tv CNN Tonight With Don Lemon CNN March 30, 2017 7:00pm-8:01pm PDT
lemon for "cnn tonight." i'll see you tomorrow. this is cnn breaking news. breaking news. general michael flynn is willing to testify in exchange for immunity. this is "cnn tonight." i'm don lemon. president trump's former national security adviser, the man who lied about his contacts with the russian ambassador, now willing to be interviewed by the fbi. and congressional officials investigating the trump campaign's potential ties to russia in exchange for immunity from prosecution. flynn's attorney saying, quote, no reasonable person who has a benefit of advice from counsel would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized witch hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution.
let's get right to it now. our cnn senior white house correspondent joins us now from the white house with more on this. jeff, good evening to you. there are serious questions facing the white house tonight and people are asking if there is a cover-up. we're learning serious information about the president's former national security adviser, lieutenant general michael flynn. fill us in. >> reporter: well, don, as you said, michael flynn through his lawyer has offered to testify in this ongoing russia investigation before the house committee and the senate intelligence committee as well as the fbi, in exchange for some type of immunity we're being told. we do have a statement from his lawyer. you saw part of it a second allege. he also goes on to say this. he said, general flynn certainly has a story to tell. he very much wants to tell it should the circumstances permit. that is very interesting there, don. gem flynn certainly has a story to tell. we don't know exactly what he means by that. what type of a story he wants to
tell. but certainly a tantalizing bit of information if you're one of those investigators on the house committee or the senate committee, or even perhaps the fbi. it's important to point out the people we have spoken to on the house committee and the senate committee say that they have not offered to have him in, or certainly have not taken him up on this immunity offer at this point, don. >> jeff, it's day 70. this administration barely two months in. and we're talking about the president's former national security adviser, potentially seeking immunity to testify into investigation of possible collusion with russia. can we stop for a moment and put this into context? >> don, i think it is important to put it all in context. michael flynn only lasted about 24 days in this administration as a national security adviser. i can tell you, his shadow hangs over this white house. in fact, the conversations he had throughout the course of the campaign with russian operatives
at the center of this other investigation. this is what worries the republicans in this town who want the president to succeed the most. they believe that it is one thing after another here. they're simply being mir eed into all of this. this cloud is hanging over the white house. it happened again today. never mind the agenda that this president wants to talk about. these daily developments, are a drum beat here. it's on day 70 here. if general flynn would happen to talk to the house committee, the senate committee, if they would take him up on that offer, don, this would be something that would be explosive. now, i asked the white house if they had comment on this tonight. i ran into press secretary sean spicer as he was leaving the build, and he said, look, we have no comment on this tonight. they'll be asked about it again tomorrow. >> interesting that you mention that, sean spicer, because the other big story tonight, originally our lead story, "the
new york times," reporting two white house officials helped devin nunes view the secret reports that are at the center of this. how did sean spicer respond today at the briefing? >> the white house press secretary did not confirm or deny this report in "the new york times." and if you're watching at home, you might be sort of losing track of all these different threads here. this particular thread goes back to the house intelligence chairman, devin nunes, who was on the grounds of the white house last week looking at the classified information. there's been a question here hanging over the white house, who brought him in, who invited him in, who showed him this information. "the new york times" is reporting that it's two members of the national security council staff. sean spicer would not comment on that at all today. but at the same time this "new york times" report was coming out, the white house suddenly sent a letter to the house committee and the senate committee, both republicans and democrats, inviting them over to the white house to look at this
classified information that they say backs up its whole wiretapping claim. that's where this all started. the president saying that president obama was somehow involved in wiretapping him last year at his office at the trump tower. of course, that's unsubstantiated. the white house responded to the "new york times" report by inviting the house and senate over. the house said, okay, we'll come and look at that. the senate said, no, thank you, you turned that information over to us on capitol hill. >> interesting they want to separate themselves and keep it above board. thank you for that, jeff. i want to bring in congressman eric swalwell, the democrat who serves on the intelligence committee. so good to have you on tonight. this is unbelievable. i want to read part of general flynn's statement. this is through his attorney tonight. general flynn has a story to tell.
what's your reaction to that? >> sounds like a guy who wants immunity. usually innocent people don't want immunity. i think we should hear from him in the public. and that we should get to the bottom of what exactly why was he working with russia today, who as a former defense intelligence agency director, he of all people knows that that agency is connected to russia's intelligence services. so to take money from them, and then to work with the russian ambassador after sanctions are put on russia, and lie to the vice president, that's powerful evidence that he knew what was going on. and this was converging at the time of russia's interference campaign. >> you're on the intelligence committee with nunes. a spokesman for the chairman said, no, moik al flynn has not offered to testify in exchange for -- who would make that decision? who makes the decision whether he's going to receive immunity
or not? >> ideally we work together as far as witness testimony. this is nothing neither i or my colleague are familiar with. we want to hear from michael flynn. we want to hear from paul manafort. it's time for chairman nunes to step aside from the investigation. we want it to be independent, credible, and make progress. right now it's not doing that. >> do you think he will stay on? >> i think if he cares about us getting to the bottom of what happens, and speaker ryan, ultimately his call, if he wants us to be credible and independent, i hope by next week he steps aside. i'm continuing to call for that. >> are there other members in the intelligence -- at least on the committee who are calling for that? >> i believe most of the democrats have. the republican in the house has made a call for this. >> i want to ask you about "the new york times" reporting. two white house officials helped devin nunes view the secret reports. in your mind, is that a
cover-up? >> it looks like a cover-up. and don, when i say that, i don't say it lightly. but when i was a prosecutor, i would tell juries, take all the facts and look at them like it's a bundle of sticks. each stick is a fact. you can pull one out and bend and apply pressure, and maybe there's an innocent explanation. maybe there's an innocent explanation why jeff sessions misled the senate about his prior contacts with the russian ambassador. maybe there's an innocent explanation for why jerry kushner was talking to a bank. when you bundle those facts together, this is becoming unbreakable evidence. that there is a consciousness of guilt going around all the players involved with deep russian ties. >> i know you don't want to speculate here, but the question is, what's at the bottom of
this? >> there are deep personal, political and financial ties that donald trump and his team had with russia. and what it looks like right now, this is what we have to investigate, is was that con vermging with russia's interference campaign. if these are just business ties, because he was a businessman and these are a thousand coincidences, we should know that, too. but right now it looks a lot like there was collusion. >> so what i hear from the trump side, to be fair, it's been eight months that they've investigated and found nothing. at least that we know from director comey. >> as director comey said in his testimony, eight months is very early into an investigation like this. people make the comparison to watergate. this is nothing like watergate for a lot of reasons. but this is an international crime that took place. watergate, thaf on the front page of the metro section in the "washington post." this has so many complex financial transactions that took place, so many individuals over in russia, in the united states, it's going oh take time to get
to the bottom of it. >> could it just be that the question -- this is -- here's the thing. when i hear people defending the administration, and they have every right to defend the administration, it's the same people who when you heard about hillary clinton's server, most democrats said, it was wrong, she should not have had that server, but they didn't think there was anything there with the server. nobody will ever question this president's judgment to have people like michael flynn around him to hire him in the first place. no one -- why does no one question that? >> it should be questioned. also, why was the second person he named as a senior foreign policy adviser when asked by the "washington post" was carter page, someone with deep ties to russia. who also by the way -- >> they don't say who it is. >> the second person he named. you're running for president of the united states, your senior foreign policy adviser would be someone you knew. now they're backing away for obvious reasons. it doesn't look good.
>> why do you think that the white house changed course today and invited democratic and republican leaders in the intel committee to view the information? >> they got their hand caught in the cookie jar. >> you think so? >> yeah. >> so what's next? do you even know what's next? >> we're going to continue our investigation. whether it is one that is seen as independent, credible and making progress or not, we can still review documents and hear from witnesses. but i think the american people are counting on us to find out what happened, whether u.s. persons are involved, and most importantly, don, make reforms so that we're never in this mess again. so in 2021, the incoming president's legitimacy is not questioned. >> thank you. >> my pleasure. much more on the breaking news story, michael flynn seeking immunity to the investigation of russia's influence in the 2016 election.
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breaking news, former national security adviser michael flynn is willing to testify before a federal and congressional investigators, but only if he is granted immunity. according to his lawyer. joining me now, david gergen, and also matt lewis, laura coates, john meacham, and cnn national security analyst juliet. juliet, fitting to start with you because "the wall street journal" is the first one, the first ones to report that general flynn is willing to be
interviewed in exchange for immunity. this is something that you thought we might see. in fact, you said it on this very show on friday night. juliet? >> oh, yeah, that's right, don. i think we were leading to this moment. and the clues were there. it's just sort of putting them all together. they begin with how flynn was fired. remember that sally yates had warned the white house, the head of the department of justice at the time warned the white house that he could be compromised. the white house held on to him for several weeks suggesting flynn knew a lot. once he gets fired we don't hear from him. yet we hear from manafort and carter page and roger stone, the four we always talk about. the other three were quite public. that began since they suggested flynn might be on his own. and looking for a deal. there were other hints over the course of the last couple of
weeks, including, of course, last friday when two stories came out. and in the strange world of 2017, forgive me for quoting the national "national enquirer," b of friday the wall street journal had a story that suggested that flynn was doing very bad things regarding turkish citizens and the possibility that a turkish citizen would be sent back to turkey. all of those clues together made me think that there's a bigger story here which is flynn wants a deal. and we don't know what the nature of that deal is. or what they's proffering. >> you were essentially reading the tea leaves. i think that's what you said, what has done this before, you had not heard from general michael flynn. and generally what that means. i understood what you were saying when you said that. but i want to bring other folks in here. laura, flynn's attorney is
saying, general flynn certainly has a story to tell. the letter then goes on to say, no reasonable person would submit to questioning in a highly politicized witch hunt. flynn's attorney isn't using legal jargon here. but when you read that, what do you think? >> i read that and i say you're asking for immunity. the issue is not why you'd request immunity. of course, if you're going to be presented with a criminal investigation and you already heard the fbi director say there's a criminal investigation into whether or not people in the trump campaign, to which he was a part of, were involved in collusion. you have that. you also have the logan act allegations that he may have represented the united states in a way that is not a very well-used law at all. but the question is, why would i give you immunity? as a prosecutor, he blasts all
the time. the reason i would get immunity is if there is a bigger fish to fry that you can give me. or what you're going to tell me i can find nowhere else. so what he has to do first is tell the prosecutors kind of off the record what i'm offering here. why it's worth your while. if they decide it's worth their while, guess who has to give immunity. not just the fbi. it's the department of justice. which means that jeff sessions' recusal has monumental implications. >> this is someone at cnn that made a very good point. laura, this is for you. i'll get to everyone else. this is someone who was in the military. they also sent it to my colleague anderson. my guess is lieutenant general flynn will fully support and protect the trump administration, fall on the sword and take more blame with the russians. i believe he will quote something esoteric, but with some news value and denaming about the obama administration. what do you think of that?
i found that e-mail interesting. >> it is interesting. his letter suggests he wants vindication, not only from the witch hunt he's expecting, but one he believes he was a victim to. >> would he fall on the sword for the entire trump administration? >> i would not be shocked. a lot of people nowadays seem willing to lose their credibility for the administration. >> would the fbi allow that if they know that going into it? >> no. the reason is, because first of all, i have to believe you as the fbi and the prosecutor that what you're trying to do is assist the investigation. not simply save your tail. what you have to give me must be useful. remember, if they can prosecute everyone, why would they exclude one. unless that person has information i can get nowhere else. >> i got it. david gergen, this is what general flynn told "meet the press" last september about the issues. >> the very last thing that john podesta said is no individual too big to jail. that should include people like hillary clinton. five people around her have been
given immunity, to include her former chief of staff. when you are given immunity, that means you probably have committed a crime. >> probably wishing he hadn't said that. >> do you think? listen, it's deeply disturbing to have a president in the first hundred days to be embroiled in what may be a scandal. and increasingly, it appears that with general flynn now saying he would testify if granted immunity, that really suggests very heavily there is definitely fire. and what we've been seeing over the last few weeks is a lot of attempts to cover up the fire with smoke. we've seen a lot of different diversionary things. and, you know, i would say one thing about it. i would imagine the fbi would -- and justice department would wait on granting immunity. what you typically want to do in any criminal investigation is to start down the chain.
people at the lowest level. and build up your evidentiary case. you may give immunity to the lower level people so you can go after the big fish. michael flynn is a big fish. had e's up here with the former national security adviser. we've never had a national security adviser accused of anything like this since john poindexter in the reagan years. >> usually they want a bigger fish. >> exactly. >> who's bigger than ham? >> that's right. one of them is the president of the united states that you would think of. i think they're going to build their case more carefully, and over time. and they may eventually give him immunity. but i think it's early. >> david is giving us perspective here. if i can go to my historian here, john. because, you know, you've dealt with watergate. with ekeep bringing up watergate. no one has been prosecuted. no information has been found. but it is huge that he's asking for immunity. all the president's men, right?
what about that comparison? to put it in perspective. we're 70 days in and we have a former national security adviser asking for immunity. >> you're right, your presidential memoirs, this is not the way you want to leave. your national security adviser asking for immunity before you hit day 100. >> the one who was fired. >> the one who was fired, yeah. i will say this. people were privately saying, both republicans and democrats in the transition, that while they were more impressed than they expected to be by trump's appointments, flynn was an exception to that. i suspect david heard a lot of this, too. former republican cabinet members, former democratic cabinet members were all a little anxious about general flynn. and so i think that, you know, historical analogies here would be iran contra, president nixon, vice president nixon at the
time, trying to influence the vietnamese peace talks late in 1968. the '68 campaign. and what you often look for in these is the proffer. you look to see who's going to talk first. and this is what's interesting to me about this, is usually at this point in the story, you're still talking about the press uncovering things. you're talking about the prosecutorial machine re, congressional machinery is not quite as far along. this is moving at a kind of warp speed. and i don't think it's just the news cycle. one other point. the most sul ferous conversations i've had with people who really support president trump and those who don't, and i've witnessed them, is about this issue. is about the question of whether or not russia was trying to explicitly help trump and to what extent trump himself might have known this. i think that we're going to be
entering a really interesting period in the next days and weeks, which is, at what point will facts begin to shift opinion. so resilient to contrary information. it will be interesting to see if flynn has something to say that's undermining to the president. how much of trump's base of support, 30, 37%, of people who approve of what he's doing, how much will those people follow that. >> when they believe fax and reality. >> exactly. >> this is a difficult place for the white house to be in now. jeff zell any asked sean spicer to respond. sean said no. how do you think they handle this? >> we'll have to see tomorrow at sean spicer's briefing. i imagine he is thinking about how to approach this.
and he's probably talking to his advisers about how to frame this at the press briefing. >> the help with the narrative they've been given, the president told them i would have told him to speak to these people. he was just doing this job. >> think back a week ago. we were talking on this program about those in the health care bill, right? now we're talking about russia. and those two things aren't unrelated. they go to why this president isn't able to drive an agenda. they go to why this president isn't able to go on the offense. and any sort of consistent way, have political capital and use that political capital. here we have a president sitting at 35%. there are partisan divides. as john was talking about. here you have the specter of michael flynn who in many ways was a darling of conservative, sort of the breitbart audience. people thought it was unfair he was pushed out of the white house and the media's doing. here we have the specter of him testifying possibly against this white house.
what does that do to those approval ratings. and what does that do to what has been this administration's stance on this story, which is probably there's nothing to see here. but also that this is fake news. right? that this is really a hoax. we saw the president tweet about that. >> i remember thinking that whole fake news thing when i had to come on the air and announce breaking news, that michael flynn had resigned. in the back of my head i kept saying, so much more fake news. because all these things are happening. i had to say jeff sessions had to recuse himself. so much for fake news. now you have michael flynn asking for immunity. at 11:00 last night, our lead story was the travel ban. this ehad issues with that as well. matt lewis, i'm going to give you the last word in this block. but what does this speak about the president's judgment on choosing his advisers, and the people around him? >> well, look, i think that john meacham earlier, talking about how people were generally pretty happy with the advisers that
donald trump picked. i would say pleasantly surprised, you know? good people in there. but michael flynn was the one that i think obviously very credentialed. obviously great military background. but, you know, in the last couple of years, especially during the campaign with the lock-her-up chant -- >> that chant, i mean, this could be karma. >> yeah. it's so ironic, right? and the tweets. and he seemed to be unhinged. and -- >> yeah. >> it seemed he was somebody that was sort of an accident waiting to happen. you know? you learn when you're a kid, your parents tell you, be careful the people you hang around with. one does get the sense that michael flynn was a bad influence on that administration. and -- >> or as the president says, a bad ombre. we'll be right back.
national security adviser, general michael flynn, breaking his silence, offering to testify before federal and congressional investigators, but only if he is granted immunitimmunity. the latest headache for a white house reeling from the unfolding russia investigation. how did we get here? let's go back to the morning of march 4th, a saturday at mar-a-lago. president trump is angry and tweeting, quote, terrible. just found out that obama had my wires tapped in trump tower just before the victory. nothing found. this is mccarthyism. and this. how low has president obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. this is nixon watergate. bad or sick guy. the president offering absolutely no evidence to back up his shocking accusation against former president barack obama. the white house in full spin mode for days, trying to defend the indefensible. and offering no evidence because there is none. 11 days later, president trump
tells fox news' tucker carlson this. >> i've been seeing a lot of things, now, for the most part i'm not going to discuss it, with because we have it before the committee. and we will be submitting things before the committee very soon that hasn't been submitted as of yet. but wiretap covers a lot of different things. i think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks. >> and he was right. in a way. some very interesting items are revealed on march 20th. fbi director james comey testified publicly saying he has found no evidence to support the president's accusations. but even worse for the president, revealing that the fbi's investigating russian interference in the 2016 election. >> that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the trump campaign and the russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the
campaign and russia's efforts. as with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed. >> the next day things get really interesting. and maybe this is what president trump was suggesting to tucker carlson. house intel committee chairman devin nunes part of the trump transition team makes a secret trip to the white house grounds where had e's led into a secure room and given information that trump team -- the big question, by whom? nunes holds a news conference the next day. rushes to the white house to brief the president. and later, cancels all hearings. president trump claims a newly revealed information vind indicates him which it didn't at all. >> i somewhat do. i must tell you, i somewhat do.
i very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found. i somewhat do. >> but the next day, white house press secretary sean spicer faces tough questions about the source or sources of that information. >> so will you allow that the white house or anyone in the trump administration gave chairman nunes that information? >> i did not sit in on that briefing. i'm not -- it just doesn't -- so i don't know why he would travel -- brief the speaker and come down and brief us on something that we briefed him on. it doesn't seem to make a ton of sense. i'm not aware of it. but it doesn't really pass the smell test. >> does it pass your smell test? "the new york times" report two white house officials helped give nunes those reports. david, you heard the timeline in the first tweets from president trump accusing president obama of what we're learning today. is this a cover-up do you think?
>> don, if you're trying to convince the public that you've done something, you've been up to go in and you're going to have a cover-up to cover for it, you couldn't come up with a better way to do it. it's astonishing. they could have in so many ways done things -- there may be a lot of innocence here. but they've done things in such a surreptitious suspicious way that there are natural questions about why in the hell would you go in there. why did you lie about it. why wasn't sean spicer given the truth. >> what was interesting to me was that maybe there's nothing there. >> maybe. for the country's sake -- >> for the country's sake, if there was nothing there, it would be for the good of the country. >> right. >> but the cover-up is always worse than the crime. if you're covering up, devin nunes, getting information, that's a lie. i'm not saying that they have lied to the fbi. but that's usually what happens. you end up lying to investigators, and you end up getting yourself in trouble of the that's what it looks like,
that there's some cover-up there. >> this has to be one of the clumsiest cover-ups in history. but even so, you cannot escape the feeling that there's something more there. that there is a fire. and we need to know, and thank goodness the senate will be there with a serious investigation along with the fbi. >> john, does this pass your smell test? >> to disagree with you slightly with great respect. >> go on. >> the cover-up isn't always worse than the crime actually. there could be some pretty serious underlying crimes here. vice president cheney said, you know, russia trying to influence the election could be considered an act of war. that's dick cheney. let me let that sink in for a second. so i think that -- i don't think -- to use another figure from the ford-bush years, donald rumsfeld, we have known unknowns. >> you're pulling out your entire arsenal.
>> it's all here. i think that we don't know exactly what it is here. but i would suggest this. that -- and david has worked in several white houses and can disagree if he disagrees. but the character of the president is determinative. i would argue that for everything we know about donald trump, he's conspiratorially minded. the notion of truth is not something with which he's intimately familiar. what he says in one hour he will say the opposite in the next hour. he lives very much in the moment. i'm wondering if what we're seeing with the nunes drama, and with what may or may not appear at this point to be a cover-up is a reflection of the president living in this kind of conspiratorial universe, where all they really understand is, you punch back. and the nunes business may have been a punch back. we're just not sure what's behind them all together. >> far be it from me to disagree with the historian on our panel,
so i won't. i'll let that stand. >> understand, don, a punch back, if a punch back is sending out a tweet or attacking somebody rhetorically from a podium, that's one thing. but if a punch back involves manipulating a chairman of a committee, and entering into this sort of facade going over to the white house, then all of a sudden now you're a pawn in this game. that could take on some very serious ramifications. he would be basically a patsy is what nunes would be in this scenario. >> i think it's important. it may well be, people in the districts think of mr. nunes, is a man of great character. maybe they're actually right. you can get swept into a white house net and pulled in, sucked in, in ways that innocent people get really hurt very fast. >> we'll be right back. you're here to buy a car.
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here's the breaking news tonight. michael flynn offering to testify in exchange for immunity. meanwhile, the senate intelligence committee holding its first public hearing today into russian meddling into the election. my panel is back. nia, some of the big moments from one of the senate intelligence hearings on russian meddling in the election, and possible collusion with the trump campaign. look at this. >> our community has been a
target of russian information warfare, propaganda and cyber campaigns. and still is. >> the covert things had adversarial views toward the kremlin. >> this is not fake news. this is actually what happened to us. >> nia, what's your reaction? >> it was a powerful committee hearing today. all these revelations about russia, rubio revealing that he had been hacked as well. this idea that all along, this ehad been playing this game of favorites, for candidates that they viewed as not being favorable. there's been so much concern about the house intelligence committee taken over by nunes, and seeming to lack all credibility. at this point, i think this
eased some concerns. the senate intelligence committee there with the opening statements, from richard burr, and then mark warner, senator mark warner, talking about this being a nonpartisan investigation. they want to follow the evidence where it leads. we'll just have to see. it's very early in this process. they've got many more witnesses. the witness list is like 20. but my goodness, so disturbing to hear today about russia's involvement. this happened to us. that is what mark warner said. i think that's the focus of this senate intelligence committee. it is not a partisan fight. >> juliet, so if flynn wants immunity and he testifies, that would not be public. in the senate, that wouldn't be a public hearing, would it? >> i think it would. >> it would, okay. >> the senate would want it to be. it may be that flynn wants it to be. his lawyer released a statement today. i would suspect whatever story he has to tell, he would want it
to be public. >> can you imagine the entire world sitting there watching him testify? >> i know. i know. i'm going to take a step back here for a minute and just how deeply disturbing today is. because i think we tend to forget it on sort of what leak and who knew what when, and does this get to the white house. or to donald trump himself. this is not a foreign policy or international crisis. and while this is happening in the united states, north korea, china, russia, africa, hurricanes and storms here, terrorism and isis in iraq, syria. i'm going to forget the rest of the list. the world is threatening to us. and we have not talked about policy since this administration began. we've certainly not talked about foreign policy. that is something that chokes me up. i just find it so tiresome, that
this administration cannot either face the truth, or worse, that the truth is as bad as some of us fear. >> interesting perspective. laura? mark warner, senator mark warner says the goal of the hearing was to determine if there was any actual fire. but so far, there's a great, great deal of smoke, he says, given the testimony that we heard today, do you see fire? >> there's a way people don't consider. that is circumstantial evidence do does. that's one of the reasons why michael flynn's testimony may indeed be very useful to the administration, to the investigation. because it may be about placing certain people together, or getting certain facts in a circumstantial way that will lead you to conclude the obvious. whatever that may be ultimately.
what this tells me is we actually may be having an investigation. this all comes down to one thing. we're presuming that there is in fact a collusion perhaps. but the investigation has to take place. what cannot happen is a premature undermining of that investigation. it would be a great thing if general flynn were to actually give information that the fbi does not already know, or would help the senate or house, that way restore his credibility, but also illuminate information we don't know much about at this point. but one of the things that is very obvious to me is that we aren't discussing foreign policy. because so far, the policy has been that a foreign government has perhaps interfered. and that has to take precedence. >> do we have time for -- i'm going to play this. the national security expert clinton watts giving chilling testimony about tracing russian influence. listen to this. >> follow the trail of dead
>> follow the trail of dead russians. tied to this investigation who have assets in banks all over the world. they are dropping dead emp in western countries. >> john, really chilling. can we make that connection, though? >> well, i mean, look, putin is not what we would call good news. unquestionably. there have been reports of longstanding, decades long or more, of foreign intelligence operation to influence the politics of other nations. he's playing a kind of pre-cold war great game. he wants spheres of influence. he wants energy-rich countries. he is willing to do almost anything to contain the opposition at home and do exert his influence abroad. and i think to some extent we may even be underplaying this.
mitt romney was ahead of the curve. remember, people mocked him. >> indeed, they did, right. >> five years ago when he said russia was the most significant geopolitical threat. it may well be. so i think that these questions are important, they're urgent. i go back to what vice president cheney said, i mean it quite seriously. he believes this could be at the level of an act of war of another foreign power interfering with our politics. >> we often tend to romanticize the pass. that's not romanticism there. that was truth. he actually did say that. i know you want to weigh in. i want to get this question in, david. watts also testified that vladimir putin's government uses an army of paid internet trolls. they spread fake news online. he says that they tweet conspiracy theories at president trump when they believe he is active on twitter. with the goal of being there to create distrust among americans and our allies. is that a new theory in terms of them trying to directly
influence the president on twitter? first matt, then david, weigh in. matt? >> yeah, i haven't heard of this before. i think partly because we've never had a president who was so vulnerable to taking the bait before. this is a pretty smart idea because donald trump might just retweet something that could start a firestorm. and so i think that's very shrewd of them. it sounds very sneaky and clever. i also just want to say, anecdotally speaking, that, you know, during the campaign, i was inundated by tweets from trolls and i thought it was the alt right. you know, the pepe the frog thing, people calling me names and attacking me if i said anything critical about donald trump especially in the primary. you know, don, a funny thing happened. as soon as the election was over, all these people went away. >> isn't that amazing? i look at my feed and say this has to be bots. >> i think they're now focused in france. >> right.
>> david gergen, what do you think? also i think it's interesting, too, the marco rubio stuff as well, saying that he was victimized by hacks multiple times. >> absolutely. as recently as just the last few days. listen, the attempts to influence elections in other countries, the russians have been up to this ever since the end of the second world war, and truth be known, the united states did it, too. especially in europe. we wanted to make sure countries didn't go communist and we got involved in. invent stories and spread them very, very quickly and influence things. i do think it is quite serious. don, in contrast to the house intelligence committee, which really has botched everything, almost the sense that nunes, the chairman tried to sabotage the committee. it's completely compromised. i don't know where it goes from leer. by contrast, the senate looks very promising. some serious people who are
breaking news, former national security adviser michael flynn willing to testify before federal and congressional investigators but only if he's granted immunity. back now with my panel. what do you think -- do you think, john meacham, do you think nunes lasts on this committee? >> i don't think so. and i think that it's -- it's an easy way for the republican leadership to show that they're being responsive what that's a growing and very uncomfortable story. >> yeah. david gergen, you think he lasts? >> no. >> that's -- >> you said you wanted a -- >> simple and concise. i wanted a lightning round. what do you think, nia? >> probably not. if you see what's happening here, the senate is essentially maligning the house as it goes. senate republicans are essentially talking trash about the house.
and you imagine that somebody's going to step in and ask nunes to step aside and recuse himself. we'll have to see what happens over the next couple days. >> that would have to be paul ryan, juliette, if that happens. >> fall rpaul ryan can show a be and do it. not just for the hearing. other republicans on the intelligence committee are being brought down by nunes. i suspect they don't like it very much, either. it's a be smart political and the right thing for paul ryan to just yank him. >> will that happen, matt lewis? >> i think it might. and here's the reason. according to paul ryan today, nunes did not tell him that the information came from the white house, but that it came from a, quote, whistleblower-type person. and so maybe he's misleading the speaker of the house. >> laura? >> every day that nunes refuses to provide the information to his committee is every day that the committee loses its credibility indefinitely. >> is there any recourse for that, for if you are not -- if,
you know, tell things that are infactual, or if you lie? does nunes face anything? >> you can lie to the media but can't lie under oath and can't lie to the fbi. that's what he's doing by withholding information or trying to business nemislead or there will be criminal consequences i'm sure. >> i want to ask you, john, do you think that the president is starting to change his tune on russia now or is this going to force him to do that? >> you know, that's the thing to watch, right? i don't think he is right now. i think that one of the things that has kept this going, one of the -- we've used the fire aa y analogy a lot. one of the things that's blown a lot of oxygen into this is this remarkable spirit of generosity that donald trump has expressed toward russia and you can argue maybe that this is his one great kissi kissinger/nixon insight, that he wants some great geopolitical balance, but that would be the one and so i think that one of the things that has kept this
going is why does president trump continue to appear to give vladimir putin the benefit of the doubt at every turn? >> yeah. david, i ask that because sources say president trump believes the current atmosphere with ongoing probes into trump/russia/putin ties in the election meddling, it's going to make it impossible for him to make a deal. that's the first time we heard something like that from the president. >> he's right. he's right. listen, it's of his own doing. i mean, we wouldn't be here trying to discuss all this had he shown the same sort of respect toward russia he does toward china, that is he's skept call about some aspects of the relationship. >> what's interesting to me, everyone, when he said it's of his own doing, this -- nunes thing may not have happened if not for that saturday morning tweet, those tweets about the former president. this was a completely self-inflicted wound. >> i totally agree with that. we've been off on a wild goose chase here for a long time, but it's also important to remember the fbi investigation began before that tweet.
there's something more serious underneath all this. >> thank you. amazing panel. i really appreciate you guys joining me for the entire yehou. thank you so much. >> thanks, don. >> thank you. this is cnn breaking news. >> breaking news, general michael flynn offering to break his silence, this is "cnn tonight." i'm don lemon. president trump i's form nation security adviser who was intervy the fbi. only if he is given immunity from prosecution. flynn's attorney in a statement saying, "no reasonable person who has the benefit of advice from counsel would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized witch hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution." cnn's senior white house correspondent jeff zeleny has more. jeff? >> reporter: don, tonight we're learning former national security adviser michael flynn is offering to