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Russian President Vladimir Putin calls U.S. intelligence on Russian hacking quote "useless chitchat"; Former FBI director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill; Aired 11:00-12:00mn ET
Aired June 2, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:36] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Vladimir Putin sure is doing an awful lot of talking all of a sudden.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I am Don Lemon.
Putin calls U.S. intelligence on Russian hacking quote "useless chitchat." That's one day after he suggested that patriotic Russian hackers might quote "act on behalf of their country." He says he won't judge President Trump for quitting the Paris climate accord even though he supports it (INAUDIBLE). Is he just messing with Trump now?
Plus, you know who else is going to be to go some talking soon? That's James Comey. He supposed to testify in the Senate next Thursday, but the White House considering trying to muzzle him.
So let's talk about all of this. Let's get right to CNN political -- national political reporter Maeve Reston, CNN presidential historian Timothy Naftali and CNN contributor John Dean, a former Nixon White House council and the author of "Conservatives without Conscience."
Good evening to all of you.
Timothy, FBI, former FBI director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill where he will certainly be asked whether President Trump pressured him to drop the Russia investigation. How consequential do you think this could be for the Trump administration?
TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: This could be huge. After all James Comey could lay the basis for a charge of obstruction of justice. Mr. Dean is part of our group tonight and when Mr. Dean testified in 1973, he was the first insider in the White House to make a case that the President was involved in a cover-up and my definition is obstruction of justice. If Mr. Comey lays out the case that he was pressured by the President to stop the Russia investigation, that's the beginning of real trouble for the President.
LEMON: How likely is it, John Dean, that Comey is going to lay the case as Timothy Naftali says for obstruction of justice, for possible obstruction of justice?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think he is a very sophisticated witness. He is a former prosecutor. He is a former FBI director. He knows his way around hearing rooms, courtrooms. He knows what to say. He has talked to the special counsel about the parameters so that he doesn't mess up any prosecutions. And I think he will layout his firsthand knowledge. And it will be part of the mosaic that he now sees better from a distance since he has been fired. He probably reinterprets some of the conversation he had with Trump through the fact he is no longer FBI director.
LEMON: Given that the President has publicly spoken out about his private conversations with Comey, he has tweeted about it, how likely do you think it is he is going to try to invoke some sort of privilege, John?
DEAN: I don't think it's likely at all. I think this is a lot of smoke his aides have put out that he in the end will not do anything like he gave his consent. He wasn't worried about this testimony. I can't find any precedent for any President telling an ex-FBI or high level official that you can't testify as a private citizen about your dealings with the President. I just don't know what the executive privilege basis would be.
LEMON: Speaking of executive privilege, Maeve Reston, the White House press secretary Sean Spicer and President Trump's counselor Kellyanne Conway refused to rule out executive privilege. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the White House going to invoke executive privilege to prevent James Comey from testifying before the Senate intelligence panel next week?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That committee hearing was just noticed and I think obviously it's got to be reviewed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not a no.
SPICER: No. I'm just saying I don't -- literally my understanding is the date for that hearing was just set. I have not spoken to counsel yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the President's not going to invoke executive privilege?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: The President will make that decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Have they lost the ability to speak for him with any confidence?
MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think it is tough certainly and they have been a little bit more cagey lately of saying, you know, I haven't checked with the President on that or I haven't asked him about, you know, the question they are asking. But I just think -- LEMON: But if they haven't checked with him, if they haven't asked
this question and hopefully you can answer, then why are they out there speaking for him? Isn't that their job?
RESTON: That's a good question. Yes, it is. But I mean, clearly, they are being much more careful after a series of misstatements that have, you know, misled people about what the President's thinking or what the President's going to do. And you know, his tweets have directly conflicted with what his advisers have said. So there is certainly - the American people certainly have lost confidence in what some of his advisers have said.
But I think to John's point, beyond the fact that the White House has an incredibly weak case to, you know, try to claim executive privilege to prevent Comey from testifying, the optics of this would just be so terrible for the White House. I mean, the whole problem that Trump has right now and the rest of his administration is that he has created a pattern of conduct that has raised all these questions about whether he is involved in obstructing -- obstruction of justice or, you know, preventing this investigation from going forward in the way that it should. And clearly this is not a White House that gets the optics right a lot of the time, but I think his advisers understand how bad it would look if he was essentially muzzling Comey next week even though there clearly will be a lot of fallout from this hearing for Donald Trump.
[23:06:06] LEMON: Tim, a source with knowledge of Comey's thinking says that while he was disturbed, because a lot of people ask why didn't he speak out about this sooner at the time, that he was disturbed by the President's action but he thought that he had it under control and maybe this President just didn't know how to conduct himself in what was right and what was wrong with the director of the FBI. Do you think that he maybe just didn't understand the inappropriateness of his own actions?
NAFTALI: Mr. Trump didn't -- President Trump?
NAFTALI: This is fascinating -- look, what's fascinating about this is that generally speaking people engaged in a conspiracy at the top, they don't do it correctly. They have people, intermediaries talk to Comey. The fact that the President himself spoke with Comey in the residence is very dangerous. And I suspect it has something to do with the way in which he conducted business in New York in the '80s and '90s and that he doesn't understand government. He doesn't understand the new -- that the regulatory environment he is living in.
LEMON: Does he -- John, as you are saying, he doesn't understand the program. And when I asked that question and when I read the comment from the source, can you claim not knowing what's appropriate like you can't claim ignorance of the law? It's like you are the President of the United States. How can you not know? You are supposed to know these things.
DEAN: Well, a lot of Watergate was people who did not understand the law, who were unaware of it. One of the first reactions I have had after learning what happened was to raise with my predecessor (INAUDIBLE) that we needed a good criminal lawyer. I said John, to my knowledge, you have no background in the criminal law. I have no background in the criminal law. I don't agree on my staff and we have got to be careful.
Well, we weren't. I couldn't convince him that I should bring somebody on. And every counsel since my time in the White House has always had somebody on their staff or in themselves had experience in the criminal law.
LEMON: The deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein who appointed Mueller, by the way, Robert Mueller as the special counsel, he tells AP associate press that he would recuse himself from any oversight of Mueller's probe if he became the subject of an investigation. Do you think that's where things are going, John?
DEAN: It could well happen. I was really quite surprised today to hear the new scope of Mueller's investigation and that's the right thing for the deputy attorney general to do is to indeed recuse himself if he is part of it. That will take it down probably to the head of the criminal division who I'm not sure who that person is at this point. But that is where it will fall in the chain. So that will, you know, add more confusion to the investigation in a sense but we have a special counsel that's leading the whole drive. So they are really not involved in it.
LEMON: Maeve, I have to ask you because I understand you have some reporting regarding Ivanka Trump and what's going on with her. What do you have?
RESTON: Well, we, in our magazine at CNN.com/state we are writing this time about origins. And we have a story looking kind of deeply into Donald Trump's faith and his guiding principles or lack thereof and also a story looking at Ivanka Trump's role, particularly as a high profile Jewish woman in America given the amount of, you know, of anti-Semitic attacks that we are seeing around the country and that very troubling pattern that we are seeing. And it's just really interesting how little she has spoken out about that given, you know, her very public visit to the western wall and accompanying her father to Jerusalem.
So it's really fascinating thing to watch. And I think a lot of people are looking to her to step up that role and really speak out on those issues since her faith is obviously such a central part of who she is.
[23:10:12] LEMON: Thank you, panel. Have a great weekend.
When we come back, Vladimir Putin speaking out about reports Russia meddled in last year's election and he is not exactly denying it.
[23:13:53] LEMON: Vladimir Putin suddenly having a lot to say about our election. I want to bring in now Matthew Murray, the deputy commerce secretary for Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the Obama administration. Robert Legvold who is a professor emeritus at Columbia University.
So good to have both of you on. Thank you very much. David Rohde may join us in just a little bit. If he does we will bring him in.
So Robert, let's start with you. Russian president Vladimir Putin speaking out on reports of Russia's involvement in hacking the U.S. election. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): They voted for him and the other team, they made a mistake and they don't want to recognize this mistake right now. And they are going to say that they were not wise enough. It's easy to say it's not our fault. It's the Russians. They intervened. They interfered. It's like anti- Semitism. The Jews are to blame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So he isn't flat-out denying Russian involve like he has in the past. What do you think of what he is saying here?
ROBERT LEGVOLD, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, I think first of all, the Russians are perplexed by the degree to which this thing has blown up and now affects virtually everything the Trump administration can and can't do in its relations with Russia. And they don't know quite how to behave in this context.
Putin certainly knows what the Russians had done during the election and subsequently. But at this stage, I don't think they understand how serious it could get, although they are beginning to get an inkling of that. And therefore, the question is whether they have begun doing a kind of cost benefit analysis, it is what they did during the election worth the price they are paying in this context, the U.S.-Russian, but also in the European context.
So when they said the other day -- when he said the other day that Russians may have been involved but they were simply patriots who were offended by the way Russia was being treated in the U.S. press and by politicians but it wasn't the Russian government, that suggested that they may be moving in the direction where they feel they are going to have to deal more directly with the issue and they can't continue to simply stone wall which is what their position has been.
[23:15:10] LEMON: So what price are they paying?
LEGVOLD: Well, right now it is absolute constraint and distraction on a Trump administration if they want to make progress in the relationship with the Russians. And after the inflated expectations following the election which did dissipate on the Russian side, more recently as a result of the Tillerson-Lavrov conversation, Lavrov's conversation with Trump, I think they believe the administration would like to move forward on some issues. And yet they see this question of Russia and the election now disrupting everything. LEMON: Got it.
Matthew, Putin has been incredibly outspoken on the hacking in the U.S. election in the past week. What do you make of this strategy?
MATTHEW MURRAY, DEPUTY COMMERCE SECRETARY FOR EUROPE, MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA IN THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well, I think he has been on a diplomatic offensive in St. Petersburg this week and he is exploiting what is increasingly clear as a win/win situation for him. Because on the one hand, he can deny any involvement in the hacking. He can deny that there was a deal that was hatched before the inauguration. But on the other hand he can with a wink and a nod remind everybody that in fact he did endorse and sort of license this behavior and that it was successful. The Russia covert operations cyber warfare was very sophisticated, well timed, well sequenced and it worked.
And so, he is getting sort of the best out of both situations. He is saying he is not involved, but he is also sending a message to both his people and to the global audience that he is sitting in front of that he is somewhat omnipotent on this front.
And at the same time, Don, he is exploiting a growing rift in the U.S. policy. He is exploiting President Trump's efforts to obfuscate the nature of Russia's interference in the election. And the growing division between the White House and the justice department and the White House and Congress.
So to professor Legvold's point, it's a very important one. And that is to say Putin also recognizes that he has painted himself and Trump into a corner. He recognizes that he can't at this point negotiate a deal and sanctions and that he otherwise can't do -- take steps on a global and regional conflicts that require U.S. cooperation.
LEMON: So those -- that's the consequences. That's the price he is paying right now, at least Russia's paying right now. But could he also be, David Rohde, could he also be signaling to the President that he knows more?
DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: He could be. I guess the broader point that's remarkable to me is the position Russia is in today. The level of discord between the United States and Europe is sort of unprecedented for, you know, many, many years. You could argue many decades. This has been a goal, a weakened and divided European Union, a weakened and divided NATO that Putin sought for years and he has done it.
And think of Russia's standing in the world. I mean, every day there's headlines of the Russian meddling causing this division and paralysis in Washington that makes Moscow look that much more powerful on the global stage. So whether or not, you know, the hacking, you know, was intentional or changed the election, it's amazing if you think of Putin again five, ten years ago, they were sort of this backward country. They intervened Syria, Ukraine and now this U.S. election. It's amazing his position on the world stage.
LEMON: Robert, to David's point, is Vladimir Putin - he has got to be loving all this attention because after all, that's a big accusation. That he is powerful enough to fix elections.
LEGVOLD: I don't think so. I think something else is at work here. I was in Moscow several weeks ago and across the board including Russians who do not support the Putin policy are quite critical. They all agreed this was a dozen people or more that Putin now, and even before the Presidential election, is very interested in improving and repairing relations with the United States.
When I said that was my impression, one of the Russians corrected me and said, no, he desperately wants to improve relations. And as a consequence, the role that they played in these elections are certainly queering or preventing any significant progress in that direction. There are small things that are happening that we are overlooking. And I think the Russians are focusing on some of the things that have come out of the original Tillerson visit in Moscow.
But in the present circumstances, there is a very high price paid if what he wants to do is begin repairing the U.S./Russia relationship which he needs to do. Because the consequences of the Ukrainian crisis have not worked out the way he would want in terms of Russian foreign policy broadly seen.
[23:21:04] LEMON: I enjoy the conversation. Thank you gentlemen.
When we come back, what will James Comey say during his public testimony next week and what will it mean for the Russia investigation? I'm going to ask a former CIA operative.
[23:25:11] LEMON: If President Trump doesn't move to block him, James Comey is set to testify before Congress on Thursday. But I should tell you, "the New York Times" is reporting that two senior administration sources say the President will let the testimony go forward.
So let's discuss now. Evan McMullin is here. He's a former CIA operative. What do you make of this new news?
EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, I think the President would be extremely foolish to try to block this. I think it would be another self-inflicted wound, you know. I think the President has a hard time learning new lessons, but one of them that I hope he has taken away from this whole Comey affair is that it was a bad idea to fire him, at least how and when he did. And so I hope that the administration realizes that it would be another mistake to try to block his testimony. His testimony is in the public's interest. If Trump were to try to block it, I believe based on legal expert's opinions since stated so far, that it would fail. And so it would be a failed attempt to block the testimony that the public needs to hear. So I expect to hear from Comey on Thursday.
LEMON: What Dow think you' you think you're going to hear from him? What do you expect to hear?
MCMULLIN: I think is going to, you know, I don't think what he is going to do is talk about the investigation. I mean, we are learning that Robert Mueller is expanding the scope of the focus of his investigation and so as he expands that investigation, that gives -- that allows less room for Comey to talk about the investigation. In prior testimonies he is not wanted to go into much detail anyway.
But what I do think we will hear from Comey and I think we are going to hear some significant candor is about his engagement with the President himself. So I think we are going to hear about, you know, whether the President tried to get him to stop the investigation into Michael Flynn or the broader investigation. I think we will hear about the pledge of loyalty that apparently Donald Trump tried to get Comey to make. I think we will hear about other related factors.
But the reason that I think we are going to hear so much candor from Comey is that he is a law man. And I, you know, I have said this before, but I think it's just bears repeating that men in the -- and women in the line of work of Comey and our intelligence professionals, they depend on their integrity and their honor. They literally cannot do their jobs without it. And so it's a part of the culture that you just don't allow your honor and integrity to be questioned. So when politicians do that and the FBI and the CIA are easy targets, but when they do that, they better be correct. If they're not correct and they're just trying to score points on one of these public servants, then you expect them to try to clear their names. I think that's what Comey is going to do.
LEMON: So then before I ask you about Vladimir Putin, then, what questions should the people ask the questions, should Congress be asking?
MCMULLIN: Well, I think there are a series of questions. They need to know, for example, whether Donald Trump ever made Comey's continuance in that role as director of FBI contingent upon his stopping the investigation or limiting the investigation or whether it was contingent upon a pledge of loyalty. They need to of course ask whether Donald Trump ever asked if he was under an investigation and whether Comey responded or not. He needs to account for that. He needs to, you know, he needs to describe any other relevant exchanges that they might have had, but there's plenty there. And I think we are -- you know, there's still an investigation obviously ongoing and expanding about Russia's influence in our elections and what else they may be doing, but really I think as much as Comey's firing was an inflection point in the way the nation looks at that issue, I think that -- I will predict that Comey's testimony on Thursday will be an inflection point or may be an inflection point in which we now start to look just as much or more at potential obstruction of justice on the part of the President. I think it's going to be a big deal.
LEMON: OK. So let's talk about Vladimir Putin now, Evan. He said Americans must stop the hysteria about an alleged Russian deal with U.S. President Donald Trump. He also conceded it might have been some patriotic hackers. It was patriotic for them to interfere in our election. As a former CIA officer, what do you say to that?
MCMULLIN: Well, I would say that if he is saying that it's a patriotic duty for Russians to influence the outcome in our democracy, then he is very clearly articulated what our problem is. That we have a real threat by a foreign power to our ability to choose our own leaders and hold them accountable. That's what this is. That's what we are talking about here. And so there's no mystery anymore.
Now, I think the level of partisanship in our country has gotten to the point where even now that Putin is sort of acknowledging that yes, you know, we might have played a role and we did play a role, he is certainly not denying it anymore, you know, there are still people who want to downplay the significance of this. And I think those who are in public office do a tremendous disservice to the interests of the American people when they do. But Vladimir Putin is essentially is condoning that activity when he calls it an act of patriotism. And like I said, I think it makes our challenge very clear.
[23:30:41] LEMON: You say Trump and Putin both have everything to gain by downplaying their relationship. Explain that.
MCMULLIN: Well, absolutely, they do. They have -- their relationship is longstanding. And I don't care what Donald Trump has said during the campaign. Before the campaign, before it mattered, he bragged about his relationship with Vladimir Putin. There are all kinds of touch points there that have continued through the campaign and even after. But obviously at this point Vladimir Putin engaged in an effort to undermine our democracy and to sway our election towards Donald Trump. Donald Trump seems to have some strange allegiance to Vladimir Putin. If there is one thing he's consistent about, that's it. There is - you know, we are still learning what the nature of that relationship is. I think by the end of this we will get to the bottom of it. But they are both advantaged in downplaying the nature of that now. Because look, there is a special counsel investigating a, you know, broad range of Trump's staffers. They are in hot water on both sides.
LEMON: I have got to run. Thank you, Evan McMullin. Have a great weekend.
When we come back, team Trump has an absolutely glowing praise for the President, but what does it really mean? I'm going to ask a language expert what's behind the words.
[23:35:55] LEMON: The way team Trump talks about President just might tell you everything you need to know about what's going on behind the scenes at the White House.
Joining me now to help break it down is John McWhorter, professor of linguistics at Columbia University and the author of, say it together, "Words on the Move."
Welcome. Welcome. So all week we have heard team Trump speaking about the President and his actions. I want to start with the vice President and the EPA chief in the rose garden. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks to President Trump's leadership, American businesses are growing again. Thanks to President Donald Trump, America is back.
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Thank you, Mr. President. Your decision today to exit the Paris accord reflects your unflinching commitment to put America first. And by exiting, you are fulfilling yet one more campaign promise to the American people. Please know that I am thankful for your fortitude, your courage and steadfastness as you serve and lead our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What do you think?
MCWHORTER: That looked like some 19th century or better 9th century ritual. It's absolutely absurd. But think about it this way. Imagine if a 12-year-old were fashioning policies and then there's this battery of people who are assigned to interpret his policies for the public. Now, there have always been this battery of people for other Presidents who were real Presidents and so we have this ritual that policy is set and either because it's complicated or because everybody wants to figure out how politics is being played, you have these people whose job it is to ask questions to try to bring these things out.
Well, you keep things going. And so, sitcoms used to have theme songs. They don't as much now. There was no reason for a sitcom really to have a theme song. And so we figured out it doesn't need it.
In the same way we might not really need this business of these press briefings at this point because the policies that are coming from this President are almost invariably under considered, not to mention mean spirited poppycock. Therefore, why do you need people to ask questions about it as if there's any there there? I think that there shouldn't be any briefing at all.
LEMON: I have to say I take issue with some of these. You said real Presidents. So you are saying he is not a real President?
MCWHORTER: Yes. I'm putting forth the unusual insight, unprecedented that this person -- of course he was elected President. But I mean, in terms of what he assumes, he doesn't act Presidential. He isn't giving thought to the presidency the way we would expect. And therefore, the policies don't make sense. They aren't well thought out. They don't deserve -- no. They can't be subjected to analysis the way previous presidency policies could. So we need to just let it go. These things should be put in writing and then people should discuss them. To have somebody like Sean Spicer assigned to explain what the policies are that justify something that almost always has no moral justification it's cruel to him and it makes no logical sense.
LEMON: OK. And the people around him, like Scott Pruitt and like the vice President, same thing. You don't need -- you don't think there needs to be an announcement? MCWHORTER: It looks so ritual for the simple reason that there's
nothing good to say. Imagine being in that position.
LEMON: OK. Let's talk about the statement from -- this is from Hope Hicks, director of strategic communications. President Trump has magnetic personal and exudes positive energy which is infectious to those around him. He has unparalleled ability to communicate with people, whether he is speaking to a room of three or an arena of 30,000. He has built great relationships throughout his life and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible.
MCWHORTER: This is fantasy.
LEMON: Is he writing his own statements or?
MCWHORTER: He wouldn't be capable of writing anything that articulate. But the point is that he is about as charismatic as a kitchen cabinet. And she understands that. She is just making something up because there is absolutely no basis in reality to work from. And I think that's very sad for her. She is not even thinking about him when she writes that. It actually got in that point.
[23:40:15] LEMON: What do you think she is thinking about? What will make him happy?
LEMON: Does it even matter anymore?
MCWHORTER: She is working for her boss. And I guess she is doing something which is the form of her doing her job so that she can look qualified to do the next one.
LEMON: Equally as striking, though, is what his team was able to say or maybe not able to say about whether the President believes in climate change. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does the President actually believe about climate change? Does he still believe it's a hoax? Can you clarify that? Nobody else in the White House who can.
SPICER: Yes. I have not had an opportunity to have that discussion.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Did the President believe climate change is a hoax?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not about whether climate change is occurring or not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He believes in clean air, clean water.
CONWAY: He believes in clean air thing, water, a clean environment. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's give him one more time, does he believe
global warming is a hoax?
CONWAY: You ask him that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And then we have this barrage of tweets. Of course, he has tweeted about it. We can put that up. Why do you think no one wants to answer this question?
MCWHORTER: For the simple reason that climate change is relatively complex and you have to read both sides. These days I think it's at the point where one side whose justifications you need to read. You need to concentrate. And that's not something that he does. And so, I think that his position on climate change is roughly that climate change policies were something that the previous administration liked. And so, therefore he doesn't because life is always about what went on when he was in sand boxes when he was a child. And so that leaves his handlers to not even be able to tell us how the President feels about one of the most pressing issues facing human kind. That's what I mean about not a real President. I don't mean that the electoral college didn't do its unfortunate job. I mean, this man isn't acting like what the leader of a nation is supposed to act like.
LEMON: The leader of the French nation, Macron, has been in office for just a few weeks and he has quickly becoming the one person who is willing to stand up to President Trump and he had some really harsh words about him pulling out of the Paris accord. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): To all scientists and engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens were disappointed by the decision of the President of the United States. I want to say that they will find in France the second command. I call on them come and work here with us. To work together on concrete solutions for our climate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He also tweeted this. You put it up. It is a sharp response. Also in English using his own slogan against him. What's your take on it? It says make the planet great again.
MCWHORTER: So he is a statesman. He is a person who is thinking. And he has focus. And it's really unfortunate to contrast that with -- you know what really gets me? This is a little bit off script. But there are people who are working for this man. There are people who are writing about this man in his favor. There are Republicans who are going to be writing for the next three and a half years having to pretend that any of this is justifiable and makes sense. It's so sad to see somebody from across the pond who can write about this straight and then to think about any intelligent person here who has to spend time pretending that this man is capable of rubbing a noun and a verb together. I think it's really sad. LEMON: Yes. If you listen to Macron, whose English is not his first
language, right, what do you think his grasp of the language? Is it better than our President?
MCWHORTER: Well, you know, I mean, it would be a cheap shot to say I'll bet Trump doesn't speak French. But then again, English for better or for worst, is the closest thing that the world has to an international language. And so it's more likely that Macron would speak English. And of course his English is let's say thriftier and tidier than the spoken English of Trump. But then again, people who are taught English as a second language often are not taught the bar stool version. But certainly, I have never listened to Macron in French or that sounds. But I'm sure when he speaks to the French public, he speaks in a formal kind of French. And a French that requires for thought. That's different from a certain other President.
LEMON: Former FBI director James Comey is going to testify publicly next Thursday. Talk about the definition of words matter. (INAUDIBLE) most important days in recent American history. What will you be listening for?
MCWHORTER: In that testimony? I will be listening for Comey to explain how there's been in disagreement between him and the President and to make it clear in terms of words mattering that what the President said corresponded to facts that are extremely damming to his account. I mean the President's account of what's been going on.
I think that the President tends to think you can just kind of spew. I mean, that is, you know, (INAUDIBLE) that you are sitting here tweeting and you fall asleep while you're writing the word and you actually send it and then tease everybody the next day. He thinks that words don't matter. Because they don't when you are sitting on a bar stool or when you are bouncing your grandchild on your knee.
But words do matter. You can never say an unmonitored word. You're using language in a completely different way when you are President except roughly when you are in the bathroom. Trump doesn't understand that and I would hope that as we iron out what's going on between him and Comey that that becomes clearer. Because -- and frankly I'm a little biased. I think when we do understand what went on between him and Comey, it might be the beginning of even Republicans realizing that we need to reconsider whether this man should be in the oval office at all.
[23:45:48] LEMON: Is it surprising to you that really smart people, he says and people around him will say really that really smart people just don't understand the words she is using? I know some really -- you're a linguist. And I'm sure you do understand. Is that the definition of (INAUDIBLE)?
MCWHORTER: That doesn't work. I mean, on the one hand, if you take a written transcription of his babbling, you read it in writing and it looks like a Martian said it. But the truth is context means a lot and he is coherent in his very casual speech. But that does not mean there are hidden sophisticated resonances in the things that he says. That we who are maybe smart but not gifted like these people are flailing because the President is 12. I mean, you imagine a 12-year- old doing these things. And you imagine how silly it would be for there to be handlers translating what the 12-year-old was saying. And that's actually happening.
LEMON: He said he is admitting that (INAUDIBLE) but I do have to say that you are, how do I put it? You have a magnetic personality. You exude positive energy. You are infectious for those around you and you make me want to aspire that even I thought that I could.
MCWHORTER: You are one of probably two people who has ever said that. Thank you, Don.
LEMON: Thank you, John. Always a pleasure.
We will be right back.
[23:50:55] LEMON: America's more divided today than in a long time. And our very own Bill Weir hosted a CNN special "STATES OF CHANGE" hit the road to dig into the country and his own family's powerful contradictions and he joins me now.
"STATES OF CHANGE," how are you?
BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm well.
LEMON: Premieres tomorrow night.
LEMON: Can we watch a clip before we talk?
WEIR: Let's do it.
LEMON: Here it is.
WEIR: Wanted Sergeant Miller commander of the tactical squad crimes against the people conspiracy to violate the civil rights of black people minority groups general inability to function. As a feeling member of the human race.
While Milwaukee knew him as Sergeant Miller I knew him as grandpa. And I loved him dearly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was intimidating to a lot of people but anybody who got to know him would realize he would basically give the shirt off his back to you.
WEIR: This is my uncle Dan, Frank's youngest son.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He took his job seriously. And if you broke the law or you committed a crime, he's got a job to do. WEIR: And my grandfather's memorabilia, I find a flip book of mug
shots including a 19-year-old named Prentice McKinney.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We come out there with love and with our hearts, hoping that our mind open, you understand. We love everybody. They love me. I don't get to love everybody. Because when a bigot throws a brick at me I don't love him you understand. And when they send wild dogs across that street to bite me, I'm going to cut his throat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi.
WEIR: How are you this morning?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm old but I'm here. Can't complaint.
WEIR: I feel the same way.
He tells me the local paper once dubbed him Milwaukee's angriest young Negro. Today the youth has passed, the anger has not.
You recognize him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. This picture captured him he was a real (bleep).
Tack squad was (bleep) incorporated.
WEIR: I think you get the gist of the description there.
LEMON: When you're not traveling around the world, I know you probably watch the show and you realize we tackle some of the issues on the show maybe not as personal.
LEMON: Maybe not as personally as you did. But why do you think we are so divided now?
WEIR: I think.
LEMON: You think we always were.
WEIR: It is because we always were. We like to think that there was a time when everybody locked armed and saying Kumbaya and the founding fathers took off their wigs and had that Sam Adams, no.
If you strip away the borders of the 50 states which are arbitrary and you map America by who brought what or what ship and what values they brought, there is 11 distinct nations in North America. There is the Yankee doom or the, you know, puritans liberals came and (INAUDIBLE) where the fighters and fiddle players from the brave heart cast came. And they have very different definitions of what liberty and justice means. And that we have been having a 240-year-old argument over that very different people with different values. And so you know this was a way to use my grandfather's legacy as a lawman in the civil rights era and in the age of black lives matter how much resentment echoes if he had done his job differently would we be going through what we're going through? You realize one generation at a time we're trying to -- the arc of the moral universe bends hopefully the right way. And we have.
LEMON: Towards justice.
WEIR: Towards justice.
WEIR: But you know then comes times of anger. And people who have live in their own bubbles. Those are ripe times for leaders who want to divide and people want to sort us versus them. And I just wanted to remind them that we the people is us plus them.
LEMON: Yes. You're always traveling.
LEMON: And we are always learning from your travels.
WEIR: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Thank you Mr. Weir. It is a pleasure to see you.
Don't miss Bill Weir states of change tomorrow night at 9:00 eastern. We'll be right back.
[23:59:40] LEMON: Over the last several years San Francisco has seen a steady rise in its homeless population as rents and home prices sky rocket. For homeless people, basic daily needs are a struggle including keeping clean. Instead of looking the other way CNN hero came in with innovative way to reach those in need. Meet Denise Sandoval.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Many people who get turned away often who get treated poorly. And our idea is just to open our arms.
Hygiene connects to your sense of dignity. We learn their names, we learn their stories. We provide all this extra support. It's like creating community around them, and we call that radical hospitality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: To see radical hospitality in action, go to CNNheroes.com. And while you're there, nominate someone you think should be a 2017 CNN hero.
That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching.