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Michael Cohen Will Plead The Fifth In Stormy Daniels Case; White House Prepares For Possibility Jackson May Withdraw Nomination; 2018 Midterms; Wax Figure of Melania Trump Debuts At Madame Tussauds; NYT: NFL Owners Criticize President Trump During Confidential Meeting; SCOTUS Hears Oral Arguments On Trump Travel Ban. Aired 11-12a ET
Aired April 25, 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 is 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast, live with all the breaking news.
We're learning tonight that President Trump's long time fixer, Michael Cohen, will plead the fifth in the case about hush money paid to porn star, Stormy Daniels. That says lawyers for the President's say, he will be available to personally review documents seized in the FBI raid of Cohen.
Plus, sources telling CNN, the White House is preparing for the possibility that Dr. Ronny Jackson may withdrew his nomination to head the Veterans Administration. That is after stunning new allegations that Dr. Jackson, a White House position wrecked a government vehicle while drunk. That on at least one occasion he could not be reached when needed, because he was quote, passed out drunk in his hotel room.
And then there's a claim that Dr. Jackson provided such a large supply of Percocet to someone from the White House Military Office, threw his own staff into a panic. Those allegations laid out in a document by Democrats on a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee based on allegations from 23 current and former colleagues of Dr. Jackson.
Much, much more on that in just a moment, but I want to bring in now first CNN National Security Analyst, Juliette Kayyem and a former U.S. Attorney, Michael Moore.
Thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it. Michael, I'm going to start with you. We learned tonight that Michael Cohen is going to assert the Fifth Amendment, his Fifth Amendment rights in the Stormy Daniels case. What does that mean to her in the criminal investigation in New York?
MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR GEORGIA: I think it's not unexpected that he would do this. I mean basically what happens now for the Stormy Daniels case is there's likely to be some type of stay in the action. The Judge may halt discovery for a period of time. And here's the reason. Cohen doesn't want to be in a position where he is answering deposition questions and discovery questions trying to defend himself in the Stormy Daniels action while at the same time place himself in a position of jeopardy by implicating himself potentially in his own criminal case.
So, it's not unusual when there's a parallel case going on for someone to take the Fifth Amendment. It's interesting, but I don't think it's particularly surprising. I mean, I don't think the Stormy Daniels sides is particularly surprised by this, either. I mean, her lawyer has been saying now for several weeks, he is been, you know, prophesize that there was going to be an indictment within 90 days. And so he is been expecting there's going to be some criminal charges and have to deal with that through the court process in a civilized as well.
LEMON: Well, funny, you just mentioned that, because we are going to speak with him in just a moment. So, you know, in the past, Michael, President Trump has railed against those that have invoked the Fifth Amendment rights. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have you seen what's going on in front of congress? Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment. Horrible. Horrible. The mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent why are you taking the Fifth Amendment? When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth, so they're not prosecuted, I think it's disgraceful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Michael, taking the fifth can look like you have something to hide, but the President is OK with it in this case.
MOORE: Well, I mean, hiding your tax returns and not giving away it look like you got something to hide and hope he is apparently OK with it. Too, so, I mean, that there is nothing new in consistent in what he is saying. I mean, the truth is that -- you know, the Fifth Amendment is there to protect people who may be in some criminal jeopardy. He is likely used that on the campaign trail, he used it to attack his adversaries and his opponents.
But when it comes to him, and people question, he seems to think that there is something that they should do as part of their constitutional right. It is a constitutional right. Certainly you've got a right to do that if you're being charged. And I will say this, I think that is probably playing in right now into this whole negotiation about whether or not he would appear in the Mueller investigation to give some statement.
That there's a question whether or not if he was put in a grand jury if he would take the Fifth Amendment. I am sure that is what Guiliani and Mueller talking about now. There's some Department of Justice rules that need to be followed about putting people in front of a grand jury when they claim the Fifth Amendment. So it seems like the Fifth Amendments is going to be around in this administration. Something that we're talking about at least for several weeks to come.
LEMON: Juliette, you've been sitting by patiently there. The President has stood by Michael Cohen so far. And some see it as his recent pardon is a message to Cohen to keep quiet. Do you think Cohen is playing the long game by taking the Fifth Amendment?
JULIETTETE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think, I'm going to agree with Michael. I think Michael Cohen is just being smart. I mean he is listening to his lawyers. Just given what's going on in both the California case and the fact that Michael Cohen does not know what's going on in the New York investigation, pleading the Fifth is right.
There's a second element to this, which is obviously the politics, the hypocrisy of what Trump has said and of course, you know, just remembering this is the President's lawyer and his fixer who's finding himself facing liability in various courts throughout the United States.
And then the third piece which is just important to remember is, why is Michael Cohen in this predicament? It is because of the years that he was essentially trying to fix whatever problems Trump got into, and the fact that it was the Mueller, you know, sort of hand-off to the New York U.S. Attorney's office that led to, you know, all of this, is suggests that, you know, there is a bigger issue here, which is that these cases are all implicate a President who tries to fix illegality.
[23:05:28] And I will put that clearly. And I think we shouldn't lose sight of that, that there's a bigger issue behind what's happening to Michael Cohen and that started with the Mueller investigation.
LEMON: Michael, President Trump's lawyer followed a letter in the court case outlining their participation in reviewing evidence seized in the raid. And the letter reads in part, "Our client will make himself available as needed to aid in our privilege review on his behalf." So President Trump himself will be reviewing this material first? What are your thoughts on that?
MOORE: Well, it's interesting. Remember -- in other cases he has claimed that he didn't have time to be a part of the lawsuit, because of his duties as President of the United States. And so now, he's got time to look at documents that were taken from his lawyer's office. I think he is feeling the pressure to be candid about this whole Cohen raid.
I mean, you can see it on his face, and let me tell you as far as Michael Cohen guts, you come on out of the kitchen, because that cake is baked. It's just a matter of time before this guy flips and is cooperating witness. And you can see it in his eyes that he is not long to play the tough guy role anymore.
You know, when you're facing federal prison and you've got a huge amount of legal deals facing you and you've got a family that you've got to think about and how they're going to make it for the next number of years, I just can't see how he withstands it very much longer. I think the President feels that, I think his legal team feels that. I think that is why you're seeing some sort of this flurry of activity in this particular instance and what in the world that those documents that are coming out of Cohen's office.
LEMON: So, Juliette, listen, Rudy Guiliani recently was added to President Trump's legal team slam former FBI Director, James Comey, while at a fundraiser earlier today. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: The guy who has forgotten how to tell the truth, he is an absolute embarrassment to the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What are your thoughts, Juliette?
KAYYEM: You know, it only took a few days for Rudy Guiliani to fall out of a legal role, which is you have -- first of all, don't make public statements like that. And secondly you have no opinion, but to protect your client, in this case President Trump. Because goodness knows how this case unfolds.
I think it says two things, one is, and Guiliani was not hired to be a lawyer. He was hired as a sort of Michael Cohen replacement. He is a fixer, he is a tough guy. He is a guy who can go after, you know, make a deal with Mueller. I don't know even know what that means at this stage.
And the second is that there's no theory of the case still, I think for Trump's legal team. You know, whether they all have a consistent approach to what they're supposed to do protect the President, it is unclear. You know, this is just, you know just sort of bad energy I think around all these lawyers, bad dragon energy I'll say around these lawyers and where the case goes into the future.
LEMON: Very good.
KAYYEM: Guiliani -- I'll leave it there, but Guiliani lasted three days in the lawyer role. And the truth is he is not there when people are there.
LEMON: I was going to say leave it to Juliette to bring up a Kanye reference and everything. Thank you Juliette. Thank you Michael.
KAYYEM: I always, you know, you always had me on for the bad news, so every once in a while. Like invoke.
LEMON: Thank you. I appreciate it. As I mentioned Stormy Daniels' attorney is here, Michael Avenatti. So let us start with it. There is a lot to talk about, because you were sitting there, you were itching to respond to a lot of things they said. But let's start with the breaking news tonight. President's lawyers notified the court that Michael Cohen, in this case the President himself is ready, is willing and able to review documents on the FBI seizing. This is what they say. The letter state, "Our client will make himself available as needed to aid in our privilege review on his behalf." What's your reaction to that news?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIEL'S ATTORNEY: Well, my reaction is probably pretty smart on the President's part, because this a very serious matter as I've been saying, Don, for weeks now. I mean, this is a critical, critical matter for the President and for Michael Cohen. Now, my own personal belief is that he could spend all the time in the world reviewing these documents and he is not going to be able to put the genie back into the bottle, the horseback in the barn. Whatever metaphor you want to use, I think the die is cast. I think that there's no question that Michael Cohen is going to be indicted, and I think there's no question that he is going to rollover on the President and provide very damaging information about the President.
LEMON: You said when Michael was saying, when he talked about, he said, I think the cake is baked when it comes to that, you were agreeing with a lot of what the panel said. You disagree with a lot. He also said that Judge Otero, would stay the case and halt discovery.
AVENATTI: Well, I disagree with that because I was actually at the hearing last Friday and I actually argued against the motion for stay last Friday. And I heard Judge Otero's comments in connection with our arguments. And he actually complimented us on a number of occasions and stated that we had raised a number of good arguments to either should be no stay.
[23:10:03] I do not think there will be a stay, I do not think Judge Otero will stay the case. I think, he is going to fashion some procedural remedies to allow Michael Cohen to continue to assert his Fifth Amendment rights, at the same time allowing us to proceed with other parts of the case and perhaps other discovery in the case including a deposition of the President perhaps.
LEMON: What does it say to you, I want to get back to the documents with you mentioned the Fifth Amendment. What does it say to you that Michael Cohen is taking the Fifth?
AVENATTI: Well, I don't think it can be overstated, Don, the importance of this and the magnitude of what we're talking about here. We're not talking about an average citizen taking the Fifth Amendment. We're not talking about an average attorney taking the Fifth Amendment. What we're talking about, and I want to be really clear about this, about three weeks ago the President stood on Air Force One and he directed the American people to his attorney for answers as to questions about the $130,000 payment, the contract with my client, et cetera.
He specifically said you'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Now three weeks later Michael Cohen has stated in a sworn declaration, he is not going to answer those questions. And why is he not going to answer those questions, because his answers may incriminate him. That is a serious, serious admission. And the magnitude, Don, of the right hand of the President, the attorney that served as his right hand for 12 years asserting the Fifth, the magnitude of that cannot be overstated.
LEMON: Despite what the President said. You heard his soundbites in the past saying anyone who takes the Fifth Amendment in his estimation is admitting guilt. That is what he says. But the Fifth Amendment does not admit that you're guilty.
AVENATTI: It does not, but as a general proposition, people that do not have anything to hide, do not assert the Fifth. And look, Don, you live by the sword, you die by the sword. There's comment after comment by this President along the way and he specifically directed him at those comments that Hillary and others during the campaign. We know what he believes about people that plead the Fifth. So, what, he is now going to backtrack off that and there's going to be a new set of rules for his personal attorney Michael Cohen? I don't think that is genuine and I think the American people are going to see through it.
LEMON: That happens a lot with this president, by the way if you had been paying attention. Are you worried that important documents relevant to your clients case, you think that they are going to be dismiss through the claims of attorney-client privilege?
AVENATTI: When you say dismissed, you mean -- you mean covered up?
LEMON: You won't be able to bring them to evidence or you may never get to see them or they'll be redacted and so.
AVENATTI: Well, we do have that concern and in fact that is one of the reason why, I will appear tomorrow in Federal Court here in New York in order to protect the rights of my client and to ensure that we have access to those documents. We are also going to be filing a motion to intervene in that case formally in the morning before that hearing at 12:00 noon tomorrow.
LEMON: You are going to intervene, what does that mean?
AVENATTI: Well, we are going to effectively ask the court to formally recognize our interested to party in the criminal proceedings here in New York so that we can take formal steps to protect the documents. We have reason to believe that there's a substantial amount of evidence and documents.
LEMON: That was my next question. How many documents you think related to your client did they seize?
AVENATTI: Well, I mean we think, we don't know an exact quantity, but we think it's substantial. We also think that it includes text messages and e-mails between Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson as recently as early 30 days ago.
LEMON: You said, and I thought this was -- I think you said it in this show, I don't know if you said it first on this show, but you said that you believed that ultimately this would result to President Trump not being able to serve on his second term. That is an explosive assertion.
AVENATTI: Well, I haven't been wrong yet in this case. I haven't been wrong about a single thing that I predicted in this case. I was the first one to talk on August -- on April 5th about the fact that I thought too much faith had been put in Michael Cohen and then ultimately there is going to be serious consequences of that and then ultimately he was going to be charged.
Two business days later, the FBI raided his office. I had been sub sequentially said that I believe he would plead the Fifth. Today, he formally recognized his intention to plead the Fifth and there has been a number of predictions along the way. So, Don, I am going to keep shooting 2until I miss. I made bold prediction and every one of them has come true. Now that is not the same, I am going to be perfect for the duration, but I like my record thus far.
LEMON: The last time you were on this show you did announce that you had raised the amount of the reward to $131,000, a thousand dollars above what the payoff was for the NDA. Do you have any credible leads that you can share?
AVENATTI: Well, we have a number of credible leads. I mean the outpouring of information has been significant. It's been over 3,000 leads. I'd put the credible leads in somewhere in the neighborhood of maybe 600 or 700. We have gotten significantly closer, I think, to identifying that individual. But we are being, very, very careful as it relates to making sure that we have the right person, because of the consequences if we're wrong. So we're going to be very, very careful before we announce that.
LEMON: Michael, thank you very much.
AVENATTI: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: I appreciate it. When we come back sources telling CNN the White House is preparing for the possibility that Dr. Ronny Jackson may step aside as president's nominee to head the V.A. in the wake of the shocking new allegations against him. We'll be right back.
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Sources tells CNN, the White House is preparing tonight for the possibility that Dr. Ronny Jackson may withdraw as the President's nominee to head the V.A. That is in the wake of shocking new allegations of improper behavior. I want to bring in now CNN White House reporter, Sarah Westwood and CNN Political Analyst, Molly Ball.
So good to have you both on. Thank you so much, good evening. Molly, you first. The nominee to head the V.A. Admiral Ronny Jackson, meeting tonight with White House officials to see what the next steps are after 23 current and former colleagues have come forward saying that he created a toxic work environment, that he wrecked a government vehicle while drunk and improperly dispense prescription drugs. I mean this are very serious allegations, how troubling is this?
MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it depends on whether the allegation are true. You know, I mean, we have heard from Dr. Jackson that he is saying that they're not true. So if I'm the White House in this situation, I say let's see your evidence. Because if in fact there is some kind of conspiracy to defame him, then they ought to go ahead and fight for a person that they believe should be in this position.
But if there's truth to all of this, well, first of all it would have been helpful for them to know that before he was nominated, which obviously could have been prevented by the President, you know, telling someone before he told the rest of the world. But I think that is what it really hinges on, and that is what the Republicans in congress -- both parties in congress want to know as well, it is just, now that we know -- these allegations are out there, is there any truth to them?
[23:20:00] LEMON: Well your comments Molly, it's a good safe way to Sarah here, because Sarah, if the White House vetted Dr. Jackson as thoroughly as they claim, why did they only learned of these allegations after he was nominated?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, White House aides say that Trump's insistence that Jackson be the nominee in his refusal to consider anyone else seriously perhaps someone more qualified is why the White House finds itself in this mess now. There's a sense among senior aides that have spoken to CNN that they believed Jackson had already been vetted, because he had worked in such close proximity to multiple Presidents over many years.
But there was not as much political scrutiny that was applied to Jackson as there would have been in a case where there was a more thorough, a more robust behind the scenes process that led up to the nomination. If it hadn't been such a quick secession between David Shulkin, the former V.A. Secretary stepping down and Jackson being nominated.
So the problem was, that the type of question that would normally be posed to a cabinet secretary were not really ask, because aides knew that Trump was going to pick Jackson no matter what and they had this assumption that there were no skeletons in his closet, because he was already working in the White House.
LEMON: Yes, Molly, I want to read this. This is from "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board that writes, "If the doctor has run out of town with his reputation trashed. Mr. Trump will find it even harder to find people to take these jobs." Do you think that is a real concern going forward?
BALL: Yes, I mean. I think it is already hard to staff this White House. And the chaos in the cabinet in particular has made it hard to get the types of highly qualified people that you want in these job. And I think the point the journal is making is a correct one, in which is that, even if the allegations are true and he is guilty of all of this stuff, a proper process being in place would have prevented him from being dragged through the mud in this way.
They would have gone to him or they would have done the research, and then, you know, presented this to him in private. Give him a chance to recuse it in a dignified way. You know, everyone's got probably something that they had to apologize for it at some point of their live. If you have a vetting process, you can prepare for this kind of thing and confront it behind the scenes, instead of having it being a public embarrassment, you are just taking the curve.
LEMON: Because Molly, they then make the announcement after you vetted someone, you said, well, this is our nominee, this is the guy he wants, because then all of his skeletons or whatever the possibility of this skeletons coming out that would not have to happen, right? BALL: You'll be prepared for it.
LEMON: Sarah, excuse me, President Trump reportedly first told Jackson that he should stay and fight. But I mean, this afternoon, a source told CNN that the President is increasingly concerned that he can't survive the latest allegations. Do you think these nomination is doomed at this point?
WESTWOOD: It's hard to see a scenario in which the nomination is revived. The problem is that senate Republicans are not coming out and defending Jackson, and they're not giving any indication that they're ever going to support this nominee. It'll be a lesson to see how the meetings on the Hill this evening with Senior White House staff went, because the White House recognizes, according to some aides that are not going to get some Democrats on board with this nomination.
But once they start to lose Senate Republicans with the margin so small, there's just no way to move this nomination forward, and sources are worried that these are the kinds of he said, she said allegations that are hard to prove or disprove, that once they're out there, once the nomination is so tainted, it's really hard to get it jump started again.
LEMON: The damage is done and again, to both your points that is why a vetting process is so important, a thorough vetting process. I mean, you know, you guys mentioned, you know, about getting someone credible after this that people may be concerned about it. Because, Molly, during the campaign, Trump bragged about hiring the best people, but, you know, he is had an incredible amount of turnover in his cabinet, and Dr. Jackson may not even make it, you know, that far. It is part of a larger pattern, isn't it?
BALL: Yes, absolutely is. I mean, look at all of the people he has fired at the cabinet level and below and all the people who have been reluctant to join the administration. I think there's no question that, you know, this administration is sort of thinly staffed top to bottom for a variety of reasons. But a big one is just Trump's volatility and Trump's ego.
Dating back to the very beginning of the administration, the black listing of the never Trumpers and anyone who had ever spoken a harsh word against Trump when pretty much every Republican had muttered something negative about him under their breath at one point or another. That ruled out a lot of people who were interested in serving their country, whether or not they were 100 percent onboard with this particular President.
And so this is an ongoing problem. It gets worse as Trump as we've seen sort of lashes out, seeks scapegoats for his own public relations problems. Well, this guy is making me look bad, therefore I'm going to get rid of him. That is a tough environment to operate in, and you can't blame people for not wanting to be a part of that.
[23:25:09] LEMON: Molly, Sarah, thank you so much.
When we come back mid-term elections are closer than you think. Is the GOP in for a big wakeup call?
LEMON: The 2018 mid-terms, a little more than six months away. Conventional wisdom suggests that a blue wave may sweep Washington, possibly enough for the Democrats to take back the House. So, what does that mean for the Republicans? Let us discuss now, Bill Kristol, is the editor-at-large of the "Weekly Standard," CNN Political Commentator, Alice Stewart and Mike Shields.
So good to have all of you on. Good evening. Smiles, I love that.
So Alice, I want you to check this out, in a special elections in -- August special election in 2018 we're seeing a big swing towards the Democrats. They have won a lot, not all of them. There it is up on the board. Look, check the leader board. But they are performing expectations in every single one. Is the question now how big will the wave be or do you think we're getting ahead of ourselves here?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They certainly have the wind at their back right now, but let me remind you they lost last night. And, you know, a win for the Republicans in Arizona is a win. We will take that. They surely had the wind at their back, but look, we mean to say this that the Republican Party, the RNC, the Congressional Committee and the Senate Committee, they understand that midterms are difficult for the party in power. And they know that history is not kind to the party in power in the first term of a presidential administration.
So they're working hard. They did it in Arizona. They worked hard to put the resources necessary there on the ground early, to educate voters on the candidate and the issues.
LEMON: Are you not concerned about the margin in Arizona?
STEWART: A win is a win, Don.
LEMON: I agree with you but on the margins, seriously.
STEWART: No, and I think the Republican Party played it well in terms of defining the candidate and defining the issues, educating voters on polling information. Early voting was critical in Arizona, and they're going to continue to do that in all the key races as we get up to midterms.
LEMON: OK. So Mike, let me bring you in. CNN's analysis says that the average improvement for the Democrats has been 17 percentage points versus the prior partisan baseline. I mean, that's better than any party out of power has done in the lead up to the midterms, I think, since at least 1994. Is there a way to read this other than a massive backlash against the president?
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there is. I mean, look, there certainly is motivation on the left. And we know that they're angry with the president and they're going to show up. And so that distorts things in special elections. And as you know, I worked to elect Republicans in the House, and I worked on Karen Handel's campaign in Georgia.
And so -- and I've been watching this. And when you have a lot of energy on the left in a special election when most people don't know when an election is taking place, that energy is helpful to them. And so they're going to over-index in all the special elections. When you have an election on election day when everyone knows, that energy balances out by the Republicans who are also motivated.
And so while, of course, we are heading into a headwind as Republicans, we know that in a midterm of a president, we traditionally would lose seats. The idea that this is just an overwhelming wave, we don't know that.
The general ballot nationally in some polls is only minus three. It really needs to be like minus seven for Republicans for this to turn into a wave. So, I just want to read too much -- in 2010, we lost four -- and I was a part of it. It was painful. We lost four special elections --
SHIELDS: -- leading up to the cycle where we won 63 seats. And so, it just shows you that specials don't really pretend what's going to happen.
LEMON: You're still smarting about that. I mean --
SHIELDS: I hate losing.
LEMON: Seven, eight years later, my goodness.
LEMON: What do you think of this? She said a win is a win and I agree with her, but, man, the margins in Arizona.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah, that district -- most House districts of House Republicans are less Republican in that district and that shrunk to a five-point margin. So if you replicated Arizona, Republicans would lose the House. They would lose it handily.
Special elections are different from election day, other things. Things could change. But that was a pretty generic election in Arizona. That wasn't a war (ph) type of situation. The candidate was a respectable candidate. The Republicans out bet (ph) the Democrats. So, the notion that this was -- that's a pretty bad show for the Republicans.
I think it's likely the Democrats won the House. I think they have a chance to pick up the Senate as well. There are a lot of seats in play there than people expected. We get ways (ph) quite often. People talk (ph) about it, "Ooh, there could be a wave," well, there was a wave in '06, there was a wave in 2010, there was a mini-wave in 2014. It's not like we don't see it quite often.
LEMON: When I was talking about the percentage points versus the prior partisan baseline in 1994, remember when I said that in about 1994, you were shaking your head in agreement with that. So you think that --
KRISTOL: If you look at the day and all these races, it's clear that democrats -- it's very consistent that the Democrats are outperforming, Republicans underperforming, and I think it's a big deal, A, for the next two years, obviously, Democrats control one or both Houses. And secondly, the day after election day, November 7, 2018, it's a big moment when Republicans really don't have to say, "OK, we did our best. They held the House, they didn't hold the House. They held the Senate, they didn't hold the Senate."
What do we do going forward? Are we comfortable renominating Donald Trump? Is that what the party -- is that the party? Do we want him leading the party and nation for another four years? I do think the dynamic changes very dramatically the day after election day.
LEMON: Oh, wow. You're going -- quickly here because I want to get to this. You think he's going to face a Republican challenge?
KRISTOL: Yeah, sure.
LEMON: OK. All right, very interesting. There were a couple moments, we had the CNN town hall, one moment that really stuck out to me during the town hall tonight was -- that was with the former FBI director this moment right here. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: What I hope they'll do is ask themselves, Republicans, so what will I tell my grandchildren when they ask me, so what did you do? Did you trade a tax cut for the rule of law, for equal protection of the laws, for the truth? Really grandpa? So I hope they'll ask themselves that question and realize that they have to look above those policy issues and think about what matters most in this country.
[23:35:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You're talking about Republicans on Capitol Hill, when you write about that. You're talking about Paul Ryan, you're talking about --
COMEY: Republicans on Capitol Hill, talking about Republicans -- people who identify themselves as Republicans have to ask that grandchild question to themselves.
COOPER: And you think they're failing that question?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Alice, stand by, that was a little longer than I thought. But that's kind of what Bill was saying, the next four years, you want to spend it down (ph) similar. So what do you think of that? Twenty seconds, if you will. Is he right?
STEWART: Look, Republicans are going to support the candidate. They're going to support the nominee. And as a Republican, I don't necessarily agree with the tone and tenor that this president uses, but I support his policies. I like what he's done so far, and I'm going to continue to support him as long as he's the nominee.
LEMON: All right. So Bill, what do you thin? Quick --
KRISTOL: I'm going to continue not to support him and I hope we have a much better nominee in 2020.
LEMON: Mike, you got 10 seconds.
SHIELDS: The voters chose President Trump and James Comey does a huge disservice to the FBI by sounding so political when most of our FBI agents should not act the way that he acts.
LEMON: All right. Thank you all. I appreciate it. Great conversation.
STEWART: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Now I need to turn to what's got to be the picture of the day. I want you to take a look at this. Former press secretary Sean Spicer, introducing a wax figure of First Lady Melania Trump, taking her place alongside the wax figure of president at Madame Tussauds in New York.
Spicer described the wax Melania as, quote, "unbelievably lifelike." Folks at Madame Tussauds, well, they say they informed the first lady about the unveiling but they didn't receive a response from her team. There you go. Where's the white hat? Kidding.
When we come back, what the NFL owners really think about President Trump. We're going to tell you what they said behind close doors. That's next.
[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: In October of last year during the height of President Trump's war on the NFL players, owners and league officials met to discuss how to handle the president's attacks on protesting players. The New York Times is reporting on audio obtained from that meeting and what was said behind closed doors is pretty surprising.
Joining me now to discuss is CNN Political Commentator, Joe Lockhart, the former chief communications officer for the NFL, and CNN Contributor, Donte Stallworth, a former NFL player. I'm so happy to have you on. So let's look at some of the comments now coming out of this confidential meeting involving NFL owners and players back in October. This is what Philadelphia Eagle's owner Jeffrey Lurie said. He said, we've got to be careful not to be baited by Trump or whoever else. We have to find a way to not be divided and not get baited.
You were the league's top PR guy. What was the strategy in responding to these attacks by Trump?
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the interesting thing was how quickly. The NFL owners are 32 successful business people who all have pretty large egos, who all think differently. This brought them all together.
This meeting was extraordinary. And the strategy I think was in the first instance, all the owners came out and criticized the president because he went after the players in a very personal term.
And then the strategy was just to let the president say what he wanted because getting into a catfight with the president of the United States was bad business for the NFL.
LEMON: Yes. And they had to figure out how to do it without encouraging him to attack further, right?
LOCKHART: Well, I mean, there's very little the NFL owners or the players could do that was going to dictate what Trump was doing. Trump was doing it for two reasons. One is he's held a grudge against the NFL for 30 years because the NFL wouldn't let him in the club. That's first.
The second is he thought it was good politics. And for him, I guess it is good politics because it rattled his base up. It rattled the base up by pinning people against each other whether it be socioeconomic, racial, that's his political strategy.
So the owners could have gone and knelt down and begged forgiveness and he still would have done it, and they had no interest in doing that.
LEMON: Because of politics. He thought it was good politics. The Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie, called Trump's presidency, quote, this is for you, Donte, disastrous. As a former player, would you have liked more owners to have spoken out more publicly against the president after he spoke out so aggressively against them and on the anthem protest?
DONTE STALLWORTH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it would have shown a sign of confidence for the players to hear your team owner, your CEO, to hear him speak and defend the players. And a lot of owners came out, you know, that following Sunday after Trump called players SOBs.
A lot of the owners and general managers came out on the field and locked arms with the players. And I thought that was a good show of solidarity, I think, as they said in "The New York Times" today, a sign of unity and a show of unity. But at the end of the day, you know, I think the biggest issue here is the president continuing to try to intimidate American business. He's done this with Nordstrom when they decided not to take Ivanka Trump's fall collection last year. He called them out.
And he knows that whenever he tweets about something, especially a business that disagrees with him or that he disagrees with, he knows that his base is going to be on the attack. And he enjoys that.
He knows how to rile up his base, and he's been doing that. You know, Joe alluded to it for, you know, 30 years, that the NFL didn't let him in the Cool Kids Club and now he has a vendetta against the NFL.
LEMON: You now, while the players and the owners weren't on the same page, it seemed to me the team owners were all on the same page. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said, the problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don't feel is in the best interest of America. It's divisive and it's horrible.
So Kraft is a friend and supporter of President Trump. Were you surprised to hear him call Trump out that way?
LOCKHART: Not really because I think owners put personal politics aside in this case. Because their passion, owning the team, was under attack. Their work force was under attack.
[23:44:58] And in fact, this meeting that the audio recorded, I'm kind of glad it has gotten out because that was extraordinary.
Remember the context for this. We are out of time. When the president was attacking Vice President Pence, pulled that kind of pathetic stunt in Indianapolis by walking out of a game.
LEMON: He knew exactly what was going to happen.
LOCKHART: Yes, he knew exactly what was going to happen. And it was highly charged. And 11 owners sat across from 11 players and they realized that what brought them together was way more than what divided them. And that set the stage for really coming to an agreement to raise up the issues of social justice, economic justice.
And that's what this partnership is doing. By no means do the players and owners agree on anything. By no means do the owners agree with each other on everything. But all of this has actually led to some good.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, people may be surprised to hear Bob Kraft say that, but he likes the president and personal reasons behind that. But he was really torn by this, and it really hurt him, at least what the president 2was saying about the players, especially the SOB comments and all of that.
LOCKHART: Yes, and again, it didn't sit well. As Donte referenced, by Sunday after the Friday night comments, every NFL owner had come out with a statement that was critical of the comment.
LEMON: Hey, Donte, I'm going to read this quickly and I want you to respond because there were -- it was started by Colin Kaepernick, right, this protest for kneeling for the anthem. Eric Reid who knelt by Kaepernick went to meeting and he said this. I feel like we were hung out to dry, Reid said of Kaepernick. Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us. The room fell quiet. Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin's right to do this. We let him become public enemy number one in this country and he still doesn't have a job.
Is the lack of Colin's unemployment in the NFL, that still a sore spot among players and owners?
STALLWORTH: Yes, it got to be. I mean, look at anyone who knows the ball will tell you that Colin Kaepernick should have never not been on an NFL roster up to this point. He's better than a number of starters from 2016 and 2017. And even this year, he is better than most backups.
So the fact that Colin Kaepernick is not in the NFL I think is still a sore spot. But you got also to remember too that the NFL is nearly 70 percent African-American players. These players come from a system of exploitation from the NCAA. And so they make hundreds of millions of dollars for the NCAA.
These guys are looked up to in their communities back home. And so a lot of people in their communities are going through these issues on a daily basis that most people in the country don't have to deal with.
STALLWORTH: And so for people to say that these players should not, you know, be taking a knee and doing this protesting that they've been doing, they've been working hard behind the scenes. I think it's -- i think it's a bad conversation to try to stop these players from speaking out when they've been dealing with this for a long time, for a number of years.
LEMON: Donte, thank you. Joe, thank you. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.
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LEMON: The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in the 15-month legal battle over President Trump's travel ban. The Justice Department arguing that this is not a Muslim ban, but a national security measure.
Joining me now is Lieutenant Governor Douglas Chin. He is a former attorney general of Hawaii who has fought the ban in court. Thank you so much for joining us lieutenant governor. I appreciate it. The administration is targeting these countries. What is the legal issue before the Supreme Court right now?
DOUGLAS CHIN, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF HAWAII: Well, it seemed like the biggest discussion that was happening is how much deference do you give to a president? I think we all understand that under normal circumstances, you actually do give the president of the United States a lot of deference when it comes to issues such as national security.
The deference must have boundaries. And our argument is that we have reached those outer boundaries. And some of the justices seemed to go along with that and some of the justices seemed to indicate they wanted to test it further to allow the president to be given the benefit of the doubt.
LEMON: It seems like this case could end up splitting the Supreme Court down ideological lines with Justice Kennedy being the deciding vote. Is that your read on it?
CHIN: That's exactly how a lot of people are looking at it. However, one of the things that we all know is just last week we had an immigration and deportation case where Justice Gorsuch ended up siding with the liberals on a case where we didn't expect that.
And so, I'm not so quick to read the tea leaves as I think a lot of people have already been trying to do. The justices asked a lot of good questions to both parties, including Justice Kennedy who asked good -- tough questions to both sides.
LEMON: Justice Kennedy seemed to take issue with comments the president made on the campaign trail. He seemed reluctant to have the court weigh in on something that could be deemed the national security issue. Why do you think this is about more than national security?
CHIN: Oh, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the president made as many statements as he did, not just before he became president, but afterwards. And so Justice Kennedy's point was that you really have to be able to look at the entire circumstances. And that would include statements that are made by a candidate, all the way up to when they became president, as well as right after.
And one of the things that our lawyer, Neil Katyal (ph), pointed out was that even after the third travel ban, which was supposedly the most cleaned-up version of all, President Trump was tweeting anti- Islamic videos that were false just a couple days later as many of the news media outlets reported.
LEMON: Solicitor General Noel Francisco made the argument today that this version of the president's travel ban doesn't target base on religion and, quote, excludes the vast majority of Muslim world. I want you to take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NOEL FRANCISCO, SOLICITOR GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES (voice over): The president has made crystal clear on September 25th that he had no intention of imposing the Muslim ban.
[23:55:02] He has made crystal clear that Muslims in this country are great Americans and there are many, many Muslim countries who love this country and he has praised Islam as one of the great countries of the world. This proclamation is about what it says it is about, foreign policy and national security and we would ask that you reverse the court below. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So we also encouraged the court to ignore the president's anti-Muslim comments and tweets. Is that a reasonable expectation?
CHIN: Well, you hit the nail on the head. In other words, the legal standard is actually what would a reasonable observer think after looking at the entire context.
And unfortunately, what Solicitor General Francisco did was he picked the one time President Trump was conducting himself in a way that had him saying positive things about Muslims and asking the rest of the American public as well as the nine justices to ignore the countless other times when he said Islam hates us, if I'm elected, I will make sure that Muslims are shut out from the country.
It's that kind of religious discrimination that's offensive I think to many people and the American public and it is also offensive to the people of Hawaii.
LEMON: Lieutenant Governor Douglas Chin, thank you so much.
CHIN: Thank you.
LEMON: That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.
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