Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

Another Trump Attorney Involved In Stormy Daniels Case; Conor Lamb's Win in PA Special Election Has Republicans Worried About a Blue Wave in the Midterm; Trump Says He Made Up Facts In Meeting With Trudeau; E-mails Show HUD Secretary Ben Carson And Wife Selected $31K Dining Set for Department's Dining Room; Thousands Leave Class For National Student Walkout. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired March 14, 2018 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. It's 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. We are live with breaking news on the Stormy Daniels saga. Evidence newly obtained by CNN of another Trump attorney involved in the ongoing legal battle over Daniels' allege affair with Donald Trump. So, what does it mean for the case and has the President finally met his match in the porn star, who refuses to back down?

I want to bring in now CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers, legal analyst, Laura Coates, and defense attorney, Joe Tacopina.

So good to have all of you on. Good evening.

So, let's start with you, Joe. There is new evidence that another one of Donald Trump's attorneys besides his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is involved with the ongoing legal battle. This is Stormy Daniels' attorney discussing the new email document, which is a demand for arbitration that was filed in California. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: For months, we have heard from Mr. Cohen and from others associated with the Trump organization, that there was no linkage between EC, LLC and the Trump organization. Mr. Cohen has maintained that he formed that LLC on his own. If you look at the first document, that you showed your viewers in the upper left-hand corner, it designates Ms. Martin as a representative -- a legal representative of EC, LLC. It's right there in the upper left- hand corner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And she is a full-time employee of the Trump organization.

AVENATTI: She is a full-time employee, as evidence by the state bar page, as evidence by the LinkedIn page. She has no other job. She is a Vice President and a General Counsel of the Trump organization. The focus of this filing in February was to gag my client, put a muzzle on her, and prevent her from speaking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Joe, I want you to check out Joe Martin's LinkedIn page. It says she a Vice President and an Assistant General Counsel for the Trump organization and her California state bar page lists her address as a Trump national golf course. Doesn't that undermine Cohen's central claim that this had nothing to do with the company?

JOE TACOPINA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's unbelievable, Don. I mean, Trump's lawyers, now like multiple lawyers, Cohen and now this lawyer of Ms. Martin, his -- the White House spokesperson, they contradict each other constantly. It's -- they are opening up a Pandora's Box that is never getting closed. This should have been all wrapped up about a month ago, when he probably should had said, yes, I did, and so what. I mean, this wasn't going to take him down.

If the stuff in the last year hasn't taken him down, this wouldn't certainly was not going to do it. But now, we are on a position where, this could lead to things like campaign finance issues, right, because, don't forget, Michael Cohen said something which is incredible publicly, which is I paid for this with my own money. My client didn't know about it. And I made the agreement myself. That is unethical. You're not allowed to do that. You can't pay a client settlement with your own money. You can't make a settlement to bind your client, without him knowing about it.

So, how could he say that? Now, if that is true, he has got some problems. And the agreement is a fraud, and null and void. If it's not true, then where did the money come from? Mr. Cohen was not being honest. Where did the money come from? If it leads back to the Trump campaign funding, that is a big problem. This is a Pandora's Box that's going to be opened. And unfortunately, it is not going to have any good result for the President.

LEMON: You're saying over the last -- what he has (ph) over last year hasn't taken him down, this one, you mean, Donald Trump?

TACOPINA: I'm talking about firing Jim Comey and saying it was the Clinton investigation.

LEMON: OK. I just wanted to make it clear what you were talking about Trump.

TACOPINA: That was four months later --- yes, I meant Trump.

LEMON: And not Michael Cohen. I just want it to get clear. Laura, you know, at this point, can anybody realistically deny that legal effort to silence Stormy Daniels? I mean, doesn't -- that it doesn't trace back to the Trump organization, I keep reading this stuff and saying, hello --

LAURA COATES, CNN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL ANALYST: Well, of course, it traces back to the Trump organization, at this point in time. You even had Michael Cohen talking about the money via email from his Trump.org account. He, himself, has always been a part of the Trump organization. There is that casual connection. However, keep two things very straight here. There is whether or not Stormy Daniels can speak, about the alleged affair.

And then, the separate issue is whether there is a campaign finance violation. That looks to be more and more, because the connections we're talking about tonight, Jill Martin being the pro hoc vice (ph), meaning she was vouching for another attorney to eventually appear in court in California, who was not bar there. It looks more and more like this main back to then, the campaign finance violation that we all thought it was. But what the attorney for Stormy Daniels is trying to do is bridge a gap between two of those schools of thought.

[23:05:10] The number one being whether she can talk and number two being campaign finance. And the only way that they are going to be able to avoid this contract, being upheld through arbitration or a California court, is to say that it's void. They first tried to say that it wasn't signed, and therefore, that would be enough to void it. They then said that Michael Cohen was the person to have made it voidable, because he, himself was speaking about the non-disclosure agreement.

Their latest tactic seems to be that, as a matter of public policy, a court is not going to enforce a contract that is against the law, meaning against a violation, where it tries to cover up a violation of campaign finance reform, (inaudible) campaign violation. So, you have all these things working together, as all of these kind of not to disparage the actual claims, but a kitchen sink argument that is being made here. And one actually may be successful, that being the issue of campaign finance.

LEMON: Yes. And listen, and on the thing of whether the NDA is valid, listen, I've spoke to a number of attorneys on this show and they said initially, they didn't believe Stormy Daniels had a case, until Michael Cohen came out and started speaking about it. So, whether it's valid or not, it is the cover-up, right, and not necessarily the crime or what took place, that has really gotten this administration or I should say Michael Cohen and the President in trouble? Do you feel like -- do you feel like you're being gas lighted here?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I do. I mean, I really feel like watching on -- when you look at all this and saying I'm supposed to believe what we're being told, that there is nothing to see here, that you know -- that we're supposed to believe that someone would take out a loan on their house, to pay off somebody, you know, it's just -- it doesn't make any sense.

And there is reporting showing that Michael Cohen was actually complaining to friends saying I didn't get paid back, right, and I couldn't reach the President. You know, and so it's -- pretty clear what was going on here. And I agree -- if they would have just come out in the beginning and just said, it happened, let's move on, I think this would have just gone away.

LEMON: This is what I'm saying. The whole -- the whole defense is that this is an iron clad NDA, she should not be talking, as you say, there is nothing to see here and move long, and then everyone else is asking, so, then -- why did it happen, like what is the truth behind it? Go ahead -- go ahead, Joe.

TACOPINA: It's an iron clad NDA with who? Who is it with the iron clad NDA?

LEMON: That is -- I'm just saying that is their argument. I'm saying I'm playing devil's advocate in their defense, because they're not here in their own defense and they're not speaking in their defense here.

POWERS: Well, I think -- I mean, I think...

TACOPINA: I want to argue for them -- I don't know how to defend them. If I would tried to defend them, I honestly don't know what to do, because Huckabee is saying one thing. Cohen saying something else. I mean, the President hasn't tweeted about this, which is shocking. I don't-- I wouldn't even know how to defend him at this point. I really wouldn't.

LEMON: That probably speaks more volume than anything. But go on.

POWERS: I can see a motive for him not wanting to say this happened. I mean a lot of people have said, oh, what does he care? You know, he's bragged about his past exploits, but look, this happened, if it happened, while he was married to his current wife.

And so, I think, he does have a reason to lie about it. But this has just gotten out of control. Once there is some evidence out there expecting us to believe this sort of tale that they are telling is just absurd, and there is a possible campaign finance violation. And there is also, you know, I think, we talked about it before, what does it say about his -- him possibly being blackmailed by people, if he is willing to have these kinds of deals with people.

LEMON: Yes.

POWERS: Remember, I have to say, that we all know, that morality was not the main incentive for people to vote for Donald Trump. It was never about morality.

LEMON: The main?

POWERS: Yes, a main or perhaps any of the reason, this is about morality recoil here.

LEMON: Tertiary. Yes.

COATES: But you have to ask three questions here. And that is, why now. Why did Stormy Daniels come forward now, as opposed to, a couple months ago or almost 18 months ago when she first signed this NDA? Why her, why was she the person chosen to have the NDA, as opposed to all the other dozens of women, who came out and alleged allegations against the now President of the United States? And why him? Meaning, why did Michael Cohen, take it upon himself, to finance this through a home equity line of credit?

All of this questions combine, to have Mueller's magnifying glass likely on them. And of course, it raises the suspicion of the Federal Election Commission. Assuming they are actually going to prosecute this violation, they would be in the rights to do so. We now know, if fairly (inaudible) at this point, they may not do so. But it doesn't change the inquiry of why, why, and why?

LEMON: Yes. So, Joe...

TACOPINA: Yes.

LEMON: Stormy Daniels is now raising money for her lawsuit against Donald Trump. She has raised 76 -- oh sorry, change in sight -- this is since my little question here. It's $90,000 now I'm being told since this morning with 29 days still left to go. She is clearly not going away.

TACOPINA: She is clearly not going away particularly, because the court just set a July court date for a hearing in this matter. So, we have at least until now through July to talk about this, because there is going to be a hearing in July, which is unbelievable how long this is going to take to resolve.

[23:10:09] And this thing are going to be pending, quite frankly what that means is Stormy Daniels is really, can't go out there and talk about this until July at least, because it was her lawyer who actually initiated this motion. I think, if I were representing her, I wouldn't have even bothered going through a court, because it's a fraud to contract, according to Michael Cohen has said. It's not enforceable, and the President can't be -- if what she is saying is truthful, she has nothing to worry about, because this contract would not be enforceable, based on Michael Cohen's public statements.

LEMON: Yes.

TACOPINA: Anyway, that being said, yes, she is raising money. I don't think the people who are donating to her legal fund are doing it, because they have this soft spot in their hearts for porn stars, who have consensual relationships with married men. I don't think that is what that is about. I think, its people who are perhaps hoping we have another President before the next, you know, three and a half or three years--

LEMON: She can't --

TACOPINA: -- much more so than.

LEMON: Yes, she can't go out and talk about it, but her attorney can. And her attorneys can. And the media can certainly talk about it and they will. And we will, until there are some answers and some answers that make sense, when it comes to this case. You know, the fact that the President Trump isn't weighing in on this, as I said speaks volumes. He had no problem blasting other women in the past, Kirsten.

POWERS: Yes, I mean, I think he, you know, he want -- he definitely wants this to go away. There is no question. And, you know, she must have some things to say that are even more damaging than just saying I had an affair with him or otherwise they wouldn't going to such great lengths to be hiding, as I think.

LEMON: Thank you, all.

TACOPINA: I predict that is going to be the right answer, by the way, more to come.

LEMON: Thank you, all. I appreciate it. When we come back, is a blue wave threatening to swamp the GOP in the age of Trump? Mark McKinnon and Mike Murphy, that is right, there is two it -- two of the most experienced political hands in the business, joining me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:15:32] LEMON: We got Conor Lamb's performance in Pennsylvania special election, has Republicans worried about a blue wave in the midterm. So, is this a wake-up call for the GOP, here to discuss, Mark McKinnon, executive producer of the Showtime's "The Circus" and a former adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain. Also veteran Republican strategist, Mike Murphy. Veteran. Good evening, gentleman.

MICHAEL MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Jurassic.

LEMON: Never.

MURPHY: Veterans, means over the hill.

LEMON: Young at heart, legendary.

MURPHY: Right.

LEMON: So, Mark, last time you were on, you know, we talked about this. And you said all politics are now national and that old axiom has been turned on its head, anything -- listen, I wondered if last night changed your mind, because that was -- I thought that was a local race and he fit, what the local folks wanted and that is why he won. No?

MARK MCKINNON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, SHOWTIME'S "THE CIRCUS": No, I don't think so. You know, I don't think -- you can't put lipstick on this pig. It needs plastic surgery. It was a -- it was a Republican seat. Every column in this race should have been -- is checked for Republicans, 20 point advantage, Trump won by 20 points, long-held Republican seat. So, you know -- but all practical matters, this should have been a Republican win and it wasn't. So what does that say? It means the Republicans lost a seat they should have won. It wasn't even a marginal seat, it wasn't a swing seat. So, now those swing seats look really like they're in really big trouble.

And I think the problem was it was nationalized, because this candidate, remember said, he was Trump before Trump was Trump. And my advice to Republicans running out there is, you have to show a show of measure of independence. You can agree with Trump on some things, but you got to be independent and prove that you are not just completely -- you don't want to hug him, so you need a restraining order. And the second thing is, Trump embraced a really Democratic idea, which is tariffs. And if you are a Democrat and you believe in tariffs -- which most Democrats do, why not pick the Democratic choice, instead of Republican one.

LEMON: Yes. So Mike, listen, you said Republicans should have been able to -- I read this on air last night, elect a bag of hammers there. So I want to ask you, let's talk about these spreads, OK? Because here is the spread, Pennsylvania's 18th district is a -- is listed on R plus 11, right? According to the Cook (ph) political reporter...

MURPHY: Right.

LEMON: ...partisan voter index. Meaning that Republicans had an 11 point advantage there, over Democrats. Devin Nunes and Cathy McMorris Rodgers are listed as R plus eight. Paul Ryan and Lee Zeldin are only R plus fives. Are these guys safe?

MURPHY: Well, no, like many Republicans in swing seats, they're in a real tough environment. I mean, let's look at this Pennsylvania 19 thing and step back. We couldn't carry...

LEMON: 18th.

MURPHY: A Pittsburg district that Romney won by 17 and Trump by 20, a week after we passed steel tariffs for Pittsburgh. And yet still our guy lost. Now the spin going around D.C. is we had a sad sack candidate, but as I said, that district is so good, we ought to be able to elect a box of hammers there. So, I'm with Mark. We have to be honest in the party, what's going on.

President Trump who peaked in districts like that, a year and a half ago, is now in real trouble, has been become an anchor on the party and guys like Nunes, are bunch or Republican that are about 30, 40 districts that are in real trouble right now and this has been coming. This isn't a freak thing, like some specials, where out of nowhere, you know, special pops. This was way deep in Republican territory. After we had the trouble, we had in the Virginia governor race and after a lot of other special elections where we way underperformed. So there is definitely a blue wave coming. We got to get ready for it and stop lying to ourselves about all, it was the candidate's bumper sticker that wasn't any good.

LEMON: Mark listen, Mike just set me up for my next question about the blue wave coming. Because in front of the cameras, publicly, you hear Republicans, even Paul Ryan saying well, you know, don't read too much into this. He ran basically as a Republican. You are plugged into a lot of Republicans. What are they saying -- what are they really saying behind the scenes?

MCKINNON: They're saying get off the beach. Get out of here. Actually that is happening. I mean, they're getting out of the races altogether, but 41 Republicans have retired and resigned. And I think because of last night, we will see more resignations. There is a lot of Republicans that are on the -- you know on the bubble.

[23:20:03] And if you're on the bubble, looking at last night's news, you know, that was the canary in the coalmine getting hit by mustard gas and grenade and there is feathers everywhere.

LEMON: Oh my gosh. All right, so then, whose fault is it? is it -- we have folks on last night saying, Republicans candidates need to wake up or this was a sort of referendum on the Trump presidency. Whose fault is it? Is it a combination?

MURPHY: I'm sorry, is that for me.

LEMON: Either one of you, go ahead, Mike, Mike.

MURPHY: I'm a trained puppet. I didn't hear that. That was Mike part. Look, I'll say it, yes, it's Trump. This is not rocket science. We had the most unpopular President in the history of polling in the first year of an administration. So, you know, two plus two is four here. Massively unpopular President, who is constantly doing things to undermine the presidency and offend two- thirds of the country. Breaking Republican orthodoxy, dumb policy like steel tariffs and so guess what, we getting clobbered now, at the polls. This is not hard, the problem is fundamentally Trump and the fact the party has become lemmings following him and giving up on a lot of things that old Jurassic Republicans like me signed up for. Like free trade, like standing up to the Russians. And a whole host of other things, including having some respect for the office of the presidency. So, yes, I totally blame Trump.

MCKINNON: The other thing, that is problematic about that, Don, is that, you know, I think a lot of Republicans were holding out hope that because of the tax cuts and because of the very strong economy that would help carry through some of the problems that we've been seeing out there. This suggests that, that is not going to be the life boat that everybody thought it was going to be.

LEMON: Yes. Let's -- let's -- and my open at 10:00 I said -- I talked about the chaos that is happening at the White House, so many different people leaving. We never know how many different stories that are really important stories that we're going to get on any given day here.

He wants to blame everyone else, even taking -- trying to take credit for Conor Lamb's win last night or CNN hasn't called it yet. He declared himself the winner. He wants to take credit for that. But when it really comes down to it, he is the master of chaos. No one is more responsible for it than the man who is sitting in the White House, Mark McKinnon.

MCKINNON: That is right. I mean, first of all, he tried to hedge that before the race by saying there was a weak candidate in case he lost. Second of all, he tried to say that Conor Lamb ran, you know sort of in his direction. Which just isn't true. You know, on issue after issue very strong union -- now obviously he is a conservative Democrat. You know, that is something I'm familiar with having been one myself in Texas for many years. So he represented the district well. That is what, you know, I think a lot of Democrats are going to get that play book and try to fill the right kind of candidates, in the right districts. And you know, he -- he certainly wasn't running to Trump, but he was running as somebody representing a district in the middle of Pennsylvania.

LEMON: Mike, I know you --

MURPHY: That is true that he -- he sent the right cultural signals, Lamb did. Half the time, he was campaigning by carrying a rifle and complaining about Nancy Pelosi. You know, that gave him a little traction there. What Republicans should do is learn from that. We need to give the same kind of long leash to some of our candidates, who want to walk away from the President a little bit and walk away from some of the litmus test primary issues, like guns and the suburban districts where Republicans support is collapsing. So, I would say my advice to the Republicans would be, copy that. Because we are heading for real head winds and it's an effective tactic as we just learned in one of our base districts.

LEMON: And a Democratic strategist would say the same thing that you are saying, that other Democrats around the country should probably copy that as well and get rid of some of the litmus test candidates. Listen, I want to ask you guys, about this important, Michael, I'll start with you first.

These possible youth wave in November. What impact do you think that is going to have on top of this? Look how organized all this young people were today about the school walkout and that core really, you know, really doesn't favor President Trump according to the polls, Trump's approval rating is at decimal 22 percent among 18 to 34-year- olds, that is according to the latest CNN polls, what do you say to that, Mike?

MURPHY: Well, I'll say one, I'm impressed by all kinds of activism. And these kids have been particularly impressive to me. Makes me feel better about the democracy, even if I don't agree with them on every single issue. Now, you hit a real Republican worry here. Because generally in the off year election, where 85 to 90 million people vote, we do well, because grumpy old white guys like me, I'll show up and vote and they tend to be more Republican.

In the Presidential year around 139, 140 million people vote and a lot more, and they -- and a lot of those of young voters show up only in the Presidential years. So if young voters, who as you cited in the polling data don't like this President very much, decide this is a year to be active and to do what they normally don't do, which is show up and vote that becomes a big part of the blue wave that we can be looking at.

[23:25:06] Theresa May, saw something like that in Britain, in the elections where the conservatives underperformed. We are seeing it in the special elections like Virginia and other places. We don't have exit polls in Pennsylvania. I'll bet you see it there particularly in Allegheny county. So, yes, it is the other part of the equation. Young Presidential year, lean Democrat voters get energized to not to flood the lower turn out midterm elections and that is good news for the D's.

LEMON: I want to get your take on this Mark and as I do that -- I understand you had a chance to be with some students during the walkout today. Tell us about that.

MCKINNON: I did. I went to Fairfield High School in Boulder today, where a walkout was organized. All 2,200 students walked out and were silent for 17 minutes which is hard to do for anybody of any age, but to see them all activated and there were three students from Parkland, who were there as well. But I was really impressed not only by the energy and their activism, but it was really civil. You know, all sides of the debate were represented. It was -- it was the kind of debate that I wish, I'd see more among adults. And so -- but to Mike's point, midterm elections are all about energy and who is energized. And it's just the case that, you know 18 to 34 demo's is a heavily Democratic leaning group. And what I saw in Boulder, Fairfield High School, that I was, these kids are activated, they are energized and they are taking action and they're going to show up at the polls.

LEMON: Mark McKinnon, Mike Murphy, always a pleasure, thank you.

MURPHY: Thank you.

LEMON: When we come back, the main challenging Paul Ryan for his House seat in November, Iron Stash. I'm going to ask him how he plans to ride the blue wave in Wisconsin.

[23:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: If Pennsylvania's election result is a sign of a blue we have, my next guest might be getting ready to ride that wave. I want to bring in now Randy Bryce, a Democratic candidate for Congress in Wisconsin. He is trying to unseat powerful Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Mr. Bryce, thank you for joining us. "Iron Stache" is your nickname. CNN is not yet declaring an official --

RANDY BRYCE, DEMOCRATIC WISCONSIN CONGRESS CANDIDATE: Good evening.

LEMON: -- winner in this race although Conor Lamb is declaring victory. Democrats are saying the ability of a Democrat to pull off an upset in a district solidly won by President Trump can't be overstated. Republicans are downplaying it as, you know, this is a one-off. Do you think both sides overstate the significance of the special elections?

BRYCE: No. I mean, I looked at it last night and that's a district waking up in a district that's seen as a plus four R (ph) and looking at the results from a plus 11 R (ph) district, I'm feeling really good today. And I don't think anything could be (INAUDIBLE) about Conor Lamb's victory last night in Pennsylvania, especially Donald Trump campaigning there not once but twice.

And Paul Ryan was talking about him making it -- you know, it took him to bring that -- the results a little bit closer. And it's obvious what's going on in the country.

LEMON: How much do you think this is speaking of that it's obvious what's going on in the country? How much do you think is anti-Trump backlash?

BRYCE: Well, I think it's a combination of things that Donald Trump is doing, combined with people seeing that in these congressional special elections that members of Congress, you know, led by Paul Ryan, they're not doing anything to slow down what Donald Trump is trying to do.

And -- and things that they're hanging on him -- it's not so much -- I mean Donald Trump has a lot to do with it, but these are specific policies, like this tax scam that Congress passed. And now looking at taking away social security, Medicare and Medicaid, that's something that people want nothing to do with. We want more of Medicaid, not less Medicaid.

LEMON: OK. And that was part of Conor Lamb, the platform he ran. He wants to protect Medicaid, social security, and Medicare. So what from Conor Lamb's playbook do you want to take beyond that?

BRYCE: Well, he ran a very pro-union campaign, being a union member, that's something that's been very important for me, standing up for working people. And our campaign staff was the first to unionize in the history of politics. That's something I'm very proud of. And unions aren't just for people that pay union dues. It's about standing up for all working people.

And in Wisconsin, we are seeing that now with these policies that have rammed down by Governor Walker since he was elected. And now we're looking at Paul Ryan taking these things to a national level and trying to enact them there. And it's not something that's going to help us out at all.

LEMON: Yes. Here is how Conor Lamb's winning played according to Paul Ryan. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I think the candidate that's going to win this race is the candidate that ran as a pro-life, pro-gun, anti-Nancy Pelosi conservative. That's the candidate that's going to win this race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, you know, but privately CNN is reporting Ryan told fellow Republicans that it was a wake-up call and to prepare to bear down. I mean, it seems like he is saying Democrats put forward a candidate who was Democratic in name only and that co-opting a Republican position helped hip win that race.

BRYCE: Well, it's amazing how difference the actual election results came out to change Paul Ryan's mine. Paul Ryan sent a super PAC into that district and spent all kinds of money trying to defeat Conor Lamb. He is going to need to take every penny he has and bring it back to the first district because, I mean, what he is facing is an onslaught of enthusiasm like he has never seen in his entire career. LEMON: So, Lamb was -- he was an atypical Democrat. Not typically, you know, Democrat. He said he -- he is personally pro-life while politically pro-choice. He had a campaign ad with a AR-15 to show he is pro-gun. How much do you think the party versus the person matters in your election?

BRYCE: Well, I think the person needs to have a feel for what his district needs. He needs to have his hand on the pulse of what things are important for his district.

And, I mean, talking about myself, I know we're talking about social security, health care, Medicare, Medicaid, things that are going to uplift working people, because for the last 20 years, we've seen all kinds of really good paying jobs leave and we're working harder and harder and having less and less to show for it.

[23:35:10] LEMON: All right. Randy Bryce, I appreciate your time. Thank you, sir.

BRYCE: A privilege to talk to you. Great talking with you. Have a great night.

LEMON: When we come back, a new report out tonight. The president admitting he lied to the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau. We're going to tell you what he says he lied about. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump admitting in a speech tonight that he made up facts in a meeting with the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Here to discuss, CNN political commentators Angela Rye and Scott Jennings, and Republican strategist Rick Wilson. Hello, everyone.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi, Don.

LEMON: Rick, I'm going to start with you and this breaking news. The Washington Post is reporting that at a fund raise this evening, President Trump was bragging about a conversation he had with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during which President Trump, which was saying things about trade, deficits without knowing whether or not it was true. Are you surprised by this? 9

[23:39:54] RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Don, this is my not shocked face. I mean, this is a president who -- who has been known a time or two to exaggerate, gild the lily, open a spigot of lies and things he makes up in his head. He has got a really creative mental landscape about a lot of these things. This is just -- I'm totally unsurprised by this.

LEMON: So, yes, he says I didn't know. I had no idea. I just said you're wrong. You know why, because we're so stupid and they're so smart. It just goes on and on. But the thing -- the fact is that he is admitting it, Scott. Shouldn't the president be better informed about whether there is a trade deficit without -- with our closest allies?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, of course he should. And that's one issue. The other issue of course is the fallout from a report like this which is now our closest allies and other conversations that we are having with them, the leaders of those countries will not know whether the president is speaking from facts or just from -- you know, posturing.

And so that's something that his State Department, Mike Pompeo, will now have to deal with that. Actually, you know, the United States ambassador to Canada, she is a Kentuckian, where I am tonight, she is a great person. She will have to deal with that.

I think about the relationships that we have with our allies like Canada. This is one of our closest economic and national security allies. And even though I think President Trump and Justin Trudeau don't see eye to eye politically, it would be better of course if we were dealing with honest conversations.

I'm surprised the president said this out loud because no matter what room you walk into, fundraiser or not, you have to assume somebody is recording it and it will come out.

LEMON: I assume assume, Angela, you're not surprised that the president would say something that's not necessarily true. Can we move on to HUD?

RYE: Yes, we can move on the HUD because I will be surprised when he tells the truth.

LEMON: OK, so, CNN has obtained this damning e-mail and it shows that HUD Secretary Ben Carson and his wife, Candy, did in fact select a $31,000 furniture set for the department's dining room, contradicting his earlier claims.

In one e-mail, a career official writes, I believe Allison has printouts of the furnish the secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out. I think this is a very reasonable price and the funds are available.

First, why would he lie about it?

RYE: I think it's embarrassing. Someone who is in his inner circle had to have told him the optics are terrible. Perhaps at the Carsons family household, at their resident, they can afford a $31,000 dining room set.

But in a federal office building where furniture, yes, it's absolutely old. Whether you're on the hill or you're working in the executive branch, absolutely old, absolutely things fall apart. However, you should not spend $31,000 on any set. It just defies logic that they would think it's OK.

I think the worst part is, I don't know who the quote is from, but someone in their space said, $5,000 wasn't even a reasonable amount for a chair. So I'm just interested to know where they are shopping. Does it talk to you? Does it schedule for you? Does it -- what does it do?

LEMON: Yes. (LAUGHTER)

LEMON: By anyone's standard, $31,000.

RYE: It's astronomical. What is even worse, Don, is this is a cabinet that is known for trying to charter jets and trying to fly first class and do all things that most people who are paying for this can't afford to do.

LEMON: And the cover-up, it's the lie about it.

RYE: Yes, always.

LEMON: So, listen. How is this acceptable, Scott? Should Carson step down?

JENNINGS: Well, it's not acceptable. It reminds me actually of what happened with the old HHS secretary, Tom Price. He ultimately did step down from the cabinet. You know, the issue here that people have to learn is you can't lie. If you do something stupid, which this was clearly galactically stupid, you cannot lie about it.

You can admit an error in judgment which this is clearly was and that's a better path always than lying. I think this president has a number of issues throughout the cabinet. It strikes me right now based on reporting that he is looking at dealing with a number of issues.

He cannot have cabinet secretaries going out doing stupid things with taxpayer money and then lying about it and creating all these embarrassments for him. The White House really needs to get on top of this. One more thing on this topic, this is all happening and it's coming out because of some reporting.

But the Republicans in this cabinet and people who work in this administration need to understand if the Democrats take control of one or both chambers in November, the scrutiny on things like this from the oversight committees will be crushing.

So if you it's bad right now, wait until the Democrats get the oversight (INAUDIBLE) and it's going to get a hundred times worse. They really, really need to stop doing stupid things and lying about it.

LEMON: Rick, this is of his own making. He handpicked all these people. All -- then we have Ryan Zinke (ph), we others who have been on the same bus. I want to show you this. Let me show you some documents and let you respond to all of this. These are two statements from HUD spokesman Raffi Williams today.

When presented with options by professional staff, Mrs. Carson participated in the selection of specific styles, but originally the statement on February 7th was, Mrs. Carson and the secretary had no awareness that the table was being purchased.

[23:45:03] So did the HUD spokesman lie to cover up this too? WILSON: Well, look, I know Raffi and I think that the situation shows a management difficulty from the top, first off with the president, didn't understand that Ben Carson has fabulous skills in neurosurgery and those don't necessarily translates into a managing a large department like this.

And the judgment questions that have obviously come to the surface here are things that, you know, Ben Carson has to look at his staff and look the way he is managing the situation. And Scott is exactly correct. The number one rule in crisis management is don't lie. It just compounds the problem and compounds the errors.

People who have lied in this probably need to move on, probably need to take another look at whether government service is the right thing for them. And Secretary Carson needs to go out and have a reality check too. When he sees something for $31,000 table set, instead say, run out to Ikea instead. Get something the taxpayers are going to be -- the taxpayers can feel comfortable with us doing.

I just find the whole situation reflects I think correctly that -- that Donald Trump picked people he was comfortable with and their skill sets don't necessarily match up to running federal agencies and managing the sort of resources in a way the taxpayers expect them to manage them.

RYE: You both mentioned the challenges with lying and the problem is you can't to it. And I would say that they are following their leader. He actually has been able to do it and done it quite successfully. There have been virtually no consequences for Donald Trump lying time and time again. They are just following their leader. And unfortunately, they are fall guys. And it looks like Dr. Carson, the neurosurgeon, might be one of them.

LEMON: You take the charge from what happens at the top?

RYE: Yes.

LEMON: Stick with me, everyone. When we come back, countless students across the country walking out of school to demand new gun laws. Will Washington listen?

[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Thousands of students across America walked out of class today for national student walkout, calling for stricter gun laws. They left their classrooms for 17 minutes, one minute for each of the 17 people killed at the high school in Parkland, Florida one month ago today.

Back with me now, Angela Rye, Scott Jennings, and Rick Wilson. Incredibly powerful images, Angela, of students walking out of school today, demanding change when it comes to gun laws. Do you think Washington is going to return with some action?

RYE: You know, one of the most significant tweets I saw today is from Brittany Packnett who is a good friend of mine. She was like, how about we send the kids to Congress and send Congress back to school? LEMON: Right.

RYE: And I thought it was such a profound statement because they are demonstrating the type of courage that we should be seeing from congressional leadership and from the White House frankly right now. We shouldn't be seeing someone step up and say, OK, we're going to raise the age on when you can purchase weapons and then dialing back because they're afraid of NRA contributions or the lack thereof for 2020.

I think that we have seen very clearly that the NRA has a stronghold on our elected leadership and it's time for them to be accountable to the students, to the worshipers who have been impacted by gun violence, to people who are just walking down the street. It is time.

LEMON: Watching these students across America today, uniting, most of them aren't asking for bans on guns or to get rid of all guns. Most are asking for action on background checks, assault weapons, et cetera. But they're up against the NRA. Who has the real power here?

WILSON: Well, look --

JENNINGS: I think --

LEMON: It's Rick.

WILSON: Oh, I'm sorry. A little cross-talk there. Look. They have a -- it's a moving tribute to the passion they're feeling about this issue, but there are passions on the second amendment side of this question that extend beyond just the NRA's financial influence in elections.

The membership of the NRA and the folks that care passionately about the second amendment, that is a primary voting issue for them. They come out on that issue, and they've proven it time and time again in this country. And so we're going to see how the practical politics of this play out in the next few months. And if it ends up where the demand becomes ban on semiautomatic weapons, ban on so-called assault weapons, you know, it's going to go nowhere.

I think there is common ground to achieve things on improving the NICS system, improving gun violence restraining orders, and I think there's a motivation to look at some of these things that can be helpful in identifying and keeping folks who are mentally ill out of the NICS system and improving the background check system overall.

But I do think you're going to see a very clear line. If it gets to the point where they're talking about banning semiautomatic weapons, mag size restrictions, and a ban on ARs, you're going to end up with a political fight that's going to motivate the second amendment folks very strongly. They're organized, they're voting, and they're of age to vote for the most part. So there's a sort of political calculus you'll see play out beyond just the financial questions of the NRA.

LEMON: Scott, we talked a lot about Republican problems in the suburbs last night and other times on the show. A lack of action on the part of Republicans, do you think that could make things even worse or could make things even worse?

JENNINGS: Well, I do think that Republicans could do things that Rick said to clean this issue up that would have no impact whatsoever on people that believe strongly in the second amendment. He listed some of the things that could be done from a policy nature. There are other issues that deal with human processes that have failed here that have caused some of these mass shootings to occur in schools and other places that could be dealt with as well.

I was looking at some polling recently from Quinnipiac, I think, and the least likely age cohort to want to ban guns or even ban high capacity magazines were actually 18 to 34-year-olds. The most likely age cohort were 65 and up. So I think there is a belief out there that young people are rallying and doing things because they want bans and they want government to take away property. That's not the case at all.

[23:54:57] I actually think they have the correct idea, which is let's fix the processes and let's fix the human failures that have led to some of these shootings without having the government infringe upon a constitutional right. That's the sweet spot of this debate.

LEMON: Angela, real quickly, because I'm up against the end of the show here. This rally in Washington on the 24th, what do you think will be accomplished? What do you think students hope to accomplish?

RYE: I know what they hope to accomplish, and that is for once, that the conversation stops shifting to people -- you know, the threat that the second amendment is somehow going to be violated. That is not what they're talking about. They're just talking about protecting lives. What are all of the ways that we can ensure that people are able to thrive and live in this country and not go to school, not go to a concert, not walk down the street at the threat of being gunned down.

I think that we have to stop -- Rick, you even mentioned it, that folks are concerned about their second amendment rights being taken away. The second amendment doesn't say what kind of arms you can bear. So I think that we have to be mindful of that too and be very careful with that rhetoric. That's not what these actions were about and that's not what it's about.

LEMON: I think he's also talking about the political calculus that Democrats and Republicans will have to take as well.

RYE: Sure.

LEMON: And I think Democrats are going to have to wonder if do they want to motivate the second amendment folks because then that may put them in jeopardy of actually getting some --

RYE: But I would like to see Republicans and Democrats and folks who are independent say, we're not threatening the second amendment. We are just talking about safety and reform.

LEMON: Last word there. Thank you very much. I appreciate it, everyone. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.

[24:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)