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CNN TONIGHT

Analysis After President Trump Addresses Joint Session of Congress; President Trump Addresses A Joint Session Of Congress; President Trump Calls For Reform Of Immigration System; Democratic Women Wear White To Trump's Address. Aired Midnight-1a ET

Aired March 1, 2017 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:00:11] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hey, I hope you join us tomorrow night, Wednesday night -- a town hall with Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, moderated by Dana Bash. That begins at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I'll be back at 8:00 tomorrow night.

Right now our special coverage continues with Don Lemon and CNN TONIGHT.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Thank you very much, Mr. Cooper.

This is a special CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you so much for joining us.

President Trump's theme in his address to congress "renewing the American spirit" -- it's a new tone. But what's the reaction tonight on Capitol Hill and really around the country? What are Americans thinking about this?

Let's get right to CNN's Jim Acosta, Gloria Borger, and David Chalian. Also historian Jon Meacham, author of "Destiny and Power". Thank you so much for joining us on here for CNN tonight or CNN this morning, depending on which part of the country you are in.

Gloria I'm going to start with you. President Trump just gave the most important speech since his inauguration. Let's take a little bit of a listen to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts, the bravery to express the hopes that sear our souls and the confidence to turn those hopes and those dreams into action.

From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears; inspired by the future, not bound by failures of the past; and guided by a vision, not blinded by our doubts. I am asking all citizens to embrace this renewal of the American spirit.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: So, Gloria -- how did he do?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I would have to say that this was the most presidential speech that I have ever heard Donald Trump give. And I think that there are Republicans, many of whom I've been texting with during the evening, who were relieved to hear the President sound this way.

There was a lot of trepidation going into this, into this speech because he had never been in this environment before. And you know how the President gets his energy off of his rallies and his crowds, and he freelances and sometimes he says things that he shouldn't. And this is a very different kind of audience.

And what you heard from Donald Trump tonight was a speech that was unconventional at times in its ideas and sometimes not, but was delivered in a way that we really haven't heard before.

And I think that there were many hands in writing this speech in the White House. And they wanted to make sure that it was a different tone in a joint session to Congress. And I think it was.

LEMON: Yes.

BORGER: On the substance I'd have to say, though, Don, that it can be a little bit confusing. I don't think Republicans walked out of there understanding what his health care proposal is actually going to be, or what he is actually going to propose on immigration. And so I think there are a lot of open issues here.

But tonally, I think there is a great sense of relief among Republicans and I would probably say in the country.

LEMON: Yes, there is a lot to dissect in what you said. Now, I'll get to that in just a moment. I just want to get everyone in here.

I want to go to the White House and get Jim Acosta. Jim -- what are you hearing tonight from the White House? What are your sources telling you? Do they feel good?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They feel very good -- Don. I think we saw teleprompter Trump tonight, not Twitter Trump so we'll have to see which side of the President wins out moving forward here. But you're hearing terms like "grand slam", "he crushed it" -- those sorts of reviews from White House officials. That goes without saying. You're going hear that from inside the White House.

But I have heard from at least one senior congressional Republican source tonight who said that the President was presidential. Now, he is being graded somewhat on a curve because, you know, in the weeks leading up to this speech he had a travel ban that was frozen in court. He was talking about unfounded claims of voter fraud and his inauguration crowd sizes and so on. And so this is a moment that has certainly pulled his presidency out of the fire somewhat.

But Gloria is absolutely right. President Trump moderated his positions on health care reform, on immigration, on a whole host of issues. And I think that is going to serve him well going forward.

And they're feeling so good about this over at the White House tonight, Don, that we are hearing that the President is no longer expected to sign this revised travel ban, executive order tomorrow; that that is now being pushed back again because they want to let these good vibrations keep going.

LEMON: He doesn't want to step on his message. David --

[00:05:00] ACOSTA: That's right.

LEMON: -- you have an instant poll to share. What are you finding?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. So we should just remind our viewers that this is an insta-poll of speech watchers, not a poll of the country. Overall speech watchers tend to be a little bit leaning in the party of the President giving this kind of speech. We've seen that with both Democrats and Republicans.

So that being said, with a little bit of favorable audience; nonetheless, a really good night for Donald Trump, as everyone has been saying.

Take a look here. 57 percent of speech watchers say they had a very positive reaction to his speech; 21 percent somewhat positive; 21 percent negative.

Then we asked Trump's policy, will they move the country in the right direction or the wrong direction? 69 percent, Don, say that the policies he talked about tonight, 69 percent of speech watchers say it's going to move the country in the right direction; 26 percent wrong direction.

And take a look at that 69 percent. He grew with the speech. If you look, prior to the speech, 58 percent of speech watchers said that his policies would move the country in the right direction. After watching the speech, that went up 11 points to 69 percent.

And then we asked if the speech made people who were watching it more optimistic. And again, really high marks here for the President -- 69 percent of speech watchers say they felt more optimistic after watching the speech; 28 percent more pessimistic.

LEMON: And we'll go through these numbers as well because there is also a comparison to his predecessor.

But I want to get Jon Meacham in. Jon -- speak to the pomp and circumstance of all of this. A president speaking to Congress and the American people, walking into that room in all of that applause -- how significant was that for the President at this time in his presidency? It's early on.

JON MEACHAM, HISTORIAN: I think we shouldn't be surprised perhaps that this venue turned out to be a congenial one for him because it's a little bit like a rally, at least to his left, only physically. And so he could get off, you know, he could ride off that energy. He didn't mind scowling at the Democrats. And so in a way, this was sort of rally Trump meets President Trump.

You know, presidents go to that chamber to declare war, to celebrate peace and to hit the reset button. And I think that's what President Trump did tonight. My hope is that he was listening to what he said. You know, he was bighearted.

The rhetoric that I think many on the left will be upset about and say oh, it doesn't mean anything is still rhetoric. It's still what a lot of us, I include myself, have wanted to hear from him. As he has tried to -- as we've hoped he would try to unify the country to some extent.

He's got that enormous base of support with Republicans, 85 percent or so. And many -- he is not going to get many Democrats. But there is a good 10, 15 percent of people in the center I think who want to be led by someone with a more cheerful face. And I think he showed us that face. The question now is going to be is there substance with that style?

LEMON: Let's talk more substance now, Gloria, especially I think what most people were looking for and that was about repealing and replacing Obamacare. Take a listen to the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Tonight I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare -- with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time provide better health care. Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for our country. The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we are going to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Gloria, did you hear any specifics? Hear a workable plan?

BORGER: I didn't hear a plan. And there were lots of Republicans who wanted to hear a plan. I was talking to a bunch before the speech tonight. And they would have liked some guide posts.

The President wasn't going to do that. That may be because there aren't any guide posts at this particular point. And there are lots of conservatives who are worried about a proposal circulating that includes some kind of tax credits which they view, I think rightly so, as another kind of entitlement that would start as a result of this. And they don't want -- you know, they don't want that.

[00:10:00] So the President was talking about what he wants -- access to health coverage, not health coverage for all, but access to health coverage for all and went down a long laundry list of things including not getting rid of preexisting conditions, et cetera. But the rubber hasn't met the road yet.

LEMON: Yes. BORGER: And Republicans are going have a hard time agreeing --

agreeing with each other about what to do in terms of replacing Obamacare. So that problem was not solved tonight.

LEMON: Jim Acosta, you know, the President began his address by speaking about black history month and about the wave of threats hitting Jewish community centers and other Jewish sites. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of black history month, we are reminded of our nation's path towards civil rights and the work that still remains to be done.

Recent threats -- recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So Jim Acosta, he and his administration have scoffed at the criticism and say that they weren't under pressure. But it's obvious that they were under pressure because he hit this right in the beginning of his speech.

ACOSTA: Absolutely, Don. And I think what we saw here tonight was a transition from the campaign phase of President Trump to the governing phase of President Trump. You hear this so often with every new administration.

They just have this very difficult task of shedding that campaign mind-set where they feel like they have to go back after their campaign adversaries. That's why you heard the President in the early weeks of this administration continue to go after the news media, continue to go after Hillary Clinton. He brought up President Obama just today in a Fox News interview.

And I think through a process of trial and error, this White House may be coming to the conclusion, and perhaps the President is coming to the conclusion that you can get a lot farther in this town with your agenda with a smile and not a scowl.

And so I think we're going to have to see whether or not this lasts. And I think, don, the best test that of is maybe check the President's Twitter feed at 6:00 in the morning about six hours from now to see whether or not this actually takes hold.

But when you hear, as Gloria said, we don't have all of the details on the President's health care plans. But he is starting to embrace the House Republican proposal. That is at least going to give Paul Ryan some comfort to talk to his members and say listen, when you go out to these town halls and they're screaming at you, you at least have something to talk about in response to all that in terms of a replacement bill.

And on immigration, you know, this is an issue that the President was just really coming under heavy criticism for as ICE agents were going around the country and detaining people by putting out this trial balloon today that perhaps there might be a path to legal status for people who play by the rules in this country who are undocumented. That's going to go a long way to calm things down around the country, and especially here in Washington.

LEMON: Yes. We've got a lot to get to. We talked a lot about tone but what about specifics? What about the reality checks from the speech? That's a lot to talk about.

Jim Acosta -- thank you very much.

ACOSTA: Yes. You got it.

LEMON: Everybody else -- stick around.

When we come right back, an emotional moment from tonight's speech -- the moment we saw a different President Trump.

[00:14:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The President delivering his first address to a joint session of Congress tonight. Back with me now -- Gloria Borger, David Chalian and Jon Meacham. We had to get Jim Acosta off the White House lawn. They were going to kick him out so we let him go.

So Gloria -- let's talk about the President. He spoke about this controversial covert human raid that he authorized just days into his presidency tonight, which results in the death of Navy Seal William Ryan Owens. He spoke about it. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of U.S. Navy special operator senior chief William Ryan Owens. Ryan died as he lived, a warrior and a hero, battling against terrorism and securing our nation.

I just spoke to our great General Mattis, just now who reconfirmed that, and I quote, "Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemy. Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity. Thank you. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: There was a long ovation -- Gloria. What did you make of that moment?

BORGER: Well, it was a stunning moment. I think that we were talking about earlier in the evening that these kinds of moments were first created by Ronald Reagan when he recognized a hero who -- Lenny Skutnik -- who jumped into the river and rescued people after a plane crash in D.C.

[00:19:57] And this was a moment that was so difficult for the widow and it gave the President an opportunity not only to honor her husband's service, but to honor her.

And also to make the point very clearly because there has been controversy over this, to refute reports that nothing of value was gained as a result of this raid. And he made the case, basically said don't take my word for it, take General Mattis' word for it, that there was valuable intelligence that was recovered.

And we know the controversy, the father did not want to meet with the President at Dover, but clearly his widow was here tonight and probably was grateful that she was.

LEMON: Jon, what did you think of the moment?

MEACHAM: I agree with Gloria. It's been 35 years since this particular feature of presidential addresses came into the vernacular. And I think this is one that will be remembered in the way the Skutnik moment was back in 1982.

I think it's also going to actually feed the story, I must say, just given the nature of the beast, about what was the actionable intelligence that came out of this raid. And so President Trump has characteristically very much laid down his marker.

LEMON: Hey Jon, let me ask you, Gloria said it's been, you know, Reagan started this. What's the purpose of -- as a historian -- why do they do this? This --

(CROSSTALK)

MEACHAM: It's wonderful theatrics. And I use that word in the way the Greeks did. It's showing a reality, a larger reality. We went for a long time without actually having presidents speak in the House chamber.

Thomas Jefferson was a terrible public speaker, and so he bagged it. He was a good writer. So he sent up his state of the union. It was actually Woodrow Wilson, and I suspect this is the first time Woodrow Wilson has been mentioned tonight that brought this back because he wanted to be seen as the President, as the leader of the legislature and in the early part of the 20th century.

And President Reagan was that remarkable show business instinct. Again, I don't say that to be dismissive by any means. He wanted to illustrate. He thought anecdotally, Ronald Reagan always -- if you wanted to get to Reagan, one of the things you did is you either related it to an old Hollywood story or you told him a personal anecdote. And he thought that anecdotes would illustrate these principles he was talking about, about American exceptionalism.

LEMON: That wasn't dismissive. That was part of Reagan's appeal. I think that's, you know, widely known, right? That's part of the reason he got elected. But David -- earlier today the President told Fox News that this mission was started before he took office. And he said the generals, quote -- and this is a quote from him, "lost Ryan". So what do you -- compare that to what we heard tonight.

CHALIAN: Well, I think this was in part cleaning that up and as Gloria said, sort of responding to some of the reporting out there, you know, directly quoting Mattis. To Jon's point, one has to assume that some proof of that there exists or General Mattis would not allow himself to be directly quoted on such a matter in a high-profile address to a joint session of Congress.

So, you know, I think earlier today you referenced on that Fox interview, we heard Donald Trump talk about this in a way that didn't really sound very much like a commander-in-chief -- somebody who talks about these missions much. And then tonight he had the very -- an utmost commander-in-chief moment.

And obviously, it was -- you can just see how fresh the pain is for the widow. And Donald Trump sort of in full dress in that role as commander-in-chief able to hold this American hero up before the whole country.

LEMON: And you said the dad did not want to meet, but the widow wanted to come and obviously have respects be paid to her and her husband tonight -- David?

CHALIAN: Yes. We saw the father was interviewed and wanted no part of President Trump, or maybe politics more broadly in that very painful moment at Dover in that solemn ceremony -- that coming home. So this clearly was a different approach from his widow.

LEMON: David, Jon, Gloria -- thank you so much. Thanks for staying up late. We appreciate it.

BORGER: Sure.

MEACHAM: Thanks -- Don.

LEMON: Straight ahead, Americans are weighing in on the President's address. Did they like what they heard? We're going to take a look next.

[00:24:40] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: How did Americans feel about what they heard in President Trump's address to a joint session of Congress? I want to bring in now CNN correspondent Tom Foreman. Hi -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey -- Don. How are you doing? We had more than 39,000 people join us online, casting about 15 million votes minute to minute, showing us what they thought. The line goes up if they like it. It goes down if they don't like it. Democrats in blue, independents in purple, and Republicans in red there.

And the President got them all pointed in the right direction and pretty close to each other early on when he talked about hate crimes. Look at the lines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: That's what a president wants -- all of these are deeply in the positive area. They're clustered pretty close together.

But that was hard to come by when it came to talking about policy. He got a little bit of that when he talked about helping out veterans, a little bit of that when he talked about jobs. And interestingly, he got one of his tightest groupings near the top when he talked about prescription drugs. Watch the lines again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance and work to bring down the artificially-high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[00:30:09] FOREMAN: Now, but did that mean that they disagreed or agreed on how to go about doing that. Well, no, they did not agree at all. And all you have to do is look at the part here where he talked about Obamacare, and watch the reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Tonight, I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: Now, look at that. That's a big applause line in the chamber. But here's something really interesting to look at, of course, the democrats didn't like it. Of course the independents didn't like it. But even the republicans tapered off when he did that. In our audience -- in the chamber, they loved it. In our audience, they did not like it so much.

Important to note, Don, at no point did the democrats rise above the independents or the independents above the republicans. And interestingly, all-evening long, the men in our sample liked what he had to say more than women did. Don?

DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT HOST: Interesting. Tom Foreman, thank you very much. Appreciate that.

I want to bring in now Jose Antonio Vargas, the founder and CEO of the media and cultural organization Define America. Jose, good to have you on. Thank you so much. How are you doing?

JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS, DEFINE AMERICA FOUNDER AND CEO: I'm doing OK. Thanks for having me, Don.

LEMON: You were at the -- yes, absolutely. You were at the speech this evening. Overall --

VARGAS: Yes.

LEMON: -- what did you think?

VARGAS: Well, I have to say I was privileged to be invited, actually, to be at the speech. Leader Pelosi invited me to be one of her guests, so I was there in the chamber. I have to say actually, the time, the only time that the president got booed -- I don't know if you noticed this, Don -- was when he introduced this Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, which is a whole new office that people can use to report crimes being committed by, "illegal people".

I have to say by the way, like I -- are the crimes being committed against American citizens not --like I'm -- the logic behind this to me, and the fact that this is just so at its face discriminatory, right? I think when it comes to immigration, clearly, this president is not operating in a factual kind of environment.

LEMON: Do you think that, you know, his rhetoric was different? His language wasn't quite as harsh. He's, you know -- go on.

VARGAS: Well, look at -- you know, at Define American, we like to do, you know, we like to make sure that we sparking conversations. So I'm curious what he means when he says that he's looking for both republicans and democrats to work on immigration reform. He's right, the president is right. We have not had meaningful immigration reform in decades. But it's really tough to kind of, you know, have a series of raids and start deporting mothers of U.S. citizen children, like last week, and then this week, talk about immigration reform.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK, let's listen to a bit of what he said and then we'll talk more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What do you think, Jose? VARGAS: Well, Don, let me make this absolutely clear. There is no correlation between being here as an undocumented person and committing crime. The study after study has shown that there's no correlation whatsoever, right? And what I found interesting is that the president and republicans believe in smaller government, yet they keep trying to spend billions and billions of dollars trying to protect you from "criminals" from Mexico when the reality is, you know, it's net migration from Mexico to the United States. You know, the fastest growing undocumented population, Don, are Asian people. I'm Filipino, right? We're the fastest growing undocumented population, not Mexicans and not Latinos. So --

LEMON: The president also spoke about building his wall. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And we will soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border. As we speak tonight, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our very innocent citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak, and as I've promised throughout the campaign. To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this one question. What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[00:34:54] LEMON: Jose, what do you think?

VARGAS: Well, what I think is in this country, I think we know that laws haven't always meant just and justice, right. I mean, actually tonight, I met the two U.S. citizen children of a woman named Guadalupe who got deported to Mexico. She's been living here since she was 14. She got deported because, you know, she -- her crime, so to speak, was providing for her kids. She got a fake Social Security number, which is what I had to do, so I could, you know, keep working and paying Social Security and paying taxes. I have to ask, by the way, how many more billions of dollars do we want to spend protecting you from this border? Has humanity ever built a border that could withstand human will? So long as parents are hungry and want to feed their kids, they're going to cross every border you put in front of them.

LEMON: Jose?

VARGAS: You know, as I said, I was in the chamber tonight and I'm looking at all those Congressional members and reminding myself about their own immigrant backgrounds.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I want to ask you because I saw the story that you mentioned about the woman who got a fake Social Security card. By presenting that woman and her story, do you think you're making an argument for the other side? Because there are many people who say, you know, and believe she broke the law. And if she broke the law, she has to face the consequences. If you -- that is a federal crime to have a fake Social Security card.

VARGAS: Well, by the way, and, you know, since we are talking about that, right. Maybe we should talk to the Social Security administration who collect contributions from people like me, who use fake I.D. Mind you, by the way, when that happens, I don't want to have to use fake anything. I used the fake Social Security number, so I could work and I could pay Social Security, so I could pay taxes, right? We are caught in a system that doesn't make any sense. People like me don't enjoy being here and being called criminals and, you know, "illegal" people. Right? We all do what we do to survive. Now, mind you, by the way, being here illegally is a civil offense, not a criminal one. So it's her crime because she's providing for her children?

LEMON: But her crime is a federal offense. I mean, to have a fake --

VARGAS: Well, again, my --

LEMON: -- Social Security card, that's pretty serious.

VARGAS: Well -- and again, that's something that I had -- that I had done myself. What are we supposed to do if we want to work and contribute? Would you rather us be unemployed?

LEMON: Well, I'm just going to play devil's advocate that people would say that --

VARGAS: Oh, no, no, no.

LEMON: That I know that you -- that in many instances, people come across the border or children come across, their parents brought them across, and that -- it's not their fault.

VARGAS: Yes, all of that. Yes.

LEMON: But she -- it was her choice to come across the border.

VARGAS: Well, and --

LEMON: And there are people who would say, "If you don't come across, you don't break a crime. You don't -- you're not -- you don't commit a crime --

VARGAS: Well, actually -- wait a second, Don.

LEMON: -- therefore, you don't go to jail or you don't get deported."

VARGAS: Well, but, Don, being here -- being here illegally, unlawfully, is a civil offense and not a criminal one. So that's -- so that's -- first of all --

LEMON: But it's still offense. It's still breaking the law, whether it's civil or criminal. VARGAS: Well, I -- and again, but why are people coming? I mean, we put a sign out to the U.S.-Mexico border that says, "Keep out 10 yards," and what do we say? Help wanted. We are -- we are a country addicted to cheap labor. We've always been addicted to cheap labor. Right? I mean, right now as we're talking, 1.8 million undocumented people in the State of Texas. Right. How are they getting around? I mean, is there a subway system in Texas so people have to drive without a license? And then before you know it, they get arrested. Before you know it, they get deported. Before you know it, they're separated from their family. So what is the crime there? In trying to work? I mean, I actually think one of the things that wasn't clear to me --

LEMON: But isn't the actual crime coming across the border?

VARGAS: Being here illegally, unlawful presence is a civil offense, not a criminal one, Don. Talk to an immigration lawyer about that.

LEMON: Yes. Jose, thank you.

VARGAS: Thank you for having me.

LEMON: Thank you.

We're coming back. Some of the president's toughest critics are praising the tone of his speech tonight. Did he hit the reset button on his immigration -- or on his administration, I should say?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:40:00] LEMON: The tone of the president's first address to Congress is getting praise from both sides of the aisle.

Let's discuss now. CNN Senior Political Analyst Mark Preston, CNN Political Commentators Jen Psaki and Ana Navarro, CNN Political Analyst Kirsten Powers, and CNN Political Commentators Kayleigh McEnany and Matt Lewis. As I say, the gang is all here. So --

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: And it's so late. (INAUDIBLE) we've almost gotten a year older. It's Don's birthday, people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, happy birthday.

NAVARRO: Happy birthday, Donald Lemon.

LEMON: Just a number. I go backwards. Remember Benjamin Button? I'm Benjamin Buttoning.

So, Ana, you tweeted this after the speech. You said, "You can disagree with him on policy, but this is most Presidential -- the most Presidential Trump has ever sounded. If I had amnesia, I might even forget he's insane." That was sort of a backhanded compliment. Do you think he turned things around tonight?

NAVARRO: Well, look, I think there was a reset. The big question is how long is it going to last? Because if tomorrow he's back to being president loco, then it's not a reset. It was a temporary moment of sanity. He's suffering from temporary sanity. But -- look, you know, if you're an opponent of Donald Trump, as I've been, for the last year and a half, you've thought he is wrong and crazy. Today, you might think he's wrong on policy, but is capable of sounding sane if he's reading off a teleprompter. I thought it was the best moment he has had since June 16th, 2015, when he came down that ladder and announced.

LEMON: Are we grading him on a curve, Jen?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean, I think he was -- it's always an expectation game -- expectations game with these speeches for every president. What do people think they're going to say? What's the -- what is the expected tone? What bar should they meet? He had probably the lowest bar to jump over of any president in modern history. He jumped over it. The tone was different. It was optimistic. That's not what people expected. We expected to hear doom and gloom, and that's not what we heard. But the content was very similar to what he's been saying for quite some time. And, you know, I don't think it convinced people or moved people who didn't support him previously.

LEMON: What are you thinking over there, Mr. Preston? You look like you're deep in thought like Jack Kennedy.

[00:49:47] MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, only because, I mean, because we've already -- we discussed this over before we had come out. And of course, we've seen the commentary from the past couple of hours, you know, basically saying what people thought about the speech.

A couple of things, I think how it played in Washington was surprise, how it played in the rest of America, it was embraced. And there were a couple of things that he said I think that are very key. Two lines that -- that I -- I mean, there were a lot of lines to take away from it. But two lines that I took away from it. He said, "My job is to represent the world -- is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States." And for a lot of people, they agree with that.

He also said, "Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved and every hurting family can find healing and hope." This is coming from somebody who hasn't offered that type of compassion in his first 40 or so odd days as President of the United States. But the bar was low, there's no doubt about it because we didn't know what to expect from him. And quite frankly, we don't know if this will all change at 5:55 a.m. Eastern Time tomorrow morning. Like he will -- we just don't know. Like he could come out, and he will see glowing headlines. And if that one headline that he sees that is not glowing, then perhaps we're going to see him take the train off the rails again.

LEMON: Kayleigh, they are moving back this new travel ban, whatever they're proposing -- going to propose because he wants to sort of bask in the glow of this speech. What did you think of it?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's smart. You know, communication and messaging is crucial and it's very important. And Donald Trump, you know, acknowledged that sobering reality this morning, when on Fox, he was asked to grade himself. And he said, "Look, I give myself a C+ on messaging."

And well, I'm always someone who errs on the side of substance rather than messaging. I don't care about the soaring rhetoric of the Obama administration. I care about substance. I think this president has delivered substance. Messaging is important. And I've always thought President Trump has a message that resonates across party lines. It's one that the Bernie Sanders' voters rallied around --

LEMON: He didn't always display it.

MCENANY: But he didn't always message it in the right way. And tonight, he messaged it in a shroud of optimism, in a shroud of unity. It was bookended with messages of unity on either side. So I think the messaging was spot-on. The substance has always been spot-on in my mind but the messaging buttoned that up tonight.

LEMON: Kirsten, if it was so urgent to get all these bad dudes out, then why wait for -- this is P.R.?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think -- I think it is.

LEMON: Because if we got some bad dudes, we got to get them out fast.

POWERS: Yes, I think it is P.R. But look, I want to say, I think it was a great speech. And I don't think it was just compared to Trump. I think it was a great speech compared to anybody. It was -- it was actually a pretty well-written speech. It was delivered well. He had a very powerful moment with the widow of the Navy SEAL who died. I think that, you know, that is something that was incredibly moving and he was actually -- you saw a sort of almost compassionate side of him. I think there was inspiration. I wrote down the same exact line that you wrote down. And there were many other lines in there.

There were moments where he talked about cooperating and working across, you know, party lines on different issues. Bringing up, you know, parental leave, infrastructure spending, things that, you know, democrats can care about. So I actually -- I think it was a good speech even compared to other presidents, not just to Donald Trump.

LEMON: And Matt Lewis?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'll tell you, I thought it was a great speech too. And I think to me, the missing ingredient for Donald Trump has always been compassion. If you look at other republican populists in recent years, whether it's Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee, they were protectionists, they were populists, but they also had a Christian element to it. And Donald Trump heretofore did not have that. I think he displayed that tonight.

One of the things that I picked up on, he didn't really talk about social conservatism, but he quoted the bible. He referenced God on numerous times. So I think that if you were listening to it from a Christian perspective -- and maybe it's like a dog whistle, it depends, you know, what you're hearing -- but I heard a much more compassionate side. And look, you know, you can disagree with his protectionism and his nationalism and his populism, but tonight was the first time I think he actually sold it to people who aren't already on board. In a way that's very palatable and it's very effective.

LEMON: It is not the first -- is this like the first time you think he's taken the job seriously? That he is like --

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: Look at, you know, it's hard to (INAUDIBLE) --

LEMON: The position that he has in the world.

NAVARRO: With the pomp and circumstance of a joint address and not feel the weight and the gravitas of the position. I think that that moment with Ryan Owens' widow, the Navy SEAL is the first time he has shown the capacity to unite. It's the first time I thought to myself, "Well, you know, maybe, maybe, just maybe, if we have a tragedy, he is capable of holding the American people in their arms -- in his arms and showing some empathy." I also thought it was important that he finally, finally, finally came out and strongly denounced the anti- Semitic acts.

LEMON: Anti-Semitic, yes.

NAVARRO: That is something that he should have done so early on.

LEMON: And immediately.

NAVARRO: I'm glad he took this platform to do it.

LEWIS: And he did it immediately in this speech.

LEMON: Yes. Yes. It was the first thing out.

[00:49:59] LEWIS: Which I think helped. I think is important.

LEMON: I've got to get to the break. But then there's a speech -- there's a substance of the speech and there's also the performance. And so we'll be fact-checking or reality-checking and talking about the performance versus the substance of this speech. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: And we're back. And we're going to talk about the substance. We're going to be here for at least another hour. For (INAUDIBLE) they go for one more hour past that. But Kayleigh, look, we'll get to the substance of the speech. But let's talk about the democratic female lawmakers. They wore white tonight. And this was Congressman Lois Frankel explained the move, saying in part, quote, "We wearing a white -- we wear white to unite against any attempts by the Trump administration to roll back the incredible progress women have made in the last century." Do you support what they're doing? You're wearing white?

MCENANY: No. And I can assure you I'm not wearing white in solidarity. No, I don't support what they're doing. I find it a bit ironic that when Trump was touting supporting women in the workplace and supporting women who need paid family leave, these women in white were not clapping, several of them. You know, no, I don't support it at all. And I see their cause as a narrow-minded feminist liberal cause. And just because President Trump supports women inside the womb, as well as those outside the womb, it doesn't make him any less supportive of women generally.

[00:55:03] LEMON: Jen?

PSAKI: Wow.

LEMON: Jen is wearing blue. Purple.

PSAKI: I'm wearing blue.

LEMON: Is that blue or purple? Blue, oh.

PSAKI: You know, I think as we transition to the substance of the speech here, I think a lot of the things we heard are completely disconnected from how he has governed as president.

LEMON: Yes.

PSAKI: And, you know, the fact is he had a speech that passed over hurdle of whether it was optimistic or negative. It was optimistic. So he is going to have some good headlines tomorrow morning. But the fact -- but he is probably going to change his tone. And the reality of his policies are not aligned with what you just said about paid leave. And standing up for women and equality for women, that is not what his administration is representing. So it sounds good. But the details and the facts are not actually aligned with the words that came out of his mouth.

LEMON: I think I had a radio versus -- remember Nixon-Kennedy versus television moment tonight, because if you -- you know, as people in journalism, as anchors we're taught to go back and listen to ourselves, and not necessarily look at ourselves. And if you listen to the speech, it sounds much different than if you're looking at it on a television. And to me it sounds like a speech that was written for someone that he was reciting. And there were some big words and big phrases that I don't think that he actually connected to if you just listen to the speech.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It didn't sound like his voice.

LEMON: It sounded like a -- it didn't sound like his voice. Because if you look at when he speaks extemporaneously, you learn a lot about people. The way President Obama spoke extemporaneously, it was very similar to the way he spoke -- he gave speeches. The way President Bush spoke extemporaneously, it was very similar to the way he gave speeches. The way President Trump speaks extemporaneously is not the same as what he said tonight. It sounded to me -- and this is his -- I mean I thought he was -- he's not a very presidential. This is a speech written by a college student for someone else trying to use big words to impress that the person who is reciting it did not know the meaning of the words. That's how it sounds for you --

(CROSSTALK)

POWERS: Yes, I must disagree with that a little bit. I mean, I can like --

LEMON: I know that's a hard -- that's just my assessment. If you listen -- go back and just listen to if you don't want.

POWERS: What it actually reminded me of -- I've interviewed him a couple times, and that's what it reminded me of. This is exactly what he was like.

LEMON: He's very charming in person, but I'm talk about him speaking in front of a crowd is he's speaking --

POWERS: He's -- but he's what -- that's what he's like and he's -- but to me, that was a very familiar, the way he talks, he's actually -- at least when I've interviewed him, very calm, he can be pretty reasonable. So, to me, it wasn't a completely foreign person.

LEMON: I've spoken to him a number of times, personally. He never says anything beachheads on the -- you know, on the beachhead. That's not --

POWERS: Well, it was a written speech, though. I think -- I actually think this is a little unfair. I mean, when you -- I mean, President Obama had help writing his speeches, Don, right? I mean, yes, so he's not --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But I'm talking about his voice. That's not -- I'm not saying anything bad about him, but I didn't think it was in his voice.

NAVARRO: -- on the radio, too, because I was on my way in -- from the airport. And it's just a very different Trump than what you see --

LEMON: Right. Exactly.

NAVARRO: -- on T.V and when you see him speaking on campaigns or in rallies, it's a very different Trump. There were a lot of pauses where you could see that he'd come to the end of the teleprompter and he was waiting. I think it works for him. I think it's good to think about things before you say them.

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: I think he was coherent, too. Like, a lot of his other speeches have been him sort of riffing extemporaneously, and then every once in a while having these poetic flourishes that felt disjointed.

LEMON: Right.

LEWIS: Whereas this speech felt like one person, a Peggy Noonan wrote it as opposed to a speech by committee or Steve Bannon writes this part, Stephen Miller writes this part, and then -- and then, we'll go -- you know, take something from John F. Kennedy. It seemed more coherent.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: Yes. And I want to go back, though, to the thing about the women in white. And the things this guy says today was -- you know, the president said today was, "It's time to stop the small thinking and the trivial fights. Who cares if they're wearing white, pink (INAUDIBLE) whatever. Let them. You know, if tomorrow we're back to having these arguments about fake news and what people were wearing and whether you stood up or didn't stand up, then everything he said was not meaningful. It was a performance, not a pivot.

LEMON: We'll be right back. Good assessments, everyone. Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)