July 21, 2017

Today's Don't Sugarcoat It Award is shared by John Dingell...

And Juliette Kayyem (Transcript)

DON LEMON: The breaking news is President Trump's lawyers reportedly seeking to undercut Robert Mueller's investigation. The Washington Post reports the president is asking whether he can pardon aids, family, even himself. Meanwhile, Trump aides are said to be investigating Mueller's team in an effort to get some leverage over them, according to the New York Times. And we're learning that spokesman for President Trump's legal team is resigning. A lot to get to but I want to get to the senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, national security analyst, and political analyst, April Ryan. April, I'm going to begin with you because this news is a bomb shell. They're reporting the president is looking to his power to pardon his aides and even himself. Some of President Trump's lawyers are exploring ways to undercut special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The question is pardon what?

APRIL RYAN: You know, Don, so many Democrats and people in the Republican party want the process to play out but there are Democrats who are saying this president is not acting like a man who is innocent and the question is why all this now? It makes you wonder. There are so many questions out there and it makes you wonder what has been uncovered. They were talking about his businesses. The investigation expanding to businesses. And now the question is has anything been taken from those businesses like hard drives. But there are other options on the table beyond the ones you're mentioning. I've been hearing they're trying to rein Mueller in and one of the options include trying to look at -- for the president to look at who would be over top of Mueller. Meaning who would guide Mueller in this process because currently, it's the US Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. But the president is not happy with Rosenstein. So if he does something, he can do it by executive order. And he could also look at firing Rosenstein and bringing in the number three person Rachel Brand who is a supporter of president trump and would possibly bring in Mueller as they're saying he has gone beyond the scope of what he is supposed to be doing.

LEMON: Juliette, that would be an incredible escalation in this fight. But you talked about this earlier. What's going on here?

JULIETTE KAYYEM: The last time I was on your show two days ago we were quaintly and innocently talking about the Wall Street Journal editorial calling for radical transparency and it was clear we were talking about radical transparency through the rearview mirror. That something had happened and it became clear to me. I know how these cases unfold, especially these ones that implicate national security issues that firing Mueller while an option is really messy and I think actually the pardon option and the presidential pardon option was one that would strike me and now strike trump team as maybe the simpler option and this is where I don't like to throw out constitutional crisis a lot but I do have to say for Republicans who do not fight this and do not challenge this, this is the moment. In other words, if President Trump pardons his team and in particular his family members, what that will say is we are not in the fighting for our democracy. That they can play with our elections. They can pay off possible candidates. This is not about Donald Trump anymore. This is about the sustainability of our democracy in the future. And I mean that as honestly as I can say it at this stage.

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