Return to Transcripts main page
President Trump Unleashes A Twitter Tirade; Stormy Daniels Case, Motion Filed; EPA Chief Scott Pruitt's Job In Jeopardy; Where Does Trump Administration Stand On Diversity? Aired 11-12a ET
Aired April 2, 2018 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon, it is 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. We're live with new developments tonight. President Trump going on a Twitter tirade blasting Democrats about DACA, opening an all-out war with Amazon, airing grievances with Mexico and his own Justice Department. And that is just naming a few. So, what are we to make of this and how is the President's erratic behavior viewed by world leaders? Is the reputation of the United States being compromised?
Also tonight, breaking news in the Stormy Daniels case, a motion filed today. We're going to see what that means. And could be the EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, be the next Trump administration official to be shown the door? We'll see why the President is angry with him tonight.
A lot to talk about in the hour ahead. I want to begin Fareed Zakaria, Fareed is the host of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS." So, first full week without Hope Hicks by his side, I don't know, maybe she had some sort of combing effect and then we've seen the President going on a tirade, airing his grievances about news networks, Amazon, NAFTA, the U.S. Justice Department, Democrats, Mexico, news, the news business. He is busy. What do you make of it?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Well, you know -- at some point one is, you stop getting surprised by Donald Trump. You go stop getting surprised by the -- you know, how many things to point out that kind of scattershot --
LEMON: I read this -- open before about him going on a weekend Twitter tirade, how many times?
ZAKARIA: -- right, and the scattershot approach. The bizarre aspects of, you know, criticizing elements of his own administration, acting like a spectator as if, you know, he is not the most powerful person in the government. Doing things that are borderline, you know, kind of extralegal, like singling out a particular company. But you know, the larger question you asked in the open Don, is the real one which is, is there an issue with American credibility when the President of the United States does this?
Let's remember that every president, Republican or Democrat, the one thing they have been very careful about is their words. There has been a sense that the United States, the President speaks with the credibility of the most powerful country in the history of the world. And now you have a President for whom words are weightless. They are like this kind, you 2know, this kind of ghost. So he just pushes them out there, they mean nothing, he can change what he thinks about them.
And if you ask does it have an effect on American credibility, let's remember what the criticism of Barack Obama was on that famous red line in Syria. The criticism was that Barack Obama, you know, said that the President of Syria, if he did certain things, would, you know, would probably need to go. And then he didn't quite follow through on that, even though he did in a complicated way, making a deal with the Russians.
That was supposed to be, you know, the thing that eviscerated American credibility. Trump every day says -- I mean, he says he is going to rain fire and fury on the North Korea like the world has never seen. Then he says, I love Kim Jong-un, I'm going to get together with him, we are going to solve this problem. He says the Chinese are raping America, then he says Xi Jinping is my best friend. He says the Saudis are the most heinous regime in the world, only to make it his first stop and embrace the king and say, I love this man.
I mean, your head spins with the degree to which there's kind of the whole thing is like a circus. And I just again want to remind us, Barack Obama was supposed to have cheapened American credibility, because of that one sentence, wasn't completely fulfilled in it's -- you know, to its entirety. I mean, what we're watching now is a circus. It's not a Presidential administration.
LEMON: Here's the dilemma. If this was a child or a poorly acting relative or friend or acquaintance or neighbor, we would just ignore them. The problem is, he is the President of the United States. And so especially as maybe most of the country is ignoring it or supporters are saying, all right, well, you know. I don't want to see that, that is a part of him, I don't like. But you can't ignore it as a news organization, because what the President -- what the president says should account for something. And he says a lot.
ZAKARIA: Well, it has to account for something, because a lot of -- a lot of public policy --
LEMON: He says he does.
ZAKARIA: -- actually the words of a President, because it suggests what your legislative agenda is going to be. What, you know, for example, on tariffs. It's a good, you know, it is a good example. Ever since the smoot holly tariffs when the congress in the 1920s and '30s legislated this terrible protectionist tariffs that then screwed up the economy.
[23:05:03] Congress basically said to the administration, you do tariffs, we're going to kind of take the back seat. So the President has enormous power to begin a trade war, to initiate it, to escalate it. And so what President Trump says on trade and tariffs could get us into a trade war, because he is the authority on it.
LEMON: Look at the stock market.
ZAKARIA: Look at the stock market, look at how the Chinese are reacting, look at how other countries are reacting. So yes, it's very important to understand there's a reason why American Presidents, Republicans and Democrats, have chosen their words very carefully.
LEMON: So there's been a lot of -- a lot of departures in the White House, right. Secretary Mattis is the only one -- they're saying he is the only adult in the room left. How does this bode for a chaotic administration by any objective standard, this chaotic and not normal?
ZAKARIA: I think, the most impressive thing about Mattis for me is actually you remember those, that moment when Trump summoned his cabinet, and he essentially got them each to engage in this kind of bizarre act of almost dear leader-like praise where each one was explaining how Trump was the greatest thing in the world, and it was an honor to serve him, that they were fulfilling -- I think Priebus said it was like fulfilling his religious duty to God by serving Donald Trump.
Mattis is the only guy who said, I am proud to be serving the American people, and thank you for that opportunity. So he even then understood that his role was really a larger one to serve the country. The fact that we have him there is frankly so comforting in a moment when we are in a, you know, in a complicated situation with North Korea, with Iran, with Syria. You know, who knows what would happen if you had somebody like Mike Flynn, a guy who, you know, salutes and jumps when Trump tells him to, you know, when Trump got into a bad mood with Kim Jong-un, which will happen.
LEMON: Yes. For now, is it -- I hate to scare you, but for now, you say the fact that we have him there, but you never know in this White House, so let's hope that he remains the adult in the room and stays there to handle the situation.
I want to ask you about it. Because today the White House ordered the State Department to freeze $200 million in recovery funds to Syria following remarks that President Trump made last week, watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon, very soon we're coming out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So the President said that troops will be coming out. CNN is reporting today that the U.S. military is planning to send dozens of 2additional troops to Northern Syria. How do you interpret these mixed messages to Syria?
ZAKARIA: You know, the thing about Trump I've often thought is he can't really hide his basic intentions and inclinations. And what you saw there, to me was a little heartening. Trump has always been something of an isolationist. He criticized the Iraq war, he was like, why the hell are we in the Middle East? And for many people who worried that Trump seemed to be -- because he wants to be a tough guy, he was bombing more, he was sending bigger bombs, he would escalated the mission in Afghanistan.
To me that is the real Trump. Trump really does not want to be engaged in the Middle East. And thank god, because I think a more activist, macho Trump who wants to, you know, teach those guys a lesson would be much more scary than a slightly inconsistent guy who at the end of the day his gut seems to be, let's get the hell out of there. I'll take that.
LEMON: of course, you mentioned Flynn. And what would it be like to have someone like that, you know, helping him make decisions? Can we talk about John Bolton, because his -- he is the new National Security Adviser, is known as a Hawk. He is advocated for years, advocated war with North Korea, with Iran, cyber war with Russia. I'm just wondering what kind of influence you expect him to have on the President in -- with these hot spots.
ZAKARIA: It's very worrying. Look, the National Security Adviser is the -- is essentially the man the President sees first in the morning, last in the evening. He is the gatekeeper through whom all influence comes. He is the guy who shapes the options the President has. And as you say, John Bolton is beyond left and right, really.
John Bolton is probably within the foreign policy establishment of the United States over the last 30 years, the most extreme Hawk who exists. He has been in favor of an unprovoked war against North Korea. I mean, that is a very important point to make. This is not an argument that they're building up and it seems that they're beginning to, you know, threaten to use ICBM's on the United States so we shook, no, no, no.
He argues that the United States should go to war unprovoked against a country 8,000 - 10,000 miles away, which would, you know, devastate America's credibility, stability there, what it would do to our relations with China, not to mention the fact that North Korea now has nuclear weapons and could escalate.
To have somebody like that in a situation with the President himself has a very, very thin grasp of international affair, is very worrying. And again, as I say, this is what makes me think that General Mattis is the most important person in the American government right now, and if he is thinking of resigning, I think we should all take out petitions asking him to stay.
LEMON: Two weeks ago, I was asking, you know, guesses with minds like you, you think the President and Kim will meet? Kim Jong-un, are they going to meet? Now I have to ask you, do you think the President and Putin will meet?
ZAKARIA: Of course. Here's the simplest way to think about it, Don. He is a TV star at heart. What do you think he wants to do? This is - this would be pay-per-view. This is -- you could sell tickets for this, right?
I mean, he is going to meet with Kim, he is going to meet with Putin, he is going to meet with all these people, because ultimately it's all about the attention that Donald Trump can command for himself. As I say with Putin and with Kim, you could do pay-per-view. This is -- this is Ali Frasier, rumble in the jungle.
LEMON: Always a pleasure, thank you. Make sure you tuned in to "Fareed Zakaria's GPS," Sunday, 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. right here on CNN. Thanks, Fareed again.
Up next, breaking news in the Stormy Daniels case, lawyers for the President moving to force the case behind closed doors. Do they have a shot?
LEMON: So we have some breaking news in the Stormy Daniels case. Attorneys for Michael Cohen filing a motion to compel arbitration. I want to talk about this development with Defense Attorney, Joe Tacopina and CNN legal analyst, Areva Martin, author of "Make it rain." Good evening, both of you guys.
[23:15:10] AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Don.
LEMON: Thanks for joining us. So Areva, Michael Cohen pushing for arbitration. Obviously he would like to keep this sort of saga out of the public eye. Will he get what he wants?
MARTIN: I think he has a good shot at it, Don. They've been talking about, you know, getting this case referred back to private arbitration. They don't want this case litigated in a court where the pleadings are open to the public. They want this confidential, they want to silence Stormy Daniels. The ironic thing about this, they're asking the court to send this back to private arbitration.
But Stormy Daniels, for all practical purposes has already told her story. Everything short of what may be the text message or the photograph that her lawyer keeps teasing may exist, we've heard her entire story. And I have to keep asking myself, and I think the American public should ask itself, why does Donald Trump care so much about his? Why does his lawyer join in this motion to refer to matter to private arbitration?
If he continues to insist that nothing happened, that this is a fabricated story. It seems like to me, he would want to be transparent and have all of the, you know, have this discussed publicly, because it didn't happen, according to him. So he is making great efforts to keep something private that he alleges didn't happen and that is mysterious.
LEMON: Well, that is a very good question. I'm sure Michael Avenatti would there is a reason -- quickly -- because I want to ask you something, go ahead, what's the reason, Joe?
JOE TACOPINA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, the reason, I think he is trying to make precedent here. I think this cat is already out of the bag, train's left the station, whatever -- whatever one of those you want to use, but I think he understands that if this happens here, everyone else with a confidentiality provision and agreement that he may have made could go on "60 Minutes" and do the same thing without anything happening to them.
LEMON: You forgot Genie's out of the bottle, the train has left the station. Yes.
LEMON: So listen, Stormy Daniels' attorney, this is for Joe, Michael Avenatti -- this is what he tweeted in response, he said, "We will vigorously oppose the just-filed motion by DJT and MC to have this case decided in a private arbitration, in a private conference room, hidden from the American public. This is a democracy and this matter should be decided in an open court -- open court of law owned by the people." Adding this, he said, "In the declaration Mr. Cohen just filed, it is more interesting for what it does not state. It does not state that he never discussed agreement with DJT that DJT did not know about the agreement or that DJT did not ultimately pay $130,000. All issues DJT is also silent on." Does he have a point, and will that convince a judge, do you think?
TACOPINA: No, I -- well, look, there's some points to be made there, especially regarding Cohen and his statements, and I'll get that in a second. But let's take this into federal court where it is right now. And you have to understand the reason Trump's lawyers want this in Federal Court in the first place, is because a Federal Judge is much more likely to enforce the arbitration provision pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act. And that is important.
The Federal Arbitration Act basically in almost all instances will require arbitration, if there is an arbitration clause in agreement. And a claim for rescission, which is what's happening here for the most part, a claim for rescission, you know, as to an agreement with an arbitration clause does not avoid arbitration.
So Cohen saying -- I mean, Stormy Daniels' lawyer saying that, you know, there should be no agreement, because they violated it, well, that doesn't get you out of arbitration if there's an arbitration clause according to the Federal Arbitration Act. Now, the one distinction I will make here is that rescission simply means the unmaking of a contract between two parties.
In this instance, what Avenatti's going to argue, and maybe successfully, is that there never was a binding agreement, this contract was a fraud in the first place, and what he'll say, is Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen went on the record, unbelievably, and said publicly that Trump never knew about the agreement. Right there, what that does is render this agreement null and void. And quite frankly calls it fraudulent, because he binded a client without the client knowing it, which is unethical, illegal, and certainly renders this agreement maybe non-binding whatsoever. So might not even fall under rescission claims.
LEMON: Yes. You should go on Twitter, because they're offering you some advice. They're saying also toothpaste is out of the tube. You didn't say that one as well.
TACOPINA: Never heard that one. Toothpaste out of the tube.
LEMON: So, Areva, listen, Avenatti wants to -- he wants nullify the agreement Stormy signed with Cohen and depose the President in arbitration. What are the options for the Judge?
MARTIN: Well, the Judge can decide if the case remains under his jurisdiction and keep the case and let the case move forward and let discovery proceed, including the deposition of Trump and Cohen, which is what Stormy Daniels' attorney wants or he can send this to private arbitration. And if that happens, we won't know much about this case after that, because everything will be private.
As Stormy Daniels' attorney says, it will be a private conference room with a private arbitrator making decision about discovery, if there any discovery. And that is what the President and his team ultimately want.
[23:20:03] But I think Stormy Daniels' attorney has done an outstanding job with what he was -- information he was given. He is unearthed information about Cohen using the Trump organization e-mail, letters or e-mails addressed to Cohen with his, you know, title working for the Trump organization. All of this evidence which suggests there is -- there was knowledge, there was participation, or at least there was some coordination between Trump and his team and Michael Cohen, which undercuts this argument that Trump didn't know anything about it.
So he is walking this really fine line between Trump didn't know, but yet there's this evidence that suggests his team had some particular -- may have had some information. So I think those arguments are going to be powerful when he makes them to this federal judge.
LEMON: Yes. So I have to tell you, I have to say something, Joe. Because, I think -- I think the Cohen folks will tell you it's a two- party agreement, not a three-party agreement.
TACOPINA: Well -- listen, here's the bottom line. Still, Trump is one of the individuals who is supposedly bound -- by the way, by that same confidentiality clause they're claiming Daniels violated. So he is a party. And if he had no knowledge of this, the agreement is fraudulent. But again, what Areva is saying is a good point as far as catching them in a "got you" moment, maybe, regarding whether he knew or didn't know.
But its better, it is much better that Trump, for Trump's side at this point that Trump knew about the agreement that the agreement was an actual agreement. And now the claim for rescission is not valid in a Federal Court under the Federal Arbitration Act and they do go to arbitration. That's the agreement they all had been made.
MARTIN: But Joe, they're all over the place on whether he knew or didn't know, they've got to make up their mind. One lawyer said he didn't know, one lawyer said he did.
LEMON: All right, we can talk about this all night.
TACOPINA: That -- is where we'll focus on this.
LEMON: We could talk about this all night, but Elvis has left the building.
TACOPINA: We could do that.
MARTIN: Tooth paste is out of the tube.
LEMON: We said that one already. Hey, thank you, guys.
TACOPINA: --- (INAUDIBLE) sale.
LEMON: Oh, wow, there you go.
MARTIN: Good one, Joe.
LEMON: All right. When we come back, we'll get another member of the President's cabinet resigned over unethical behavior. Sources telling CNN that the President is angry at EPA Chief, Scott Pruitt. We are going to tell you, what he did that has him in a lot of trouble, next.
[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Breaking news, a senior White House official telling CNN that President Trump is angry with his EPA Chief, Scott Pruitt. Let's discuss now, Mark McKinnon is here, a former advisor to George W. Bush and John McCain, and executive producer of Showtime's "The Circus." Recognize that fire place?
MARK MCKINNON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, SHOWTIME'S "THE CIRCUS": I do. I feel right at home.
LEMON: That is your fireplace.
MCKINNON: 10,000 feet, rocky mountain high.
LEMON: Yes. We have to -- the services are -- we call it the fireside chat.
MCKINNON: Yes, good. I was worried we wouldn't keep the brand going without the fireplace.
MCKINNON: You fix that problem. Let's have our chat at Fireside. LEMON: There you go. Another weekend, another Trump official caught
in some corruption Mark -- corruption scandal. This time it's EPA Chief, Scott Pruitt, after news reports surfaced that Pruitt rented a room in a Washington townhouse from a pair of D.C. lobbyists whose firm has lobbied the EPA. He reportedly rented the room for practically pennies on the dollar as for what it would go for market value. What's your reaction to that?
MCKINNON: Well, broadly I think the corruption ultimately is the greatest threat to Trump politically, here is why. Russia Mueller investigation is a legal problem. And it could be a serious one, obviously. The Stormy issue at all is personal. And could have a legal component. But the corruption issue is the one that could be a political problem with his base. That is where the base could really become concerned, because if they start to think Trump is in it for himself or his cabinet members are self-dealing, remember, they were running for the little people, for the heartland of America.
LEMON: Drain the swamp.
MCKINNON: They said they were going to drain the swamp, but what they're doing is fertilizing the swamp. That's the perception of anyone when you have people flying first class, people renting -- getting these deals with a lot of energy lobbyists, when you're regulating the energy industry for 50 bucks a night, when you're ordering $31,000 chairs, $139,000 tables. That is when the heartland of America, they're going to say, wait a minute, that wasn't the deal. That wasn't the deal, you're supposed to be working for us, not for yourselves.
LEMON: Yes. The President is angry about this, telling our Jim Acosta, source telling, the President is angry about stories of Pruitt's action. How long do you think he is in for this administration?
MCKINNON: Well -- you know, I think they're going to recognize the danger of the political consequences here with this sort of activity. And so I think if they're smart they're going to recognize that there's huge liability on this corruption perception. They've got -- they've got to amputate this immediately.
LEMON: You think he is going to --
MCKINNON: I think it is sure.
LEMON: there's Tom Price -- Tom Price resigned over expensive travel. Ben Carson, you know, the $31,000 table. Ryan Zinke, Steve Mnuchin, you know, so there you go. Those are the folks who there has been issue around corruption. That is a lot.
MCKINNON: That is a lot.
LEMON: So listen, there is a new cover -- cover story -- new cover story in "New York" magazine which featured a cover image, I am going to refrain from making any comment. It is called "Corruption," which we had been talking about, Trump's greatest liability. I mean that is a tough cover for someone who's pretty focused on their news coverage and their appearance.
MCKINNON: Yes, exactly. I think that again, I think not just him, but I think he is got some political advisers around or nearby that are going to say, this is a problem. This is the kind of thing. I think the Stormy Daniels stuff, they say, big deal, nobody's surprised, this is not going to create any real consequences with our base. The Mueller thing again is a legal issue, but they have pretty artfully managed that in a way to convince their base that it's a witch hunt.
So whatever happens with that legally, I think the base -- the base is going to say, well, we expected this to come, he said it is coming, they're after us, the Justice Department is corrupt, they're all Democrats. So they can deal with that.
LEMON: They're not, but that is what he is saying.
MCKINNON: That is what he is saying, but the corruption issue, again, if I'm a political advisor to Donald Trump, I'd say, this is serious, this is where the base gets affected, we got to pay attention to this and we better deal with it right away.
LEMON: Approval rating was around some where 40 percent. You think that -- he is been Teflon so far though --
MCKINNON: With the base, but that's what I am saying. That's why this is -- this is -- I'd say danger-danger Mr. President, because this is the one that could -- this is the one that could pierce -- pierce the bubble, the corruption issue.
LEMON: Ann Coulter, you know, she has been laying it on lately. She recently told The New York Times, it is the former Trumpers that the president needs to be concerned about, that after failing to do anything on immigration, passing a massive spending bill, they could be his ultimate undoing.
MCKINNON: Yes, and I think he got that message immediately. I mean that's a signal, he was like, whoa. You know because obviously she and others like her have been some of the strongest supporters. In fact, she called him a shallow, lazy ignoramus.
MCKINNON: And --
LEMON: You know what she said? I think she said -- she said, we knew he was a shallow, lazy ignoramus.
LEMON: But we thought he would at least -- I'm paraphrasing.
MCKINNON: I think that's right. I think that's right, you know. But I think for that spending bill to blow the deficit out like that and to not get any border wall funding, for those really hardcore Trumpers, that was a huge violation of what they'd all agreed to and thought it was coming down the pike.
LEMON: You think that's why you think Ann Coulter, you know, she hit the nail on the head, she struck a chord with him, do you think that's why he started tweeting about all this stuff?
MCKINNON: I do. I do. I think he pays attention to people like Ann Coulter. You know, Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro go down at Mar-a- Lago this weekend. They all ganged up on this man.
LEMON: Let's talk about that. Immigration hardliners that were down in Mar-a-Lago. As a result, it got a burst of -- you know, his tweet storms got more aggressive over time.
MCKINNON: Cause, effect.
LEMON: Yes. A couple more just a few hours ago. We can put them up on the screen there. Is it -- is it concerning to you that Trump seems to be getting his policy points from friends and cable news hosts?
MCKINNON: Well, you can see how the cast and the chorus around him has evolved over the last year. He has managed to remove the people who were sort of sending a compassionate conservative message, particularly on issues like this. Remember he said he was going to create a bill of love. That wasn't so long ago. But I think the people that were pushing that sort of viewpoint are largely gone. And the hardliners are around him now.
LEMON: I want to talk about this. I want to talk about "The Circus." I want to make sure we have enough time --
MCKINNON: Thank you.
LEMON: -- and then I'll ask you other questions if I have time. (INAUDIBLE) on April 15. I want to take a look at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE/UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Build a wall, build a wall!
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to build a wall, don't worry about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the end of last season, it was the wackiest, craziest first 100 days in the history of the American Republic. And it turns out a year later, that it's even wackier. This (bleep) is crazy!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there a point at which Republicans say, enough is enough?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every single day of this presidency is momentous and historic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not a reality show, but it is reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: It shows just what a circus Washington is. I mean, come on. I think you have a tough job, buddy.
MCKINNON: Well, the tough part is figuring out what to cut, because every week it could be a couple hours long and we only have 30 minutes.
LEMON: Yes. I want to ask you --
MCKINNON: It's tough to go off the air because every time we go off the air, people are like --
LEMON: People are craving. I mean you guys do well. I wish you well. We have you on here because I think it's a great show and we love your mind. So let me -- can I get a couple more questions?
MCKINNON: Yes, sure.
LEMON: What did you think of the Laura Ingraham story?
MCKINNON: The Laura Ingraham story?
LEMON: About what she said about the kids down in Florida, the Parkland kids, and then advertising?
MCKINNON: Of course. Yes, I think -- I think, you know, this is an -- well, Parkland, not just her, there's been several others. This has shown the reaction of sponsors leaving. When the commerce cuts across on some of these -- I think that's the red line. You know, when the commerce line has been crossed, that's when people know they've really gone too far.
This is a really interesting -- this is a really interesting time in our culture, in our politics, when the Parkland kids have spoken out politically and authentically, and then people try to take advantage of that for their own political reason, their own commerce reasons. And commercial advertisers are standing up and saying, you know, we're going to walk.
MCKINNON: I think it's had a big impact.
LEMON: I want to ask you also about Sinclair Broadcast, telling all these anchors, making them read that script.
MCKINNON: Well, the greater -- the greatest concern to me was the reported conversation with Jared Kushner about the notion that they would get greater access --
MCKINNON: -- for greater -- in return for greater access, they would get better coverage. Now that's problem. That's not how American media is supposed to work. LEMON: And unscrutinized coverage. They wanted to run interviews reportedly of the president on all of their stations with no commentary, no fact checking, no analysis.
[23:35:00] MCKINNON: Yes, yes, yes. So that's what we call state media.
LEMON: Yes. Love having you.
MCKINNON: Thank you, man.
LEMON: Thank you, sir. Your mom is going to be mad at you.
MCKINNON: Mom's going to be mad.
LEMON: She said don't wear it.
LEMON: I know. In front of your fireplace.
LEMON: Check it out. He's not inside, mom. We're outside.
MCKINNON: That's right. I can wear the hat by the fire place.
LEMON: Thank you. Always a pleasure.
LEMON: Make sure you check out "The Circus" on Showtime, season three, debuts in just two weeks, Sunday, April 15th, 8:00 p.m. Mr. Mark McKinnon. Kick it hard. Thank you. When we come back, here is a picture of the White House interns. There you go. Take a look at it. Do I even have to say anything?
LEMON: Tens of thousands are expected at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis on Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther Jing Jr. So, what exactly is the state of civil rights in America in the Trump era?
I want to bring in CNN political commentators, Symone Sanders and Tara Setmayer. And Christopher Harris is here as well. He is the executive director of Unhyphenated America.
[23:40:00] I am so glad to have all of you on. Thank you so much. I want to start with this because we've been talking about diversity in America and where we're going now. You know, all of that. This is a picture of -- get your reaction, the White House released this photo. Spring 2018 White House interns. Ninety-one students. What do you think, Symone?
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know what, I think we have heard a lot from this administration, from the president on down his cabinet secretaries, about what their idea of diversity and inclusion is.
And when I see this photo, it makes me sad, because I know that there would be -- there are people out there that would like to believe that if we just take race out of it, many other considerations out of it, the best people will rise to the top.
But history has shown us that often for some people, the best people mean the whitest people. And so we have to have diversity and inclusion measures in place because we're not getting it right on our own.
LEMON: Tara, what's your reaction?
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It represents who voted for Trump. I mean that's about the breakdown of what the vote was. I'm not surprised at this. I'm surprised they got that many people to come work for him, to be honest -- I mean the intern for him, to be honest with you.
It is sad. I agree with Symone that it's a shame that -- especially for me as a Republican. And the emphasis that the Republican Party over the years has put on diversity and expanding the tent and the autopsy report after 2012 was emphasizing the importance of having to reach out to these nontraditional Republican constituencies. And that is just completely gone, torn up, and reversed, if anything, in the Trump era.
SETMAYER: And so I think it's a shame. But I'm not surprised.
SETMAYER: It's reflective of what we have today with Donald Trump.
LEMON: You disagree. Why is that, Christopher?
CHRISTOPHER HARRIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNHYPHENATED AMERICA: Actually, I'm glad that we're having this conversation. I'm glad that CNN is actually providing a forum for us to say, hey, you know what, let's have more blacks join the Republican Party. Because apparently that's what you're saying is that we need more blacks who are Republicans. I mean I see you blinking, you're shocked --
SANDERS: Oh, no.
HARRIS: That's essentially what you're saying. You want more diversity, great. Instead of having what, 90 something percent of blacks being -- I'm sorry, over 70 percent of blacks being registered as Democrats and over 90 percent voting for Democrats, maybe we should have somewhere around half, right? Let's do 50/50. Let's not be so one-sided. And so thank you for having this conversation.
LEMON: Do White House interns have to be of the party that's in power?
HARRIS: They don't necessarily have to.
SETMAYER: Not necessarily but usually they are, though.
HARRIS: Here's a couple of things here. One, it's an issue of awareness. It's an issue of eligibility. It's also an issue of interest. I mean first of all, how many people even know that these internships exist?
SETMAYER: Wait, hold on.
HARRIS: I'm talking about people of color --
SETMAYER: Anyone that's in college knows. You've got to be kidding me.
LEMON: Everyone. Do you know how many people want to be interns out there? Oh my gosh, come on, you don't believe that.
SETMAYER: That is a sorry excuse, I'm sorry.
HARRIS: Guess what, I've been a Republican intern. Yes, I interned for Congressman Joel Hefly back in 2003. I wasn't aware internship was available until my mentor suggested it to me and --
LEMON: OK, so let me ask you about it. So when you were a Republican intern, were there other Republican interns of color?
HARRIS: There was a few of them.
LEMON: Were there more than in that picture?
HARRIS: Well, we're talking about Congress. So we're not talking about the White House. There's 435 members --
LEMON: Were there more percentage-wise than in that picture?
HARRIS: I couldn't say for certain percent wise, but I can see that I knew of more than a handful of black conservatives who were Republicans and were interns at that point in time.
SETMAYER: Different environment, though. Different environment. That was in the Bush administration, which was a lot more welcoming for minorities. And had actually a real outreach program and there was a sense of that someone cared.
I mean Donald Trump is so off-putting to so many people. And George Bush never said remotely close to the offensive things at all. He had too much class for that, first of all. They weren't bigots. So there wasn't that big of a -- that level of difficulty. It was other reasons for the history of the Republican Party and why it was more of an effort to bring minorities in.
LEMON: Do you think that --
SETMAYER: It wasn't that it was unwelcoming the way Trump is.
LEMON: Symone, what he's saying is that there should be more African- Americans in the Republican Party. I think people would say, yes, you know, if they were a welcoming party. But doesn't that sort of prove the point that this administration in Christopher's argument, if they're not welcoming to African-Americans, then they don't want to join the administration, why would they do it?
SANDERS: I want to be really clear that there are -- I would like to be clear and note that there are African-American conservatives out there in America who --
SETMAYER: That's right.
SANDERS: -- who would actually be willing to go in there and work in this White House.
[23:45:02] Jerron (ph) is someone who works in the White House right now who is working on urban policy issues, who has the ear of folks in the administration. So to assert that there are no black people, the conservatives in America that would go work in this White House or in this administration is just not true. Now --
LEMON: Who made that assertion?
SANDERS: -- to note this White House is in fact not welcoming to people of color does not provide an environment if you will that would make folks feel this is a place that wants them there is absolutely true. But let's not assert that ain't no black conservatives out there in America.
SETMAYER: There's a couple --
HARRIS: Definitely not.
SETMAYER: -- in America, of course --
LEMON: Let Chris respond.
SETMAYOR: -- doing a good job but it's tough. It's a tough environment.
LEMON: Let Christopher respond.
SETMAYOR: -- policy.
HARRIS: There's a load of black conservatives. It's always interesting when --
LEMON: We are talking about interns. Let's not get too far away from what we're doing. We are talking about interns. If you look at that picture, that picture is not representative of America. Listen, I've got to get to a break. I'm going to let you respond on the other side. Let me put this up as we go to break.
This is 2014. This is President Barack Obama. And so there you go. You can see interns are far more diverse in 2014 than they are in 2018. Are we going backwards? We're going to talk about what an Easter egg roll at the White House today, whether the president was appropriate. He had on a pin on his blazer.
LEMON: Wait, what is it? Oh, the president's son, sorry. That's right. I didn't see the Jr. part, excuse me. We'll be back. We'll talk about that.
[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Donald Trump Jr. taking aim at Hillary Clinton, wearing a pin with the word "deplorable" over a U.S. flag at the annual Easter egg roll at the White House.
Back with me, Symone Sanders, Tara Setmayer, and Christopher Harris. Christopher, we were talking about the -- I cut you off. We were talking about White House interns, sorry. And then we'll get to Don Jr.
HARRIS: So, just a quick point is that if we're going to have an intellectually honest conversation about this, we need to ask, how many people actually applied? So, I mean, if you had only two blacks apply, for example, and one of them got there, that's better than 50 percent.
So, I mean just to sit there and say, well, there's only one black person, to say that means there must be some sort of racism or it's unwelcoming, that's kind of ridiculous. It's not even intellectually honest to say.
SETMAYER: Yes, it is. Don't you want to know why only one or two black people applied then or why it's so many -- how low that number is if that is in fact is the case?
LEMON: That whole thing is a red herring because we are not only --
SETMAYER: That's ridiculous.
LEMON: We are not only --
HARRIS: Hockey must be racist because there's not a whole lot of black folks playing hockey. There's nobody out there black playing hockey. It must be because of racism. That's a ridiculous argument.
LEMON: All right. So, there are more African-Americans playing basketball, it must because of racist. Come on. Listen. Listen. For internships, you just don't go with the people who apply. You also go out and recruit at colleges.
And if the Republican Party wants to have more diverse interns and African-Americans, then maybe you should --
LEMON: Hold on. Let me finish my point. Maybe you should have a better message, which is appealing to people of color, and then you will have more people of color who want to be a part of your particular organization.
HARRIS: But here's the problem with that.
SETMAYER: Better messengers.
HARRIS: It takes, first of all, it takes somebody with very thick skin to go out there and be black and say, I'm a Republican, I'm a conservative because they're going to come on your network --
SETMAYER: Yes, I lived it for 25 years.
HARRIS: What's going to happen is they're going to come on your network and they're going to be called everything but a child of God, they're going be called an Uncle Tom and everything like that.
SANDERS: What are you talking about?
HARRIS: And so first things first -- are you going to sit there and act like that's not true?
SETMAYER: Well, if you act like it and someone calls you out on it, then we can't do anything about that. Maybe the messenger needs to be better.
HARRIS: So it's OK to actually call someone a particular name as long as you feel like they are acting like that. Is that what you're saying, Tara?
SETMAYER: I didn't say that.
HARRIS: That's what you're doing.
SETMAYER: You can't blame people for being called certain names if they behave in certain ways --
LEMON: You are getting off the message.
HARRIS: It's OK to call names. Is that what you're saying, Tara? That's what she's saying. She's saying it's OK to call someone a name --
SETMAYER: I'm not saying it's OK and you're deflecting because your argument is weak.
LEMON: Hold on. Did you just call her Tom?
HARRIS: No, I'm sorry. I meant to say Tara.
SETMAYER: You are deflecting because your argument is weak. Go ahead. Next subject.
LEMON: OK. So, anyways, Donald Trump Jr. made a statement at today's White House egg roll when he wore a pin on his blazer that reads "deplorable." Do you think that was trolling, Symone?
SANDERS: I absolutely think it was trolling. And, you know, this is how Donald Trump Jr. wants to get attention, let him have it. I really think that the White House Easter egg roll is usually a lovely event and this year, I think the message that was put out there for the young people that were there with their parents and their families was not necessarily a message about Easter bunnies and baskets.
SETMAYER: Or Christian, in that matter.
LEMON: Is it time for the administration to let the Hillary bashing go and concentrate on governing? I mean especially -- if he wants to wear that, I agree. Look. His business, but to an Easter egg roll? Come on, bro. Go ahead. What do you think, Tara?
SETMAYER: Well, I just want to say this. I think it was a huge mistake for Hillary Clinton to make that comment, even though, as tempting as it was, it was -- that was a huge mistake.
LEMON: It was awful, but we're talking about the pin.
SETMAYER: Right. But I'm just saying that. And as a result of her doing that, it's given -- it allowed this to kind of live on. People wearing it as a badge of valor to stick it to Hillary Clinton. I think it's a bit ridiculous. I mean the election has been over now for 15 months.
LEMON: I got to get Christopher. I'm almost done.
SETMAYER: Enough is enough with this.
LEMON: Christopher, what's your response?
[23:54:57] HARRIS: You mentioned that election has been over but Hillary Clinton is still out there acting like she's still fighting the election. So I mean --
SETMAYER: She is?
LEMON: She is?
HARRIS: You haven't seen her traveling all over the world? You want to shut her up?
SANDERS: Hillary Clinton is entitled to get on a plane and speak her opinion.
SETMAYER: Donald Trump is the one that keeps resurrecting her.
LEMON: Hold on, hold on, hold on. She can't talk about --
SANDERS: I just want everybody to know that just because she lost in election does not mean she is not able to speak her opinion.
LEMON: Christopher --
SANDERS: Mitt Romney is still out there. Everyone else who previously ran for president and lost is still out there.
HARRIS: So what you're basically saying is, you don't like the message that Donald Trump Jr. or Donald Trump Sr. is putting out there --
SANDERS: That's not what I'm saying. Please don't put words in my mouth.
HARRIS: I'm not putting words but that's what you are basically saying.
SANDERS: No. That's not what I'm basically saying. I will just say it --
LEMON: Hold on. I got to go. Let me say this.
LEMON: I got to go. I'm out of time. I'm over time. I am over time. I am over time. So, look. She's an American. You may not like it. She has every right to be out there if she wants to be. Whether it's a good idea for her to do it for the Democratic Party, that is another story. But you can't say she should go sit down and hide somewhere. She has every right to do whatever she wants to do. She is an American citizen.
That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I will see you right back here tomorrow.
[24:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)