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Another Terror Attack; Russian Ambassador Killed on Live Camera; Michelle Obama Discusses Role as First Lady. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 19, 2016 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: That does it for us. CNN Tonight with Don Lemon starts now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CN breaking news.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news. A possible terror attack kills at least 12 people in Berlin. And Russia's ambassador to Turkey assassinated. The Russian government calling his murder an act of terror.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

A tractor-trailer plowing into a crowded Christmas market in Germany's capital sending shoppers running for their lives. In addition to those killed at least 48 people injured. The suspected driver is in custody.

German officials investigating the crash as an act of terrorism. The White House weighing in, saying it appears to be a terrorist act.

We're going to investigate all of that, and the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey caught on video and we're going to show it. But I have to warn you that the video is graphic. It is not suitable for the children or the pain of heart.

The gunman, a police officer shouting "allahu akbar" which mean God is greatest. And saying "do not forget Aleppo" after shooting the Russian ambassador from behind. Here it is.




LEMON: The State Department condemning the assassination, President- elect Donald Trump in a statement tonight, calling the gunman a radical Islamic terrorist.

A whole lot to get to in the next two hours. Let's begin with the deadly crash in Berlin. I want to bring in CNN's global affairs correspondent Elise Labott, and senior international correspondent, Frederik Pleitgen.

Frederick, I'm going to start with you. Another deadly attack in Europe now being investigated as terror. What more can you tell us.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, we know that there are still forensic units that are actually working the crime screen that is actually behind me. And you know, it was a really big truck. A tractor trailer that plowed into this Christmas market at around 8 p.m. local time here in Berlin.

And you're absolutely right. There's one man who is in custody at this point in time, the Berlin police at this point in time says they are not sure what the nationality of that man is, or if they can be 100 percent certain, that he was the one who was sitting at the wheel of that truck as it plowed through the market.

They do, however, say that there was a second man who was sitting dead on the passenger seat who they later found who was a Polish citizen, and that's significant, Don, because the truck has Polish license plates that belongs to a Polish trucking company.

And that trucking company says they lost contact with their driver at some point on Monday. So they fear the truck may have been hijacked and then used for this attack on this Christmas market that of course, have left at least 12 dead, and as you mentioned, 48 people wounded in some harrowing accounts of how all that went down, Don.

LEMON: All right. Fred, I want you to stand by. I want to bring Elise in now. Elise, the U.S. issued a warning in November about this kind of attack. What can you tell us about that?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Don. And you know, there's been a lot of concern about attacks in Europe throughout the summer, and you have those attacks last year in Paris and Berlin. Germany in fact, there were a few attacks over there somewhere.

But, in November, the State Department issued a warning specifically about the holiday season. I want to read a little bit to you. "The department of state alerts U.S. citizens to the heightened risk of terrorist attacks throughout Europe, particularly during the holiday season. U.S. citizens should exercise caution at holiday festivals, events, and at their markets. A credible information indicates the Islamic state of Iraq and Levant, that's ISIS or Daesh, Al Qaeda and their affiliate continue to plan attacks in Europe with the focus upcoming holiday events."

And, Don, these are kind of the soft targets that have really been a real opportunity for terrorists such as ISIS, these extremist groups, particularly in the holiday season where people are at these outdoor markets. It's a perfect target for terrorist, Don.

LEMON: And Fred, you mentioned harrowing accounts of what happened when the truck plowed into the crowd. What have witnesses been telling you?

PLEITGEN: Well, they say that when this happened, that the truck plowed into the Christmas market doing about 40 miles an hour, so it was very fast, obviously making no effort to hit the brakes, once it went through some of those barricades that are at the outside of that Christmas market. Then destroyed several of these market stalls which are made of really light wood.

And you know, the big problem here was also that the market was also jam packed, it was 8 p.m. at night. A lot of people would have been coming from shopping, would have been coming from work to go to these Christmas markets. They're a huge event here in Berlin, and there's some very narrow pathways between those markets stalls. So, really nowhere for people to go.

There's reports of people being trapped underneath a truck, as it kept moving forward, obviously it took out a lot of people as it kept moving along, and then finally came to a standstill after going for about probably 70 or 80 yards through this Christmas market.

[22:05:04] So, some devastating accounts of people being wounded afterwards, people of course, trying to help those who are laying on the floor. And then the emergency rescue personnel trying to come in and help people.

But, of course, where at least for 12 people, all efforts came too late. So, some devastating accounts that we heard from people. Also then just of course, Don, the absolute fear that many people felt as all this was happening, because as Elise said, people had been warned that there might be attacks this Christmas season.

That there might specifically be attacks on Christmas markets, so it's something that they had feared. And then of course, when it happened, it was just happening too fast for many people to be able to get out of the way.

LEMON: And Elise, the other piece of developing news that we were talking about is the Russian ambassador to Turkey, we showed that video today, just moments ago. He was assassinated in Ankara. And we've learned of an incident outside the U.S. embassy there. What can you tell us?

LABOTT: Well, this was just a few moments ago, Don. We got reports from Turkish news agencies that a man standing outside the U.S. embassy was arrested for firing his gun in the air. We understand he took a weapon out of his pocket, started firing in the air, and then you can see this video of him being taken away.

Now, this -- the U.S. embassy is in the same area where the Russian embassy is, and also where the art gallery was where the Russian ambassador was assassinated today, so we don't know at this point if they're related, but obviously a lot of police activity in the area, and that's why the U.S. embassy has sent an alert to citizens to stay away from the embassy, even though they think that there's an all clear and no more danger to U.S. citizens or anyone else right now.

LEMON: All right. Elise and Fred, thank you. I want you to stand by. I want to bring in now CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank. Paul, good evening to you. You heard Elise there talked about these two different incidents, they're not sure if they're related. What do you make of it? PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, in Berlin they're

investigating that as a potential act of terrorism. With the Ankara shooting earlier no clarity at all whether there's any link to terrorism in that case.

But in Berlin people treating this incident as a potential terrorist attack, they're investigating this furiously, they see many of the hallmarks of a sort of a Nice style attack. The attack that we saw play out in the summer of this year, in which 86 people were killed.

And in that attack, the truck actually managed to travel for a distance of more than a mile. So you had a higher casualty count as Fred was alluding to. In this case, the truck was only able to travel for 60 or 70 yards. And that maybe the reason that the casualty count was a little bit lower in Berlin tonight.

LEMON: So, let's stick with Berlin, do you -- is this ISIS, do you think?

CRUICKSHANK: There has been no claim of responsibility by any terrorist group, there's been silenced from ISIS, but what we can say is that over the past several months, ISIS has been flooding the zone when it comes to propaganda, when it comes to calling on their followers in the west of launch exactly this kind of attack, a truck attack against civilians that are out walking at a Christmas market.

They even, in the United States call for a truck attack on the Thanksgiving Day parade, the Macy's parade over there. And of course, just a few weeks ago, in Ohio we saw a radicalized student carry out a vehicle ramming attack, fortunately no one was killed in that attack. But somebody that had been inspired by some of this ISIS and indeed Al Qaeda propaganda.

So, they were seeing many of the hallmarks of sort of Islamist style attacks here, and the back story here really in German is that they unprecedented terrorist threat that officials say they're facing from ISIS, from people inspired by ISIS in the country.

Over the last several months, there have been five very serious attacks and plots which have been connected to ISIS in various ways, some of them involving operatives sent from Syria to Germany, some of them involving people, sympathizers in Germany who are actually in touch with operatives in Syria, over encrypted messaging apps being given very detailed instructions about exactly how to attack.

The system really has been blinking red when it comes to the terrorism threat, Don in Germany.


CRUICKSHANK: So, there's a real feeling of inevitability about this.

LEMON: Is this what -- is this what -- my question is why Germany now? Is it because the opportunity, as Fred said, and you know, these Christmas markets are very popular this time of year, but is it because of the type of intelligence that you mentioned coming in? Why Germany now?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, Germany is involved in target reconnaissance missions against ISIS, over ISIS territory, they're not actually dropping bombs on ISIS or targeting them in air strikes. But they're involved in that broader anti-ISIS coalition.

[22:10:10] And ISIS have made very clear that they want to attack Germany to strike back. There are also lots of opportunities for them to strike Germany because you've seen so many people come into Germany through these migrant flows.

And the unfortunate reality is that, while the vast majority of refugees that are coming have pose no security threat, there are some ISIS operatives who have manage to infiltrate themselves in to Europe through those refugee routes, by posing as refugee including the majority of the Paris and Brussels cell.

And there's also a concern in Germany, which is a country that has perhaps about a million refugees right now, that some of these dislocated young men and indeed women could be radicalized by Islamist extremists already in Germany that as they come to a new country with a new culture, they've left so much behind and been through such dramatic experiences, that they could be vulnerable to that kind of radical improvement.

Indeed we have seen some attacks by people who have claimed asylum in Germany, it's a growing concern.

LEMON: Yes. I want to ask you, we had -- you know, I'm sure you heard Elise earlier, she put up the warning, I don't know if we can put it back up about the State Department about these types of attacks. There it is in Europe.

So, my question is, they had this -- this was in November that the State Development released this. How vulnerable do you think the rest of Europe is now, and what about the U.S., Paul?

CRUICKSHANK: I think that there's a very large vulnerability in Europe, that the reality are there are tens of thousands of people who have become radicalized across the continent in Europe. And in just one country, France, the figure is 13, 14, 15,000 people who are being monitored in one way shape or form or the other on their radar screen for their radical views.

That's just so a huge amount and that creates all sorts of security threats moving forward. On top of that, we've seen up to 9,000 Europeans travel to ISIS territory in Syria and Iraq, joined various Jihadist groups, 2 or 3,000 have now come back to Europe, that produces all sorts of security concerns as well.

So, this is a worrying period coming out for Europe. The only good news here is that it's become more difficult for people to travel to Syria and Iraq, and more difficult for ISIS to send operatives back.

Because that migrant corridor which they exploited so savagely with the Paris and Brussels attacks, thanks to a deal between the European Union and Turkey, that's really been closed down to a great degree, and much more difficult for them to send operatives back to Europe.

But they are still trying, they want to get attacks through, they're losing territory in Syria and Iraq, that's really put an impetus on them to change the subject line, to project a sense of strength.

So, in there external operations headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, they are pressing the accelerator button right now. The threat is much better in Europe, much less big in the United States, because they're just many fewer who have become radicalized.

We're talking about a thousand individuals on the radar screen. In the FBI about 800 cases linked to ISIS. Think of those tens of thousands of cases of people on the radar screen in Europe, and you get a sense of the much greater scale of the threat. Of course of the continent which really just -- people can travel back over land from Syria and Iraq to do these attacks.

LEMON: Paul Cruickshank, thank you very much. Fred Pleitgen and Elise Labott, as well. I appreciate it.

Straight ahead, more of our coverage on the deadly crash in Berlin being investigated as an act of terror. Also coming up, the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey caught on video, Russia's foreign ministry calling the murder of the diplomat a terror attack.


LEMON: First the Russian ambassador was assassinated in public Turkey, then a deadly truck crash at a Christmas market in Berlin, it's being investigated as an act of terrorism.

Here to talk about it now, CNN contributor Michael Weiss, the co- author of "ISIS Inside the Army of Terror," Juliette Kayyem is the national security analyst and an author of -- the author of "Security Mom." Bob Baer, intelligence and security analyst and former CIA agent.

Good evening to all of you. Thank you so much. Juliette, I want to start with you, because you were in Berlin a month ago. Did you see any signs of increased security?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No. No visible ones, I thought it was actually quite remarkable. I was where the truck went through. You know, it's a very public space, it will be hard to fortify. But, no visual presence, despite the fact that there are a number of alerts not just with the United States, but obviously through NATO and Interpol.

And I was also at a high profile event which I thought was sort of less secure. Then I tend to notice these things, but nonetheless, you know, anyone will tell you that in a situation where you have a crowd like this at a big public event, it's almost impossible to perfectly fortify.

But what we don't know was did they do anything to stop something like this after Nice. Nice was certainly something that Berlin should have learned from.


KAYYEM: Given the magnitude of that attack just earlier this year.

LEMON: Interesting we were all here covering Berlin, having a very similar -- covering Nice, having a very similar conversation. Another question for you, Juliette. The attacker's motive unclear right now, but do they have a person in custody? They do have a person in custody, I should say.


LEMON: What are the questions that investigators are asking right now?

KAYYEM: So, I'm always -- I said on the show a lot of times from these investigations, you're always happy, in a world of misery, that he was capture alive, he may speak, he may not. But if he does speak, it will be who was the other person in the truck, and then you have a name. And those names lead to other names.

In particular, where they get the truck from, do they come from another country. There are reports about Polish connection that I think you're reporting about now and affiliates and others. And did they obviously have any foreign travel in the near -- in the recent future.

But this stuff is happening so fast, we often talk about the runway of radicalization it may be they never travel abroad or it may be that they travelled abroad relatively recently. The runway of radicalization now is so fast that just got any of these individuals it becomes more difficult because a lot of them are not on any lists at this stage.

LEMON: Bob, you're shaking your head in agreement or not?

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, I totally agree, these people are learning very quickly, they are finding apps that you can't get into. For instance, signal, has just been outlawed in Egypt.

[22:20:01] They know how to communicate, they understand the National Security Agency. They know about e-mail chains and the rest of it, and their discipline is getting better and better all the time as this work continues.

So, where, you know, this person may have been, you know, inspired by the Islamic state, but was actually controlled by the Islamic state as something different. At the end of the day, does it really matter? Because these people understand you steal a truck, a lot of weight. There's nothing you can do to defend against it.


BAER: And as long as these conflicts are going on in the Middle East you're going to find as Juliette said, ready recruits, and the ramp is getting shorter and shorter. And even the German police are very good, but how do you stop something like this?

LEMON: Yes. That's the interesting question, you know, Michael, we often -- you have so many sources there that you talk to, do you think it's ISIS, is it at this point?

MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It could be ISIS, it could be Al Qaeda, it could be, you know, somebody inspired by a different Jihadist organization. It does bear all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack.

One thing that's giving me a little bit of pause here, as you know, the reporting, and again, this hasn't been confirmed that this was a truck that was stolen as opposed to say, rented or purchased by the assailant. That speaks to a slight level of operational security.

This is not a guy who went to, do you remember the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the reason we knew who did it, he wanted to get his deposit back from the car rental place. You know, and that was a professional terrorist. This is, it doesn't seem to be such an amateur in that endeavor.

And I have to say, you know, talking to ISIS defectors including those who have gone who have left the security services that are responsible for planning foreign operations. They've always told me, Germany has got an enormous bull's eye painted on it.

You know, France and Belgium, yes, that's where they want to strike first and foremost. Because most of the European Jihadist who were in ISIS in the cargy (Ph) as it's known come from the Francophone in Europe, but Germany, especially. I mean, you mentioned in earlier segment they may not be dropping bombs in the Islamic state, but they're doing things to help intelligence gathering against ISIS, they're arming the Kurds, the Peshmerga.

Some of German weaponry has actually round up in the hands of the YPG Kurdish militias or the PKK which remember, ISIS's biggest battle that led the United States into an intervention in Syria not in Iraq. It was the battle for Kobani that was ISIS versus the PKK, they consider the Kurds to be mortal enemies, or at least Kurds that are backed by the United States and Germany.

LEMON: I want to talk about the Russian ambassador now and the horrible assassination that happened. Juliette, the attack was chilling, it was very graphic. We are going to play it now, again, I have to warn you, and then we'll discuss it.




LEMON: So, Juliette, the killer stood behind the ambassador, screamed God is greatest and do not forget Aleppo, do not forget Syria. Russia inserted itself into the Syrian war they have been bombing hospital civilians, could this be a national attack, a pay back? KAYYEM: Yes, it absolutely could. I think -- I think the motivations

are pretty clear from what he's saying, that it's some sort of focus on Russia for its support or at least the perceived support of what is happening in Aleppo.

I will say there are two aspects to this that are sort of quintessential terror attack. One is that he's filmed. He knew it was going to be filmed. We have these amazing photographs, and so this is going to have consequences well beyond that room. Imagine if this hadn't been filmed, right?

And the other issue of relevance with this attack is, we know how Putin is responding now, he's saying it's an act of terror. But Putin's been semi-reserved for him, that is because of the sort of closeness of Turkey and Russia in the last couple months, even though they disagree about Syria.

And I think it's safe to say, where it's not clear that this is going to be a divide between Turkey and Russia, that it may actually bring them closer together as Turkey sort of realign itself away from the west.

LEMON: If I can get a quicker response from both Bob and Michael, I'll start with you, Michael.

WEISS: Yes, I agree with that. I mean, when Turkey shot down Russia's fighter jet in November 2015, you know, the chatter was, this is the beginning of World War III, and it's true. You know, Russia had a very kind of chest pounding; it froze all diplomatic and trade relations with Turkey.

But in the last six months, remember, Putin was the first foreign leader to call Erdogan right after that aboard of coup in July. Erdogan has asked permission of the Russian government to intervene in northern Syria, this Operation Euphrates Shield, why? Not only he's going after ISIS but he's also preventing Kurdish separatism in northern Syria.

Something that the Russian government and the Syrian regime do not want to see. So, that the relationship between Moscow and Ankara is growing closer all the time, and neither can afford to throw a spatter in the works here.


BAER: I think what's more equally important is Russia getting drawn into the Syrian conflict; it's by no means over. It's a quagmire.

[22:25:02] I don't think Putin knows what he's doing at the end of the day. He thinks he can fix the Middle East, but what's going to happen as you can see more attacks against Russia. More troops, he's going to run out of money at some point.

In last October, they shot down a Russian passenger airliner out of the Sinai. And I think we're going to see more and more the more involved Russia gets in in the Middle East. LEMON: Bob, Michael, and Juliette, thank you so much.

Coming up, First Lady Michelle Obama opens up about her time in the White House, and a depiction of her that she feels is based on fear.


LEMON: Just one month left, one month left as a nation's First Lady, Michelle Obama sat down with Oprah Winfrey and opened up about her eight years in the White House.

Here to discuss now, CNN political commentator Kevin Madden, Symone Sanders, a former press secretary to Bernie Sanders, and senior political analyst, David Gergen.

Good evening to all of you. Thank you so much for coming on. Symone, I want you to pay special attention to this. Because here's the First Lady Michelle Obama talking to Oprah about what she calls the first blow back. Let's listen.


OPRAH WINFREY, TV HOST: When you were labeled that angry black woman. Was that one of the things that knocked you back a bit?


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: That was one of those things that you just sort of think, dang, you don't even know me.


OBAMA: You know, I mean, you just sort of feel like, wow, where did that come from.


OBAMA: You know, and that's the first blow back. And you think that is so not me. But then you sort of think, well, this isn't about me, this is about the person or the people who write it, you know, I mean, that's just the truth.


WINFREY: That's what Mia always used to say to me.



[22:29:59] OBAMA: It's just so much - it's so much about that. And then you start thinking, oh, wow. We're so afraid of each other. You know, color, wealth, these things that don't matter still play too much of a role in how we see one another. And it's sad. The thing that least defines us as people is the color of our skin. It's the size of our bank account. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, what do you think, Symone?

SANDERS: I think Michelle Obama is fabulous. I think Oprah still has it. And I think throughout this entire interview, Michelle Obama spoke to every woman and girl in America, throughout the interview.

But specifically, when she talked about being labeled as an angry black woman. She really voiced the frustrations of many black women and black girls all across America. So, again, as always thank you, Michelle Obama for keeping it real and speaking for so many of us that don't have a voice sometimes.

LEMON: Kevin, you know, it's weird, I remember having a similar conversation, I don't know if you do, back in 2008, right after the inauguration, I was filling in for Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room. If you do exactly, but sometimes I do remember things, and we talked about this particular issue and about how the first lady would be perceived and was -- and how she was perceived on the campaign trail. She certainly was labeled that early on sort of an angry black woman.

MADDEN: Yes, and I think she was battling some stereotypes. So, I think a lot of the criticism that may be -- may have come of Michelle Obama. And if you think back to the late '90s with Hillary Clinton, it was because they are such effective political surrogates, and they did play more prominent roles on the campaign trail, that they did invite a lot of criticism from their husband's political appointments.

But, you know, what I remember, Don, is the conversation you and I had after this 2016 convention speech where it was so apparent to even the president's -- even President Obama's most ardent critics, just how effective Michelle Obama is as an advocate, and just how popular she is with really important voters inside the American electorate.

So, and I think you saw that in this interview, there was a lot of warmth. There was an ability to parry even some of her criticisms and turn it into a strength. And that's the evolution that I've, you know, watched with Michelle Obama as a political figure over the last eight years.

LEMON: I just want to get your response, David. What do you think? Because you -- how many -- how many first ladies have you served with and, you know, and under?

GERGEN: I've been -- I served with four and worked here with a couple more, Don. And I must tell you that perfectly obvious I cannot imagine what it's like to be the first African-American first lady and what she is experiencing and what she endured.

I can tell you that in a way -- when you come into the White House these days, it's like you're living in a funhouse, and you look at, you know, how you're presented to the public and you can't recognize yourself. You know, things are so distorted and portrayed in ways as she was portrayed as the angry first lady, to her credit, she's been on this roller coaster throughout her eight years, but she's ending on a tremendous high.


GERGEN: She's much, much beloved and respected now by wide numbers of people in our population, and I do think that the country is taking heart from the fact that she and Mrs. Trump indeed George W. Bush's wife, they've all -- they have this sort of sorority of first ladies who have gotten along extremely well.

LEMON: I just thought that -- Kevin, did you want to say something?

MADDEN: I just want to point to David's point, Michelle Obama was also like the first social media first lady, the amount of coverage, the amount of attention and scrutiny that she got, she was really the first to adore just that level.

And the fact that she's persevered through these last eight years, and like David said has come out very popular, I think is a testament to the connection that she had with many Americans as an effective surrogate -- as an effective first lady.

LEMON: I want to bring in Kierna Mayo now, the senior vice president of Interactive One. Thank you for joining the panel. And let's look at some of the coverage. Let's talk about the progression here.


LEMON: Because this is Newsweek in March of 2010. You can put that up. And then Essence August 2014, then Vogue of December 2016. So, as Kevin said, there was an evolution over time.

MAYO: Yes.

LEMON: But as I look -- I remember this angry black woman thing. And knowing Michelle Obama, I don't know her well, but I work for Chicago they were there when I lived in Chicago. She was never an angry black woman. She was the -- she's the nicest person you ever want to meet.

And I will say the smartest of the Obamas.

MAYO: Of course.

LEMON: The one really has it going on, if I do say so. She really does, I mean, she's on the ball. What do you make of when she said this.

[22:35:04] MAYO: Yes. She's just a remarkable person. I think it's really hard to find anyone today who has anything negative to say about Michelle Obama. But I think you guys are being kind of polite. I remember her being compared to monkeys and gorillas. You know, we really unpacked what happened around Michelle Obama particularly in '08, '08 when she was on the cover of the New Yorker.

LEMON: I look at that.

MAYO: Yes. LEMON: The terrorist fist bomb and then where they are.

MAYO: Yes, exactly.

LEMON: It's fascinating that you mention that, I will be kind with my words.

MAYO: Yes.

LEMON: But a friend had shared a very similar experience with me. That his mom experienced when someone asked about, did she look like one of those things that you said...

MAYO: Yes.

LEMON: ... recently, as of a couple days ago.

MAYO: Yes.

LEMON: And was shocked by it.

MAYO: One of those things, monkey, gorilla, ape. Right. And so, it's...


LEMON: Where does that come from? She says fear?

MAYO: Well, it's a deep fear. I think all racism is based on a deep kind of fear, and loathing, right?

Michelle has endured. So, the fact that we have collectively allowed her to blossom into this amazing person is one thing, but I think the fact remains, that's who she was from the outset and so many Americans didn't want to see that. Her critique of the country when she speaks of being proud the first time in her adult life that she was proud of the country, had so much to do with the fact that she was thrilled, overjoyed, surprised.

LEMON: And taken out of context by the way.

MAYO: That's where I was going. I was going to say the entire context of that conversation was about how exhilarated she was that they really like a commonality...

LEMON: Right.

MAYO: ... was the leading factor.

LEMON: Much more to discuss, and I do have to say, the first lady I saw at the White House is beautiful. I think all first ladies are beautiful...

MAYO: Yes.

LEMON: ... and should not be referred to outside of their name and duty.


MAYO: Of course not. Of course not.

LEMON: So, we'll continue.

MAYO: All women are beautiful to that extent, right?

LEMON: All women. We'll be right back, we'll continue to discuss this.


LEMON: Back with me now, Kierna Mayo, Kevin Madden, Symone Sanders, and David Gergen. David, this one is for you. When Oprah Winfrey asked the first lady if she would ever run, she said no, but then she went on to say something that really stood out to me. Listen to this.


OBAMA: The people don't really understand how hard this is. And it's not something that you cavalierly just sort of ask a family to do again. Maybe because we got it wrong or we think we got it wrong, so it's like, well, now, you do it -- you just go back in there and do it. You're the closest thing to that, so you do it.

But let me just tell America, this is hard. It's a hard job, I said it on the campaign trail, it requires a lot of sacrifice, it is a weighty thing, and it's not something that you even look to one family to take on at that level. You know, for that long of a period of time.

WINFREY: Eight years is enough.

OBAMA: And 16 years would be -- right? Let's just, you know, 16 years? I wouldn't do that to my kids.


OBAMA: Because what people don't understand is, you run their lives stop, at any age. I mean, the next family that comes in here, every person in that family, every child, every grandchild, their lives will be turned upside down in a way that no American really understands.


LEMON: Sobering words, David Gergen.

GERGEN: Very sobering, very interesting. And I -- I do think as I've said earlier, she has been on an emotional roller coaster, this has not been easy for her. There were times, Don, and -- when they were about three years in, that some friends of the Obamas wondered whether she at the end of the first term want to go home.

She has persevered and she has emerged I think as a much stronger player. But it was not easy for her, it's not easy for family life. Just you look at the family that's served the longest there, the Roosevelt's, Franklin Roosevelt family, he was elected to four terms, he died very early in his fourth term. But that was very hard on their family life. Very hard on their marriage.

I do think, Don, at the same time, at the end of the day -- and I think she'll say this before she leaves, people who have gone through what she's gone through, as tough as it's been are enormously grateful for the opportunity to serve the country.

Because this is incredibly important job, you're entrusted with the hopes and dreams of so many people, and I think -- I think at the end of the day she'll say, look, it was very tough, but I'm glad we did it, and I think my husband and I -- or my husband accomplished a great deal for the United States.

LEMON: Yes. I'm sure she's glad she did it, but I think she was speaking on the context of people a them to do it again or her to run again.


LEMON: And she's like, you know, that's tough. Do you think that there was a message there, Symone, for the president-elect?

SANDERS: I think there were lots of messages for the president-elect throughout this interview. And one of those is to take this seriously, the second message is, that this isn't just about you, this is as much about you as it is about the people around you, and the folks close to you.

And I think she got that across well. The last thing I want to note is, Michelle Obama does not want to -- does not want be a political figure, if you will, she has taken very good care to cultivate this every woman persona, and which is why her approval ratings are high across the board and it actually reaches across party lines.

And so, to ask if she's going to run for office, anyone that has ever been around. You know, I'm not going to purport to know the first lady well, but I have had the opportunity to meet her multiple times, and I've been around when someone asked her the question, it's kind of like, no. I don't.

Because Michelle Obama is not political, she doesn't even watch the political shows if you will, she's really just about the work and about the people, and I really think that's why she appeals to so many people in America.

LEMON: Here she is discussing her greatest impact.


WINFREY: What do you think your greatest impact as first lady has been?

OBAMA: Greatest impact? That's hard to say. That's one of those sort of, I'm really good, and let me tell you how. [22:44:57] You know, probably the greatest is just one of the greatest

things when I see young women, particularly African-American women. But young women generally seeing somebody educated, strong, outspoken, just seeing that on a regular basis.


LEMON: When you see it, young women and not only her, but also her daughters.

MAYO: Her daughters. I mean, the optics were just -- it sent black girl magic kind of through the roof. You know, I mean, looking at them alone was revolutionary in a way. But you know, Symone had mentioned her crafting this every woman thing, I actually think that she is a quintessential every woman.

She's so salt of the earth, and that's what strikes me as one of the greatest kind of optic differences between her and her family. And the family that's coming in. She talks about her girls, about having perspective and get it together, we have butlers and these folks that are coming in here, will have fewer butlers now than they had before.

So, her kind of salt of the earth thing I think is grounding. Her feminism whether it's stated or not, is so lived. She just is empowering in her very nature. And, you know, I would say the one thing I regret about the need to defend yourself as a black woman against the angry black women troupe is that black women have every right to be angry whenever we see fit.

LEMON: Whenever we have on, and you know, nothing against David and Kevin, but whenever we have a panel on that's like, you know, African- Americans or all-women you always get the folks who say, you know, why are you, here's a panel of black people, here's the panel of all women, CNN is, you know, black entertainment news or whatever, you don't have to defend that.

MAYO: Right.

LEMON: Like you can have a perspective as an African-American -- we're having a conversation this right now. There has never been an African-American first lady. That meant a lot to a whole lot of people, especially to this country.

So, Michelle Obama is an icon in just that way, and deserved of this conversation that we'll have continue on the other side of this break.


LEMON: We're back now where my panel. Kevin, no visit do the White House would be complete without the president stopping in. Here he is.



(CROSSTALK) M. OBAMA: Hi, honey. How are you?

WINFREY: Thanks for stopping by.

B. OBAMA: You're getting address (Ph)?

WINFREY: We were talking about hope and whether or not your administration achieved that.

B. OBAMA: Absolutely.

WINFREY: Absolutely.

B. OBAMA: I feel hopeful.

WINFREY: What do you most hopeful about now?

B. OBAMA: The next generation.

WINFREY: OK. The next generation.

B. OBAMA: You know, we've talked about this, history moves in cycles and what lasts is the impact -- what we've done has had in people's minds and hearts.

WINFREY: That's right.

B. OBAMA: And that continues.

WINFREY: I want to ask you this. So, she came to be our first lady.

B. OBAMA: Yes.

WINFREY: We love her.

B. OBAMA: Yes.

WINFREY: The approval ratings, you can tell. But she was always your first lady.

B. OBAMA: Yes.

WINFREY: What surprised even you about the way she took on this mantle of first lady-ism.

B. OBAMA: You know, we all knew she was brilliant and cute and strong and a great mom. But I think the way in which she blended purpose and policy with fun so that she was able to reach beyond Washington on her health care initiatives, on her military family work, was masterful.


LEMON: Kevin, you can see he just showed up and they're like, where did you come from. It's interesting that the president said, history moves in cycles. What did you think of that line? MADDEN: Well, I think he's right, and I think oftentimes we have

elections that -- or we do have elections to judge whether or not people's mood matches those particular cycles.

We have -- the elections have change or more of the same. And I think in this particular election where we had one where people wanted changed. Now, President Obama, you know, I think if you look at his approval rating, I think that may be one of Michelle Obama's greatest strengths, which is that she has a likability and I think a connection with many of the voters that was transferable to President Obama.

Even when people were judging him harshly sometimes on his policies, they were judging him very favorably. They thought he was straightforward, they thought he was honest. And I think in this last election though, we did see a bit of a swing away from that.

I think the Obama administration did become associated with what a lot of what people didn't like about Washington. And as a result you saw -- you saw -- you saw people -- you saw Donald Trump win.

LEMON: I want to play this, if we can get the sound bite where she is talking about this last one from 500 where she's talking about Melania Trump. And I just think it was such a classy moment that she discussed the former first lady before her and the next first lady. Listen.


M. OBAMA: It was a wonderful visit because this is a really great job, you know.

WINFREY: Did you have any advice for Mrs. Trump?

M. OBAMA: You know, I didn't -- we didn't -- we talked about the kids, but you know, my offer to Melania was, you know, you really don't know what you don't know until you're here, so the door is open as I've told her. And as Laura Bush told me, you know. And as other first ladies told me.

So, I'm not new on this going high thing, I mean, I'm modeling -- I'm modeling what was done for me by the Bush's.

WINFREY: Yes. Right.

M. OBAMA: And Laura Bush was nothing but gracious and helpful and her team was right there for my team, all throughout this entire eight- year process.

WINFREY: And your team is doing the same?

M. OBAMA: We will do whatever they need to help them succeed. So, that's one of the things I said to Melania, when you get to a place when you can digest all this and you have questions.

[22:55:04] Because you know, you don't have questions you know, the day after the election. It's just sort of like -- you're looking around the house, it's like, what do you want to know? It's like, I don't know what I should know, and I knew that.


M. OBAMA: So, my door is open. And that was really the nature of this, the meeting.


LEMON: Symone, she didn't have to even answer to because she doesn't have to say anything, but that was very classy answer I think.

SANDERS: You know what, the Obamas time and time again they are demonstrating the epitome of classiness in this situation. I would note though, that perhaps Michelle Obama should have been talking to Ivanka Trump and not Melania. Because it seems like Ivanka is going to be the one in the --in assuming this first lady's role.

And I guess I think it's also important that we note here that Michelle Obama never forgot that she's a black girl from Chicago with two Ivy League degrees and was still just so down to earth, so personable, so intelligent and witty and just beautiful in every single thing that she's done, and that showed through in this interview, and that is going to continue well throughout her time post-White House.

And that's something folks are never going to be able to forget. And I think the next first lady to follow Michelle Obama has a very, very high bar to reach that I would argue is unreachable.

LEMON: Yes. Well, let's hope that she does well. We wish her, we wish Melania Trump well, as well. And there's a great interview by the current first lady.

Thank you, panel. I appreciate that. We'll be right back.