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President Trump And Vice President Pence Meet With Top NRA Official Tonight; FBI Counterintel Investigating Ivanka Trump International Business Deal; Trump White House In Chaos; Axe Files; CNN Is Wrong, Ivanka Trump Pushes Back ON Report That Investigation Is Holding Up Security Clearance; CNN Heroes. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired March 1, 2018 - 23:00   ET



[23:00:10] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. 11:00 p.m. here on the east coast live with new developments tonight and a lot of breaking news. After a very public bipartisan meeting on gun control tonight, the President holding a private one with the Vice President and NRA leadership. The President tweeting that it was a great meeting. Also White House if turmoil. Yet another top official may be on the way out. Sources telling CNN that national security adviser H.R. McMaster could leave his position by the end of the month. Plus a CNN exclusive, sources saying that U.S. Counter intelligence officials are investigating one of Ivanka Trumps international business deals having to do with the Trump international hotel and tower in Vancouver, Canada. And President Trump says he is imposing tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum, catching staff by surprise angering Republican lawmaker and overseas trading partners who fear a trade war.

I want to begin this hour ahead with our CNN political commentator. David Axelrod. David thank you for joining us. Can we talk first about the meeting tonight with the higher ups at the NRA, and the officials that the President seems to be backing off his own suggestions about gun control?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well we have seen this movie before, haven't we, Don, on DACA, when he wanted to pass this bill of love and was open to all kinds of ideas in front of the cameras. And then reeled back in by his staff and by a couple of Senators who are on the anti-immigration reform side of the debate. And so, you know, in some ways this was predictable. I don't know anyone who believed watching that yesterday. We could hope -- and I still have hope that the President will be moved by the people he saw might do some modest things to help make the situation better. But there was always this suspicion that he would get reeled back in again. And it looks like the Vice President whistled in the NRA people to work the President over and get him back in the corner.

LEMON: Let's talk about the other things going on at the White House now. We knew President Trump likes chaos, but ow there are fears that he could start a trade war. There is discussion about starting a real war with North Korea. Republicans are angry over how he has publicly attacking his Attorney General. What's going on right now? AXELROD: Well, look, we heard from the very beginning -- this is not

new. We heard from the beginning this is a different kind of President. He likes chaos, he likes tension in the office around him -- offices around him. You know, I sat next to the President of the United States or a President of the United States for two years. I always thought this notion of chaos as an administrative strategy was plausible in the White House. It might work in a small branding business. But doesn't work in the most important office running the United States government. And -- but now it's more than being implausible.

Now it's just frightening, because we have seen what chaos can bring. Apparently the President overruled most of his (inaudible) I just heard General Hayden speaking about this. The President overruled almost all of the economic and national security advisers today and kind a casually slid into a trade war. We hear that there are table top exercises relative to North Korea. Could he casually slide into a conflict there which would be catastrophic in the words of his own defense secretary?

You know, and I don't minimize the threat of North Korea. North Korea's confounded Presidents of both parties going back decades and they certainly represent a threat. But one has to be very sober about that issue. And the question is can this President be sober? Or is everything about instinct? Is everything about changing the subject? Is everything about, you know, his mood of the moment? That is a dangerous quality in the President of the United States.

LEMON: I want to get -- I was speaking to the General Michael Hayden. I don't know if you had the opportunity to hear just before you.

AXELROD: Yes. I did.

LEMON: We were talking about his national securities adviser and CNN reporting his security adviser H.R. McMaster could leave the White House by the end of the month. That would be three NSA in just over one year. What do you think about that?

AXELROD: I think it's really concerning. One of the things you want is enough -- every -- there is turnover in every White House. But in this White House it's been exponentially more than any other. There is in continuity in the policy and interaction between people. It actually becomes an impediment to getting things done. And a national security adviser, someone who is dealing with leaders around the world, that creates even more confusion. And how the world looks at us, and how we can deal with the world is a very big part of this.

[23:05:12] So, you know, I don't know -- it's been rumored from the beginning that the President didn't groove with McMaster. And there is some reporting that General Kelly is trying to ease him out for someone else. I don't know what the motivation is here. But all of this turnover in these key positions, not just in national security but obviously in the others that we have seen -- cannot be good for the smooth functioning of government. And we see the result of it.

LEMON: Um-hum. We are also reading reports that all the chaos is making the President seethe with anger. He is in a bad place, he is isolated. How much of this stems from the President himself and his feelings on the Russia investigation?

AXELROD: It's hard to say. It's always true that when there are bad Russia stories you tend to get a tweet storm following that. This is clearly a huge irritant to him. And so that may be part of it. The investigation is picking up its pace. We now see you know reporting on Jared Kushner that I'm sure is of concern to the President. So the -- it seems the circle is closing in a little bit. And that may be the reason why he is so furious with the Attorney General again in such a public way. Another really peculiar exhibition on his part.

One thing for sure, when we talk about these chaos and when we talk about all of this dislocation in the White House, when we talk about the leaps on policy without preparation or against the advice of most of the establishment in the White House, these come from the top. And you know, people said when General Kelly came, he is going to impose order out of chaos. Well, for a time he did on the White House staff. But my comment then is what we have seen now, which is you can't in that White House manage up. You might be able to manage down for a while, but you can't manage up. In any White House everything flows from the top. I think that is probably true in every organization. But in the White House if the President is -- is a spawner of chaos then you have a chaotic White House no matter who else fills those positions.

LEMON: David, you know, meanwhile CNN is learning that the Trump administration is considering military action against North Korea if the regime successfully builds a nuclear missile capable of reaching the U.S. That is on the table while all of this other stuff is going on. That is -- that has to be disturbing.

AXELROD: Yeah, well -- you know, I had two interpretations of that news, because there was some reporting that had really rich detail about table top exercises and some of the concerns that arose from those table top exercises about the toll that such a military maneuver would involve. And you know, there are only two interpretations. One is what General Hayden said, which is maybe they're trying to send a signal to Kim Jong-un and push him more in the direction of negotiation.

The other is that there are people in the Pentagon who are trying to put this out in the public domain to put pressure on the President not to be precipitous. Because when one absorbs the mass casualties that are almost certainly associated with such a military mission, you know, you have to think, as I said earlier, soberly about this. And I think there must be some concern having watched the President just launch a trade war on a whim that he could be careless here. And this -- carelessness here is a catastrophe.

LEMON: I've been seeing the promos. I can't wait to see it, but let's talk about a little bit, because there is a new Axe files on Saturday. You speak to Republican Senator Jeff Flake. Let's take a look and we'll discuss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AXELROD: There is 2020 approaches. Your name has been mentioned as a

potential candidate for President in some sort of third Party or bipartisan fusion effort. Is that something that you would consider?

SEN JEFF FLAKE, (R) ARIZONA: That is not something I'm planning.

AXELROD: That is not what I'm asking. I'm asking, is it something that you would swear off?

FLAKE: No, no I wouldn't swear it off. I think, you know, we'll see where this goes. I do think the President will have a challenge from the Republican Party. I think there should be. I also think that there will be an independent challenge.


LEMON: Ok, so he won't swear it off. The President will have a challenge from the Republican Party and there should be?

AXELROD: Yes, well, listen, Jeff Flake -- he was once a golden boy of the conservative movement and up and comer in the Republican Party. He has been driven out by Donald Trump because he has had the courage to stand up to him on some of the ways in which the President has behaved, some of the things that we talked about tonight.

[23:10:10] And he clearly -- he believes that Trump is leading the Republican Party down a disastrous path. And that -- and that there has to be an intervention. And he clearly thinks he might be an intervening force.

LEMON: Thank you, David Axelrod, I can't wait to see it. I appreciate it. This week on "The Axe files" more from Republican Senator Jeffery Flake sit down with David Axelrod where they talk about President Trump. "The Axe files" Saturday 7:00 p.m. right here on CNN. Up next White House communication Hope Hicks calling it quits a day after spending nine hours in front of the house intel committee and admitting to telling white lies for the President. I'm asking a member of the committee what else she had to say.


LEMON: Tonight, no word from the White House about who replaces Hope Hicks as communications Director. She resigned yesterday. One day after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee and admitting to lawmakers that sometimes she tells what amounts to white lies for President Trump. Let's discuss now, Congressman Eric Swalwell a California Democrats, he is a member of the intelligence committee. Congressman thank you so much. Hope Hicks testified in front of your committee for nine hours. Telling lawmakers she occasionally tells white lies for the President, but she never lies about anything related to Russia. First, do you believe her?

REP ERIC SWALWELL, (D) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I don't believe we got a straight answer from her.

[23:15:00] I asked her, Don, a number of times if she had been asked by the President to lie for him. And if you have to take two time outs, confer with lawyers and come back and give a -- a very tightly scripted answer, I think we already know what the answer is. And that is unfortunate, because this Trump team, the Trump family, there have been so many occasions where they have lied or not been forthcoming about their contacts with Russia that I think that is a fair and relevant question.

LEMON: You led the Democratic questioning. She reportedly refused to answer whether the President and a litany of Trump associates asked her to lie. Talk to us about that.

SWALWELL: Sure, Don. Actually we all worked on the questioning together. That was just my portion of the questioning. I asked her, you know, if Donald Trump or Don Jr. or Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort, a number of individuals who have lied about their contacts with the Russia, if they ever asked her to lie for them. And she refused to answer. And again, I think this is fair, because it goes to her credibility and it goes to action that is others may have asked her to take. And you know this is -- we just saw more bricks being put in the wall that now stands higher between our investigation and what really happened with the Trump team and Russia.

LEMON: One of your colleagues Republican Tom Rooney says your line of questioning was a trap and that it was overly broad and Democrats sent Hope Hicks down a rabbit hole that she couldn't get out of. What's your response to that?

SWALWELL: It's entirely fair. It's asked across America of witnesses. Have you ever been asked to lie for somebody or have you ever told a lie before? Again it's very revealing if you have to take a time out to devise an answer. We saw in real time a communications Director devise a communication strategy to answer that question and I think it didn't really call for anything more than yes or no.

LEMON: Leading Hope Hicks down a rabbit hole, and they are also saying it's a witch hunt. Are you concerned about the longevity of this investigation?

SWALWELL: I'm concerned that the investigation has been going on for some time now. And we actually don't have many witnesses to show for it. Witnesses come in. And it's a take them at their word investigation, where we haven't shown the willingness to use the subpoena power to corroborate or contradict what they say or to go after the thousands of documents that are out there, whether bank records, communication logs, travel records, to see what this family and campaign team were up to and the communications are the Russians that we know took place.

LEMON: Yes. What I'm asking, are you concerned that by Republicans saying this is a rabbit hole and the President sayings in a witch hunt they're going to try to shut it down? That is what I meant by the longevity.

SWALWELL: By their own words, I'm concerned they want to shut it down. They were talking about shutting it down back in December. I think the best thing our committee has done for the American people, the Democrats, has been to show a real interest in understanding what the vulnerabilities were, identifying who in the U.S. had worked with the Russians and then putting forward reform that is could help us make sure this never happens again. I think that -- and the interest of the American people -- has allowed this investigation to continue. But if we're not allowed to fully pursue all of the pieces of evidence we're going to be even more vulnerable and we are going to see other countries look at this as an opportunity to meddle in future elections.

LEMON: I want to get back to Hope Hicks now specifically. Because reportedly she refused to reply whether anyone asked her to lie until you mentioned former national security adviser General Michael Flynn. Tell us about that. What was her response?

SWALWELL: Well, I was going threw the number of individuals as I said who have been proven to have lied about Russia. And when I asked her if General Flynn ever asked her to lie she said no, except she added that not during the campaign. I asked her about during the transition. And she went on to say that he didn't explicitly ask her to lie, but he had asked her to pass along information that later turned out not to be true. Don, I took a step back and said if you're willing to tell me he did not tell you or ask you to lie, why can't you answer that same question for Don Jr., Ivanka, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and of course Donald Trump himself? And she -- as she did in the past refuse to answer that question. Again that is very telling.

LEMON: She was ok answering question about him but not about other things. Why is that? Do you know?

SWALWELL: It looked like she was willing to throw General Flynn under the bus. But she knew who she needed to protect.

LEMON: So, Congressman, "The New York Times" is reporting that the Senate Intelligence Committee has determined Republicans on your committee leaked private text messages they obtained between Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the senate intel and a lawyer connected to Russia. Do you think that is true? And does it undermine trust in your investigation even further?

SWALWELL: I'm concerned that when confronted with these allegations the house intelligence Republicans did not deny them in the statement that they put out.

[23:20:00] And this would not be the first time we have seen the selective leaking on their side to the "Washington Examiner" where they are previewing witnesses or evidence that we weren't even told about. This is what we are dealing with. This is just the snow that we have to plow to make sure that we protect the democracy. We're up for doing it. And, Don, if things don't change come November, and the Democrats win the house, I promise you we will have an investigation that protects and secures the ballot box.

LEMON: Congressman Swalwell, thank you.

SWALWELL: My pleasure. LEMON: When we come back, the FBI looking into one of Ivanka Trump's

international business deals, plus a report that Jared Kushner's company got $500 million in loans after a White House meeting with business leaders. All right this potential conflict of interest? We'll talk about it next.


[23:25:15] LEMON: Tonight at CNN exclusive sources telling CNN that FBI counter intelligence officials are looking in a business deal with Ivanka Trump was involve in. It has to do with the financing for a Trump hotel and tower in Vancouver. Let's discuss now David Cay Johnston is here, he is the author of "It's even worse than you think, what the Trump administration is doing to America." Richard Painter is also here former White House ethics lawyer. Gentlemen good evening to you. David this deal could be holding up her security clearance. Are you surprised at all by all this development?

DAVID CAY JOHNSON, AUTHOR "IT'S EVEN WORSE THAN YOU THINK, WHAT THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS DOING TO AMERICA: No, and the -- yes it could be holding up the security clearance. And no I'm not the least bit surprised. You look at the Trumps and the Kushner family they've been remarried within. And everywhere you turn its sorts of squirrely money and squirrely deals. And Donald his entire life has been squirrely money and deals. Not the least bit surprised, there are questions being raised about this Vancouver operation, particularly given the financing in part you can trace back to China. And we legitimate need to know whether there were foreign agents trying to influence in some way the operations of our government.

LEMON: Richard, how big a deal is this?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: It's just the tip of the iceberg. The Kushner family has a lot of deals going on all over the place. And financing from China, apparently some discussions with Russian banks. Jared Kushner and his family owe money to a lot of people. A lot of people have been going into the White House, apparently trying to get various favors from the United States government. So this Vancouver operation is just a piece of a much larger puzzle. They reek of conflicts of interest. That is because they wouldn't sell their businesses upon entering government as other people do. The ethics lawyers advised them to sell the businesses. They didn't want to do it. They want to run the business and collect money all over the world while they're working for the government. And of course that is a recipe for corruption. So somebody is going to be of quid pro quo, bribes and other situation that is going to come up it could be nothing but scandal. And meanwhile Jared Kushner crack a security clearance because of Mueller hot on his tail. It's not a good situation for them. They don't belong in the White House.

LEMON: And David this news about Ivanka Trump comes on the Hill on the report of the New York Times about Jared Kushner's family, his real estate company receiving over half billion dollars in loans from financial companies he met with in his official capacity as a White House adviser. We know his company is in a lot of debt. How much financial trouble is Kushner's company in right now? CAY JOHNSON: Well, the Kushner's owned a lot of apartments that were

nicely profitable for them. And got talked into putting all their money into 666 Fifth Avenue, for which they wildy overpaid at the top of a market. They face a serious crisis that could radically diminish their finances. And what happened here, "The New York Times" look out from little bits of public record here and there that is not in any way questioned by Jared Kushner's lawyer is really disturbing? Apollo, through its lending arm made a loan three times the size of their average loan. Shortly after meeting that went on with Jared Kushner. Citigroup is intensely regulated by the federal government. In fact when it was created originally it was not in compliance with federal law, because it combined retail banking and insurance in one shop, which was illegal under the Glass Siegel act. They have tremendous regulatory interests. They're trying to get the consumer finance protection bureau paired back if not destroyed and reduce regulations of banks. And their CEO meets with Jared Kushner and then they issue this enormous loan? I'm sorry. Even if there was nothing wrong, this stinks to high heaven. Dick Cheney got questions raised about his stock options when he left Hal Burton to become Vice President. The size of these things, Don, this is just beyond belief that we are not in the streets saying this is wrong, you know, you're there to do the government's business, not your business.

LEMON: I want to read the statement. This is a statement from Ivanka Trump's -- Ivanka Trump I would imagine it's her attorney. But saying CNN is wrong that any hurdle obstacle concern, red flag or problem has been raised with respect to trump or her clearance application, nothing in the new White House policy has change. Ms. Trump ability to do the same work she has been doing since she join the admiration, so that is the statement that we had from Ivanka Trump and this is one on behalf Jared Kushner, he has filed the ethics advise he as receive for all of his work which includes the separation from his business and recusals when appropriate. So what do you guys make of those two statements basically Ivanka Trump has done nothing wrong. Jared Kushner has followed the rules and done everything he could. David do you want to say something.

DAVID CAY JOHNSON, AUTHOR "IT'S EVEN WORSE THAN YOU THINK, WHAT THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS DOING TO AMERICA: Well with he don't really quite say that. They are very artfully worded to their non-denial denials. Jared Kushner followed the advice he was given. Ok. Fine. Nobody has suggested otherwise. And in the case of Ivanka Trump, you know, it's set up as well there hasn't been a red flag raised. Excuse me if counterintelligence is asking questions about it by definition that is a red flag.

LEMON: Richard what do you say?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, first of all there is no ethics advice given in this White House. This is the ethics shop that wrote the office of government ethics and said the rules don't apply to the White House staff. Maybe they get their ethics advice by watching Fox News. And it's also accurate to say that this is nothing has change, because this is how the White House has operated since January 20 of 2017. The President came in with unprecedented conflicts of interest. And he basically gave the middle finger to anybody who said he ought to divest assets. That is what we get here. It's just trickling down through the White House staff. Everybody has the same attitude. They're holding onto the conflicts of interest, they are going to make money at the same time serving in our government. All the big banks and everybody wants to curry favor with the administration knows exactly how to do it. We can't necessarily call it bribery, because we can't prove its bribery, because those cases are so hard to prove under the case law. We found that out with Senator Menendez. The Supreme Court gutted the bribery statute, but everybody knows what is going on. It's obvious what's going on. And the public doesn't need to put up with it. And they ought to high tail ought of the White House. And the rest of them as well who have the conflicts of interest who just want to make money instead of serve the public.

LEMON: Yes. David, a quick last word here.

CAY JOHNSON: Well, we should be very concerned about Ivanka's deal and other deals that are going to come to light where the money comes from China which has done all sort of favors for the Trump administration and Trump family during the pendency of the Trump administration.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, gentlemen. Appreciate your time. When we come back. Almost six in 10 Americans think President Trump is a racist. You know there is going to be a lot of discussion about this. That is next.


[23:36:50] LEMON: New polling tonight shows more than half of Americans consider President Trump to be a racist. Let's bring in now CNN political commentator Tara Setmayer, Legal commentator Ken Cuccinelli and political commentator Symone Sanders and Maria Cardona. Good evening.


LEMON: Maria, according to these new poll out by APORC, most Americans think President Trump is a racist. 57 percent of all adults. More than 80 percent of blacks. 75 percent of Hispanics and nearly 50 percent of whites what's your reaction.

CARDONA: One word. Duh? I mean this is something the President has proven time and again, even before he took office over a year ago. This has been the way that he has conducted himself in business. We saw that in the 70's. He and his father were sued for denying housing to blacks and Hispanics. We saw clearly in light before he announced for President his big birther movement that made him explode on the political scene. And the day that he announced for President when he called Mexicans rapists and criminals. And it just went on and on. After that the Charlottesville incident, the Judge Curiel incident where he said he could not do his job because he was of Hispanic heritage.

LEMON: We have only so much time, Maria.

CARDONA: Interesting enough, the Judge Curiel just decided something in favor of Trump.


CARDONA: So I think the question moving forward is, what are Americans going to do about it?

LEMON: Yes. Ken I want to ask you, because there is a stark partisan breakdown here. 85 percent of Democrats, 21 percent of Republicans. Are you surprised that 21 percent of Republicans think the President is a racist.

KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: If you think back to how tumultuous this President's path was to becoming President through a field of 17, I expect to see residual, you know never Trumper type people in that category. And these kinds of splits on these kinds of questions are pretty common. But obviously it's just more sensitive with this President. One who probably sets records for being insensitive?

SETMAYER: Wait, wait? It's pretty common that 21 percent of our own Republicans think our own president is a racist? When was the last time that happened?

CUCCINELLI: What I'm talking about it is pretty common, if you ask a negative question about a Democrat President, most Republicans will agree with it and most Democrats will disagree it. But it won't be universal. This happens to be the question so that is what I am talking about.

LEMON: But the question was about Republican, specifically Republicans 21 percent.

CUCCINELLI: Yes I understand that.

SETMAYER: You seem to be dismissing it as if it's the question being asked as opposed to the substance of the question.

CUCCINELLI: No, no, no. Look, this President was elected President while having an unfavorable rating higher than his favorable rating. He happened to run against someone with a similar situation. And he has never been a warm fuzzy or concerned about any of this stuff. And not to say he shouldn't be. Clearly I think he goes way too far in that respect.

LEMON: Here is the thing Symone.

CUCCINELLI: That is where this comes from.

[23:40:00] LEMON: I want to you respond to this, because if you look at the latest polling I think it is somewhere 70 to 80 percent of Republicans are still behind the if I am not mistaken behind this President, which means that they think he is -- 21 percent yet they support him Symone am I off on that.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You're absolutely right. This goes back to the election. I think a number of Republicans, conservative folks that do not view themselves as quote unquote Trump Republicans pulled the lever for Donald Trump and continue to support him, because he is in fact quote unquote the Republican President. And they don't necessarily agree with the things he is saying, even if they think he is a racist they think that he will still be a better President in terms of a Republican agenda than anyone else. And you know, frankly I think that is a sad place for us to be.

SETMAYER: I don't disagree with Symone. We all know my position on Donald Trump as a conservative. I lamented his rise and the quality Republican candidates that he took out that weren't bigots. I was telling you Don I struggle whether he is a racist or just a bigot.

LEMON: Isn't that a difference in degrees?

SETMAYER: Yes, but for the purposes of the conversation he is not a bull Connor racist, but he is a bigot. I don't want to diminish when it's real active racism on things. It could be an academic exercise. But the fact that this many people have this conversation I agree with Symone, is sad state of affairs for this country. But it's nobody's fault but Donald Trump's. And the fact that so many people try to make excuses for a litany of things that Maria listed and among others we are kin dread spirits on this aspect of Donald Trump, the fact that people try to excuse that away is troubling. Because it's not ok. The way he behaves, the way he characterized people, those things are just not ok, especially come from the office of the President.

LEMON: I have often said if you don't prioritize racism or bigotry or misogyny or whatever that means you condone it, right -- you condoning it in a certain way.


LEMON: Jason means you are standing beside it.

SETMAYER: Silence is complicity.

LEMON: Go ahead, Ken.

CUCCINELLI: Yes, so a lot of the list that we heard, the very thorough list back to the 70's, was well-known to voters when they made the choice in November of 2016. This President hasn't changed in any of these regards.


CUCCINELLI: And but voters knew what they were getting.

LEMON: Ken. You are accepting the point we just made. Yes people knew about it, but does that make it ok? I mean this is a large number of people, alarming number of people think such a horrible thing about the President of the United States.

CUCCINELLI: Don I will not argue that we are in a really sad place politically. I would have said that two years ago. And I agree.

CARDONA: I would say this and I think Ken might agree. I actually think a lot of people who voted for Trump, including a lot of Republicans were at least hoping that he was saying these things during the campaign just for effect.


CARDONA: Not that that makes it ok. I actually think that makes it even worse.


CARDONA: But I do think that a lot of people thought that -- he even said it himself -- that he could be more Presidential than anybody else. But the fact of the matter is that he has proven time and again that this is who he is. This is what his heart is. And it is not a pretty picture. And the question is, what are Americans going to do about it now? Which is why the midterm elections are so indicative of where this pendulum is swinging and Democrats just this week went through and flipped their 39th district from Republican to Democrat, because I do think that many Americans are starting to prioritize this. And understand that he is turning this country into something that they don't recognize.

LEMON: Symone you'll get the first word on the other side of the break.

We'll talk about it when we come back.


[23:47:51] LEMON: So we're back with Tara Setmayer, Symone Sanders, Ken Cuccinelli and Maria Cardona. OK Symone I know you want to weigh in but I just want to play this before you weigh in. This is the President. Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume are good people.

Look at my African-American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest?

We're building a wall? He is a Mexican. We're build a wall between here and Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are saying he can't do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism.

TRUMP: No, I don't think so at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you racist.

TRUMP: I am the least racist person that you have ever met. I am the least racist person.


LEMON: This has been happening -- we've been talking about this since the campaign began.

SANDERS: Yes, Donald, I just want to remind people that Donald Trump is one of the architects and spokes people for the racist birther movement that asserted President Obama was not in fact born in this country. I just want to make sure folks understand something. That the fact that Donald Trump is not Bull Connor's version of racism does not mean he is not in fact a racist or just as bad. I think 21st century racism looks a little bit different. It's not necessarily white hoods and yelling the n word in the street.

SETMAYER: Kind of is. Kind of came back.

SANDERS: Yes, I mean. Unfortunately.

SANDERS: You're right. We have come full circle effect.

CARDONA: But they're wearing khakis.

SANDERS: Kay khaki's and polos. Racism is not always transactional. Donald Trump, I do believe traffics in racism, a racist hangs out with the supremacists, sympathizes with them. And the fact that some Americans voted for him despite this does not excuse the fact that it's true. We don't want to conflate the fact that he was elected with the -- equating it with it doesn't matter. Because that is in fact not the case.

SETMAYER: That is true. Just because you can explain it doesn't mean you should excuse it.

[23:50:00] LEMON: The number of people who say that Trump is racist, 57 percent. A number of people would disapproved on Trump's performance in office.

CARDONA: That is high.

LEMON: Yes, yes. So, is that because people either love him or hate him, Maria?

CARDONA: Well, I mean, I think it's certainly that, but I also think that they are starting to realize just how pernicious having a racist in the oval office is. Because it goes beyond words. It goes beyond all of the insulting litany of things that you just ran, Don, and the list goes on and on. We could probably do a whole program on the sound bites of how racist his comments have been in the past. But it goes to policies that actually have been incredibly hurtful to the communities of color in this country.

LEMON: I'm glad you said that. I want to pose this to Ken.


LEMON: There's a concern about the impact of his policies. Let's talk policy. People say, oh, this is how people feel, they feel he is racist, he said this, whatever, but about his policies, here's what the poll says. 57 percent of Americans believe his policies have been bad for Muslims. 56 percent believe they have been bad for Hispanics. 47 percent believe they have been bad for blacks. Are you concern Republicans will pay the price for this in 2018, Ken Cuccinelli?

CUCCINELLI: Well, any time you have negative feelings towards the President, we pay a price for that. But the reality on an economic level, just take African-Americans, is they've had two better quarters, if I remember my numbers correctly under this President than they've had in about a decade. So --

SETMAYER: Okay, all right.

SANDERS: And the unemployment rate --

CUCCINELLI: Let me finish. How people feel is important. They decide how they vote based on how they feel. But the facts and objectivity are important too when it comes to economic success and improvement. And we're in an improvement path.

LEMON: Symone go ahead.

SANDERS: The point that Republicans like to -- some of my Republicans, not all, like to cite around the unemployment rate for African-Americans in this country is a bunch of B.S. And I'm sorry, but the fact of the matter is that the unemployment rate for black people in this country is still two times or more higher than white people in this country. And so, I -- I'm not -- I'm not happy about that. Yes, the economy is actually -- the issues that cut across the board, but I don't think about our friend Ken here understands is that this is not how people necessarily just feel about the President. We have real policies that have come out of this White House and this administration have had time to sit and fester for a little bit, if you will. And so folks aren't just telling how they feel about the Muslim ban. They're telling you how they've been directly impacted by it and why in fact they think this policy is bad for Muslim.

LEMON: And I have to remember, when President Obama took office, the unemployment rate among African-Americans was almost at 17 percent, 16.7 percent, and by the time he left, it was at 7 percent. The low sevens. And now it's at 6.8.

SETMAYER: Those numbers are difficult, because -- everyone uses the unemployment rate, which is not really accurate, because it's only, like, q-1 and --

LEMON: It's a snapshot -- but listen Tara.

SETMAYER: It only counts people who are seeking work at the time.

LEMON: I'm only saying it because Ken brought it up.

SETMAYER: No, no I know.

LEMON: It's a snapshot of where we are at the moment. And if you look at over the course of that time and this time, there's not that much for this President to brag about. Yes, it's in good territory --


CARDONA: There's two quick things about that. A rooster will take credit for the dawn, ok? Which means that what Trump is taking credit for was not of his making, number one. Number two, to Ken's point about how people feel, look, they might see that the economy is getting better and they actually do credit Obama more than they do Trump, but more importantly, especially for Hispanics and African- Americans and Muslims, when you have to cower in your -- in your home, because you believe either that the police are going to be after you or that somebody's going to come deport you, even though you are a citizen of the United States or that someone else --

SETMAYER: That is the bottom line here.

LEMON: I have ten seconds.

CARDONA: That is going to be a big deal in the midterms.

SETMAYER: Right. Perception is reality. Whether the metric bear out or not, it is how people feel. And unfortunately, Donald Trump has given a lot of people, a lot of minority's reason to feel that he is racist and not on their side, regardless of what the economic policies may bear out.

LEMON: Thank you. We'll be right back.


[23:59:03] LEMON: In two weeks we begin a new season of CNN heroes. Every day people changing the world. But where do we find these amazing individuals? Well, with your help. Today, we want you to meet a woman who successfully nominated her personal hero to be a CNN hero. Thanks to her, sister Teresa Fitzgerald was honored for offering thousands of incarcerated women and their children a chance for a fresh start.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I met her at the correction facility. It was through her love and her support that really helped me regain my life.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happily a CNN hero, thanks to Juliana's brave recommendation of my credentials.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was like, oh, my goodness, for everything that she is done for me, I did something for her that no one else did, you know? So, it felt really good.


LEMON: Do you know someone that deserves to be a CNN hero? Nominate them at That is it for us tonight. Thanks for watching.