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Trump in Bad Mood; Manafort Still in House Arrest; Terror Attacks Addressed by Trump in Different Tone. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired November 1, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news on the Russia investigation and the response from an angry president.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
Sources telling CNN President Trump has been spending hours isolated in the White House, fuming about the indictments of two former campaign aides and the guilty plea from a third. Predictably the president's main worry seems to be that Mueller's investigation makes him look weak.
So he is talking to the newspaper that he loves to hate, telling the New York Times tonight, quote, "I'm not under investigation." But his aides have been forced to postpone briefings on the eve of his long and difficult trip to Asia.
What could possibly go wrong? And it's probably no coincidence that in the wake of the worst terror attack in New York since 9/11 the president is back on some of his favorite campaign themes today talking tough on immigration and terror.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to get much tougher. We have to get much smarter. And we have to get much less politically correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So let's get right to CNN's political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny, and political commentator David Swerdlick. Good evening to all of you. Welcome to the program.
Here we go. Jeff, you have new reporting tonight about how Mueller's Russia indictments and guilty plea are impacting President Trump and the folks around him. What can you tell us about that.
JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Don, we do. We know the president, of course, is preparing for really the biggest and most complicated international trip of his presidency. He leaves Friday for Asia, a 12-ive day trip across Asia. Five countries, of course, North Korea at the center of all of this, the rising nuclear threat there.
So of course this week was intended to be one to, you know, give him briefings; give him preparations for all of this. No surprise the Russia investigation has dominated so much of his thinking, we're told, and also has interrupted some of the briefing.
Not all of them, but you know, we do know that he has been up in the residence of the White House here for hours early this week, you know, essentially all morning long watching the news coverage, talking to his lawyers. So it has interrupted some of this preparation time.
But look, there's also a line of thinking here, Don, that some senior advisers believe that this trip will indeed change the subject, of course, but it actually will be a welcome diversion for him, you know, to be traveling on the world stage and sort of away from the scandal obsessed Washington. The question is, though, will the Russia investigation be in his head. Will that create a dangerous distraction?
LEMON: Yes, absolutely. And speaking of diversions, how much time, Jeff, is spent providing diversions for the president so that he doesn't act out?
ZELENY: Look, I'm not sure providing diversions, but I think that any president, you know, embarking on a trip like this you do want to prepare them, give them some comforts of home, traveling all these time zones. So the president will be stopping in Honolulu on his way to Japan this weekend.
And look, there are a lot of efforts that are made to make this president and perhaps more than others feel comfortable. Having his own food around him, et cetera. We're hearing some small anecdotes like that. But it's not necessarily unique to him.
But I do think there is a central focus here of trying to get the president's attention, trying to get him to focus on the matter at hand here, which of course, again, this high stakes foreign policy trip he's going out on. You know, anything he says about North Korea will be parsed and examined here.
So even without the Russia investigation being a distraction as the Chief of Staff John Kelly has indicated, it is a distraction. It is occupying his time. This would be a big deal even without that. With that it's much more so.
LEMON: Absolutely. Nia, to you now. So, the words being used to describe the president's reaction is everything from agonizing to seething, fury. Trump is pushing back against all of that in the new New York Times interview saying this. 'I am not under investigation, as you know." That's a quote from him.
And also saying, "I'm actually not angry at anybody." Another quote.
So despite the Russia probe getting bigger and reports that he is under siege as the Times puts it, he's trying to protect or project an air of calm here. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, CNN: Yes. And he has
to because of these stories, because of Jeff's reporting, because of all sorts of sort of leaks from the White House of people saying that he's seething, saying that he was up in the residence glued to the television as some of the revelations from Mueller's investigation were coming out.
And I think most principally and this wasn't even a leak. This was General John Kelly, the Chief of Staff, as saying that he was distracted. So this is the president who on the one hand likes to dismiss reports and reporters as fake news.
This is the president really trying to push back on a lot of those stories that came out that really, I think, frame him as someone who is obsessed with this Russia investigation.
And if you look back really at the last 10 months, we've seen this kind of constant theme of the president stewing over Russia and having to make decisions around Russia, whether it was the resignation of Flynn, his anger at Jeff Sessions.
[22:05:11] That was about Russia. The decision to fire Jim Comey, again, that was about Russia. And then, of course, at some point Hope Hicks, who is one of his top aides, the coms direction, will have to meet with Bob Mueller, and that will be a conversation likely about Russia as well.
So this is a president that does have this cloud over his head and that will continue to be this way with Mueller having all sorts of avenues to look into this notion of whether or not Russia colluded with the Trump campaign to impact the 2016 election.
LEMON: And by the way, David, I think, you know, with all this about Russia the president also said "I'm in the office early and I leave late. It's very smooth, honestly. I'm really enjoying it." But he's like what Russia investigation?
But I want to ask you about Sam Nunberg.
DAVID SWERDLICK, WASHINGTON POST ASSISTANT EDITOR: Sure.
LEMON: Here is what his former Trump -- former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg told Gabe Sherman at Vanity Fair on the record, by at way. Here said, "Here is what Manafort's indictment tells me. Mueller is going to go over every financial dealing of Jared Kushner and the Trump organization. Russia is at 33 percent in Gallup. You can't go any lower. He's fired." No, that's not it.
SWERDLICK: No. Don't do it. Don't say it. Yes. He's f.
LEMON: Yes. I mean, you thought I was going there, right. So David, the more names come out, the more we learn that it impacts the president's agenda, republicans, everything, right?
SWERDLICK: Yes, sure. There's two things going on there with that reporting from Gabe Sherman and Vanity Fair. One is this idea that, yes, the Mueller, the special counsel investigation and Mueller's team is going through this methodically, bit by bit, step by step. They're moving at a pretty good pace.
Remember, Mueller was only appointed in May and they're already at the point of two indictments and a guilty plea. But they're going through this very methodically and by all accounts he has assembled the best of the best in terms of federal prosecutors.
And this is just going to continue a pace for weeks, months, years, and the administration is going to be scrutinized on this. And they just have to sort of settle into this fact.
One thing to contrast with that quote from one tidbit in Maggie Haberman's reporting in the New York Times is that, you know, this idea -- and I jotted it down just to make sure is that, you know, when you look at the president, he's projecting this air of calm and yet, you know, the White House is saying things to reporters like they were a bit surprised -- well, people were telling reporters at least off the record that someone like Sam Clovis, who was a policy adviser on the campaign was being interviewed by Mueller now.
They shouldn't be surprised by this, Don. Everybody who was in any way tied into this inner circle, however brief, whatever role, is probably going to come under scrutiny. The one other point I just wanted to make about President Trump and him getting in early and working on things is that, this is the job.
Investigation or no, he signed up for the most difficult and the most -- the most complicated job in the world. The idea that they would be coasting now just it wouldn't be the case, even without an investigation.
LEMON: I think of president gets up early.
LEMON: And works late. It's probably the most difficult job ever. Jeff, I want to talk to you -- can we talk about politics in this deadly terror attack.
LEMON: The president is calling the U.S. justice system a joke. Watch this and then we'll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We also have to come up with punishment that's far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now. They'll go through court for years. At the end there will be -- who knows what happens. We need quick justice and we need strong justice. Much quicker and much stronger than we have right now, because what we have right now is a joke, and it's a laughing stock.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: So when you hear how the president speaks on this, you get the
sense that he feels like he's on a stronger political footing here and more comfortable than anything dealing with the Russia investigation.
ZELENY: Sure, Don. And I think that one thing I was so struck by today watching these horrific scenes and investigation in New York City there and seeing the lives lost of eight people killed, some 12 others injured, we are a month away.
It has been a month since that Las Vegas shooting and boy, what a difference in the presidential response about this. I mean, the day after that shooting where some 600 people were, you know, shot in some capacity, some 58 killed, the White House and others in this town said, look, this is not the day to talk about guns.
Today, of course, an entirely different matter. I mean, this morning the president up early tweeting about immigration law, immigration policy, talking about the system being a laughing stock and a joke.
[22:10:02] When I heard him saying that earlier today, Don, it seemed to me that he was also talking about the justice system now that he's watching in this Russia investigation here, but boy, what a difference a month makes.
LEMON: Yes. And what's so strange here, Nia, is that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and maybe it's not strange, is denying the president slammed the U.S. justice system. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Why did the president call the U.S. justice system a joke and a laughing stock during his comments...
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's not what he said.
ACOSTA: He said that the system of justice in this country...
SANDERS: He said that process. He said the process has people calling us a joke and calling us a laughing stock.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So, you know, I say this all the time as I watch what happens at that podium and the president. You're not supposed to believe you're lying ears here? I mean, what is going on? You heard the president. That's exactly what he said.
HENDERSON: Yes, that is what he said. And this is Sarah Huckabee Sanders, I think, again, what we've seen in this position is people having to go out and explain the president and in the process oftentimes they damage their own credibility. We saw this with Sean Spicer. We've seen it in some ways with John
Kelly having to go out and defend some of the things the president has said. And you see this, I think, today most clearly with Sarah Huckabee Sanders, her starting to put her credibility on the line and cover for the president and essentially say he didn't say what we all heard him say.
You hope it doesn't erode any further, but again, we've seen this movie before when you have to go out and defend things that the president says that don't really make sense and then you try to change them and twist them to something he didn't actually say.
LEMON: Yes. Start -- I agree with what you said, but starting. I mean, I don't think it's starting. I mean, let's just be honest. Come on. I can't even watch the briefing anymore.
Thank you all. When we come back the scale of Russian election meddling is staggering 150 million American adults that saw Facebook ads from Russian trolls. Ads meant to create chaos. So can we shut down the trolls and keep this from happening again? I'm going to ask a member of the House Intel committee.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Paul Manafort remains under house arrest tonight on $10 million bond. But we're getting new information that about what investigators are learning about his activities.
I want to discuss this with democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, the member, a member of the House intelligence committee. Good evening, congressman. Thank you for coming on.
So let's talk about more details coming out about the former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, including that he had at least three U.S. passports, over 50 different bank accounts and a phone and e-mail account registered under a fake name. It's not illegal for him to have three U.S. passports, but it is unusual. Do the details in Manafort's activities raise questions with you?
ERIC SWALWELL, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: Sure, Don. You know, he was a person who had a lot of contacts with Russians and also with pro-Russian Ukrainians and it looks like a lot of these contacts were converging at the time of the election.
But Don, he's not the only one. I mean, what we're learning is that this campaign had long-standing contacts from Don Junior to Jared Kushner to, you know, the president himself with Russia that have lasted in some cases decades. And now when you read the Papadopoulos guilty plea, it looks like, you know, they were all after the same thing. They wanted Hillary Clinton's e-mails and they were willing to do anything to try and get them.
LEMON: I know big businesses that don't have 50 different bank accounts. I mean, that's -- anyways, I digress. So the White House press secretary was asked about a meeting between President Trump and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. It was last March. Here is what she had to say and then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Getting back to George Papadopoulos, does the president recall at that March 31st, 2016 meeting of his national security advisory board Mr. Papadopoulos suggesting that the meeting between then candidate Trump and Vladimir Putin, does he recall that?
SANDERS: No, I don't believe he does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So had Papadopoulos been on the House Intel committee's radar before Mueller's announcement?
SWALWELL: Well, I can't go into witnesses, Don, specifically. But I can tell you we want to know what was discussed at that meeting. Papadopoulos at that meeting was sitting between candidate Trump and Jeff Sessions, and so, you know, he's someone that Donald Trump later would call an excellent guy.
So, you know, now, of course, he was just, you know, running a phone bank and you know, ordering coffee for the campaign. That's what you get relegated to as soon as you get close to the president in the Russia investigation. But we think he was much more relevant than that.
LEMON: We learned today that 150 million American adults saw ads purchased by Russian operatives on Facebook, a staggering number. Half of all voting adults in America. The House Intel committee had originally been expected to release all 3,000 of the ads purchased by the Russian trolls. Why didn't that happen?
SWALWELL: You know, we asked today if they were OK with releasing them. I introduced dozens of ads that had not been released into the record. And so I expect that that should come out soon. Something else that we learned, Don, three things that I pointed out in my questioning was one, that these companies still cannot tell us and assure us that they know fully just how deep into the platforms Russia was.
So that's a concern. Also concerning to me is that Russia actually made money off of this attack. They were able to post content on YouTube and then under an ad sharing scheme they were able to get money back. You just, you know, talk about insult to injury.
But finally, I was heartened to hear each company agree that there is a duty going forward to warn law enforcement if they see an attack happening like we saw in the last election before law enforcement does.
LEMON: It's interesting because you still see people spreading -- at least I do -- spreading fake news or bad information on Facebook to this day. All you have to do is go into the comments. Someone who comments negatively go into their Facebook page and you'll see them just sort of spreading around to everyone who follows them. But listen, I want to talk about these ads specifically. In this
particular example Russian trolls were running into -- were running two Facebook pages of opposing ideologies, one a Muslim group called United Muslims of America. The other a Texas secessionist, secessionist group called heart of Texas.
[22:20:09] The Russians created two opposing protests at the same date and location deliberately designed to bring Americans into face-to- face confrontation with each other, which we see is exactly what happened outside of Houston mosque on May 21st of 2016. What is the goal of a campaign like this? Were there other ads of this nature as well?
SWALWELL: There were a multitude of other ads of this nature. They were seeking, Don, to divide us, and it's working. Not just Americans, you know, on their social media platforms but also our lawmakers, sadly. You know, we're still divided.
A president who doesn't even acknowledge or attribute who was truly responsible for the interference and, you know, a lack of curiosity that I've seen from a lot of my republican colleagues in Congress. I think unity is the best antidote to this virus.
And that Muslim group, Don, I spoke to the actual United Muslims of America group in my district in Fremont, California. These are peaceful Muslims. Nothing like what was described so disgustingly through these Russia media efforts. But it was to divide us and it's working.
LEMON: Congressman, Swalwell, always appreciate your time. Thank you.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
LEMON: In our next live hour, we're going to bring you -- take a closer look at more of these ads released today from Facebook. Maybe you were even one of the 150 million Americans who saw them on your Facebook feed.
When we come back, a stunning difference between the president's response to the terror attack in New York and the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Both horrifying attacks, but President Trump's tone couldn't be more different. Frank Bruni will join me to discuss what may be behind that. That's next.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The president just hours after the Manhattan terror attack referring to the suspect as an animal, calling for quick punishment and denouncing the U.S. justice system as a joke and a laughing stock. His response couldn't be more different than what he said after the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
So we'll talk about this now. CNN contributor Frank Bruni is here, a New York Times op-ed columnist. So can we compare the two? Good evening, by the way. Thank you for coming on. How the president reacted to Las Vegas and versus yesterday. Let's put this up. In the days following Vegas President Trump essentially said "It wasn't the time to talk about gun laws." For New York the president is nonstop tweeting about immigration laws and so on. He is quick when he thinks it confirms his political beliefs.
FRANK BRUNI, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: That's exactly right. I mean, he thinks he can use this incident to further one of his aims and with Las Vegas he didn't want to talk about gun control because he's in the pocket of the NRA.
His response to this was not only to make it political, though, I was shocked at the pettiness of it. You know, he immediately personalizes as it goes after Chuck Schumer. This is Chuck Schumer's state, this is Chuck Schumer's city. You know what I mean?
The city is hurting right now and you're going after the politician in Washington who is perhaps most associated with it. And you're going after him inaccurately. He wasn't even accurate in his assault on Chuck Schumer.
LEMON: Let's put up what he said here. He said this is -- here is one of President Trump's tweets today. "The terrorists came into our country through what is called the diversity visa lottery program. A Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based."
So, just to get the facts on this, OK.
LEMON: It was signed into law.
LEMON: By president George H.W. Bush.
BRUNI: A republican, yes.
LEMON: Right. Basically supported by Chuck Schumer. Later Chuck Schumer tried to get rid of it when he was part of the gang of eight. But this president is not letting the facts get in the way of all this.
BRUNI: No, he's not letting, he's not acknowledging not just Chuck Schumer but many republicans including George W. -- George H.W. Bush who signed it. This was a bipartisan bill and the gang of eight bid to undo it was a bipartisan effort and the people who killed the immigration overhaul were conservative republicans in the House. He has edited all of that out just because he wants for some reason to point the finger at Chuck Schumer. So that raises the question why.
LEMON: And by the way, the last segment that I did with the congressman we were talking about fake news and spreading.
BRUNI: Right. LEMON: I saw people putting that Breitbart article about how Chuck Schumer or whatever on their Facebook page and spreading it around as if the president was correct in his facts and he was not.
BRUNI: Far right media or alt-right media whatever you want to call it was going crazy with this and it was completely erroneous. And I would say mean too, really mean.
LEMON: This is how Schumer responded. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: New Yorkers and all of us compare President Bush right after 9/11 and President Trump right after this horrible terrorist attack. President Bush united us. He had us in the White House the next day saying how he would work together.
All President Trump does is take advantage, horrible advantage of a tragedy and try to politicize and divide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Does he, does Trump succeed in the politics of division?
BRUNI: Yes. Trump excels in the politics of division. That's what he's all about. Listen, it is appropriate to have a conversation about immigration, to have a conversation about how we try to prevent attacks like this that puts everything on the table.
Immigration, you know, what's happening to people here that radicalizes them. All of these things should be discussed. But to point the finger at Chuck Schumer at this moment in time is inaccurate. It's mean. But it is par for the course for Donald Russia.
I remember just before I sat down here after the London terror attack. You know, the incident on the bridge.
BRUNI: He went after the mayor of London. Donald Trump only speaks the language of winners and losers, people who take credit and people to blame. It seems to be the only way he knows how to navigate the world.
LEMON: Regardless if there are eight lives who are lost. Before I move on because I want to get something I think is very important. I just want to -- I just want to put up the difference between the Las Vegas how he described the Las Vegas attack and versus the New York attack.
He said "Las Vegas shooter the wires were crossed pretty badly in his brain, extremely badly in his brain and it was very sad event." Versus New York attack he says, "This is an animal who did the attacking."
I did not hear him say that this was domestic terror. BRUNI: Right.
[22:29:57] LEMON: And we need to get at these domestic terrorists and drive them out or drive them away or, I don't know, maybe put a travel ban on -- you know what I'm saying. That never happened.
BRUNI: A hundred percent. And I didn't hear him call the Las Vegas shooter an animal.
LEMON: Yes. Why not?
BRUNI: Why not? Well, because he was down playing that incident. That incident would have been a prompt for a conversation about gun control that he didn't want. This incident he thinks he can use as a prompt for a conversation about banning a certain kinds of immigration and that's a conversation he does want.
LEMON: I want to talk about Don Junior getting some backlash from his tweet today his daughter Chloe. He says "I'm going to take half of Chloe's candy tonight and give it to some kid who sat at home. It's never too early -- by the way too is supposed to be t-o-o not t-o -- is never too early to teach her about socialism."
And then some folks are responding by saying it's not socialism, right. It's sharing. J.K. Rowling responding with this saying "Fill her bucket with old candy left by her great-grandfather then explain that she has more because she is smarter than all of the other kids. Real outrage, fake outrage." What's your view on this?
BRUNI: Well, for starters, anybody who is not following J.K. Rowling's Twitter feed should. Because she is amazing at this sort of stuff.
BRUNI: This is crazy. Halloween is not a moment to...
LEMON: To teach your kid as a prop.
BRUNI: Or to use your kid as a prop. Obviously anybody named Donald Russia whether there's something appended to it or not should get off Twitter and fast because it doesn't work out well. But also the notion that going out and trick or treating and getting handouts from people is a metaphor for hard earned money or hard-earned goods that you shouldn't share with anybody else.
BRUNI: I mean, this metaphor collapses on every single level.
LEMON: Yes. Here's how he responded. I think it's fair we should put his response though. "It's only blue check SJW, social justice warriors, cared as much about terrorists attacking us as they do about me attacking socialism. Enough of the P.C. lib crap." BRUNI: He's the one who put the tweet out there if only he cared as
much about things. Give me a break.
LEMON: Follow your advice and stay off. Your dad is president.
BRUNI: Yes. Well, Donald Trump, Jr. has not exactly shown himself to be the sharpest tool in the shed before.
LEMON: Have you no dignity, sir?
LEMON: Not you. But do you remember that?
BRUNI: Yes, I do. I do. And I remember how he fumbled the reaction to what had happened at Trump Tower in that meeting.
BRUNI: And that is still haunting his father to this day because his father was involved in drafting that ridiculous spin statement about what had really gone on.
LEMON: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Frank Bruni.
BRUNI: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, the president's chief of staff getting the history of the Civil War completely wrong. And when April Ryan asked her for clarification during the White House press briefing, this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thanks so much, guys. Hope you have a happy and safe Halloween. Thanks, guys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Not done yet, though. And April is here to discuss next.
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The White House Chief of Staff John Kelly leaving a lot of historians in an uproar and other people as well after saying this about the Civil War.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I will tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. He was a man that gave up -- gave up his country to fight for his state, which in 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it's different today.
But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand with their conscience had them make their stand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders refusing for two days in a row to clarify Kelly's remarks.
So joining me now CNN political analyst April Ryan, White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Networks, and Tim Wise, the author of "White Like Me." Welcome to the program. Wow. A lot to discuss. So, Tim.
TIM WISE, AUTHOR, WHITE LIKE ME: Yes.
LEMON: You say that General John Kelly is either ignorant or he knows he is wrong and he is pandering to President Trump's base. I have to ask you, which is it? Which is worse, though?
WISE: Well, it could be either, and they're both horrible. I mean, he's either ignorant or he's pandering. The ignorance is very clear. No historian would believe his argument that somehow a lack of compromise is why there was a Civil War. The folks who seceded from the union and decided to launch that war made it very clear why they were doing it and they said that it was to preserve white supremacy.
The vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stevens said that the cornerstone of the new government was the great truth that the, quote, "Negro is not equal of the white man." So they went to war and seceded to preserve a system of white supremacy. They said so.
And I have to assume John Kelly knows that, which makes me believe that what he's doing is pandering to a subset of Donald Russia's base that ravels in neo confederacy and literally takes a bath in the politics of white rage and grievance. And that's why you saw that Confederate flag at Trump rallies all during the campaign, even outside of the south. There is a part of his base that loves this.
So I have to assume that John Kelly is not the adult we were told he was when he was brought into the White House because he is saying absurd, fundamentally ridiculous things, pandering to a group of people who are very much bought into the politics of white racial grievance and love that stuff.
LEMON: The White House is standing by General Kelly's comments, denying that they were offensive. April, you tried to ask Sarah Sanders about this and she was -- as she was leaving the briefing room yesterday. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Thanks so much, guys. Hope you have a happy and safe Halloween. Thanks, guys.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah, was slavery wrong?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Wow. And then here is your exchange with Sarah Sanders earlier today.
APRIL RYAN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: What is the definition of compromise as it relates to slavery and the Civil War?
SANDERS: Look, I'm not going to get in and relitigate the Civil War. Just like I told you yesterday, I think I've addressed the concerns that a lot of people had and the questions that you had.
RYAN: The question is does this administration believe, does this president believe slavery was wrong?
[22:40:00] And before you answer, Mary Frances Berry, a historian said in 1860 there was a compromise, a compromise was to have southern states keep slavery, but the confederacy fired put something to it that cause the Civil War. And because of the Civil War what happened, the north won.
SANDERS: I think it is disgusting and absurd to suggest that anyone inside of this building would support slavery.
LEMON: So she didn't really answer -- so what they're doing is discussing -- what is she saying?
RYAN: It was disgusting for me to even raise the question.
LEMON: I thought she was referring to them by that because she's doing exactly what she said. What does she mean relitigating the Civil War? I mean, all you have to do is pick up a history book.
LEMON: You know, everyone knows what the Civil War is about. There's no relitigating.
RYAN: Slavery. And yesterday -- yesterday -- and this is why I asked, because she didn't call on me yesterday and she was picking all around me. But the issue is when she did give answers to the reporters, there were answers like, you know, many of the presidents are flawed. All of the presidents have flaws. All of them. So let's go there in one way or the other and there are regrets afterwards. You know, we've heard that from many presidents. OK, so all the presidents have flaws. She never answered.
LEMON: And she said our leaders are flawed, right?
RYAN: She called out presidents as well.
RYAN: She named some. Now, yes. So then, you know, she was asked, she was continually asked. She didn't want to get into it. But then she said she blamed us as the media saying that we're trying to make this racial.
The issue is the Civil War -- one of the main reasons why the Civil War was fought because of slavery. She just kept on going down this line and I never heard an answer to the definition of compromise.
RYAN: So that's why I said -- and then you have all this other stuff going on when the administration is supporting those who are supporting the Confederate statues, et cetera.
RYAN: So there was still confusion. So I asked a simple question. As they're supporting the confederacy and these statues and Robert E. Lee, that General Kelly saying Robert E. Lee, do you think slavery was wrong. That's a legitimate question.
RYAN: It wasn't to be smart or anything. I wasn't -- I wasn't trying to attack her or make any assertions.
LEMON: April, we get that.
RYAN: I was asking a legitimate question.
LEMON: Of course it's a legitimate question. And it's very simple answer. She could have said yes, absolutely we believe that slavery is wrong. But she can't.
LEMON: She's in a tough spot because she has to defend someone who says that Robert E. Lee put the state over the country at that time.
LEMON: I think that's a definition of treason of there.
WISE: Well, it is.
LEMON: Compromise on what? And on both sides. Tim, I know you want to jump in here. But let mow just give you this quote and then you can take it away.
LEMON: Historian Frank Curnow writes for the Washington Post "the White House loves a both sides narrative especially one that conceals the vial racism of one side's ideology." Is that the problem here? WISE: That is that the problem. But what's really ironic is you have
John Kelly actually making excuses for a bunch of people who fired and -- fired on and killed hundreds of thousands of men who wore the uniform that he wears now.
It is unbelievably pathetic that a four-star general would make that and to say that the reason we ought not criticize them is because we're using today's moral standards. Excuse me. We have a moral standard going back to the Ten Commandments, it says "Thou shall not steal."
Well, slavery was rooted in kidnapping and the theft of black bodies and black labor. That's not a new moral standard. That's been around since God handed the tablets to Moses. So I think probably John Kelly went to catechism class as a good Catholic boy in Boston. Maybe he needs to refresh his not historical but biblical memory.
LEMON: Why are they trying to whitewash history here?
WISE: Well, I think because they know...
RYAN: They want history...
WISE: ... that there are people -- there are people in that subset of his support who have always supported that reactionary narrative. And they're pandering to them. I think it is very much about race. It is about playing to that group.
LEMON: April, I'll give you the last word.
RYAN: Yes. Bottom line, it's about, as Tim said, it's about pandering to that group. But you have to remember, when they pander to that group, there are people that are upset. The NAACP is upset, saying you can't take principals and change them.
You can't -- you can't deal with issues of slavery and talk about a compromise when the compromise, like Mary Frances Berry said, who is a historian and the former head of the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights, she said that in 1860 the compromise was to let southern states have slavery. That was the compromise.
But the south, the confederacy fired on Fort Sumter which started the Civil War.
RYAN: And we know what happened.
RYAN: So that was the compromise and the question is does General Kelly realize that was what happened? And if so, what side of history does he really stand on?
[22:45:02] LEMON: Thank you both.
RYAN: He brought this up. We didn't bring it up.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate the conversation. Tim, good to see you again.
RYAN: Thank you.
WISE: Good to see you.
LEMON: When we come back, is this the real John Kelly we're seeing and could he cause real problems for Trump's presidency?
LEMON: The White House standing by the Chief of Staff John Kelly's shocking comments about the Civil War.
Let's discuss now. Joseph Pinion is here. Here is a republican strategist. CNN political commentators, Ana Navarro, Bakari Sellers, and Alice Stewart. Here we go. More from General Kelly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. He was a man that gave up -- gave up his country to fight for his state, which in 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it's different today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Bakari, Robert E. Lee an honorable man?
BAKARI SELLERS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I think well, I think that the chief of staff is giving Robert E. Lee the benefit of history, to say the least. You know, I was thinking to myself, that I really don't have time to be explaining to people the root cause of the Civil War and whether or not Robert E. Lee was a great man.
[22:50:01] In fact, in 2017, I can't believe we're even having those discussions. I mean, the reason Robert E. Lee was fighting for the state was for slavery and the expansion thereof.
I don't understand why the White House wants to double down, other than talking to portions of their base, which adhere to these vial, old-fashioned rhetoric that was more divisive than we want to even deal with. If we have to talk about why the Civil War was fought, will we ever get to the real discussion of race in this country and how to bring this country together?
For me, I have a great deal of respect for the Chief of Staff, for General Kelly. However, you lose respect for individuals when they tend to pervert history or just show a pure ignorance thereof. LEMON: But is that maybe the issue, as some I've heard, and even some
of our colleagues here, contributors saying that many people may have been blinded by the uniform when it comes to, you know, General Kelly that, because as it turns out, a lot of -- he sounds a lot like Bannon.
JOSEPH PINION, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, no, I think that first and foremost, with General Kelly, I think it's just kind of his turn at the plate. So, I mean, first, there can never be a compromise on human subjugation and I think that when you start talking about that that's why people like April Ryan feel compelled to ask if this administration is against slavery.
I think that when you look at the trajectory, it happened with Sean Spicer, I think it happened with Reince Priebus. Any time this president asks somebody to step out onto a limb for him, he then proceeds to take a chainsaw to the branch. That is what happens?
LEMON: But if you don't believe that that doesn't comes out of your mouth. I mean, come on.
PINION: I don't think so.
ANA NAVARRO, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Look, sometimes people say things on live TV but then they regret. I've known John Kelly. I've known John Kelly, the John Kelly in Miami, the guy who was a commander the south com commander. Part of his job included being the top military diplomat, if you'd like, with the Western Hemisphere, which included the Caribbean islands.
I can tell you that his colleagues there in Latin America and the Caribbean Island, many of them African dissent, liked him, respected him, and it was mutual. In Miami, he was a conciliatory leader, he was part of a very diverse community.
The John Kelly I've seen the last three weeks is I think is the one, you know, that functions and within the Trump Russia White House. People misremember. He misremembered the Frederica Wilson, Federica Wilson event. People misspeak. John Kelly is not ignorant. Four-star generals go to War College. They study war. He knows slavery. It caused the, you know, damn Civil War.
LEMON: Why would he say it?
NAVARRO: I think he wanted to take -- I think he wanted to make a point about compromise and bring it on today. The problem is that he has misremembered, he has misspoken, he has been divisive, he has been offensive, particularly to African-Americans, and because he's in this White House, he's incapable of apologizing and admitting a mistake.
LEMON: I don't know about that. I think if you don't believe it, you don't say it. If you -- and I think listen, even some of those people down there who were carrying tiki torches, they have jobs. They have to work with people of color. But that's not what they believe in their personal lives. Go ahead, Alice. ALICE STEWART, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Don, I think what we're
seeing is that Chief of Staff Kelly is a lot more like Donald Trump that he we thought when he went into this position, and he clearly...
STEWART: ... is there to be the gatekeeper for the president and limit the amount of incoming flow of information that the president has. But also, at the end of the day, he is the chief of staff. He answers to the chief, commander in chief, the president of the United States.
And three things that are top of his agenda. He will defend the president, he will work to deliver on his policies, and in the end, he will double down if he says something that is offensive or something that, if he happens to misremember something, that's an important part of history, and I think we saw that with regard to the Robert E. Lee statement...
NAVARRO: But let me ask you...
STEWART: ... certainly with regard to Congressman Wilson...
LEMON: Can we do it on the other side of the break.
STEWART: Yes. Because she ask a question. We are -- OK.
LEMON: Let's do on the other side of the break because I've got to take a break. And we'll talk -- so you mentioned Fredericka Wilson. We'll talk about that controversy as well. We'll be right back.
[22:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Back now with my panel and Ana Navarro wanted to make a point on compromise. What were you saying?
NAVARRO: No, forget compromise. My point is, you know what this White House is excellent at? Diversion, distraction, pivoting. So, instead of talking about the fact that three Trump world members, two are indicted and one has pled guilty. We're talking about a cultural controversy.
They do this over and over and over again. Listen, Don, shiny objects, they come in all shapes and sizes, baby. Sometimes they're white, balding, former four-star generals.
NAVARRO: We are chasing this shiny object instead of focusing on Russia, Russia, Russia, which they don't want us to focus on because they're incredibly vulnerable and it's not going to go away.
LEMON: Listen, I agree with you, and listen...
NAVARRO: I told you we were going to agree.
LEMON: ... twenty four hours, and then you know, we have 23 and a half, plus whatever to talk about something, you know, we have 10 minutes to talk about something else and something that I think is very important.
A four-star general. Listen, I have to disagree with you guys. I don't think that this is about standing up for Donald Trump. I think that you have to believe this to say it. If you don't believe it, you don't say it. I don't believe there's a compromise on racism. I don't believe there's a compromise on misogyny, I don't believe there's a compromise on sexual harassment, I don't believe that there is a compromise when it comes to anti-Semitism. It's either a no or a yes, I believe that it's wrong or not. You don't try to draw two comparisons between any of those things.
SELLERS: But Don...
LEMON: Go ahead.
SELLERS: Don, if I may, let me tell you how, ahistorical it is for a four-star general to give this. In fact, throughout that time period, we actually had compromises. We had the three-fifths compromise, we had the Missouri compromise. Hell, Abraham Lincoln even compromised with slavery, he just didn't want the expansion thereof.
And so it's ahistorical. But I'm here in Tallahassee today and I was with Mayor Gillum and others and we were here talking about diversity and inclusion, and it's very hard to talk about these substantive policy issues if the president of the United States and his White House don't even know why we had the Civil War.
So we're trying to have policy discussions and bring people together, and the White House again. And Ana's right to a point, because they're not focusing on diversion per se as much as they're focused on divisiveness. The longer we stay divided as a country, the more Donald Trump flourishes.
STEWART: And Don, I think...
LEMON: Yes. Hey, listen, can we talk about Frederica Wilson please, because I only have a minute left, Alison? I'll give you the first word on it. The tape shows what it shows, in that he was wrong about what she said at that dedication ceremony, and he says he's not going to apologize. What do you think of that?
STEWART: I think it's unfortunate. I mean, and clearly, he didn't remember exactly what she said, the way she said it but the tapes don't lie, and the things that she said, she wasn't taking credit for funding the FBI building. She shared the gratitude for the building being built in the first
place, and clearly, he misremembered. And I think that's unfortunate that instead of acknowledging, OK, I may have misspoke or I may have misremembered, I apologize, let's move forward.
[23:00:00] We're still talking about this more than a week after the fact, and I think that is unfortunate. But the real misfortune in all of this, we're talking about divisiveness, we're talking about -- we're still talking Florida victims, we're still talking about Civil War. We should be talking about tax reform.