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A Day Away to Alabama Elections; Trump Women Accusers Resurface Again; White House Press Secretary Always on Defense. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired December 11, 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: ... reckoning. It will be decided by the people of Alabama and what those voters do when they go to the polls in just a few hours. Will they put politics ahead of principle? Will they vote for Roy Moore, the candidate who's accused of child molestation and sexual abuse of teenagers? The man who said America was last great under slavery?
(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)
ROY MOORE, (R) SENATE CANDIDATE: I think it was great at the time when families were united, even though we had slavery, they cared for one another. People were strong in the families. Our families were strong. Our country had a direction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So this is a man who once said getting rid of all of the amendments after the 10th would -- these are his words -- "eliminate many problems." It would also eliminate, by the way, the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. And the 19th, which gave women the right to vote.
And there is a lot at stake tomorrow for women. Roy Moore faces multiple accusations that he pursued relationships with teenagers. And that he molested a 14-year-old and sexually assaulted a 16-year-old when he was in his 30s.
Moore has denied all the allegations. And Alabama's voters, men and women alike, will have to decide if they believe him.
But one man who apparently does believe Moore is President Trump, who is openly endorsing, and let's be real, campaigning for Roy Moore, even if he did it just across a state line, he still campaigned for him and also doing robo calls.
The president faces his own accusations from at least 15 women ranging from sexual harassment and sexual assault to lewd behavior. One of those 15 women is Jessica Leeds, and she says Trump once groped her on a plane. She 2spoke out today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JESSICA LEEDS, TRUMP ACCUSER: He grabbed me and he was trying to kiss me and everything. And as I recall, he didn't say anything and I certainly didn't say anything. I didn't yell or ask for help.
I remember at one point looking over at the guy sitting in the -- across the aisle and thinking, well, why doesn't he come to my aid? I wondered where in hell the stewardess was. But it's when he started to put his hand up my skirt. And that was the last time I wore a skirt traveling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: There's a lot at stake here. A lot at stake on Alabama's Election Day for people of color. Not just because of Roy Moore's disgusting comments about slavery or because of his reference to Native Americans and Asians as, quote, "reds and yellows," unquote.
But because Roy Moore's biggest supporter is the man who began his entire campaign for the highest office in the land with these racially charged comments and then kept defending them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems. And they're bringing those problems with us.
They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.
Somebody is doing the raping, Don. I mean, you know, it's -- you know, somebody's doing -- it's women being raped, well, who's doing the raping? Who's doing the raping?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Actually, that wasn't the beginning. President Trump built the foundation of his run for office on the racist birther lie that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. And as president responded to deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville by claiming there were -- his words -- "very fine people on both sides."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group -- excuse me. Excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So in spite of that, in spite of what you've heard with your very own ears, Donald Trump says he's not racist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Are you racist?
TRUMP: I am the least racist person that you have ever met. I am the least racist person.
LEMON: Are you bigoted in any way?
TRUMP: I don't think so, no. I don't think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Just as he says he is not guilty of any of the accusations that women have made against him.
So here we are. Just days away, one day away from a day of reckoning for the people of Alabama. They will decide. For Roy Moore. For women. For people of color. For the Republican Party. And now it is up to the voters. And this is where we start.
So with all of that, the eyes on Alabama tonight, and the election just hours away, I want to bring in now the always-outspoken Charles Barkley. He is a son of Alabama who is campaigning for democrat Doug Jones. Good to see you. How you doing, Charles?
CHARLES BARKLEY, NBA ANALYST, TURNER SPORTS: Nervous. Nervous. I got to say, I can't believe we're in this situation, where the people of Alabama are going to turn a blind ear to - blind eye to all the accusation accusations, all the rhetoric, all the racist B.S. Steve Bannon -- Steve Bannon is down here again, who's a white nationalist, who's a white separatist.
[22:05:10] He's campaigning for the third time for Roy Moore. And I can't believe the people of Alabama will let them get away with that, to be honest with you, Don.
LEMON: I want to talk to you a lot more about this, Charles, but I want our viewers to hear some of what you're saying because you have been campaigning there. I know all weekend, you were on stage today. Let's listen to some of it and then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARKLEY: At some point, we got to stop looking like idiots to the nation.
At some point, I mean, listen, I love Alabama, but at some point, we've got to dry a line in the sand. We're not a bunch of damned idiots. And people are looking at us like, they're actually thinking about voting for this guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: It wasn't an easy decision, I would imagine, for you, maybe it was, to go down there and take, you know, away from your personal life, your business, your family and start campaigning for Doug Jones. BARKLEY: Well, I wanted to look my family and my friends in the eye
and tell them they've got to get out and vote. I think sometime a lot of people are disillusioned with the American dream. They just become nonchalant. But this is about the big picture for Alabama.
Listen, Alabama is a wonderful place. We've got some great people here. But these people have been held down for so long, they hide under the umbrella of religion.
Don, when I got here, I'm looking at those Roy Moore ads, and they're the same ads that I saw 30 years ago, against gay marriage, against abortion, against any form of illegal immigration, and talking about, if you believe in God, the Washington insiders don't like you.
It's the same religious facts that they've been using to win elections. And I wish some time people would look past, quote/unquote "their religious beliefs" and just try to do the right thing.
You can't just win elections talking about, I'm against gay marriage. I'm against abortion. I'm against illegal immigrants. That's not a way to win an election. This is 2017. We are already behind the times here in Alabama. I mean, and it's just sad more than anything. We need to get everybody out and vote for Doug Jones. It's a really big deal.
LEMON: Do you think people, though, are hearing -- the people who need to hear you, Charles, do you think they're hearing you or are they just tuned into conservative radio or media that's just going to, you know, say to them what they want to confirm or reconfirm their own beliefs about Roy Moore?
Because as I listen to the sound bites, I'm a son of the south, I can't believe the way some people are twisting themselves into pretzels trying to, you know, figure out a way that they can vote for Roy Moore. Why do you think people are so willing to dismiss credible allegations and crazy things that he has said on the record?
BARKLEY: Well, because in the south, one of the reasons the south is always behind the times, they use -- like I say, I looked at his commercials. All he talks about is, I'm a Christian, and Washington, they don't want my Christian values in Washington. He's against abortion. He's calling Mr. Jones, because he's pro-choice, he's calling him a baby killer.
And he just showed all these pictures, talking about -- you know, Trump says the same thing in your thing. Listen, I think these Hispanic people are amazing. I think they do work that whites and blacks don't want to do.
And to act like illegal immigration is the biggest problem in our country or in our state that's disingenuous. But there's a faction of people in the south who they got all the money and all the control. They just want to keep us dumbed down and keep all the money and the power.
That has always been the case in the south and it's really unfortunate. I'm just hoping that the people realize, and you know, they always want to make this thing about black and white, Don.
What America has become is rich people screwing poor people. That's what this whole thing is about. You look at Trump and his tax proposal. Who's going to benefit? People like myself. They don't do anything for poor people or the middle class. All those tax cuts are designed to help rich people like myself. And that's sad.
LEMON: Do you -- do you think that -- do you worry that what you're doing, Charles, may end up helping Roy Moore, because the people of Alabama will think you're talking down to them, you're condescending. Don't come down here, Charles Barkley and tell me how to run my life or what Alabama should be doing. Do you worry about that?
BARKLEY: You mean if I don't say anything? See, Don, that's the cache-22. If you say something, they complain, and when you don't say something, they complain.
[22:10:02] Hey, listen. I came down here because I -- listen, Don, you take all of these cameras, CNN, I've been watching CNN every week. You guys do a fantastic job. So at Doug's rally tonight, you think all these news people are down here because -- they're in shock. They can't believe that these people are going to try to elect Roy Moore.
They're here to see a train wreck. I don't think they really care who's a senator in Alabama. All these news people are here because they want to see, are these people that stupid to vote for Roy Moore?
LEMON: Listen, I've said it over and over, I cannot believe, Charles, that we're in a place that someone will probably, maybe elected to be the next U.S. senator from Alabama who has the beliefs he has about slavery, about racism, about women and the accusations -- I can't believe that we are actually considering this in 2017 and then his own party is backing him, which is supposed to be the party for moral values. I can't believe that we're in this position. I think that you're right about that.
BARKLEY: Well, what makes me sad, like I say, Steve Bannon has been here three times. And like I say, he's a white nationalist, which is a white separatist, does not believe in race mixing.
I don't understand if you're a good-hearted republican, why you think that's the right person who should be out-front campaigning for Roy Moore.
Listen, this United States senator is supposed to represent everybody in Alabama. Black people, white people, Hispanics, Jewish, everybody. But if you're going to have a guy leading your campaign who you know for a fact, and it's been well proven, does not believe in race mixing, how is that acceptable in 19 -- in this century?
LEMON: Yes. Let's listen to Steve Bannon. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Judge Moore is a good man. Judge Moore is a righteous man. And Judge Moore, they've tried to destroy Judge Moore like I told you they would. Remember, I told you this? Months ago, I told you, politics of personal destruction.
They tried to destroy Donald Trump and they tried to destroy Roy Moore. You saw how they did this. There's nothing too low for these people to do. They don't a bottom, right? When we go high, there's not only go low, there's no bottom to how low they'll go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Who's they and what is he talking about?
BARKLEY: Well, first of all, I don't know anything about those eight women, but this -- and like I said, I don't ever comment on people's personal lives, because that's not my business. But this notion that they got eight women to put their reputation on the line to smear Roy Moore, I think that's absurd.
I don't ever want any woman to be sexually assaulted or harassed, but the notion that the democrats got eight independent women together to smear this guy, I think that's absurd. But not even that.
Listen, I told you, I'm bothered by that. But the notion that a guy -- and let me go out on a limb here. I don't think that thing was that great for the slaves. Let's get that out of the way. He was talking about, it was great back in the slavery days. I'm going to go out on a limb, Don, I don't think it was that good for the slaves.
LEMON: I don't think that's going out on a limb. I get your sarcasm there. But I've got to say this. And again, back to my point. Someone who says what he has said, has the history that he has, has a record that he has on racism, on women, and defying the Constitution, being kicked off of the bench, he says the craziest things.
And even sometimes members of his family say crazy things. Roy Moore's wife, Kayla, spoke at a rally tonight. She said this about her husband. Pay close attention to this, Charles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAYLA MOORE, ROY MOORE'S WIFE: Fake news would also have you think that my husband doesn't support the black community. Yet, my husband appointed the very first black marshal to the Alabama Supreme Court.
We have many friends that are black and we also have a fellowship with them in our church and in our home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amen.
K. MOORE: Fake news would tell you that we don't care for Jews. I tell you all of this, because I've seen it also. I want to set the record straight while they're here.
One of our attorneys is a Jew.
We have very close friends that are Jewish and rabbis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:15:01] LEMON: What do you think, Charles? What's your reaction to that?
BARKLEY: Let me say, Don, I've got plenty of white friends, but racism still exists. Listen, just because -- hey, just because I got white friends, Hispanic friends, Jewish friends, that don't mean I'm stupid enough to think that racism does not exist.
Listen, this guy talks about slavery was a good time. I just don't understand, if -- and I just feel bad for the people of Alabama, because they've got some amazing people. And we've got all of these news organizations down here, laughing at us, like we're a bunch of backwoods idiots.
And I just feel sad. Because you got a few people who muddy the water for the great people of Alabama. Don, if somebody actually sent me a movie script and showed me these two candidates, there's no way that you say, there's no way that candidate can get elected. With all the things that's been -- all the accusations, all the times he's gotten let go, fired, kicked off benches. Some of the things he's said.
There's no way that person would win an election. And I'm talking about just common sense. If somebody sent you this as a movie, you say, well, we know who's going to win this election, Doug Jones. But unfortunately, here in Alabama, this dude has a chance of winning this election and that's just sad.
LEMON: Well, Charles, what I want people to know, too, is that when by criticizing Roy Moore, who happens to be a republican, this is not about left versus right, conservative versus liberal. This is about someone who has had some reprehensible behavior, and for the most part, most people in America, in this great country of ours, cannot believe that we are at this point that this person is actually considered a viable candidate for the U.S. Senate. This isn't about -- this is not really about politics, is it?
BARKLEY: It has nothing to do with politics. I tell people, they throw these words around, these talk shows have gotten so out of hand, they're right-wing or they lean to the left, I hate both of those terminologies.
Whether you a democrat, a republican, a liberal, or a conservative, listen, Roy Moore does not need to represent the State of Alabama. He does not need to represent our state. Doug Jones has never embarrassed us the way Roy Moore has. And think
about it. Other than talking about religion and Ten Commandments and things like that, Judge Moore hasn't done anything for Alabama. He became well-known just because of the Ten Commandments thing. He's never accomplished anything other than that, and being controversial catering to his base.
LEMON: Charles Barkley, good luck. Thank you, sir. I appreciate your time.
BARKLEY: Hey, thanks for having me, man. It's going to be a long 24 hours, but I can't wait until Doug wins.
LEMON: All right. We'll see you back here, Charles, and we'll see you on the road. Thank you, sir.
When we come back, President Trump's accusers step up and speak up today detailing their sexual allegations against Trump. The White House firing back, claiming there are eyewitness who refute the women's stories. But do their stories hold water?
[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Several of President Trump's accusers speaking out today, detailing their stories of sexual harassment, sexual assault and lewd behavior and calling for an investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL CROOKS, PRESIDENT TRUMP ACCUSER: I asked that Congress put aside their party affiliations and investigate Mr. Trump's history of sexual misconduct.
SAMANTHA HOLVEY, PRESIDENT TRUMP ACCUSER: Yes, I believe, you know, other folks have resigned. I think he should.
LEEDS: I think Trump will eventually be forced to quit, resign. I, unfortunately, feel that the sexual aggression issue is kind of low on the list of things wrong with Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: All of the alleged incidents took place before Trump took the oath of office. Now the White House is fighting back.
Let's discuss it with CNN political commentator, Amanda Carpenter, the former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, and also Amy Kremer is a co-chair of the Women Vote Trump PAC. So good to have both of you on.
Amy, I'm going to start with you. Why shouldn't these women's claims get a fresh hearing now that so many other powerful men have had to pay a price for very similar accusations?
AMY KREMER, CO-FOUNDER AND CHAIR, WOMEN VOTE TRUMP: Well, I mean, there are several differences, Don. Number one is that President Trump has completely denied it. But more than anything, this was litigated during the election last year. When President Trump was elected, people went to the polls having this information and knowledge and they still voted for him.
So, that in and of itself right there says that the people knew what they were going into and they chose him as their president. Why somebody should be able to overturn what the people chose, because now they're having another press conference is just ridiculous.
This is like a wash cycle. You know, lather, rinse, repeat. Here we go again. And I think the American people have already decided their thought on it. And they elected President Trump. But also, there's photographic evidence of some of this other stuff. And payments that were made by congressmen and what not. So I think that there are big differences here.
LEMON: Amanda, do you agree that this was litigated during the election and the fact that someone has done something wrong, even though they were elected or are accused that it can't be -- that we can't discuss it again. Are those women's accusations shouldn't be taken seriously?
AMANDA CARPENTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Hey, I think we can all agree that some of this information was available during the campaign. What I don't agree on is that these charges have been asked and answered. What Trump and his associates said during the campaign, essentially, was that all of these women were liars and he would take them all to court.
He never made good on the second half of that. And I actually -- if he believes he's so far in the right, would welcome it, as I would -- as I believe the accusers would, because it would open up the discovery process, which, you know, I have reason to believe, would probably be a can of worms.
We're talking about, you know, lewd behavior at beauty pageants, we're talking about, you know, female members who work for him, at his organizations, complaining about behavior. So, there's potential -- many, many, many eyewitness who can confirm or deny the story on the record, in court, if Donald Trump wants to go that course.
LEMON: Sarah Sanders was asked about the allegations eight times today, and each time she dismissed them. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president said himself, he thinks it's a good thing that women are coming forward, but he also feels strongly that a mere allegation shouldn't determine the course.
[22:25:05] And in this case, the president has denied any of these allegations, as have eyewitness and several reports have shown, those eyewitness also back up the president's claim in this process.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: The White House has since presented two eyewitness. The first is Anthony Gilberthorpe, whose name came up during the campaign in regard to Jessica Leeds' claim that Donald Trump groped her on an airplane. Giberthorpe is discredited. He is someone known in British media to fabricate claims about sexual conduct to politicians.
The other eyewitness is Katie Blair, Miss Teen USA 2006, who told TMZ she never saw Donald Trump backstage during a beauty contest. But how can she be an eyewitness to an incident that four women say at a beauty pageant almost a decade earlier, that happened almost a decade earlier, Amy, earlier?
So neither of these eyewitness are new and there are questions about both. What's your reaction?
KREMER: Well, Don, I mean, none of this is new. These women that are coming forward now and holding a press conference, they've already come forward. And this is the thing. I mean, how many times are we going to go through it? It's like the Russian collusion didn't work. Now here we are back on this.
It's -- the swamp is determined to destroy this president at any and all costs. And I do believe that women should be heard. But that doesn't mean that every woman is telling the truth. Just like women should be heard, every accused should have due process as well.
LEMON: So you think the 15 or so more women who have accused the president, do you think they're all lying and do you think it's some sort of collusion by the democrats?
KREMER: This is what I -- Don, this is what I -- this is what I believe. Is that every different story -- first of all, if it's criminal, then file charges and have it tried in a court of law and not charged -- not tried in the press. That's number one.
But, I mean, every different story or accusation should, I mean, be a separate situation. You cannot lump them all together. So, I mean, just as the women have a right to be heard, the accused have -- are due -- deserve due process, as well.
LEMON: Let me just ask you a simple question.
KREMER: And I don't think you can put them all together.
LEMON: Do you think -- do you think all of these women are lying?
KREMER: Don, I am not here to judge the women. But I am here to say, here we go again. I mean, and the people across this country heard all of this. This is all we heard for the last month of the election pretty much. We heard it all, over and over again, and the people still voted for President Trump. What people in the media, in that D.C./New York bubble, no offense,
you all, but what they don't seem to get is out here across the heartland, this is not what Americans are talking about.
They're talking about jobs and the economy and securing the borders and about the incident in New York today and will they be able to feed their kids and send their kids to school. I mean, those are the issues that matter while the media is obsessed on all of this.
LEMON: But they're also talking about the issues. But they're talking about those issues, too. Amy, listen, I hear you. And I think everyone wants a job. But they're also talking about these issues, as well.
And just because, you know, you say it's a New York or a D.C. media bubble...
KREMER: But do you think that...
LEMON: ... New York and D.C. are part of America, and a big part of America, and as a big populist, but also people in other parts of the country...
KREMER: But do you...
LEMON: ... are concerned about women's issues. They're concerned about sexual abuse. They're concerned about sexual harassment.
LEMON: Look at the ground swell that we have seen...
LEMON: ... in our culture. That didn't just come from New York, L.A., Washington, D.C. That's women and Americans from all across this great country of ours. So I think it's unfair to say that the media bubble...
KREMER: But, Don...
LEMON: ... is only from one part of the country. I think that people in the other part of the country, and the vast -- the vast number of Americans care about this issues just as well. And I've got to give Amanda...
(CROSSTALK) KREMER: I'm not saying they don't care about them, but they care about the other things that are affecting their lives, that affect them personally. That's what they care about and that's what they vote on.
LEMON: But if you're involved in that, if you were sexually harassed, if you're sexually abused, that affects your life, as well.
KREMER: I have been.
LEMON: And you may not -- that also affects your employment, as well. So, you know, I don't know if I necessarily agree with you on that.
KREMER: Don, I, under statement...
AMANDA CARPENTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Here's the problem. Donald Trump is on tape, not just on the Access Hollywood tapes but many interviews with Howard Stern saying really eye-popping things about women. Watching female members of his beauty pageants undress, gross comments about his daughter, and there's a big movement happening right now to stand up for the rights of women.
So when you have President Trump on the record talking favorably about sexual assault and ogling women, people want some accountability for that. And here's the danger for republicans. I don't think this is going to be successful in getting Donald Trump to resign. That's ludicrous.
But will this be effective in harnessing and activating the political power of women for democratic votes in, you know, swing states like it did in Virginia, when it threw the governor's elections, you know, away from Gillespie to Northrup, yes.
[22:30:01] I think there's a very big potential there. And it will sadden me to watch republicans lose the women's vote because they stood by Trump and his gross lewd comments behavior again and again. That will be a very sad...
LEMON: I've got to -- I'm out of time. Listen, I think this is a -- tomorrow is a big moment. This is a big moment that we're in for women. Amy, listen, I appreciate your perspective and I appreciate yours as well, Amanda. It's good to hear from both of you. Thank you.
When we come back, a man who served the last three American presidents says he can no longer call himself an Evangelical republican. Peter Wehner will join me next. I'm going to ask him why he says President Trump is dragging down virtually everyone within his orbit.
LEMON: Many Evangelical republicans support both President Trump and Alabama Senate candidate, Roy Moore. Yet, one man who says he is proudly identified as Evangelical and republican for his entire adult life writes in the New York Times an op-ed that he no longer can, given the allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump and Moore, among other reasons.
[22:35:10] That man is Peter Wehner. He is a former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, who joins me now. It's good to have you on. Thank you, sir. Good evening to you.
PETER WEHNER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Good evening to you. Thanks for having me.
LEMON: If I may, I'm going to read a bit of your op-ed and then get a response. Because you write, "I consider Mr. Trump's Republican Party to be a threat to conservatism. And I have concluded that the term Evangelical has been so distorted that it is no undermining the Christian witness." Those are strong words. What brought you to write them?
WEHNER: Well, it's been an evolution, really, since Trump has gotten on to the scene. Not that republicans or Evangelicals are perfect. There are, you know, we live in a broken world. But this has been a terrible two years.
And I think that what Trump has done is to drag both the Republican Party and a large part of the Evangelical world down with him. I think he's fundamentally a corrupt person and I think those who have associated themselves with him and a lot of them who a lot people who would defend him have really discredited themselves.
I want to be careful that's not true of all republicans or Evangelicals by any means. I know a lot of people who are both and they live admirable lives, but I just reached kind of a tipping point.
First it was Trump and now it's Roy Moore. And this is like an Alice in Wonderland moment to have walked through and to see both a republican party and Evangelical Christianity standing up for these men and what they represent. It's mind boggling.
LEMON: OK. So, what has happened to Evangelicals?
WEHNER: Well, it's a complicated question and it's a good one. I think a lot has gone on. I think part of it is that a lot of people who are Evangelicals or self-described Evangelicals, who have subordinated their faith to political ideology. I think there's a tremendous amount of fear, which has given way to resentment and anger and grievance, a feeling that the culture is being lost. And that's led to a kind of panic. I think certain top...
LEMON: Can you stop right there?
LEMON: What do you mean, the culture is being lost? WEHNER: Well, I think that the culture has changed in profound ways
over the last few days, particularly with the sexual revolution and with gay rights movement and so forth. And remember, white Christians were a majority in this country for the entire history of the country until 2012. And they're no longer a majority.
LEMON: Here's what it sounds like you're saying to me. It sounds like you're saying that there's this one group, white Evangelicals, who think that their philosophy, their religion, their thoughts and their voices are preeminent over everyone else. And they feel that they're losing that preeminence, and somehow, because they're losing that, they feel that they're being discriminated against, when actually the culture is changing around them. There is no discrimination, the world is just evolving.
WEHNER: Yes, look, it's too sweeping, because, of course, Evangelicals are more than 25 percent of the population. But remember, it was Evangelicals who came up with the name, moral majority. And now they feel like they're a besieged minority. And that catalyzes a certain reaction.
And again, I want to -- a lot of Evangelicals do wonderful work and are wonderful people. But self-described...
LEMON: We understand, you're generalizing here. You don't get right to one, but go on.
WEHNER: Yes, but I do want to say as well, self-described Evangelicals are at the core of support for Donald Trump. Not just supporting him, but strongly supporting him and it is Evangelicals that's the core of support for Roy Moore, who has been credibly accused of being a child molester and is a person who has made appeals to -- you know, racist appeals, who referred to the United States as the focus of evil in the modern world, who wants to imprison gay people.
And the idea that people of the Christian faith, people who are supposed to represent and embody grace and reconciliation and redemption, who are supposed to be followers of Jesus and this is what they are standing for. And this is the signal that they're giving to the world, as a Christian, and I am, it's just a very painful thing to see.
LEMON: What do you say to them? Just your final thoughts.
WEHNER: Well, I hope that they reconsider and actually think what grace means and to put faith above politics. All of us struggle with this. None of us see the world as exactly as it is. But in the end, if you're a person of faith, that has to be the center of who you are.
And for a Christian, the concepts that are there are those that I mentioned. Grace and redemption and forgiveness. And if that's not being shown or if you're standing up for people or movements that are antithetical to that, then something's gone wrong and it's time to look within and to make corrections and to go higher and keeper and better.
[22:39:58] LEMON: I've got to go, but this is not, you say this is not about right versus left. This is not about politics. This is about what?
WEHNER: No, this is more about right and wrong and it's about truth and it's about human decency and it's about human fulfillment.
LEMON: Thank you, Peter Wehner.
LEMON: Always a pleasure.
When we come back, an attempt terror track in one of the busiest parts of New York City today injuring five people and causing chaos at rush hour. We're going to bring you the details. And former director of national intelligence, James Clapper will weigh in. That's next.
LEMON: Tonight, New York officials calling an explosion at the city's main bus terminal an attempted terrorist attack. It happened this morning. Cell phone video capturing the blast right there. At least five people suffering minor injuries.
The suspect, 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, a New York man, a Bangladeshi descent detonating a homemade pipe bomb. A source telling CNN he pledged allegiance to ISIS.
[22:44:59] More than 200,000 commuters pass through the Port Authority Bus Terminal every single day. It's located in a busy part of Manhattan, one block west of Times Square.
Let's bring in now CNN national security analyst James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, to discuss what's going on. Good evening, director.
Tonight, investigators confirm that this suspect had at least two devices. He pledged loyalty to ISIS. This is the terror-related incident in New York, in less than two months. What is going on here?
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I think this is kind of a sign of the times, Don, that this kind of thing, you're going to have to get used to.
Fortunately, we had an inept lone wolf. Maybe the next one won't be so inept. And there's no community in this country better protected as more manpower committed to the safety and security of its citizens than the city of New York, with its extremely capable and professional police department. And the large presence of the FBI and the oldest Joint Terrorism Task Force in the whole country. And so, if there's expertise and manpower to be brought to bear on this problem, boy, it's in New York. But we're going to have this. And despite the recent chest beating about defeating ISIS, we haven't figured out how to defeat the ideology and the appeal to certain people, even those who are legitimately here in this country, who over time somehow become radicalized.
And so, I think it's -- what's happening is -- unfortunately, just a part of life. But when you consider and put this in perspective in relation to the number of people diagnose of opioids or automobile accidents, for example, in comparison to the relatively low level of casualties from these kind of attacks, it makes you wonder about putting the hyperventilation in context.
LEMON: Yes, so you talked about the men and women of the FBI who were working on this and who worked tirelessly on these situations and other things. And just last week, remember the president criticized him. The president and his aides have been relentless trying to discredit Robert Mueller. Right-wing media has been on the attack.
And just last week, we saw republican lawmakers attacking Mueller, you know, at the Donald Trump, Jr. testimony.
LEMON: Is this a strategy to undermine the -- what's going on here? The Mueller investigation?
CLAPPER: Well, I think it is. First of all, I think this is a regrettable characteristic of President Trump, where he will attack people who have -- or whom he considers a threat.
LEMON: Do you think it's working?
CLAPPER: Well, yes, it is. I think, unfortunately, it is. And it's very disturbing, at least to me when the institutions of ours that have served us long and well are under attack. And I thought the characterizing 37,000 men and women of the FBI that they are in tatters, even worse, presumably, than the heyday of J. Edgar Hoover, was absolutely egregious.
And the rank-and-file men and women of the FBI, whether they're special agents or support people, are phenomenal. And what they do to protect this country and keep its citizens safe and secure and to have that kind of a characterization from the president, I thought, was really egregious.
And certainly with special counsel Mueller.
CLAPPER: Someone I know to be of the highest character and integrity. Served as the director of the FBI for 12 years, was extended by at the request of President Obama and which was agreed to by the Congress.
LEMON: Yes. There's no one of higher integrity than Bob Mueller.
CLAPPER: But yet, was the investigation, obviously, getting closer and closer here, poses apparently, in the minds of those in the White House, a threat. So, the objective here, lash out, criticize, undermine, demean, and marginalize. And that has been taken up regrettably by other republicans.
LEMON: Yes. I have to ask you, and let's talk about, a little bit more about the investigation. We've learned that the White House's chief lawyer, Don McGahn, told the president in January that he believed that then national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had lied to the FBI, lied to the vice president and should be fired.
We know that the FBI director James Comey testified that the president said to Comey of Flynn, he is a good guy, I hope you can let this go.
[22:49:59] Do you think that this is a case where obstruction of justice, is it looking stronger at all to you?
CLAPPER: Well, as I've said before I'm not a lawyer, but you know, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and flies like a duck it sure like looks like obstruction to me. But I'm just -- I'm just a layman.
And I think particularly damning is if as the president seemed to have acknowledge in his tweet that he knew that Mike Flynn had lied to the FBI when he asked then-Director Comey to drop the investigation or let it go, to me this is again as a layman, is pretty compelling indication of obstruction.
And I will tell you, you know, when I had grand total of three one-on- ones with President Obama during my six and a half years as DNI. And you remember every word when you're in the Oval Office with the president of the United States all by yourself. And, you know, when the president indicates he'd like something to happen, I never treated that as optional.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, director. Always appreciate your time.
CLAPPER: Thank, don.
LEMON: And if I don't see, hopefully I will, but merry Christmas to your and your family.
CLAPPER: And the same to you, Don.
LEMON: When we come back, a combative briefing in the White House press room today. Two reporters who were there join us next.
LEMON: President Trump and his top aides routinely denounce, belittle and bash the media and today's White House press briefing was no exception. It was contentious. I want to you to listen as political analyst April Ryan tries to get answers from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As the president said he found the allegations troubling and if they were true, that he should step aside. And ultimately, people of Alabama will make a decision in that race.
APRIL RYAN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, he has own accusers, though. He had accusers as well.
SANDERS: Look, the president has first knowledge on what he did and didn't do. He can speak directly to those, and he has and he's addressed them. And I don't have anything further to add.
RYAN: Because this is spinning, and it's focused on him now.
SANDERS: And he's addressed it directly to the American people.
RYAN: But will he (Inaudible) more people are now speaking out.
SANDERS: April, I'm going to keep moving.
RYAN: I understand but...
RYAN: This is huge issue, Sarah.
SANDERS: I know. And there are a lot of big issues today. I'm trying to cover as many of them as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:55:01] LEMON: April Ryan joins me now, along with Brian Karem, he's the executive editor of Central newspapers. So good to have both of you on.
BRIAN KAREM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, SENTINEL NEWSPAPERS: Good to be here, Don.
LEMON: April, the White House press secretary was clearly frustrated today. She had more than one heated exchange with reporters. What's going on?
RYAN: Yes. A lot is going on. A lot's on the plate. Very serious issues, the stakes are very high. Sarah would say that, you know, it wasn't necessarily her, it was the press. But this is what happens when there's frustration, when you're not getting answers. There is a clash. And the clash was very evident today. It was like three or four clashes.
And I wouldn't consider mine a clash. I just wanted an answer to the disconnect...
KAREM: That's all we want to.
RYAN: ... and as to candidate Trump -- yes, yes, the disconnect to then candidate Trump bringing out the accusers of Bill Clinton at the debate. And now, you know, he's supporting Roy Moore who has accusers and he's not coming out as president about his 14 or so accusers.
LEMON: She is saying that...
KAREM: He won't even talk about it.
LEMON: Yes. This has been litigated by the American public, this was handled and addressed.
LEMON: And all of the women, 15 or more depending on you know, who -- the news organization.
KAREM: Beyond that.
LEMON: The 15, I think 17 or even 20.
LEMON: Go ahead, Brian. I'm sorry.
KAREM: I'm sorry, Don. No. Beyond that the clash -- when I get testy and when I get upset is when, for example, last week the president tweeted out fake video, anti-Muslim fake video. And Sarah told us in the press briefing room that elevated the level of discussion on an important issue.
And then today she admonishes the press for fake news. Well, they're producing fake news. If we make mistakes, we apologize for them and we correct ourselves. That's part of what makes free press very good. You don't -- you know, we do. We're a self-correcting mechanism.
And she isn't. That president has never once admitted a mistake, never once apologized for a mistake. So when they call us fake news it kind of cuts against the grain all the time. And the problem is that's causing the friction, that's part of the reason for the friction in the room, and then as to April's point, she asks a question and you can't get a straight answer.
KAREM: So it's a combination of ducking and dodging. You know, it's like dodge ball all over again. But you're not getting answers.
LEMON: I do notice when she wants to talk she'll say I'm not finished, I'm not done. But when a reporter wants to follow, she'll immediately cut you off.
KAREM: She cuts off.
LEMON: Which is, you know, I've not really seen it. Listen, I'm not in the press briefings as much as you guys are. Well, I'm watching. I'm not really in there, I was there I guess a couple of times under Obama.
But listen, how long can this bash the press tactic go on, April? It's really getting old.
RYAN: Well, let me say this, the best way to unite people to find a common enemy. And I guess the press is the common enemy. But you know, today, Jim Acosta and some others, and Brian, fought back on that -- on that fake news or the issue of making a mistake.
Reporters try their best to get their sources to talk to their sources and get accurate information. It happens every now and again. She cited some instances.
But what happens when we have a president of the United States who tweets. And when he tweets he talks about wiretapping. And then there are investigations that cost taxpayer dollars. What happens when the president talks about voter fraud? This investigation is taxpayer dollars.
He has a corrective mechanism that involves investigations and money. Whereas, there's a corrective mechanism for the press that we say we're sorry, we do a correction and we own up to our mistakes.
LEMON: Yes. But they don't take responsibility. Brian, this has got to be the last word.
I've got to go to a break.
KAREM: OK. Sorry. The real quick one, short answer to your question is it's not going to end as long as he's there. Because as April said, he's found the enemy and it's us.
LEMON: Thank you. We'll be right back.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)