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President Trump Will Sign Executive Action Tomorrow on Border Wall; Trump Has Already Taken First Steps on Obamacare; President's Nominee for Budget Chief on the Hot Seat; President Donald Trump Says What He Wants. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired January 24, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:06] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Five days into his presidency, Donald Trump is changing the subject tonight. This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
CNN has learned President Trump will sign executive action tomorrow on building a border wall with Mexico. That as the White House revives false claims that millions of illegal voters swung the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. Will Trump's focus on voter fraud with no evidence to back it up do damage to his presidency?
Plus, and shocking prediction, 43,000 Americans per year could die without Obamacare. I'm going to talk to the doctors who say the anger is very real.
But I want to start with this with CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.
Jeff, thank you so much for joining us from this evening from Washington. We are hearing that Trump is expected to announce executive orders on immigration restrictions and the wall. What more can you tell us?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Don.
President Trump is going to traveling to department of homeland security tomorrow afternoon to sign a few executive orders. All of them are pertain to immigration. He had talk so much about that wall during the campaign. Well, tomorrow, he will put pen to paper and sign an executive order directing the department of homeland security to build that wall.
Now, of course, he has talked already about that. It is already under way in Congress. So, unclear exactly why an order needs to be signed here, Don. But it certainly is a symbolic, you know, big moment, as a, he tries to change the subject like you said. But also keeps going through the week activities. We have seen him meeting, you know, with auto manufacturers, others people throughout the week. Everyone that sort of fits this big priorities.
But tomorrow immigration. But also, Don, later in the week he is going to be continuing to roll out some immigration like proposals including refugees, targeting some countries, Syria and others, that are terror-prone and going to roll back and change the U.S. refugee policy. That will come after the wall tomorrow when he goes to homeland security department.
LEMON: Jeff, have been wanting to discuss this with you because saw it earlier live. You were at today's briefing and you challenged the White House spokesperson Sean Spicer on president's claim of voter fraud. Fill us in.
ZELENY: Well, President Trump talked about the fact that he still believes there are three to five million people who voted illegally and kept him from winning the popular vote. He made that claim on Monday evening at White House in meeting with congressional leaders.
So Sean Spicer, White House press secretary was asked if the White House believes that. And he said the president believes that. So I asked Sean Spicer if he believes it. Sean Spicer, of course, was a chief strategist of the Republican National Committee. Reince Priebus who is now the White House chief of staff was the chairman of the Republican Party. So I was trying to get to the sense if they believe it.
Now, Sean wouldn't answer that question. But, Don, the reason it matters is this. Across this town, across the country, Republicans have said, look, we do not think there's widespread voter fraud. So why is Donald Trump talking about this?
It is clear that he still has some questions about his legitimacy. He believes that other people are questioning it. And he is trying to make point that popular vote was not on his side for this for that reason. But the reason that this matters, too, because it's fundamental part of democracy. You know, if three to five million people casted votes illegally, shouldn't the White House be investigating this? Well, that is something that they have not decided on, Don. But, central here, oddly, the president still talking about this when his aides, frankly, would rather he talk about anything else like this this agenda. That's what he will be doing tomorrow at department of homeland security.
LEMON: Jeff Zeleny, much appreciated.
Now I want to bring in Tim O'Brien, the author of "Trump Nation, the art of being the Donald." Also, Gwenda Blair is the author of the "Trumps, three generations of builders and a president. And Roger Martin of the Martin prosperity Institute. He says the attacks on President Trump reinforce his strategy. Lots to discuss.
Gwenda, you first. Good evening to all of you, by the way.
Gwenda, you first. You spent quite a lot of time with the president. You say this obsession of crowd sizes and vote totals goes beyond just running for president. Explain that.
GWENDA BLAIR, AUTHOR, THE TRUMPS, THREE GENERATION OF BUILDERS AND A PRESIDENT: He has to win. He has to be seen as absolutely top winner, you know, the alpha dog. And I think that he can't really take in the idea of anything that challenges that. Or if any notion of his being anything less than the complete winner in the whole situation. I think there is also kind of deep feeling about whether he really is legitimate here.
He was raised as rich kid. And think there's like -- from early on some sense of do other -- were other kids hanging out with him doing it because he was a rich kid? He has to always not just win but like absolutely trounce the opposition, the other side, the competition. And in a situation where he's three million votes short, there has to be an explanation I think for him of why it is. And it has to be that someone did something wrong because there's no other way to look at it than he won in his mind.
[23:05:24] LEMON: Timothy, this -- deep-seated fear of not being seen as legitimate president?
TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG VIEW: You know, Don, I think he has a deep-seated fear of simply not being seen. I would trancate (ph) that. He is - I think the motivating force in his life since he got up 15 years old is getting attention. And it's been true throughout the political campaign that led to his election. He is very adept at figuring out buzz words and statements that he can use and he will experiment with messages to stay in the public eye.
In the 1980s, Japan was about to take over the United States. By 2017, that became China. In 2012, was Obama and birtherism. And 2017, it was the wall. And he will say what he needs to say to get attention. It's actually the first thing that motivates most of what he does.
LEMON: Rather than allegedly calling journalists and writers to put himself -- posing as his own PR person, twitter became outlet where he could make of these accusations and get himself in to the news and be relative.
O'BRIEN: And then off of that create false narratives.
Roger, you say that when Trump makes false accusations, we sort of expect it but it is more disturbing when Sean Spicer has to go out there and defend it. Explain that?
ROGER MARTIN, INSTITUTE DIRECTOR, MARTIN PROSPERITY Well, the accusations of Trump that focus on him being politically incorrect is actually what powered a lot of his campaign. What he realized, I think, realized is that he couldn't enter a crowded field of 17, 18 Republican candidates and win in that category and he leveraged behavioral science understanding, he had to create a new category to have a chance. And that category was the politically incorrect politician. And so, every time the media and others attacked him for being politically incorrect, they were actually reinforcing his core positioning with his audience. And that continues to this day. And it reinforces what positioning he chose to take.
LEMON: Yes. Gwenda, Trump didn't make the most recent claim in public as he has in
the past, said in private meeting with top congressional leaders. Does that tell you anything?
BLAIR: I think what matters is that he told his press spokesman this was the line of the day. And I think that yes, he does what the other two people were saying, just said, he's all about wanting attention. And think he is all about performing. And to be a performer, you have to do something unexpected and you have to do something -- say something outrageous, do something people aren't going to expect, so people are going to keep paying attention. He did it throughout the campaign and he was the politically incorrect candidate because he kept saying something people weren't going to expect. Get outraged, have to watch the next day and stay tuned in. Doing that now. Keeps trying to defend the idea that he won, couldn't countenance idea he didn't win. And so, he is going to have to say he won and he is going to have to look for why happened.
LEMON: Timothy -
BLAIR: He has to come up with explanation. That doesn't make sense to anybody but that's the explanation he is sticking to. He never backs down as we've noticed.
LEMON: Yes. Well, Timothy brought up I thought a good point when you said that it is about creating false narratives, right.
LEMON: Should we be surprised if he doesn't believe in these conspiracy theories, rather than false shock, I can't believe he said that or believes this, he perpetuated one of the biggest conspiracy theories in recent history for five or six years that the president wasn't born in the United States and that he didn't have a legitimate birth certificate. And that he wasn't a legitimate president and really a legitimate (INAUDIBLE).
O'BRIEN: And therefore should be revolution in the streets.
LEMON: Yes. So we should be not surprised if he really believes in this.
O'BRIEN: Who knows what he authentically believes. I don't think it is an issue of what he believes in. What he is focused on is owning the narrative. And he will say what he needs to say either to keep critics off balance or win over whoever is in front of me at the moment.
LEMON: (INAUDIBLE) man behind the curtain.
O'BRIEN: Yes, he does.
O'BRIEN: Madly spinning that wheel.
LEMON: Go ahead, Roger.
MARTIN: Yes. On your won, reinforcing it.
[23:10:06] O'BRIEN: He probably smiling.
You know, he use -- he was predatory with women. He didn't disavow the Klan. That's not necessarily being just politically correct. It is saying what does he value? What does the country value? What values are we putting to a test in this election?
And putting that under that umbrella of political correctness but saying what does he value, what does the country value and what values putting to the test in this election? Putting that under umbrella of political correctness is homogenizing it in a way that's actually pointless.
MARTIN: I mean keep it -- keep it up. I mean, it is flabbergasting to me to watch the opponents of Trump. I'm just sitting back and sort of bystander to this to watch the opponents of Trump simply not getting or understanding the strategy and not understanding how they're contributing to the success of it. And have contributed to it. So if you want, keep on doing it.
O'BRIEN: It's not a strategy, Roger. It's ideology.
MARTIN: It could be that too, Tim. I wouldn't -- I would not argue about its merits, right. All I'm making is argument about its effectiveness. It was only strategy that could have possibly gotten him elected and he was aided and abetted the entire time by primarily the media who reinforced morning, noon and night his core message which is, rightly or wrongly, clear as a bell, political correctness have gotten us into the mess we're in now. I was politically incorrect businessperson. That made me really successful. I'm now going to be politically incorrect politician and you should support not to get rid of the failure of political correctness.
O'BRIEN: But that's not what had him elected. What got him elected - what got him elected was he promised bring back people's jobs. That's what got him elected above everything else and it is why his supporters dismissed everything shocking to other people. It is because he stayed on message to his credit but about jobs.
LEMON: Gwenda, I will give you the last word. But also --.
MARTIN: That's what you think but lots of people have said going to bring back jobs. That is not the distinctive thing.
LEMON: And many supporters would say people ignored facts as well and that's more important than perception.
BLAIR: Absolutely. He's the master of distraction, disruption, of changing the subject. When anything gets uncomfortable, of just sailing past with another unexpected -- whether you call it politically correct -- but something people don't expect, gets everybody all upset and make everybody react to him so he continues to be the main topic.
He did it throughout the campaign. He is doing it now. He has a whole government. He has the cabinet appointees. He has got a whole government. He is in charge of everything and he continues to distract us, to pull our attention away from the hearings on Capitol Hill, various things going forward. He's still fuming supposedly about the three million votes that Hillary got in a popular, you know, the popular votes and saying that it was illegal aliens and sort of taking us down a rabbit hole of having to respond to that. That's not the important question.
LEMON: Yes. Wouldn't it be interesting? And wouldn't they want to sue that? Wouldn't they have put three million people in places on like the votes counted? Doesn't make sense.
Thank you. I appreciate it.
When we come right back, President Trump has promised to repeal and replace the affordable care act. I'm going to talk to two doctors who say 43,000 Americans could die without Obamacare.
[23:17:35] LEMON: The president has already taken the first steps to repeal and replace Obamacare, one of his biggest campaign promises. But my next guest says that that could put tens of thousands of Americans in deadly danger.
Let's discuss now with Dr. Steffie Woolhandler and Dr. David Himmelstein, the cofounders of physicians for a national health program. Good evening doctors. Thank you so much. I'm grateful to have you on.
Dr. Himmelstein, you first. You both have more than 30 years of experience studying death rates relating to changes in health care. You concluded that repealing Obamacare will result in 43,956 deaths a year. How did you come to that conclusion?
DR. DAVID HIMMELSTEIN, PHYSICIAN, NATIONAL HEALTH PROGRAM: Well, there are a whole bunch of studies that look at what happens when people lose insurance. And they are pretty consistent that lot of people die from losing insurance. And the biggest of the studies show that for every million people who lose coverage, about 455 will die in the next year. So multiplying it out by the number who are expected to lose coverage if the affordable care act is repealed about 43, 000, 44,000. That may be off by a few thousand, but we know that tens of thousands are likely to die if they lose coverage. And repealing the affordable care act it will lose millions of people coverage. The congressional budget office been clear in saying that.
LEMON: Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, Let's dwell into this a little bit more. Explain the correlation between the loss of health care and so many deaths. How would this happen? STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, PHYSICIAN, NATIONAL HEALTH PROGRAM: Well, people
need medical care, they need preventive care, they need treatment when they are pregnant, then their treatment of their high blood pressure. We know these things save lives. So a variety of studies show that when people lose their insurance they die. Some studies show as many as two people per thousand die for every thousand who lose insurance. So that adds up to a lot of people.
And we are pretty sure under whatever the Republicans do, going to repeal Obamacare, we know that. About 20 million people will lose coverage. And whatever they do, there will be millions of people left uninsured and there will be thousands of unnecessary deaths every single year as result.
[23:20:03] LEMON: Yes.
HIMMELSTEIN: And Don, just as an example, we know that people who are uninsured, when have heart attacks, they delay going to emergency room, and that causes extra deaths. So that's one important reason right there. But many others as well.
LEMON: I have to ask you, though. But do they have a point? Meaning the GOP and president when they say there are things that are wrong with Obamacare that need to be fixed. Because they say they are going to replace it with something that is fantastic or better.
WOOLHANDLER: OK. Well, there are plenty of things are wrong with Obamacare, including 26 million people who have no insurance despite Obamacare, including the facts that copayments and deductibles way too high. So people with insurance still can't afford care. That's what is wrong with Obamacare. We ought to be moving forward to a Medicare for all single payer program but the Republicans are going to repeal and move us backwards toward a system with more uninsured people, higher copayment, high deductibles and more deaths, tens of thousands more death every year.
LEMON: What are your thoughts, Dr. Woolhandler on reforms proposed by the Trump administration to take the place of Obamacare?
WOOLHANDLER: Well, all we know from President Trump is he is going to give us something great. But if we look at details that have been laid out by Paul Ryan for instance in his blueprint for health, by Tom Price, the new appointee for the secretary of health and human services, they are saying things like we are going to block grant Medicaid and cut its way back probably by as much as a third. We are going to voucherized Medicare. So instead of seniors being guaranteed a full set of benefits, they will get a voucher and they can go out on the private insurance market and see what they can buy.
They are talking about leaving the insurance companies cut way back on the range of services that they insure and still call it insurance. To increase copayments, increase deductibles. All of it seems will actually make access to healthcare, much worse for the American people and we are going to see people getting sicker and dying younger as result. To me as a doctor --
LEMON: But Dr. Himmelstein -- go on.
WOOLHANDLER: Go on. Well, I'm just saying is we are physicians. Me as doctor, that's simply unacceptable. Many doctors have joined together in our group physicians for a national health program to say let's move forward from (INAUDIBLE) to single payer. Let's not be moving backwards through repeal.
LEMON: But Dr. Himmelstein, there are-I have spoken and interviewed - spoken persons and interviewed a number of doctors who don't feel the same way that you about Obamacare. There are differences in opinion on this in the medical community.
HIMMELSTEIN: Sure there are differences. But actually majority of doctors, if you ask according to surveys, actually want to move forward to national health insurance. And very few doctors really want to go back to the pre-affordable care act, pre-Obamacare days when even more people were uninsured. So even the AMA and I have a lot of disagreement with the AMA. The AMA says their bottom line is they want everybody covered. And they want people to have good insurance. Most doctors actually agree on that.
LEMON: All doctors, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.
HIMMELSTEIN: Thank you.
WOOLHANDLER: Our pleasure.
LEMON: When we come right back, President Trump's latest Twitter war. Why the administration is coming down hard on the national parks.
[23:27:27] LEMON: President's nominee for budget chief found himself in the hot seat today over the size of the inaugural crowd. This is an interesting move.
Let's discuss now with CNN political contributor Maria Cardona, Kristen Sottis Anderson, columnist for the "Washington Examiner," Paris Dennard, director of black outreach for President George W. Bush, and political commentator Andre Bauer.
Good to have all of you on.
Paris, I'm going to start with you because at the confirmation hearing for Mick Mulvaney, the nominee for the office of management of budget, the issue of inauguration crowd size came up again. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), BUDGET COMMITTEE: Which crowd is larger, 2009 or 2017 crowd?
REP. MICK MULVANEY (R), BUDGET DIRECTOR NOMINEE: Senator, if you allow me it give the disclaimer that I'm not really sure how it ties to the one. I would be a happy to answer your question whish was from that picture it does appears that the crowd on the left-hand side is bigger than the crowd on the right-hand, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I think that was a pretty sneaky move on the part of the person answering the question. And you know, kind of smart to do that. So the question is by when they spin like that, is the administration undermining or does he undermining his own nominees, forcing them to respond to what is obvious?
PARIS DENNARD, GOP POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Don, I don't think the president is forcing his nominees or the cabinet to do anything, its senators playing politics with these confirmation hearings who are asking these silly questions. If they want to be serious about the confirmation hearings and be serious about these nominees, they should take the time and ask serious questions, probative questions that are relevant to their roles and what the American people expect in cabinet secretaries, not crowd sizes.
LEMON: Maria, do you agree? Is it playing politics?
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I actually think that it was kind of a brilliant move because, you know, I love how Paris says that it's senate that should be taking this seriously. The freaking president of the United States should be taking this seriously. And he is the one who is focusing on crowd size and he is the one who is focusing on three to five million illegal voters. He is the one who is focusing on these insidious lies that undercut not just his own credibility, but the credibility of his administration, the credibility of his nominees.
And at end of the day, and this is why this is so pernicious and nefarious, the credibility of the United States of America around the world. So I was glad senator pointed out the ridiculous nature of what this president is making a priority as opposed to what he should be making a priority which are the issues that are facing this country.
LEMON: So Kristen, let's talk about that and how much freedom people will have and agencies to get their message out and to tweet. Because after the national park service retweeted the photo, the crowd size, president reported became enraged. Someone in the administration ordered that they stop tweeting altogether. Today, the badlands national park tweeted this said today the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere higher than any time in the last 650,000 years #climate. That tweet has since been deleted. Is the president going to spend his time crushing all dissent you think?
[23:30:32] KRISTEN SOTTIS ANDERSON, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think that Donald Trump is not a big fan when things that he thinks should be in his control seem to not be in his control. When it comes to federal government, you got some folks that are political appointees. There will be people who will serve at pleasure of the president. There are folks whose job will be to carry out his goals and vision.
Their job is not to lie. Their job is not to go and tell the public things that are untrue. And then especially when it comes to these folks who are career folks which I think in the case of the badlands park, you are talking about someone who is not a political appointee. There are career civil servant. Their job is to execute what they are supposed to do, whether to running twitter account or managing some sort of project, regardless of who the president is.
I hope that this administration ensures that people feel that they can rely on their federal government for accurate information, whether it is accurate information on things like unemployment rates, whether it is accurate information things like the census, which is something that will come up during the time that we have this president.
There are lots of things we rely on the government for to give us accurate information and data. And I hope this administration will not do anything to further undermine that trust.
LEMON: And you mentioned the unemployment numbers, because they were asked how they are going to calculate those numbers and there wasn't a really good answer at the White House press conference yesterday from Sean Spicer. So I just wanted to tell the viewers that.
But do you think -- do you see this as censorship, Kristin?
ANDERSON: Do I see asking agency to take down a tweet, I think it's bizarre. I think right now, you saw early on in the Obama administration in 2009, when you still have agencies where you don't have a lot of people in place, there's always this tension between the White House being heavy handed. I don't love the idea of making this organization take down a tweet. I think censorship is a really strong term, though. I done know that I use that quite yet at this stage. But talk to me again in a couple of weeks if it becomes a pattern, I think that will become more troubling.
LEMON: All right. And you know, we will.
Andre, the DNC released a statement in response to the badlands tweet being deleted. And it says Vladimir Putin would be proud. Are they wrong?
ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Again, this is more inside the beltway BS. The people watching the show, they don't care. What is more important is today, Donald Trump, second day at work, meets in the Roosevelt room with CEO, some of the biggest CEOs in the world. A few hours later, he meets with the union bosses.
This guy is getting the job done. Day two, he is actually doing things that change people's lives. Opportunity to create new jobs, to keep those jobs in this country. And so, all this side stuff, I know the media gets fixated on it and you call out Donald Trump and say he is bad guy. What about the United State senators? They could be interview and --.
LEMON: Andres, listen. I agree with you. And we spoke about Mick Mulvaney, but we are not hear to report on things people just want to hear. We are here to give the American people the truth. I think the American care about -- BAUER: Well, a couple of months ago, when Donald Trump was turning
out crazy numbers --
LEMON: The election is over.
BAUER: Nobody want to report on that.
LEMON: The election, Andre, the election is over. The election is over. Hillary Clinton is not even a prospect now. No one is really thinking about Hillary Clinton. You keep going to that. This is now Donald Trump's America. This is -- he is the president of the United States.
BAUER: They didn't want to report on the rally sizes then but they want to keep talking about --
LEMON: Andre, you are missing the argument. You are doing the same thing. You keep going back to the election as the president. The President has won.
CARDONA: Just like the president.
LEMON: And we're asking about factual information.
BAUER: Showing you how the media operates.
LEMON: Now you are a media expert?
CARDONA: It is not --.
BAUER: No. I'm just showing you how the media operates. A couple of months ago --.
CARDONA: If Donald Trump --.
BAUER: Didn't want to talk about it. Now it does.
CARDONA: No. If Donald Trump wasn't so focused on the obsessed with size of the crowd, with size of how many people voted for him, who didn't vote for him, then this would not --
LEMON: Hold on, Maria. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.
Andre, it seems like the default of anytime someone doesn't want to talk about something that is factual, or information that is not true, the default is, well, this is what the media does. This is how the media spin it. But listen. No one is spinning anything by putting out a tweet that says it is 650,000 years when the information is factual. How is that spinning? Why wouldn't the American people - why should the American people know about that information. Why would the American people care about that? And if they don't care about it, why wouldn't we inform them about that? BAUER: Well, I think we should inform them about. We are jumping
around though from crowd size to now.
[23:35:02] LEMON: You jumped to crowd size. I didn't say anything about it.
DENNARD: I think Andre's point is valid when it comes to day two.
LEMON: Let - Andre, can defend himself, Paris. I'm speaking Andre. Go on.
DENNARD: I'm not -- I wasn't trying to defend --
LEMON: I know. But Andre was speaking. Go ahead, Andre. I'm sorry.
BAUER: Look. I don't have a problem what's been talking about carbon emissions. I think that's a good role for them to express. I don't know who called them out. It could have been with somebody who is on their own agency. Might not have been - we don't know how high that went that it was retracted. And maybe the fact numbers were wrong. Maybe that's why pulled it down. I don't have enough information - I don't have any information to know why it was pulled. But then, may have been a viable reason why they decided to pull it. May not have been from the top up. They just say we don't want the message out there.
LEMON: Great. And I appreciate you answering the question. Thank you.
We will be right back, everyone.
[23:39:44] LEMON: How should we listen to and interpret the news president for the next four years when he often contradicts himself, sometimes in the same sentence.
John McWhorter is here to help us with that. He is professor of linguistics at Columbia University. Are you the Trump whisperer or the Trump interpreter?
JOHN MCWHORTER, PROFESSOR OF LINGUISTICS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I would like to try it out.
[23:40:00] LEMON: Let's talk about, you know, come people call it untruths, some people call it falsehoods, and the word is lie. So last night, the president met with lawmakers and repeated the lie that millions of illegal voters cast ballots in this election that cost him in the popular vote. That has proven false. Today, Sean Spicer said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President does believe that. He has stated that before. I think he stated his concerns of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign and he continues to main that believe based on studies and evidence that people who presented to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So the president is spreading, you know, facts that were proven false, right. Is that a fact that has proven false? It is so confusing now. And then the White House spokesperson backs him up at the podium. Should we abiding by the dictionary definition and call it what it is, a lie? Because it's tough to call the president of the United States a liar.
MCWHORTER: Well, not, in this case, we have to get used to new way of interpreting the commander in-chief. For the simple reason that he is saying what he wants to believe. That's perfectly human. We do it on bar stools. We do it at the dinner table. We do it in bed. He is saying the way he want it to be and we think.
But he is president but he wants to be taken seriously. And so, certainly, he is not doing what an 11 or 12-year-old would do. But the thing is oddly enough we have gotten to the point that we elected a man who actually will just say the way he wants it to be.
The idea that you can't prove it genuinely doesn't make sense to him because there isn't yet. I think that it's safe to say this is a certain narcissistic or at least self-centered streak. And so, to listen to Donald Trump, we have to get past the idea that he is an ordinary politician who knows that anything he says is a kind of semaphore, that is staged, that he is not saying something. He is speaking a message that people are supposed to interpret.
Donald Trump has no reason to have ever learned how to do that. What he does is talk. And so, you have to listen to if you want to make sense of him. I didn't say you have to like him. You listen as if he were, I don't meant this as rhetoric. I mean, literally. He is 12. Then all of it makes perfect sense.
MCWHORTER: Yes. And so, Sean Spicer saying the president believes what he believes, that is actually a very artful way of saying listen to him as if he were an adolescent or preadolescent person. There are adult things about Donald Trump but not in how he speaks in public and to the United States. He doesn't know how to do anything else, how would he?
LEMON: OK. And you know, you don't mean that to be an insult. I mean, you're linguistics professor. This is how you teach language.
MCWHORTER: He talks exactly the way people talk rather than speak. There's a huge difference that is easy to miss the difference between. Between casual speeches which is messy, which is subjective, which has a rather odd relationship to the truth. And then speech or writing where you get to back check, where you get to actually make it into something crafted.
LEMON: That's the focus of your piece. And it is called "how to listen to Donald Trump every day for years." And you write, the issue is talking versus speaking, a more crucial distinction then we have reason to think about until someone as linguistically unpolished as President Trump brings talking it into a arena usually reserve for at least an attempt at speaking.
So you sort of broke down the difference. But we are not used to someone holding the highest office in the land not being as what is the word I'm looking for?
MCWHORTER: Well, articulate, or controlled or monitored. He wouldn't know. And the truth is, it's an American story. We are not a formal people. We have got to let it all hang out. We are all about being real. And so, over the past 40 or 50 years, the place of old- fashioned oratory has gotten smaller and smaller.
George W. Bush was part it of but he always looked a little bit embarrassed that he was so inarticulate. Sarah Palin was the same thing but she only went so far. She has a kind of swivel tongued way of speaking. But that seems to have ended. You knew somebody else was going to come along who couldn't rub a noun or a verb together and yet rose. And that is exactly what happened. There are going to be others. And so, you just listen to this man, and you think forget Adlie Stevenson (ph), Jimmy Carter, Mario Cuomo. Forget even the speech craft of George W. Bush at times.
LEMON: in your piece, you point to moments like this on the campaign trail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, having nuclear -- uncle was great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump, at MIT. Good genes. Very good genes, OK? The Wharton school of finance. Very good, very smart. You know, if you are a conservative Republican -- if I were a liberal -- like, OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What did he say?
LEMON: I love that one.
MCWHORTER: All he's doing is giving his scatter shot thoughts about what people think of him just like a 12-year-old, about how conservative if he is one, get into some kind of trouble and he just kind of popping along.
The funny thing is man doesn't even drink. So it is not even about some sort of intoxication. He is doing what anybody does on a bar stool. You and I have both probably often spoken that way really off the cuff.
[23:45:16] LEMON: That's part of the appeal for people who voted for him. MCWHORTER: Yes. I mean frankly he is real. He is really speaking to
me. So if he says I'm going to bring the factories back, because he doesn't end sentences, disinclined to use subordinate clauses, et cetera, et cetera. It sounds real. It sounds like the kind of music we like, the kind of food we like, the kind of sex we like.
LEMON: But it doesn't sound presidential.
MCWHORTER: And then, it doesn't sound presidential. Nobody want you to sound presidential. Remember Mitt Romney and how presidential he look with his square head and his gushes and his expensive haircut and his utter lack of any kind of ethnicity. That would have been a plus 50 years ago. That would have been a plus three years ago. But Mitt Romney couldn't win partly because he didn't let anything hang out.
LEMON: Let's talk a little bit more about language. Because one of his advisers, Kellyanne Conway, came up with this term alternative facts. And so, that's why -- what does that say -- now that's part of the le lexicon, right?
LEMON: An alternative fact as linguistics professor.
LEMON: Does that make sense?
MCWHORTER: People's horizons are narrower when they are younger or less polished. I mean, just today, my 5-year-old daughter was telling me that Jersey City was a state. That's what she thinks. That is fact to her. I didn't have time to correct it.
Now, I'm sure Donald Trump knows that Jersey City not a state. But for him, there are all sorts of things rattling around in there which to him are facts. They are all alternative facts. He is the the alternative and we have chosen him.
LEMON: My colleague wrote about how Donald Trump supporters saw him on the campaign trail and she said the press takes him literally but not seriously. Folks take him seriously but not literally. And that is his speaking tone as well, the way he speak.
MCWHORTER: He's self-centered for one thing and he BSs. He just kind of shoots the you know what.
LEMON: And you can learn all this and you see all that just from the language and the uses and his cadence in the way he speaks?
MCWHORTER: Ever since this began I have often thought he talks like someone speaks a language that's never been committed to writing. He talks the way everybody talks after dinner at thanksgiving except, wow, he is supposed to be making some sort of interesting speech at rally. He is using good old fashioned gutbucket Budweiser spoken language. It is a wonderful thing. That's how we actually get along in our lives. But he doesn't feel the need to do anything different when cameras are on him or when people are looking to him to hear coherence and extended thought. It is just not what he has never had to do that. And in his times, it has been such that he hasn't had to learn it. And I doubt he thinks about it consciously. I'm sorry if that sounds condescending but he got away with it because nobody needed it.
LEMON: Thank you, John McWhorter.
MCWHORTER: You are welcome.
LEMON: Appreciate it. We will be right back.
[23:52:00] LEMON: Back now with my panel to discuss, Kristen Sottis Anderson, Paris Dennard, and Andre Bauer. Thank you guys for sticking around and listen to that.
Paris, what did you think of what John McWhorter had to say?
DENNARD: I thought it was horrible. I thought it was disrespectful. And I'm glad I graduated from Pepperdine University and didn't go to Columbia to sit through that because it was partisan talk and it was something that I have never heard before and I wish I hadn't heard it.
It's impressive that he took that monologue and only pointed out Republican presidents that had -- or Republican candidates who had issues with their linguistic skills. I think if you want to bring your opinion to the forefront of the American people you should do so and present it from both sides and not seem like vicious partisan hack. I think Mr. Trump, who is now the president of the United States has artfully and specifically articulated his message clearly to the American people. That's why he won. That's why he appealed to people that don't go to Columbia but people who may go to community college, people who may not have even gone to college. But had a simple message that they were able to understand. And that is why he won and that is why he is going to be effective communicator like we have never seen before. So I just disagree with everything that he had to say.
LEMON: Andre, John McWhorter who is a linguist at Columbia basically just said the president, well, he says what he believes but that doesn't make what he believes the fact. That's what he said. Do you agree with that?
BAUER: I don't. This is a different kind of president. This is a president that understands people. And he is going to be nontraditional. And you can get ready to expect that. I equate to more like Sunday sermon more than Sundance Film. People can digest it. They understand it. He is not going to be formal. He talks to the people, not over the people. And so - and that's why he related so well. When everybody thought Trump was crazy in 16-way primary, he was nailing it, hit a nerve and he won in a big field. We all know, Don, because he was able to connect. He was able to do something that nobody else was able to do. And he is still doing it.
And so, the media and the elitists may say this guy is totally off base. But what I called the Johnny lunch buckets in the street, the hardworking people that are out there every day, they are fed up and they are glad somebody up there is connecting on what they understand.
LEMON: I think what John McWhorter said, Paris, is something like Joe Budweiser, something similar to what Andre just said.
DENNARD: No. He talked about 12-year-old.
LEMON: Well, he also said he appeals to the sort of Budweiser, whatever, which means that the, you know, the working, you know, American. Are you concern. Paris, that the president of the United States can just make something up, claim it's fact and then sort of get around over the language like an alternative fact or whatever? And this is honest question. Where do you draw the line with that?
DENNARD: I think the president is entitled to give his opinion about things. I think the president is allowed to have his own viewpoint about certain issues. And he is entitled to defend himself against things that he feels are inaccurate about his personal story, his record and candidacy as well as what he has trying to do for the American people.
But I will draw the line when the president maliciously stands before the American people and lies to them with the intent of doing harm or causing harm for other people or the administration. I don't think he's done that. I don't think that Sean Spicer has done that. And I believe that the American people understand that.
[23:55:28] LEMON: OK. So Kristin, is that where you draw the line? He didn't stand before the American people but he did said 3.5 million people voted illegally and that's astonishing claim and there is about undocumented people voting, there is no proof to that. In fact it's been disproven.
ANDERSON: It's an astonishing claim. There is no evident to support it. And I don't like the idea of public officials standing up to make assertions where there's no evidence to support it. And it I think it's important to be consistent about that. I'm someone who would have criticized the Obama administration for doing something like standing up in saying the attack on our embassy in Benghazi was because of a video when it wasn't. I don't think that the government should be in the business of saying things that aren't true. In the same way, I believe that I don't want out president right now standing up in saying five million votes were cast illegally when there's no evidence.
But I do think, by the way, that this whole idea of who gets to be arbiter of what is and is not true, right now there's a reason why so many people are willing when Donald Trump says something that is either bending the truth or is not quite in line with the truth, are willing to believe it because they also don't trust what they hear from the media, you know. And it is little story, sometimes it's little things that are sloppy, a bad story that alleges, Rick Perry, he doesn't understand the job that he is just going to be taking on at department of energy, but it turns out that it is a thinly sourced story and the statement when he was nominated. Clearly, says he understood the job or, no, Donald Trump doesn't have bust of MLK in his office anymore when it turns out, no, actually, he does, the reporter just didn't see it.
There are all sort of stories that are sloppy but are put out there because they --.
LEMON: I have got to go. I'm out of time. I'm over, Kristin.
Listen, I agree with you. You see even things like that happens to bus and all other sources. Not that is right. But they apologize for that and to admit that it's wrong. That has never happened in this instance with the administration.
So thank you all. I appreciate it. I'm over time. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. See you back here tomorrow.