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Florida Shooting Update; Trump Versus Reagan; Mueller Files New Charges Against Former Trump Campaign Chair Manafort, Former Campaign Aide Gates Pleads Guilty; U.S. Immigration Agency Updates Statement To No Longer Say Nation Of Immigrants. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired February 23, 2018 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Don Lemon. It is 11:00 p.m. here on the east coast, live with the breaking news tonight on the Florida school shooting. Sources telling CNN that three Broward County sheriff deputies were outside Stoneman Douglas High School during the rampage but failed to enter. That's in addition to the armed school resource deputy who also stayed outside while 17 students and teachers were shot to death.

Just a latest in the disgraceful record of failures at every single level. Missed tips, missed opportunities, and all of those failures led to the deaths of 17 people.

Here are just some of the missed warning signs. CNN obtained documents showing law enforcement officers were called to the shooter's house 39 times over a seven-year period.

Florida State Social Services Agency investigated Cruz in 2016 after he posted violent video on Snapchat and Instagram. They closed the case determining he wasn't a threat to himself or others.

Just one month ago, the FBI received a call with an ominous warning about Nikolas Cruz saying, I know he is going to explode. I think about -- I just think about, you know, getting into a school and just shooting up the place. That's a quote.

Well, the caller tells the FBI he had pulled a gun on his mother. And on Instagram, he says, I want to kill people. CNN has also obtained newly released 911 calls from the last November when Cruz got into a fight with a family that took him in after his mother died. He claimed his host family son came after him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): I kind of got mad and I started punching walls and stuff. And then a kid (bleep) came at me and threw me on the ground. And he started attacking and kicking me out of the house. And he said that he is going to gut me if I came back.


LEMON: The host family said that it was their son who was the victim. (START VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): Nik punched him in the face and he kind of hold him just so he doesn't punch and put him down, but he kept punching and my son threw him out. He is going to get his weapon. I know that right now. Now he's pissed off, so he's going to get the gun.


LEMON: Tonight, we are learning the Coral Springs police officers responded to the active shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They were surprised to find there were four armed Broward County Sheriff's deputies outside the school. One was the armed school resource officer, Scott Peterson, who failed to go inside the school and help protect the students when the shooting began.

And there were three additional sheriff's deputies on site who stayed outside, crouching behind their vehicles. In under 10 minutes, the shooter shot and killed 17 people, 12 of them inside the high school. Fourteen others were wounded. Five with life-threatening injuries. Because the school's video surveillance system had an explicable 20- minute delay, officers didn't even enter the school until well after Cruz was gone.


SCOTT ISRAEL, SHERIFF, BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: What I saw was a deputy arrive at the west side of building 12, take up a position, and he never went in. There are no words. I mean these families lost their children. We lost coaches.


LEMON: Unarmed coaches, who put their bodies between the gunman and students, sacrificing themselves, so some children might be spared. Unarmed teachers huddling in closets with kids texting their loved ones for help and to say goodbye.

And four armed deputies with pistols drawn sat in defensive positions outside. Not one of them went into the school. They instead waited for nearly -- to a nearby Coral Gables police to lead the charge and to do something. So what happened?

I want to bring in now CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem, a former homeland security official. Neill Franklin, retired Maryland State police major. And CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell, a former FBI supervisory special agent. Good evening to all of you. Listen, I don't want to second guess officers or people who responded here because

[23:05:00] we -- we want to know exactly what happened, and we should wait for all the information to come out. But just according to the sheriff and what has come out now, Josh, the transcript of the call to the FBI in January is downright damning. The caller was worried that Nikolas Cruz would get into a school and just shoot the place up. They even said this, I know he is going to explode. How does something like this slip through the cracks?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: This is heartbreaking on so many different levels. And my colleagues here, my panelists in the security industry know very well that, you know, one of the hardest things is after an event, something that happens that impacts people, results in loss of life, the population will always look to government and say, what could you have done to make sure this didn't happen? Were there warning signs? Is there something that you could have done?

And the problem in the security business is often times there aren't warning signs and so you are left trying to explain that to the population that, you know, there really was nothing that we could do in the situation. This is not that. This is different.

And the reason why it's so heartbreaking is because we see time after time that the system failed the victims there in Florida, the system failed their family members, and it's something that we have to get to the bottom of.

Again, there are so many dots here. And no one wants to be the armchair quarterback that says we should have done this. But at some point, there has to be a big -- a very robust review that will look into this in order to ensure that these type -- this type of even doesn't happen again.

LEMON: So, listen, here is another part from -- this is a transcript, OK, Neil, this is for you, and it was from the tipster who says, he is 18 but he has got the mental capacity of 12 to 14-year-old. If you go into his Instagram pages, you will see all the guns. I just want someone to know about this so they can look into it. I just know I have a clear conscious, if he takes -- if he takes off and just starts shooting places up.

I mean, these were explicit. They were very specific warnings. If something this serious doesn't break through then what's the point of having a tip line?

NEILL FRANKLIN, RETIRED MARYLAND STATE POLICE MAJOR: Well, there is no point if you can't respond appropriately. You know, Josh said that the system failed at many, many places. Not just the systems but people failed. So, you know, and these are two different things.

I find it hard to believe that after so many years of dealing with this issue and we hear about all the things that have been put in place, all the safeguards that had been put in place, the attention we continue to give to this, that something like this failed when you had so many indicators. Clear indicators.

Teachers were doing their job, right? People were reporting at that level. But as you got into the organizations, the police, the FBI, the other processes then failed. But then at the end, you know when it really got down to this thing kicking off, to have our -- our law enforcement officers who have been trained, they failed. They failed to act. And I know it's complicated. I know it's difficult. But still, this is what you signed up for. LEMON: Juliette, you say everyone failed these children. But you don't think that we should focus on law enforcement right now. Why not?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No, I think we should focus on law enforcement. I'm going to be the Monday morning quarterback. There are red alarms going off all the time leading to the mass murder. And then the activities in that hour are just shocking.

I mean, look, I'm not a police officer, I know from my experiences. A lot was learned after Columbine. And everything changed after Columbine in terms of active shooter. That was that you stop the assailant immediately. You just go in. You're not there to protect other people. You are not there to save those who may be wounded. You go in and you -- and you stop the threat.

So clearly something has gone wrong, whether it was training, fear, whatever else. But -- and this is -- you know, there is those failures. And then there is another conversation that the students of the school want to also have, which is one of the problems here is how quickly someone with a gun like that can kill people and make response that difficult, right?

Because you just -- the amount of time it takes to kill that many people now how quickly it is, how -- how armed he was, and so I think both conversations are important. I'm not forgiving anyone. There are red alarms everywhere. There should be an assessment. And I have to be honest with you, Broward County should not be doing that review.

They need to step back now and independent party needs to step in and be as critical -- recommend firings whatever it's going to be, but also continue the conversation about guns and access to guns. That is an important conversation that we're finally having in this country.

LEMON: Listen, I think you're welcome

[23:10:00] to have your own opinion, that's why we have you. I just don't want to -- I don't know exactly how it played out. These are reports that we are getting from, you know, sources whatever. I want to see the transcripts. I want to see it all play out. It looks damning from the what the sheriff is saying. But Josh --

KAYYEM: Right. Don --

LEMON: Go on.

KAYYEM: Don, I just want to say one thing. I agree with you. That's why you want an independent assessment. In other words, I think Broward County given the conflicting narrative and what happened and some of the challenges that are (INAUDIBLE) and also this is very political at this stage --

LEMON: Right.

KAYYEM: -- I think Broward County should hand the review -- this happens in a lot of these cases. You hand the review to an independent party. People come in. They do the review. That's it. I agree with you, it's just very -- it's very hard to know at this stage. Broward might not be the best entity to do that review.

LEMON: And here is what the reporting is, Josh. Four Broward County sheriff's deputies didn't go into the school as the shooting was unfolding. Does that make any sense to you?

CAMPBELL: It doesn't. You know, unfortunately, some law enforcement are trained to not only physically respond but were constantly told that, you know, until you're actually in that situation where you are facing deadly force, where your life could be on the line in order to serve and protect someone else, you don't know what you're going to do.

And so we train physically but we're also told to continue to train mentally, to go through those motions, to go through that planning, what would I do in this situation? How would I act? I would say and as we've seen, the psychological training is just as important as the physical training, because you don't know what you're going to do.

I think that the point was raised about training is something that's very important. This isn't just about politics, not about policies. We have to ensure that we train our officers to a certain standard so they understand what they're signing up to do. It is different. Those in law enforcement understand it's a different calling. And when they're called to act, they need to act.

LEMON: Well, Neill, listen, if they were -- they knew, they heard it was an AR-15, they knew they didn't have the weaponry to go up against it, I mean, doesn't that -- isn't that -- doesn't that make the case or the point that maybe these sorts of weapons should not be legal on the street because even police officers have to go -- even they're outgunned by them?

FRANKLIN: Well we all -- there are many different opinions about whether these weapons should be legal, available on the street, who can buy them, what age limit, and all this stuff. And I hope we really get down to a serious conversation and meet somewhere with a compromise, left, right, everyone in between and start moving this issue in the right direction.

But as far as that police officer and the others that were there hearing any -- and you can tell the difference of a handgun between an AR-15, at least most police officers can. But still, you know, we're not talking about confronting this individual in an open field and that's where the person with the long gun has the advantage.

You're talking about a school, you're talking about hallways, you're talking about classrooms, you're talking about a very short distance between you and the assailant when you do come in contact with that person. But, again, you've got teachers sacrificing their lives for these kids versus a trained police officer who knows about the strategy, who has been trained in active shooter scenarios.

I don't know a cop in this country that hasn't had that training. And again, the mental part of it, the visualization, we're trained to do this all the time, so that you are prepared when something like this happens. But I mean -- but just to -- I don't know, I'm just having a difficult -- a difficult time here with this and not just him but the other deputies that responded. And then -- it's tough to think about this. It really is.


CAMPBELL: Don, can I just say that, you know, on that note, when it gets -- when we get to the issue of who should be responding and who should have the weapons, I think that we have to have an honest conversation.

And you know this isn't an anti-gun statement. But if you look at the response by law enforcement, we had highly trained people who are trained to carry firearms that did not, at least it appears, did not act the way that they were supposed to, that they were trained.

What are teachers going to do in that situation? And I mentioned that because that's been -- we are centering a lot on that debate that we need to arm our teachers.

If we have highly trained law enforcement officers who go through the motions, who know what to expect, who know how to manipulate a firearm, if they are in a position where they're not going to act, I think -- I find it very hard to believe that we're going to ask the same of our teachers who don't have that same kind of tactical background and whose focus is on education, not on protection.

LEMON: I had a teacher e-mail me last night, Josh, saying, where am I supposed to keep the gun in the class and the ammunition and keep the students away from it? And what happens if one of my students gets a hold of it? Am I responsible? Or someone comes in to the classroom and I don't care of it, am I going to be blamed?

Or if someone comes in the classroom and I get the gun and then I shoot the wrong person -- there is so many variables in there. It's just not a smart idea. And I don't even think we need to discuss it. It's a silly idea.

[23:15:00] Juliette, let's talk about the governor. Governor Rick Scott came out with some new gun proposals today. Raising the age to by a gun -- any gun in the state to 21. Tougher background checks. Longer waiting periods to buy firearms. An end to the sale of bump stocks. Giving the government more power to place individuals deemed mentally ill in custody. And millions more funding for mental health services and fortifying schools.

It's just that the only thing I have an issue -- I do have an issue with the mentally ill part because I think they are lumping in a whole lot of people with that. And I have to say as I have been saying every night, people who have mental issues are not usually violent. They usually have violence cast upon them.

So I think we shouldn't stigmatize people who have mental issues. Saying someone is angry, someone who is misguided, someone who is bent on revenge, someone is having an issue doesn't mean that they have a mental illness. But is this --

KAYYEM: Right.

LEMON: Are all these steps in the right direction?

KAYYEM: Yes. I mean, I think -- I think just the governor should be applauded. I think that these are practical solutions. They don't, you know, take away your second amendment rights.

LEMON: Right.

KAYYEM: These are practical solutions. They are what rational common sense. People can understand when you can buy a beer you can get a gun. The bump stock makes no sense. Get rid of it. And so the governor should be applauded.

And I think for those of us who advocates for stricter gun laws, you know, if this governor can begin to meet halfway, maybe it gives us hope that other governors who have a lot of power in this gun issue will begin to too. And that gives me some solace after a week plus of -- of a lot of pain for a lot of people.

LEMON: Well said. Thank you all. Have a great weekend. I appreciate it. When we come back, Trump versus Reagan. We are going to talk to the man who says we've gone from the gipper to the grifter.


LEMON: From mourning in America to making America great again. President Trump likes to compare himself to Ronald Reagan. But a lot of people just aren't buying that. Let's discuss that now with Max Boot. He is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of "The Road Not Taken." Thanks for coming in.

You wrote a great article in "The Washington Post." It is titled "Reagan Was The Gipper, Trump Is The Grifter." You say the comparisons between the two presidents, a perfectly plausible proposition if you know nothing about Reagan or Trump. Talk to us about that. How are they different?

MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS, COLUMNIST AT THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, where to start? The differences are so vast. That is kind of staggering to me that people try to compare them. And, you know, some of Trump supporters even have the nerve to suggest that he is doing more than Reagan which is ridiculous because you have to for starters remember the situation in the United States when Reagan took power in 1981.

We had double digit inflation, double digit interest rates. Our economy was going through a rough spell. We had been through the Iranian hostage crisis. The entire malaise was in the air. The country was in a very dark spot. Reagan really revived the country. He rebuilt the military. He cut taxes at a time when the tax cut actually made sense because the economy was going into recession.

Now, contrast that with Donald Trump, who took over after this long period of growth brought about by President Obama, very favorable conditions. He didn't face the same kind of crisis in his first year as Reagan did.

Remember, among other things, Ronald Reagan was shot in his first year in office. And he handled all that adversity with dignity and grace. And then of course you have Donald Trump, I mean, just -- it's beyond the policies, the personal differences are so vast.

LEMON: Why do you -- why do you think he continues that lie that he inherited a mess and that he inherited -- he seems to (INAUDIBLE) that he had inherited the same head winds as Obama or as a Reagan. He inherited none of that. He inherited a great economy, low unemployment.

BOOT: Right.

LEMON: But yet he says he inherited a mess.

BOOT: I mean, well, as you know, Don, I mean, he lies compulsively, five six times a day at least. I mean, why does he say that his tax cut is the largest in history when it's actually like the eighth largest, and Ronald Reagan in 1981 was the largest.

I mean, he just has to inflate all of his achievements. But, you know, I think the most significant differences between Reagan and Trump have nothing to do with policy or issues. It really has to do with personality.

Remember, Reagan was a guy who did not pay off porn actresses, who did not embarrass the country, who did not call his political opponents treasonous, who did not demonize immigrants and racial minorities. He was a good guy. And he was president with dignity and class and grace which is not something you could possibly say about Donald Trump.

LEMON: It makes you wonder when you say those things, how small are his hands, right? Listen, in your article, you mentioned this before and I just want to give the audience specifics. The Heritage Foundation saying or talking about Trump's accomplishment.

Sixty-four percent of President Trump's ideas were implemented in the first year better than 49 percent of Reagan. Again, you explain the context of that, you're saying that's simply not true.

BOOT: It's -- no, I mean, if you look at what Reagan achieved in terms of reviving the economy, cutting regulations, cutting taxes, growing the military, reviving the nation's spirits, creating that morning in America mood, there is no comparison.


BOOT: Donald Trump simply has not achieved most of his agenda. OK, he passed a tax cut. He didn't repeal Obamacare. He hasn't gotten Mexico to pay for his wall. He hasn't really revived the military. He makes a lot of promises. He doesn't actually deliver.

LEMON: This is part of President Trump's speech at CPAC today. Let's play it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Honestly and I say -- I'll use the word my administration as opposed to me -- my administration I think has had the most successful first year in the history of the presidency.


TRUMP: I really believe that. I really believe it. I really believe it. So, I mean judges, regulations, everything. And the beautiful thing -- the beautiful thing about the tax cuts is nobody thought we could do it.


LEMON: So, I want you to listen to President Reagan's 1984 speech at CPAC.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you take away the dream, you take away the power of the spirit. If you take away the belief in a greater future, you cannot explain America. That we were a people who believe there was a promised land. We were a people

[23:25:00] who believed we were chosen by God to create a greater world. Well, I think we are remembering those bedrock beliefs which motivate our progress. A spirit of renewal is spreading across this land.


LEMON: What do you think?

BOOT: I just feel very sad, Don, to be reminded of a time when we had a Republican president who spoke to the better angels of our nature and sought to inspire and uplift Americans instead of Donald Trump who was constant I, I, I, brag, brag, brag, I'm wonderful.

Ronald Reagan had a relatively modest ego and really spoke about the greatness of American people whereas Donald Trump tears people down in order to make himself feel better because he has such massive insecurities and such a massive ego. It's just such a sad contrast that we have distended from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump.

LEMON: Yes. I just want to put -- because you mentioned this earlier. This is from your article in "The Washington Post". As impressive as what Reagan achieved was what he didn't do. He didn't demonize the press, attack minorities or immigrants, demean the presidency, obstruct justice, accuse his political foes of treason or have his lawyer pay off a porn star. Everyone should read that. Thank you, sir.

BOOT: Thanks for having me, Don. LEMON: When we come back, Robert Mueller flipping Rick Gates today. We'll tell you what we know about his plea deal. Plus, Mueller leveling even more charges on Paul Manafort. Will Manafort be the next to flip?


DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: Breaking news in the Mueller investigation tonight. The Special Counsel filing new charges against former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

This is Manafort's right-hand man and Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, pleading guilty to a pair of criminal charges. I want to bring in now, CNN National Security Analyst Samantha Vinograd, who was a senior adviser to President Obama's national security advisor, and CNN Legal Analyst Michael Zeldin, a former special assistant to Robert Mueller at the Department of Justice.

Good evening, so good to have both of you on. Samantha, the Gates charging documents are out tonight. What stands out to you?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, these are the most detailed accounts we have yet about the pathological swindling of the U.S. government by Gates and allegedly by Manafort as well. But, Don, we knew a lot before these documents even came out, right?

We knew that Manafort had two really important longstanding relationships. One was with Russia via Ukraine, and the other was with Donald Trump.

So now I think we have to take a step back from the national security perspective and say, what kind of influence did Russia have throughout the course of the campaign via Paul Manafort and via Gates, and what impact did that have on all of the policies that were put forward during the campaign and now into this administration.

LEMON: So in some way -- I don't know how -- if you would know if Trump knew or did he invite...

VINOGRAD: I think that Donald Trump invited Russia onto this campaign the minute that he brought Paul Manafort in and the minute that he brought Gates in. And this was open source knowledge.

It was no secret that Paul Manafort and Gates had these relationships with the Ukraine, had a relationship with Putin allies. So at that point, Russia had an open door onto the campaign.

LEMON: Michael, the guilty pleas and indictments are piling up today. Rick gates flipped, the third Trump administration official to cooperate with Robert Mueller. How damaging is this to his long-time business partner Paul Manafort?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's very interesting. I was reading tonight the statement of offense. They file, you know, the plea agreement. They file the charges. And then they file the statement of offense, which is sort of a narrative description of what happened.

And in that statement of offense in the third paragraph, it says that Gates essentially with Manafort's cooperation did all of Manafort's tax preparation work. He talked to the accountants. He filed the final returns.

He made the misstatements on the forms, all of them working together, which tells me that Gates can convict Manafort essentially on his own of the entire Virginia indictment.

They don't really need anything but the documents, the tax returns, the certification that there was no foreign bank account report filed, and Gates' testimony. So how Manafort -- leaving aside what, Samantha, said about the conspiracy he did to fraud the United States and the collusion, and all the stuff, which is, you know, all valid.

But when you look at Manafort's jeopardy on the basis of Gates' plea -- Gates convicts him of everything in Virginia. And Virginia carries about 30 years in prison for him.

So before you even get to this broader conspiracy thing, if you're Manafort you have to know that you're not going to find yourself free of criminal liability and conviction out of Virginia. And that's 30 years. And therefore, you have to work out a plea.


ZELDIN: So, this tells me that Manafort, for all his bravado, ultimately has going to have to come to his senses if he ever wants to see his family again.

LEMON: Sam, and considering all the charges Gates was up against -- I mean, he got a pretty good deal here. So what does Gates have that Mueller wants?

VINOGRAD: I think that Gates just based upon his role in the campaign. I supported very...

LEMON: Hold on wasn't Gates -- Gates was part of the campaign a lot longer than Manafort was part of the campaign.

VINOGRAD: And Gates, had a substantive role. I mean, if you think about what this role would do on a campaign, he should have known about every meeting that was taking place, for example with the Russians, at the Trump Tower, name the meeting, and the financial transactions that were happening.

And so there are so many unreported -- unanswered questions that we have right now about who met with whom, when, what they talked about, and whether, again, Russia had any undue influence on this campaign.

[23:35:08] I think that Gates is very well positioned to have answers to those questions as well as, by the way, any business transactions that were going on that we know are already the subject of Mueller's investigation. LEMON: Interesting. So, Michael, after the Gates plea Manafort

issued a statement and it read notwithstanding that Rick Gates pled today -- that Rick Gates pled today, I continue to maintain my innocence.

I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence for reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise.

This is not altering my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me. So he -- he is talking a good game. But today, Mueller announced even more new charges against Manafort. The pressure, it's got to be immense right now.

ZELDIN: I would think so, Don, the -- when you take into consideration Manafort's age, the severity of the charges, how many of these charges, the tax and the failure to report your e bank accounts overseas are pretty straightforward.

They're not complicated like the conspiracy to defraud the United States or the international money laundering component of the indictment, the first indictment.

When you see that he really does not have a strong defense unless he can make Gates out to be a stone cold liar, then you know, what's he -- what's this bravado all about? You know, it might look great for the press.

Maybe he is angling for a pardon, you know, to say to the president, you know, I am not going to cave. If you give me a pardon, I won't testify. But of course that's not true also. He can be pardoned and still required to testify.

So I think in the end -- I mean predicting the future is always dangerous with this White House and with these characters. But in the end, I can't imagine, Don, how Manafort doesn't come to his senses if Mueller wants his cooperation, he will make an offer for him that he can't refuse.

LEMON: Great conversation but I have to run. Thank you all. I appreciate it. When we come back, is America still a nation of immigrants? U.S. citizenship and immigration services seems to think it isn't anymore.


LEMON: The agency in-charge of U.S. Immigration Services updating its mission statement and removing the phrase nation of immigrants. The director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services all saying that the revised statements now emphasizes protecting American workers and safeguarding the homeland.

I want to bring in our CNN political commentator, Charles Blow, and talk radio host, John Fredericks, a former co-chair of the Trump campaign in Virginia. Good evening, gentlemen. So, Charles, I'm going to start with you.

This is the mission statement in the United States Customs and Immigration Service written in 2005, and here is how it reads. It says the USCIS secures America's promised as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate, and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, prompting awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.

The agency's new mission statement reads now today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are administrators the nation's lawful immigration system, safe guarding its integrity and promised by effectively, and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans securing the homeland and honoring our values.

What changed? Well, the phrase that described the agency as securing the America's promises as a nation of immigrants has been eliminated. We are no longer a nation of immigrants?

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean that phrase is actually both a statement of fact and philosophy, right, that this is how we view ourselves and is also a historical fact.

The population of indigenous people of North America is relatively small based, and most of the people who came -- who are here now are descendants of people who came to this country some way or another, whether forcibly or not.

And in it's very interesting for me sitting here not too far from Willis Island where all of those -- the large number of the people funneled through to come to this country to not think of America as a country of immigrants.

And I also I believe that it is, you know, part of the erasure of truth, and fact, and history, kind of a revisionist history of America that we are now undergoing. And that is a problematic thing just as a fact.

LEMON: So, John, L. Francis who the agency director describes the revision as a simple straightforward statement that clearly defines the agency's role in our country's lawful immigration system and the commitment we have to the American people. He was appointed by the Trump administration. Does this change the -- how the president feels and his stance on immigration?

JOHN FREDERICKS, A FORMER CO-CHAIR OF THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN IN VIRGINIA: No. I think what they're saying is we're a nation of Americans. And if you come to America, we would hope that all immigrants who come into this great country attempt to assimilate in to America, like our ancestors did.

And certainly my grandparents did. We came over and we were not able to speak Italian, which my parents did or German which my grandfather did. You had to speak English. And so I think what they are saying is, look, we are a nation of Americans. And the president, no doubt, has a very different vision for

immigration in this country, which he has boldly laid out, which includes economics and other factors.

And that's what he got elected on. So I don't think this should be a surprise or a shocker. And I don't really think it represents any major change other than it's 2018.

[23:45:00] LEMON: But you just answer the question...


LEMON: ... you said no. I said, does this reflect the president's hard-line stance on immigration? You said no. It doesn't. But then you said, yes, it reflects how the president -- so...

FREDERICKS: I think -- I think it reflects a change in the status of where the country is in 2018 as opposed to where it was in 1818. I think that's really what the difference is. And I think this is really all to do about nothing. I don't think anybody that comes into this country legally doesn't want to be an American. That's why they're coming in.


LEMON: John, I have to say this, by -- listen, you're entitled to your opinion. But by...

FREDERICKS: Thank you.

LEMON: From your logic then the Second Amendment no longer applies in the way it applied when the Second Amendment was written.

FREDERICKS: Well, we're not changing the Amendment, Don. He is changing the -- the director change the language. And I just gave you the explanation, which...

LEMON: You said it reflects where we are in 2018 and not 1818.

FREDERICKS: Yes, I think it does.

LEMON: And you can say the same thing about the Second Amendment.

FREDERICKS: I think it does. And I don't think that...

LEMON: The Second Amendment doesn't reflect where we are in 1818.

FREDERICKS: I don't know how -- what the Second Amendment has to do.

LEMON: Well, I'm just saying by your logic.

FREDERICKS: I don't know what that has to do with this.

LEMON: Well, because that's by your logic. Everyone keeps saying the Second Amendment is sacred. Immigration in this country where a nation of immigration... FREDERICKS: Right.

LEMON: ... should not be just as sacred? So if we are going to be living at a time where that's more reflective of where we are in 2018 rather than 1818, there are a whole lot of other things that should be changed as well?

FREDERICKS: Well, again, we're a nation of Americans. That's really what's changed. The country is a lot older than it was in -- in 1818 when the words were written. And I really think you're reacting to something that doesn't mean a lot of anything. The president is not restricting immigration.

He is not saying he doesn't want people to come to the country. He is changing or he would like to change the way we do immigration and change it to a different system, which I happen to believe is the right way to go.

We had the prime minister of Australia in today, Malcolm Turnbull, Australia does the exact way the president does. And by the way, the Australian prime minister today said at the White House in the press briefing, that he would like to model the economic prosperity for Australia right after Trump's economic prosperity and his tax cut plan.

LEMON: OK. I got to get to break, John. I got to get to a break.


LEMON: All right, we'll be right back.


LEMON: We're back. We're in the middle of a conversation. Charles was back and John Frederick, as well. Sorry to cut you guys off. We had to get the break in. So, Charles, did you want to respond to what, John, was saying?

BLOW: Well, I thought it was fascinating when, John, was talking about the difference between 1818 and 2018. There's a kind of cultural racial blind spot in a lot of what America did, does not want to acknowledge what happened in around that time of 1818 and how we kind of flung the doors wide open to immigrants from Europe, you know, for a very long time.

And in 1818, my ancestors were those slaves and brought here not because they wanted to come and become Americans but because they were brought in as slaves.

And Native Americans, the only indigenous people to this country were being removed from their lands that they rightfully owned through both kind of forcible removal and also through kind of these dubious pacts and treaties.

And so, now that we have, you know, kind of an American that they like, now all of a sudden, we want to slam the door shut and we want to say, no, no, that's not who we are. That's who we were when people who looked like me 2were coming.

Not when it's people who are brown or Asian, or whatever. And that is a very hypocritical, insulting reversal of the ethos of America.

LEMON: John.

FREDERICKS: Charles, it really has nothing to do with that. Charles, this isn't about race. This is about economics. And this isn't about the color of somebody's skin or how they come into the United States. It's about jobs.

What the president simply said is we have got a $20 trillion debt and we're looking for people to come into the country that can support themselves economically.

So what the president has said is, if we see a need, economically for pipe fitters that happen to be in Nigeria, they're going to the top of the list, because we need pipe fitters. If there's welders in Haiti and we have an -- we have a economically...


BLOW: A country that he called a shit hole by the way.


BLOW: And number two, these are ram bling words of deflection.

FREDERICKS: That's why I'm using them as example.

BLOW: We're talking about whether or not who he was coming. We are talking the removal of this particular phrase and whether or not that phrase ever stood for something in this country, and it did.

And it should still stand for something in this country. You know, you go to the Statue of Liberty, and you read about what it means, and they're asking for us to send, you know, our poor, hungry...

LEMON: Right.

BLOW: ... of Europe, and which was mostly who was coming and when that was happening, everyone was fine and dandy with it.

[23:55:04] This is who we were, this is what we wanted, right? And now all of a sudden, this is no longer who we are. We want to build $25 million walls for nothing because we want to keep the brown people out. We want to make sure that people from Haiti, the places you said may have plumbers...

LEMON: We're almost out of time.

BLOW: ... can't come to the U.S. We want to make sure that people from African countries cannot come to the U.S. And you try to tell me that is not about race. You try to disconnect economics from racial reality in this country, and that is a ridiculous position for you to hold and now not a faction. LEMON: But also you said that -- you're talking about debt. The

president added $1.5 trillion to the debt and you're saying that he is wanting to change the immigration system because...

FREDERICKS: He's trying to grow us out of the debt, Don. He's trying to grow us out of the debt...


FREDERICKS: ... through five percent economic expansion, which is going to well pay for that.

LEMON: I have to go, guys.

FREDERICKS: And you look at the economic result of the tax cuts. Now, you know, you guys can rant, rave, all you want...

LEMON: Thank you, guys. I got to go. John, I hate to cut you off.


LEMON: That's it for us tonight. Thank you.

FREDERICKS: Thank you.