to to follow-up on shawn a point. jeff sessions made a mistake and
owned up to it. nothing to see here. >> it is not a mistake. this is a man who has been live and breathing and speaking the language of law since he graduated in 1979. before this hearing when the senator asked the question, he knew how important it was to all of us. he knew his answer had to be complete and full and accurate. there are different lies. there is lies where i know the truth and i utter a false statement and try to pass it along as the truth. there is a lie where i fail to fully state the facts. i omit very important facts and that's what he did. he knew that he needs to tell the senate confirmation committee that he did have communications with russia and that would have opened up a line of questioning as to what were those and when were those and
with whom and what was kmupic e communicated. i disagree with the republican panel member that this is some kind of a mistake and he had no willful intent. that's the difficulty of prosecuting somebody for perjury. let's use the same standard that jeff sessions used on bill clinton back in 1999. that was prosecute him. not just remove him from office. prosecute him and throw him in jail and give him five years of prison time and the $250,000 fine that applies. let's apply the same standard. that is his standard. >> shawn? >> i love the bed wetting and the people on the left so desperate. they haven't figured out that hillary lost the elections and the russians had nothing to do with it. >> it's not about hillary. >> i get enjoyment out of this.
nobody cares except a few liberals and a few media. nobody cares! >> if bill clinton got prosecuted for lying under oath, why shouldn't jeff sessions? >> bill clinton taking advantage of a woman and lying about it. >> that's how he lost. lying under oath. >> it's okay as long as it makes liberals upset, it makes me happy. >> you said there is nothing here. >> there was a cost. the attorney general recused himself from an important area of investigation and he did it immediately. >> to the big issue. >> there is no big issue. it's about attacking trump. >> you say there is no big issue, but the fact is there is a drip, drip, drip that keeps coming out. >> the obama deep state. >> you see people in the trump campaign did meet with members of the russian administration.
>> not much. >> why don't they say this is who met with whom and this is what was discussed? >> you know what, i don't object to that. that's a good question. really, it's not very important. >> waiting patiently to be part of this. we are learning for a senior official from the white house saying that the national security adviser michael flynn, jared kushner med with the russian ambassador and "usa today" reporting two other trump campaign senior staff met with this russian ambassador on the sidelines of the republican convention last year. who is this russian diplomat who has access to senior republicans? >> he is a very experienced diplomat. he has been in the diplomatic core for a long time since the
1970s. he is the former deputy foreign minster of russia and ambassador to nato and has been in the united states for a long time. i am not surprised that he wanted to go out and meet as many people as he could to get information on what will happen when donald trump's people come into the white house and the policies and what are they up to? who are these people who will be involved in the trump administration? the problem here i think is that we don't know exactly what they talked about. there may be a benign interpretation or might be something else. that is why i think it's important to get this information out. it's not only for the american people as a lot of people say and i think a lot of people are interested in this, but also the trump administration is now having to face every single day
more and more little tiny drips and drops of information which is keeping him from what he wants to do. we already have investigations going on by the fbi and the cia and other intelligence agencies in the united states about hacking, etc. and the more information that comes out about this, we may find that it was part of doing business. part of it may be exactly that. right now it looks suspicious and there are no firm answers. >> and speaks of no firm answers, what do you make of the way russia is keeping statements to a minimum in terms of what is playing out in the united states? are you surprised by how the kremlin is handling this? >> i'm actually thinking they are thinking why did we ever get involved in anything to deal with this campaign because right now it's a mess.
the only way i think for russia, there is a good side. you can see look at all of the americans and the chaos they have in their political system and don't think about trying to imitate their form of democracy. russians can have that as a positive side, but right now the relationship i think you can almost say is worse than ever. you have investigations going on into alleged russian hacking. you have the representative for donald trump who was talking about having better relations and his ambassador to the united nations is very critical of russia. you have senior administration officials on the nsc critical of russia. this is not looking very good. it's not the scenario i think moscow was hoping for and it probably is smart for them to
sit back and say let's stay out of this before they figure it out. >> i want to get back to you because sessions denied it was discussed and he walked that back. listen to this. >> most of these ambassadors are gossipy and in campaign season. i don't recall any specific political discussions. >> so it does seem he is leaving open the possibility -- this is for sarah actually. that maybe the campaign was in fact discussed. is there enough to make a criminal investigation? >> it's interesting because he uses his choice of words are very interesting. i don't recall. i don't believe i did. he is leaving room to if it's proven that he did have this conversation along these lines, nobody can say you blatantly
lied. the difficulty, john, in prosecuting these cases and back to your question about the fbi, there has to be willfulness that is proven and much like mr. sessions is doing right now, the person can give a different explanation for what they meant. maybe they misunderstood the question and didn't fully explain themselves and had they put it in full context it would make better sense. the problem with perjury is that. there has to be a willful false statement made. it's not enough that it's just false. that's the issue i have. this is somebody who is very knowledgeable. he knows why they are asking him this question. he not only lied about it under oath, but in the questionnaire for the senate confirmation committee as well. now back to the gentlemen who was talking about immediately recused himself, i disagree. i don't know how much longer he
wanted to stay on board. there was tremendous pressure from his own people and the republican party and the democratic party for him to recuse himself. more thing. we had attorney general who is recuse said themselves, but it's because of appearance of a closeness to the conflict or the wrong-doing. he himself is involved in this. >> i want to come back to shawn for a final thought as we go to break. ethan, the pressure is mounting whether you like it or not. republicans are pushing him for this recusal and democrats want him to resign. you know you are in trouble when the defense is lukewarm. >> you have about six democratic senators, the most extreme called for an out right dismissal. >> no, there is 100 congressional democrats. >> i saw about three hours ago.
maybe it expanded to another 90, but they don't have that many senators. not a single republican called for dismissal. this was not about jeff sessions. this is about the mainstream media's war. the democrat party is feeble. it's mainstream media's war against trump. >> we have to hold our elected and appointed officials accountable. if you lie, the top law person in the united states of america, you need to be held to account. >> we will leave it there. >> and we will come back. >> she used to be in moscow. hence the expertise. we appreciate it. all of you stay with us and we will keep the conversation going. >> when we come back, did jeff sessions commit perjury? the legal ramifications and the russian revelations that led to
his recusal. >> mike pence reportedly used personal e-mail, an account that was later hacked. stay with us. an unlimited data plan is only as good as the network it's on. and verizon has been ranked number one for the 7th time in a row by rootmetrics. (man) hey, uh, what's rootmetrics? it's the nation's largest independent study and it ranked verizon #1 in call, text, data, speed and reliability. (woman) do they get a trophy? not that i know of. but you get unlimited done right. (man 2) why don't they get a trophy? (man 3) they should get something. (woman 2) how about a plaque? i have to drop this. my arm's getting really tired. unlimited on verizon. 4 lines, just $45 per line.
campaign and its contacts with russia. >> that decision came after sessions admitted he did not disclose conversations he had during the presidential campaign even though he was asked about it. top democrats said he should resign or be charged with perjury. >> the notion that you have somebody at the head of the justice department that is what he is and saying he is digging in his heels and recusing himself. he is going to go to time out room in elementary school. the analogy is not to be funny. it's to put the seriousness where it needs to be. we have an attorney general basically being exposed for having lied to the american people while under oath. that's perjury and an offense that somebody ought to charge him for. >> let's bring in one here. >> also joining us is our civil rights attorney.
a lot of questions right now. should jeff sessions face charges of perjury for that moment in the session that when al franken asked this question. >> if there is evidence that anyone affiliated with the trump campaign communicated with the russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do? >> senator franken, i'm not aware of any of those activities. i have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and i did not have communications with the russians. i'm unable to comment on it. >> i know that you are well aware of the law, but the supreme court said it must be false testimony rather than confusion, mistake or faulty memory. how would you prove willful
intent. >> that was not intentionally making a false statement. that's the problem with the case. he thinks it's okay to say i didn't intentionally lead the american people. the real issue is it's not his decision to make. this should be fully investigated and there were other people in the room when these conversations took place. he said i don't remember and i don't recall which is should be given that he told the detailed story about talking to the ambassador about taking a trip there and how the a.m. bagsz dor said he could remember specifics about that part of the conversation, but has no wkz did whether he discussed the campaign. let's investigate the people in the room. there is lots that can be done.
>> is that automatically the case? >> it has to be material and willfully false. can you say he answered the question. the way perjury works is you look at the question. it's the questioner's responsibility to prove up the perjury. when he makes a statement to the question and it was vague and we don't know. we have this debate. did he mean no he was not part of the campaign or no he was not with the senator. you are never going to prove that. i can tell you that. unless the statement is clear, you are never going to prove perjury. it is a false misleading statement for those trying to make a claim to do it for other purposes other than the truth. to prove perjury is a high standard. they are not going to get close to it. you have eric holder who made false statements in front of the senate and what happens with him? he was sensored.
they found they were false and still didn't prosecute him. we are not even close to that. >> he implied he was surprised by the question coming from senator franken. >> i was taken aback about the brand-new information, the allegation that surrogates and i have been called a surrogate have been meeting continuously with russian officials and that's what struck me very hard and i focused my answer on. in retrospect, i should have slowed down and said but i did meet one russian official a couple of times and that would be the ambassador. >> that was the cool part of his defense. he was focusing on the wrong part of the question. >> and the parsing of his person. that was for me as a senator and
not being a surrogate. that's the part of what he wants the american people to believe. that he can divide himself. >> what's troubling to me is this is at the height of a lot of news media attention around the prospects that russia was involved in cyber attacks and they were hacking the dnc and causing donald trump to win the election. here you have a senator who must be aware of all of this action sift happening. when the question is asked, he teant make the connection? at best we have an attorney general who seems unfit to serve. if he didn't recognize the importance of what was going on around the nation of russia and having the conversation with someone and he doesn't recall the details? >> you are shaking your head. >> she uses the word cluding.
what senator franken was returning to was a buzz feed article. that was published by a few agencies. completely false. once again, he is given a question of made up news and fake news and asked to respond why when he was reading it. this was all new and coming in. hang with me. basically i was not doing anything. >> he is not made of that. >> he admitted he med with the ambassador. you can talk about the article being false. the reality is he had the meetings. >> not having the meetings. >> this was not true. he did not deny having the meetings. >> he did not state under oath he met two times. >> he was not asked that. >> you can parse it, but he himself admitted he should have given a more truthful response. >> when you start saying things like this of not giving a
truthful response and you look at the question, you can't take it there. you look at the question and say the answer was responsive. it was true. did he have talks with the russians about the campaign? he didn't. if they find evidence that he did -- >> we don't know that. he said he doesn't recall. you cannot say he did not talk about it. you can't say that there is no evidence. >> we have to go to a break. republicans had at hillary clinton for private e-mail campaign and now the vice president may be caught up in his own e-mail scandal. rianne g. i became curious where in africa she was from. so i took the ancestry dna test to find out more about my african roots. ancestry really helped me fill in a lot of details.
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michael flynn also met with the russian ambassador at trump tower in december. >> it was evaporated vice president mike pence used a private e-mail account for official business when he was governor of indiana. according to the star newspaper, pence's personal e-mail was hacked last june. let's bring in trump supporter jean louden. if you look at what's happening with the administration like michael flynn who was forced to resign because he lied and jeff sessions and pence and his e-mails, there is rolling disclosures they are making admissions only after it is being revealed to the public. is there a bigger issue than a rookie administration finding its feet? >> the biggest issue for the administration is they are paralyzed. they have several issues they
want to get to. tax reform and infrastructure and health care, but just remember when bill clinton had his scandal in 1997. it was difficult for them to do anything at this point. you are looking at trump with this drip, drip, drip of disclosures and aside from executive orders, they are not able to do anything. chaos on capitol hill. this is affecting the administration not enabling them to do anything with their agenda. >> why does the white house appear to be having trouble getting on the same page in moments of crisis? >> i do think they are a new administration, but they are on the same page. you look at the timing of this so-called drip drip which we know is emanating from the house of obama where he is there in his $5 million castle with 8,000 square feet with valerie jarrett constantly firing missiles at
the trump administration trying to disable them. i wonder where the talk went about unity. i wonder where the talk went about the little guy. that's not the concern about obama and jarrett and the rest of those trying to do everything they can to make it so no progress is made. there is division and there is not unity. it would be nice to see them ever working in any manner with some of the things that the president mentioned in his speech like victim's rights and clean air and water. these are things we can find common ground on and it would be nice if the democrats instead of trying to undermine this administration at every turn and spread disinformation to work with him. >> let me jump in on that one. so on that one, if donald trump wanted to, he could have a press conference and say here are the meetings who the people who worked with me had with russian officials. these types have happened
before. trump chooses not to do that. you have to wonder why. >> hillary clinton was hammered for private e-mail server. here's a reminder. >> why doesn't she release the 33,000 e-mails that she didn't turn over initially. the american people have a right to know. >> the fbi has reopened the investigation into hillary clinton's classified handling of documents and her server. >> lock her up! lock her up! >> it turns out vice president mike pence has an e-mail problem of his. according to the concerns he was using a private account when he was governor of indiana that may have been hacked. >> the vice president's office sent us a statement saying that pence didn't break any laws and he complied with all indiana laws regarding these records.
they have also said that any compare to clinton is absurd. >> the vice president as governor did not break any laws. there is a good deal of hypocrisy here. >> there is no hypocrisy at all. there is a huge difference between classified information that is top secret that someone who is secretary of state of the united states has access to and the governor of indiana who obviously doesn't have any closely held american secrets like a secretary of state is. also there is a big difference between someone using a private e-mail address and someone using a secrets server and being sneaky about it. we know there was something there that hillary clinton didn't want them to know and that's why she did away with the 30,000 e-mails. you compare that to vice president pence who has cooperated even though there is no evidence of any crime or
wrong-doing or cover up here as there was in the case of hillary. >> before you weigh in, i want you to listen to what brian fallon had to say from the clinton campaign and listen and respond and give us your perspective. >> hillary clinton's use is inappropriate and if she had to do it all over again, she would do it differently and regrets it to this day, but during the campaign the issue was overblown and taken to great extremes. the reason why that was true is this preis widespread and skmon we know with vice president pence. i won't be holding my breath for any of the republicans on capitol hill that cried foul about hillary clinton's practices to do the same about the vice president. >> matt, are you holding your breath? >> let me say this. i won't relitigate whether or
not she should have been using a private e-mail server or the big deal that was made about it, mike pence, if you went through the government and saw how many people were using a private e-mail for public business, you would have everyone. to me these are dumb decisions these people make. you don't use your private e-mail for public business. when you necessary a private company, you don't use your personal e-mail for company business. mike pence should know better. i think it's a stupid mistake on his part. >> thanks. >> thank you to you both. >> to quote the white house, the media is opposition party and how that approach is impacting the trump administration, just ahead. ♪
reports for jeff sessions to recuse himself from probes into the election campaign. >> it was through the media that the white house learned of sessions's meetings with the ambassador. the president is seizing on the leaks, feeding the stories as the bigger issue. our political writer for the l.a. times and senior editor at variety. welcome to you both. >> it does seem like a handful of newspapers, the l.a. times for instance and "the washington post" and "new york times" and broadcasts like cnn which are very much driving the coverage in an aggressive way dedicating resources and time and exposing a lot of major stories. is there anything similar to this from past administrations? >> i can't recall it being this intense this early and this frequently. there is going to be tension at
times. it's an adversarial story, but i can't recall which much new this is fast, this many investigations and this many leaks. every week, i wonder is this pace going to continue? almost every day. >> to you, the lens through which all of this information is being viewed has perhaps never been as warped as the times we are living in. >> you see this great investment in investigative journalism. at the same time we have probably this polarized news environment. people get their news based on what they want to hear. that's the danger right now. the question is are people going for the partisan newssources. i do think that the investment in journalism is great because
they are from mainstream news outlets that have a long history of great reputations. i just hope that it continues. another thing i just want to point out is that a lot of these news organizations kind of knew this was coming and they knew it would be there because there were so many remaining questions from the trump campaign on russia. the tax returns. it was almost like they knew that at least the first 100 days of the trump presidency would be almost a challenge to journalism. it was what trump said on the campaign trail. the whole interested of opening up the liable laws and he made comments to the head of amazon and these suggestions that he was going to look into the antitrust problems at amazon and he owns "the washington post."
those were a little disconcerting. a number of news organizations approached the start of the trump presidency with the idea that we have to lay down a marker. >> every time the president reads a story or hears a story he doesn't like, he attacks it as fake news. he does it over and over again. that insult, that attack, is it losing effectiveness because it is being used so often? >> i don't think among his base it is. it's challenging with what we have seen from other presidents. the spokesperson might say something about what they felt was wrong with the story. you didn't have the president attacking reporters and news organizations. that's another new thing we have seen. >> yeah. another new thing we have seen is the fact that news and political goings on in washington have become this hyper reality show. they have become the bread and butter of comedy sketch shows like "saturday night live" and the late night shows almost
entirely base their formats and content around what we are seeing in the political space. it's good for a laugh and the ratings are up for these people, but is there a risk here and a cost to the political process when serious issues effectively are taking place and boil down to a punch line? >> there is also a serious risk of people viewing politics as entertainment. at a certain point you have to get down to policy. you have to make sure that the public understands what the issues are and as you said, they are not just a punch line. they are not just part of this ongoing reality show or lately this mystery between the connections to russia. at a certain point, the public has to understand what the role of the government is in their lives. if they see that role as just another channel that they turn on the air each night, that's
pretty disconcerting. >> it does seem that with the media, it's one of the checks and balances. the democrats in both houses and unable to do anything about the white house. we will leave it at that. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> when we come back, trump officials spoke to a man, a top russian spy. not just any old russian spy, but the top russian spy. what we know about the ambassador. >> what it took to play the u.s. president on "saturday night live." today, unlimited gets the network it deserves. verizon. (mic thuds) uh, sorry. it's unlimited without compromising reliability, on the largest, most advanced 4g lte network in america. (thud) uh... sorry, last thing. it's just $45 per line. forty. five.
hello. russia's ambassador to the u.s. isn't new to washington. more controversy. current and former u.s. officials say he's considered one of the kremlin's top spies. >> the russians deny that, and the ambassador seems to present himself as a man about town. >> reporter: the russian ambassador to the u.s. has spent a dozen of his 66 years living and working as a diplomat in the united states.
he and his wife often seen out and about enjoying parties and events around washington d.c. >> i personally have been working in the united states so long that i know almost everybody. >> reporter: he's straight out of central casting. perfect english, heavy accent. he's blunt and stands out. >> reporter: trained as an engineer in russia described as highly entemgt. he joined the foreign ministry at the height of the cold war in 1977. he's been ambassador to the u.s. for more than eight years running. some u.s. intelligence officials believe he's more than that. far more. they believe he has very close ties to russian intelligence. according to current and former senior u.s. government officials. here speaking at stanford, he described the u.s./russia relationship after donald trump was elected president. >> we are leading into the worst point in our relations at the
end of the cold war. >> reporter: he expressed optimism, things would get better. this week he attended the president's address to congress. now the controversy over his meetings with jeff sessions is the second time in weeks the ambassador finds himself at the center of a storm regarding the trump white house. then incoming national security adviser michael flynn had told top members of the administration that when he spoke to the ambassador prior to inauguration, he did not discuss sanctions against russia. later admitting he did not remember whether they had talked about that. flynn was forced to resign. those conversations had been captured and recorded according to u.s. intelligence officials because russian diplomats calls routinely are, and some of the calls raised flags. the ambassador has not responded to the latest flap over attorney general sessions. his spokesmen saying they have nothing to add to this. from the russian foreign
ministry responding to questions over whether he is a spy. echoing a now familiar refrain. something i've heard from former spies is that the russians have really stepped up their spy game in recent years, and you can see that by looking at their embassy in washington d.c. they estimate that something like half the personnel in there are related to intelligence. >> reporter: as russia continues to figure into the political controversy in america right you, whether it's hacking, spying, or just talking. michelle kaczynski, cnn. finally here alec baldwin is known for his scathing impersonation of donald trump on "saturday night live". he said he didn't hate trump. when asked to play the part, he said he wasn't interested until the first dress rehearsal. he said what happened next. >> i had no idea what i was
going to do. i tried to stick my face out and my mouth out. i was in the makeup room. it was like a scene from a mental hospital. the whole time i was like gina. >> it's memorable. baldwin and kimmel later discussed the possibility of playing the president at this year's white house correspondence dinner. >> thank you for watching us. i'm isa sessay. stay with us. you're watching cnn. americans - 83% try to eat healthy. yet up 90% fall short in getting key nutrients from food alone.
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hello. welcome to our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm isha sesay live in los angeles. ? and i'm john vause. it's 10:00 p.m. here on the west coast. we begin with breaking news on the trump campaign's meetings with russia during the 2016 presidential race. a top campaign adviser says he and two others met with russia's u.s. ambassador during the republican national convention last july. j.d. gordan said they stressed they would like to improve registrations with russia but did not discuss anything