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Secret service is pushing back tonight against a claim made by President Trump's personal attorney; U.S. citizen has just been sentenced to ten years in an Iranian prison accused of spying; Map of Antarctica is being redrawn; CNN's history of comedy returns; Aired 7- 8p ET

Aired July 16, 2017 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That would mark the fourth straight quarter of earnings growth. Again, that means companies are making money and the stock market is a reflection of that. Stocks have performed very well this year, despite the nonstop drama in D.C. But last Tuesday offered a sharp reminder that Wall Street isn't in a complete bubble shortly after Donald Trump Jr. released emails about a meeting with the Russian lawyer, the Dow fell about 150 points. Now it quickly recovered, but by the next day the Dow hit a record high.

Ana, overall, Wall Street ignores the turmoil in Washington. The current stock market rally began on the hopes for tax cuts and deregulation. And now its corporate process, companies making a lot of money that's keeping the bulls running - Ana.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: 7:00 eastern, 4:00 in the afternoon out west. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Great to have you with us.

Let's get right to our breaking news. The secret service is pushing back tonight against a claim made by President Trump's personal attorney while defending the meeting between top campaign officials and Russian nationals. Here is exactly what the president's attorney said earlier today.


JAY SUKULOV, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Well, I wonder why the secret service that this was nefarious, why the secret service allowed these people in. The President had secret service protection at that point. That raised a question with me.


CABRERA: In response the secret service tells CNN quote "Donald Trump Jr. was not a protectee of the U.S. secret service in June 2016. Thus, we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time. However, the secret service also says that any person entering Trump tower at the time of this meeting would have been checked for weapons. Joining us now, Ambassador Thomas Pickering. He has a lengthy resume

which includes serving as an ambassador to six countries including Russia as well as the U.N. He has also served under six U.S. Presidents both Democratic and Republican. And also back with us, CNN analyst April Ryan. She covers the White House every single day as the White House correspondent for American Urban radio networks.

April, I will start with you. Why is the White House having such a difficult time coming up with a consistent defense to this meeting?

APRIL RYAN, CNN ANALYST: It's what they don't know is what they don't know. This, from day one, from this administration, it has been high drama. And now the drama had turned to something very serious. They are having a hard time figuring this out. And when it comes to the secret service, you have to remember, OK, Donald Trump Jr. was not a protectee, but if he was a protectee, what the secret service does is take a list of who was waived in. And if they would waived him in, waived these people that Donald Trump Jr. would waive have come in, what they would do is organic a metal detection. And you can have a phone going into a meeting with or going into a building with a President. The question is when you get into that room, can you use it?

So I mean, to say, you know, what's in a bag, can you take a recorder, what have you? If it's a phone, it's a different thing, but again, secret service doesn't even deal with that.


RYAN: Go ahead.

CABRERA: Sorry, April. I didn't mean to cut you off there.

But let me bring in the ambassador to this conversation. You served under six U.S. Presidents. Can you think when a President or his team have held the team responsible for a matter like this?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS PICKERING, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: No, I cannot, Ana, in all honesty. I thought what April had to say was consistent with what I know about, although I think the details of that are also important. But there seem to be, look, like firemen with a fire hose shifting the hose to where they see the fire and the flame greatest and consistency has never been their strong point and clearly, they are continually caught out in inconsistencies and foreign policy and in statements and seemingly, each new inconsistency just makes the whole process worse. So in effect, the disarray is literally here coming home to roost. Whether it will change anybody's idea about the President or not is a much more open question.

CABRERA: April, when the President had to fire Michael Flynn he blamed former president Obama for giving Flynn a security clearance in the first place. Does this administration have a problem with accountability?

RYAN: Well, we hear from a lot of congressional leaders and critics. They are saying yes. And their credibility is not because they keep going and throwing it somewhere else, using a scapegoat somewhere else, but they are their own albatross around their own neck.

I mean, just going back to this story. The secret service has been brought in how many times for the last six months on stories, be it wiretapping, be it Comey. They have been brought in so many times now. And they are supposed to be a serious organization that's used to protect the President and those who are the protectees in the President's realm and his family and top staffers.

The credibility has been knocked and we just don't know how far it goes. But, you know, when you continue to deflect and talk about the former President and his administration when do you take the own us upon yourself? That's the question. When is it about you?

[19:05:15] CABRERA: Ambassador, there is a new poll out today, an ABC News/"Washington Post" poll that finds 80 percent of Democrats believe Russia tried to interfere in this election. But just 33 percent of Republicans take this. Does the fact that Russia's intervention in our election that has become a part of the issue concern you?

PICKERING: I'm sorry, that was question addressed to me, Ana. I didn't hear it?

CABRERA: It is to you. Are you concerned about it?

PICKERING: It certainly has become a partisan issue. I think, if, in fact, the data in those polls is correct, and I have no reason to doubt it, and I said a moment ago that I saw very little effect of what's going on particularly on that Republican voting group that seems to have stayed with the President through thick and thin on all these other questions.

And this is a very important group because we're that group to begin to change, it would certainly then have an effect on Republican legislators particularly in the house and Senate and the federal branch. And they have it within their grasp to put it this way to take the political step which would then be consistent, hopefully or at least it would be consistent in whatever sense this is going to evolve with any legal steps that might lead, obviously, to actions that would sum up -- be summed up in impeachment.

Whether, in fact, that will ever happen and whether that will be the case will in large measure depend upon whether there is this conjunction. Is there real evidence? Is there a crime? Is there something that meets the standard of impeachment? And is there a political reason to pursue it? It can't be pursued with merely a minority in the House and Senate.

CABRERA: Ambassador, given your experience abroad, do you think the President's response be inviting foreign countries to meddle in future election? .

PICKERING: Well, we saw that a long time ago. And I always wondered basically whether that made-that passed the sniff test, whether it passed the first page of "the Washington Post" or "New York Times" test or whatever test it was. But seemingly, it didn't bother anybody at least than enough people who are not bothered by that to in any way at all deter them from voting for President Trump. And so, in a way, yes, it bothered me, but did it bother enough other people? I don't think so.

But there are lots of things out there that in this administration might have bothered people in former administrations that I have seen up close and first hand that don't seem to be in any way at all, put it this way, laying a glove on the President at this stage.

CABRERA: Ambassador Thomas Pickering and April Ryan, thank you both for joining us.

PICKERING: Thank you.

CABRERA: Again, our breaking news here on CNN. The secret service contradicting claims made by the President's attorney today. And the secret service tells CNN it did not vet anyone in the meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort last summer, yet another question being raised about this meeting after a week shifting statements.

Joining us, CNN law enforcement analyst Jonathan Wackrow. Jonathan spent 14 years in the secret service and he is here in New York with us.

So Jonathan, essentially, the secret service saying that it was protecting President Trump at that time, he was then-candidate Trump, of course.


CABRERA: But Don junior was not a part of their protection at the time. But this meeting was held in Trump tower. So my understanding is there were some, at least, physical protections that the people entering would have gone through? Some vetting.

WACKROW: Absolutely. So once Donald Trump, the candidate, received secret service protection, one of the primary responsibilities of the secret service was to protect his residence which is Trump tower. That was also, the resident just co-joined by the campaign headquarters. So anybody going into the campaign headquarters and into Trump tower, regardless of the reason, were screened for physical threats only. So they are screened for, you know, any type of weapons that they have, any type of explosives, standard operating procedure for the secret service to deploy, you know, the mitigation of physical threats.

Terms of what was said earlier today, does the secret service screen a nominee for or are secret service protecting for intelligence threats? That's not the secret service's role at that time. They didn't do that nor did they do it for Hillary Clinton or her campaign at the time. So again, I'm a little confused as to why the President's attorney decided to bring that up today.

CABRERA: So you said also previously in their statement they talk about looking for weapons and they had this magnetometer out that they would use to screen people going in. When it comes to other devices, that might have been picked up on that magnetometer.

WACKROW: Magnetometer.

CABRERA: Thank you for saying it for me. Would they have confiscated anything else like a recording device?

WACKROW: Well, listen. You have to look at - this is -- what was the contract of the meeting? It was a campaign meeting? They were doing hundreds of them concurrently at that time. Anything that came into Trump tower they went through a bag screening. Anything that was in your bag. Now, what is a recording device? A cell phone is a recording device. So do you confiscate cell phones? No. It wasn't the secret service's responsibility to take any type of recording devices because it didn't pose a physical threat at the time.

Again, back in June, Trump tower solely concerned about physical threats, you know, preventing, you know, any harm to the President at the time who is the protectee or the first lady at the time. Again, nothing to do with counterintelligence.

[19:10:41] CABRERA: So what strikes me though, here, is the secret service has responded in a statement like this very quickly. Is that typical? They don't usually seem like a media-friendly outlet.

WACKROW: Well, I think it was the delivery method this morning that the President's attorney chose. And he went on to, you know, the Sunday morning talk shows and, you know, began a narrative that potentially the secret service was at fault as to letting this meeting occur with the potential intelligence gathering or someone from who was trying to illicit information from Donald Trump Jr. That's wrong. That's like saying, you know, the coast guard was at fault. You are conflating two different constructs. One is physical security, one is the intelligence community. Don't co-join them in this - around this meeting that might happen.

CABRERA: These are people willing to lay their life on the line for the President.

WACKROW: Every single day.

CABRERA: Do you think that the statement that Jay Sukulov put out on the Sunday morning shows rubbed them the wrong way?

WACKROW: Absolutely. It's wrong. You don't want there - again, you don't want to conflate what the role is of the secret service. Secret service s has a long-standing, you know, a very successful, protective methodology around screening for threat, physical threats whether it's for, you know, a nominee, a foreign head of state, the President. Please don't bring in, you know, politics into this. Don't try to create this different narrative. In this instance, the attorney was wrong. The secret service, you know, immediately jumped on that because they wanted to set the record straight.

CABRERA: Would the secret service have known if these individuals, by use the words Jay Sukulov use were there with a nefarious purpose? WACKROW: So if they were name checked for, you know, criminal history

or active warrants which is something that the secret service would do. But you know, that would be a different conversation than what he is implying here in that conversation.

CABRERA: All right. Thanks so much. Jonathan Wackrow, we really appreciate you coming on and explaining all that to us.

WACKROW: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

CABRERA: The U.S. citizen who was sentenced a decade behind bars in Iran today. Coming up, why Iranians think he is a spy and how the sentence could impact relations with America?

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:16:51] CABRERA: A U.S. citizen has just been sentenced to ten years in an Iranian prison accused of spying.

CNN correspondent Elise Labott is joining us with the details.

Elise, what can you tell us?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, we understand from Princeton University that this is a Chinese-American. He is an American citizen, but was born in China. And they are identifying him as Xiwei Wang. And he basically was in Iran, arrested last summer doing scholarly research for his dissertation.

Now, the Iranian judiciary, a spokesman for the government said that he was spying, was sending activity -- articles and information back to the United States, to the state department and other western institution. But what we understand from Princeton University is that this Chinese-American was, in fact, in Iran doing scholarly research for his dissertation and that's why he was there. And obviously, Princeton University is very distressed in a statement about the situation and trying to get this man home.

We have no idea of any trial that was -- that was done. The Iranians say that he was put on trial. But as is often the case in Iran, this was a closed-door trial with no information about the charges or any evidence presented.

CABRERA: Elise, the sentence comes at a critical time for U.S.- Iranian relations. Tomorrow is the deadline for the Trump administration to decide whether or not to waive some of the sanctions against Iran as part of the 2015 nuclear deal. How could this latest development impact that?

LABOTT: Well, that's right. Tomorrow is the 90-day deadline for President Trump to certify that Iran is making good on its commitments and the deal three months ago he did certify that Iran was living up to its bargain. I think that this will certainly cloud the, you know, already tense atmosphere between the U.S. and Iran. I don't think that this will change President Trump's decision. We understand, from senior officials that he is expected to certify that Iran is making good on its commitments, on the deal. Certainly, President Trump has said that he doesn't like this deal that he would like to renegotiate. But some senior aides like secretary of state Rex Tillerson while acknowledging that this deal is not perfect, it's the best way to monitor Iran's nuclear activities. There's going to be another certification in 90 days. And by then, there's this interagency, this government-wide review of Iran policy should be done. And what we expect is going to happen, Ana, is that the U.S. will stick -- stay on this nuclear deal even while they consider it not perfect, but try and strengthen the implementation, make sure there isn't for the monitoring plan for what happen the day after this deal expires in about eight years. And also crack down on some of Iran's other activities in the region like sponsoring terrorism. Its human rights violation and certainly these American citizens will fall into that.

We have two other Americans (INAUDIBLE), a businessman and his father have been in jail sentenced to hard labor. And so certainly they would like to get all Americans out and crack down on Iran's other behavior in the region.

[19:20:09] CABRERA: Elise Labott, thank you.

Coming up, the President's personal attorney suggests the secret service wouldn't have allowed nefarious people into Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting. We are getting a response now from the secret service.

Next, our panel weighs in on the changing narrative about that Trump tower meeting last June.


[19:24:39] CABRERA: Updating you on the breaking news. The story about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russian lawyer is changing once again.

Here is the latest. Donald Trump's personal attorney, Jay Sukulov, went on TV this morning and suggested the U.S. secret service wouldn't have let the meeting happened if the people involved were nefarious.

Now, the secret service is responding telling us in a statement Donald Trump Jr. was not a protectee of the U.S. secret service in June 2016. Thus, we would not screened anyone he was meeting with at that time.

Joining me now CNN politics reporter Eugene Scott, national politics reporter for "Real Clear Politics" Caitlin Huey-Burns and contributor for "Time" magazine Jay Newton-Small.

So Eugene, we rarely get on-camera briefings. There has been this lack of press conferences. The one person who is speaking out responding to the latest development regarding Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting there at Trump tower gets it wrong.

[19:25:32] EUGENE SCOTT CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Right. It's not surprising, though, that he is getting this wrong because he probably is getting information day by day like many people. The reality is if we reflect on when the story first came out last week it looks very different now. And so he is going forward to the media, trying to tell us everything that he knows. And the reality is he may not know everything. And we have seen this happen before with the communications team. It's just a big problem across the board with the Trump administration and messaging.

CABRERA: Now, the President is tweeting today, as well. I want to read what he wrote. Hillary Clinton, can he legally get the questions to the debate and delete 33,000 emails? But my son Don is being scorned by the fake news media. First of all, we covered the Clinton stuff when that happened, as well thoroughly.


CABRERA: But you know, he can say the problem is the reporting, let's listen to what Republican Trey Gowdy had to say about this latest situation. Remember, he is somebody who was heavily involved in the Hillary Clinton Benghazi hearings. Watch.


REP. TREY GOWDY (R), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Someone close to the President needs to get everyone connected with that campaign in a room and say from the time you saw (INAUDIBLE) until the moment you drank vodka with a guy named Boris, you list every single one of those and we are going to turn them over to the special counsel.


CABRERA: Caitlin, is this a self-inflicted wound by the Trump administration?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Surely. Representative Gowdy has a great point here. And it comes up over and over again, every time the form that Jared Kushner is filling out has to be updated with more contacts. There are these questions about why didn't you just disclose all of these meetings beforehand?

What's really interesting about the President attacking the media and attacking the reporting is that, you know, this is a situation in which his son released these emails that show these conversations and the setup to the conversations. So that discredits the President's argument here. And you hear from Republicans on Capitol Hill that they want to get to the bottom of this. They are interested, too, in figuring out the Russian meddling aspect of this. And this just brings it back into light. And as much as the President would like to move on, he can't. There are investigations going on led by Republicans to get to the bottom of this which shows how significant they think it is.

CABRERA: Meantime, he keeps looking back. And you talk about attacking reporters and the reporting, but he is also continuing to attack his former opponent.

So, Jay, what is up with the President's fixation with Hillary Clinton?

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, CONTRIBUTOR, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, it goes back to campaign mode, right, and that is where the President is most comfortable is when he is rallying big crowds, when he is sort of out campaigning and glad-handing (ph). And so that was also when he was most popular, right?

I mean, if you look at his poll approval ratings right now, they are pretty dismal. And so, he is always looking for a straw man to strike down. And Hillary Clinton was the most main straw man during the campaign obviously. And now, there is no one else to blame. There is no one else to blame but himself. And he is never going to do that. He is never going to say, yes, we were wrong and even though clearly from the first time we heard about this the Trump administration had said no, there were no contacts with Russia. This is just ludicrous. This is a "witch hunt" quote-unquote. And then every day there was new contact with Russia that come out from various different campaign officials and from administration officials. And so, you know, you can't blame everything on Hillary Clinton. She has lost the campaign, lost the election more than nine months ago and you have to find somebody else but there is no one else, really.

CABRERA: Guys, White House staff Kellyanne Conway, she took a very different approach this week trying to fight back against theories of collusion and she used props. Watch.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: I just want to be you in case we run out of time. This is how I see it so far. This is to help all of the people at home. What's the conclusion? Collusion? No. We don't have that yet. I see illusion and delusion. So just so that we are clear, everyone. Forward. Conclusion, collusion? No. Illusion, delusion? Yes. I thought we would have some fun with words. So assessing these group of words today perhaps Sean --.


CABRERA: Now couple that with the polling showing only 33 percent of Republicans believe Russia tried to influence the election compared to 80 percent of Democrats.

Eugene, it seems like the White House and the President's messaging is working.

SCOTT: Well, it's working with Republicans. And I think it's very important to realize that according to the most recent Gallup poll, only about one in four Americans self-identify as Republican. So we have to remember that the majority of voters do not believe that the message the Trump administration is putting out is accurate. And even among Republicans it's only about 80 percent who still view him favorably. So it is one in five Republicans plus three and four voters as a whole are having a messaging issue. And I think the most important word that Kellyanne said with those flash cards was yet.

[19:30:24] CABRERA: How much do you think this whole story has been a drag on the presidency at this point almost six months in?

HUEY-BURNS: Well certainly, if you look at the legislative agenda, it's stalled right now. And the reason is that you have, you know, no political incentive for Democrats, of course, to work with this President given those ratings. And you also have Republicans on Capitol Hill who were trying to work on things like health care reform, get it through the agenda who were also constantly bombarded with all of this information. And as much as they try to move on from it, it's kind of every shoe -- as another shoe drops at any given moment.

What's interesting about these poll numbers, though, are the President does have a very low approval rating. That approval rating mirrors his favorability during the campaign which is kind of also interesting. He was unpopular during the campaign remains so now. The number I always look at is the number among Republicans which is still very high and still very popular among Republicans which shows him very much speaking to his base and we have to keep an eye on the independent voters. And in the polls as you mentioned that number is slipping a little bit.

CABRERA: Jay, I will give you the final thought.

NEWTON-SMALL: Look. It is absolutely, as Kellyanne was saying, is that Congress is I think half and half. So I have heard from leadership that they actually didn't mind the distraction this week because they are trying to work behind the scenes to get health care done. And with all the media attention focused on Don Junior and on Russia, it kind of took some of the pressure off and, you know, of some of the town hall meetings and some of those things. At the same time, it also handicaps the President's leverage with senators when he is calling them up from bed minister saying you need to vote for this. He doesn't have the same sort of political juice as he would had he not had the investigation sort of hanging over his head. And so, he doesn't have a lot of the tools that Presidents usually have to coerce senators and members of Congress to vote for things that they like them to vote for. So it could be both sort of a blessing and a curse at the same time.

CABRERA: Jay Newton-Small, Caitlin Huey-Burns and Eugene Scott, great discussion. Thanks, guys.

Here now is a look at some of the other stories in the news you might have missed this past week. In case you missed it, President Trump stepped in so an all-girls robotics team from Afghanistan could come to the U.S.

Here is the back story. The team's visa application to enter the U.S. for competition was denied twice. A public backlash followed and the President intervened once he heard about this case. The six girls on the team are now in Washington, competing in the three-day event along with teams from 150 countries.

Here's an incredible tale of team work and bravery from Panama City beach, Florida. Dozens of beachgoers formed this human chain to rescue ten people who were caught in a ripped current and holds bar from shore. People joined arms and legs while Jessica and Darren Simmons, they swam past them using a surf board and a boogie board. The Simmons reached the children first and they handed them off to the chain and then one after the other and nearly an hour after this whole ordeal began, all ten swimmers were safely back on shore.

Antarctica is a ticking time bomb right now. And that bomb just lost a trillion tons. Coming up next, see an iceberg the size of Delaware floating free from the continent it was just a part of, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:37:45] CABRERA: The map of Antarctica is being redrawn as we speak. Scientists say around the 12th of July an iceberg the size of Delaware broke off from the continent, but what could cause this one trillion ton block of ice to detach?

Here's CNN's Kyung Lah.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A crack more than 120 miles long on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula, finally breaking off, creating a spectacular iceberg weighing more than a trillion metric tons, roughly the size of Delaware.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's one of the largest icebergs in human history.

LAH: UCLA professor (INAUDIBLE) has spent her career studying Antarctic ice, traveling to the very peninsula where the ice shelf called Larson sea broke off. Professor (INAUDIBLE) has seen two other big sections of the peninsula brake off and dissolve, the first in 1995 and then another in 2002. She watched as this crack grew for years, caught off guard that this break happened so soon.

What this latest break means is something scientists aren't yet agreed on. Antarctica, the coldest place on earth is a continent covered in ice and icebergs have been breaking away from ice shelves for millions of years. But at the end of the 20th century, the peninsula was one of the fastest warming places on the planet. That warming has slowed or reversed slightly in this century.

You learn all of this just from samples of ice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You learn it from samples of ice and samples of rock.

LAH: This geochemist says the overall trends in the arctic point to global warming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fact that we've had seven out of the 12 ice shelves on Antarctica collapse in the last two decades and this one appears to be ready to go with the breaking off of this major iceberg, that is hard to attribute to anything else.

LAH: Kyung Lau, CNN, Los Angeles.


CABRERA: Coming up, wild pictures of a car that ended up on the roof of a home. We'll tell you how it got there.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[19:43:59] CABRERA: One of the nation's most infamous inmates may be one step closer to becoming a free man this week. O.J. Simpson faces a key parole hearing Thursday. Since then was famously acquitted in the slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in 1995. But he has been serving out a nine to 33-year sentence for his role in a 2007 robbery and kidnapping incident that unfolded in a Las Vegas hotel room. Now, if he is paroled, Simpson could be released as early as October.

Imagine going to the gym and coming home to find an SUV parked on your roof and the front of your house destroyed. A man in Missouri is probably very happy he went for that workout. Check out this video from the St. Louis fire department.


CABRERA: You can see this SUV perched on the roof of the home and then firefighters come in, trying to rescue the driver from the car. Apparently, the man was driving a little fast and lost control. He hit an embankment and then went crashing through the roof of the house. The driver was taken to the hospital and still no word on his condition tonight.

No joke. That's what powerful Senate Democrats including Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren are saying about the threat that a Trump- loving, whiskey-drinking rock God could be joining their ranks. So who is the shirtless Republican rocker whose potential Senate run has them now quaking in their suits? Jake Tapper has it in this week's state of the cartoonian.


[19:45:30] JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Democratic senator Debbie Stabinow of Michigan might face interesting competition in her Senate race next year.

That's right. Kid Rock seems to have adjusted his ambitions.

Now, he says, I want to be a senator, baby. Maybe. Kid Rock isn't completely new to politics. Some of his songs were used as campaign anthems for his fellow Michigander Mitt Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am happy to introduce a son of Detroit, a friend, a guy who makes great music, Kid Rock!

TAPPER: And he popped up recently next to President Trump at a White House visit with pals Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent.

So will Kid Rock be bringing the bah-wa-dah-ba to the campaign trail? Will he be able to assemble a willing coalition? Does Michigan have enough midnight glancers and topless dancers and cans of freaks and cars packed with speakers and Gs with the 40s or chicks with beepers?

Senator Stabinow for one, she sounds worried, warning supporters quote "after Donald Trump's surprising win last year, we need to act fast." If Kid Rock's run turns out to be real he could be campaigning while in concert.

Coincidentally, I'm sure, the tour for his new album begins next year, too.


CABRERA: CNN heard you and the history of comedy is back tonight and to help us kick it off we have a real-life comedian on hand to talk about tonight's episode "One Nation Under Comedy." There he is, Russell Peters joins me live in the CNN NEWSROOM next.


[19:51:31] CABRERA: Tonight, CNN's history of comedy returns with "One Nation Under Comedy." It explores how racial humor has evolved over the decades and how comedians like Dick Gregory broke the color barrier.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Up until the early '60s, comedy, especially stand-up comedy was a segregated proposition. And Dick Gregory changed all of that, single handedly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No baseball player having trouble. That's a great sport for my people. That is the only sport in the world where Negros can shake a stick at a white man and won't start no riot.

DICK GREGORY, COMEDIAN: I realized that if I made people laugh, they would stop talking about me. So that's what I set out to do.

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Dick Gregory was one of the first black comedians who really crossed over to the mainstream and did so in a way where he kept his integrity. There was not a sense that he became less culturally black or less committed to his own race because he played white rooms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you heard what Bobby Kennedy said about eight weeks ago. He said 30 years from this year, Negro can become President. So treat me right, I will get in there and raise taxes on you. I mean, don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind paying my income tax if I knew it was going to a friendly country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was something about giving somebody a fact or a piece of information that may be a little confrontational, people may object to it. But if you can turn it into a punch line, they are much more open to it, and Gregory understood the power of comedy.


CABRERA: Now another guy you will see in tonight's show is comedian Russell Peters. He has performed routines in front of sold out crowds all around the world from London to Australia to Singapore. He was also named one of the best stand-up comics of all time by Rolling Stone. And he is joining us now.

Russell, great to have you with us. You have lots of fans here in our NEWSROOM who are really excited to hear from you tonight. You are Canadian. Your parents emigrated from India in the 1960s. Would you say your ethnicity has inspired your routines?

RUSSELL PETERS, COMEDIAN: Well, if you have seen my act, you know that already, Ana, come on, lady. Yes, of course.

CABRERA: Maybe the better question is how has it inspired your routines? Why do you choose to use that as the hook for some of your jokes?

PETERS: I don't know if it's a hook. I think it's just the way my brain is programmed. You know, from being born in Canada. And even though I was born and raised in Canada, I felt like I was treated like an immigrant the whole time. And then 11 years ago, I moved to America. And I'm actually an immigrant and feel more simulated than I did in Canada, oddly enough.

CABRERA: Interesting. Now in comedy, do you think that you have to walk a fine line when it comes to race? Because you certainly haven't tied away from it.

PETERS: I think it's all about intent. For me, it is always about intent. My intention is always to make people laugh. I don't -- I don't want to hurt your feelings. I want you to leave there feeling good. And I want everybody to walk out over the same feeling of he said that about his people, but these other people from a completely different part of the world feel like that's their family as well. I mean, ultimately, when you break it down, it's the same experience if you are an immigrant family.

CABRERA: In all serious, race-based comedy, it has the power to unite or divide. Do you feel a weight on your shoulders?

PETERS: I don't feel a weight on my shoulders so much as I feel a responsibility to speak about things in a manner that we will educate you, but we will first and foremost make you laugh.

[19:55:00] CABRERA: Do you try to poke the proverbial bear?

PETERS: Absolutely. Always try to do that. Always poke the bear. Just, you know, you don't want to shy away from things. You want to dance around it. It's kind of like being -- not the class clown, but the guy in class who is laughing at the class down.

CABRERA: Do you ever get a response you didn't expect? PETERS: Sometimes I get the response I don't expect. And then you

have to figure that's somebody else's own issues they are trying to drag you into. You know, they get offended on behalf of something that wasn't about them. I feel like they have got some other hidden things they are working on themselves.

CABRERA: You have been doing this job that's obviously your passion for decades now --

PETERS: Twenty-eight years.

CABRERA: Do you feel -- do you feel your material is resonating differently today, given our current political climate?

PETERS: No, I think people just need to laugh about it a little bit more nowadays. So, I mean, they need more levity in their life. You know, before we had the genius running the country, it was -- for me there was a lot of to there, I was like, this is going to be great. It is going to be great for material. But when then when it materialized and became reality, there was this whole moment of shock from everybody. We are like, hold on, I can't joke about it right now. I'm trying to process this.

CABRERA: Interesting. Well you obviously play all over the world. I am curious how audiences differ from place to place.

PETERS: Well, for me, they are fans of me. So they are coming to see me and they are coming to see what I do and my brand of comedy. So for me it's a lot easier. I mean, I don't go to these countries and do - you know, sometimes I will do like a U.S. tour (ph) or something. But I don't consider that going to into the country to perform. I consider that going to perform for the troops, which to me are either Americans or Canadians or what have you, whatever troops are there. I'm not going -- when I perform in Iraq in 2007 during the middle of the war, I didn't look as performing in Iraq. I was performing in a green space and everybody was there. I was just basically bring them a piece of home.

CABRERA: What's more polarizing?

PETERS: Sorry?

CABRERA: Sorry, go ahead --

PETERS: No, when I go to the Middle East and perform now, I perform for those people in the Middle East. I go to Saudi Arabia and performing for the local Saudi Arabian population. When I go to India I'm performing for the Indian population. If I go to Singapore and perform for Singaporean and so on and so forth. So wherever I go in the world, I'm performing for the local people, which to me is a great way of showing that I have crossed over and made the rest of the world pay attention to us.

CABRERA: And what's more polarizing, making fun of politics or making fun of race? PETERS: It depends on when you are doing. I mean people take

politics way more to heart than they do with race. Race is something you can joke about because you have no choice in it, you know. You are what you are. And if somebody's talking about it in a - coming from a space of they understand why you do those things and they also understand why that's funny to me and not to you. And you present it a certain way, people respect that.

When you say something deep about something -- somebody that's below the surface, that makes them go, how does he know that? Why does he know that? These are not things, you know, there's a stereotypes on top, and you go low deeper and you go, wow, how did you know that? Like I pay attention. People like when you pay attention.

CABRERA: Well, maybe that's why what happened with Bill Maher last month came under fire because he is coming at it from a different position, different background. He did that racial epithet on his show, he apologized. Ben then just yesterday in an interview with the "New York Times," this is what he had to say about the aftermath. He was asked, do you think you were toast? Did you think you were toast? He says no. And then the interviewer says really, were you not looking at twitter? He says I think most people understood that it was a comedian's mistake, not a racist mistake, do you agree?

PETERS: Yes. I mean, the problem is, comedians, our way of thinking is very different than how we would call you guys, civilians. And the words we say and the way we think and the things we say are not processed the same way you guys process it because your intent with these words is very different than our intent. Our intent is just to make you laugh. We are not thinking about, oh, is it going to offend these people -- you know, we don't think like that. Isn't it funny? It's so random and so shocking and funny because it is so absurd. But you know, we have to understand that the civilians are the ones we are doing it to, and they are the one who hey, we didn't like that. Hold on, you are misunderstanding what we are doing here.

CABRERA: Well, we only have about 20 seconds, but I want you to make us all laugh. You are known for your impersonations of your family. Channeling your parents, what do you want to tell people who don't tune in tonight for the big show?

PETERS: If you don't tonight for the CNN show, somebody going to miss out on something real big tonight.

CABRERA: Thank you so much, Russell Peters. We really appreciate you joining us. We look forward to the episode and have a --

PETERS: Thank you, Ana Cabrera.

CABRERA: Thank you, thank you.

And thank you for being with us this weekend. We really appreciate it. And stay tuned. We have got the '90s followed by "the History of Comedy."