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CNN TONIGHT

The Best of Trump's Rants; Scott Pruitt Admits He Did Know Something About Controversial Big Raises for Two EPA Employees after Telling the Press He Didn't; President Trump's Unhinged Interview; The Trump And Kanye West Bromance. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 26, 2018 - 22:00   ET

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


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

We're following multiple big stories tonight. There's a lot going on so I'm going to take my time here. So everyone pay close attention.

President Trump distancing himself from his personal attorney Michael Cohen while admitting for the first time that Cohen represents him in what he calls the crazy Stormy Daniels deal.

White House doctor Ronny Jackson withdrawing his nomination to run the V.A. in the wake of multiple allegations of drinking on duty, mishandling prescription meds, and having a hostile workplace environment.

And the president's unhinged interview that sources tell CNN had White House aides wincing in response. But all of this is against a back drop of an administration that has been, let's say, truth challenged from the very beginning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, FORMER UNITED STATES WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. Period!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, that's a lie. Period. You think they would have learned by now. But people on team Trump just keep getting caught in their own lies they think they can lie and get away with it. Why? Why wouldn't they? After all, the president does.

Remember those controversial big raises for two EPA employees raises the White House opposed? Well, here's what EPA boss Scott Pruitt told Fox News about that last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT PRUITT, ADMINISTRATOR, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: I did not know they got the pay raises until yesterday.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: OK. And here's what he told Congress today completely changing his story that he didn't know about the raises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRUITT: I was not aware of the amount, nor was I aware that of the bypassing or the PPO process not being respected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: See what just happened there? A cabinet level secretary admitting he did know something about those raises after telling the press he didn't. And they call us fake news somehow.

And of course there's White House press secretary Sarah Sanders bobbing and weaving pretty much every day from the press podium. Let listen to what she said yesterday about the president's admission in his own words that Dr. Ronny Jackson didn't have the experience the V.A.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yesterday the president suggested that Dr. Jackson does not have the experience to run the Department of Veterans Affairs. Is that a fair assessment that he lacks that experience?

SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's not what the president said. I think you're taking some of his words out of context.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: But in fact, that's exactly what the president said. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there's an experience problem, lack of experience, but there's the experience problem -- the veterans administration is very important to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So the mistruths appear to be contagious, even with some of the president's boosters like Trump supporters Diamond and Silk, a.k.a., Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson. They insisted to Congress today that they were never paid by the Trump campaign, even though documents the Trump campaign itself filed with the FEC showed they were paid $1,204.94 back in November of 2016 for field consulting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Miss Hardaway, I think you stated on the record today at least three times, quote, "we were not paid by the Trump campaign." Is that correct? LYNNETTE 'DIAMOND' HARDAWAY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: That is correct.

ROCHELLE 'SILK' RICHARDSON, TRUMP SUPPORTER: That is correct.

BOOKER: You have an FEC document that clearly indicates that the two of you were paid for field consulting by the Trump campaign. That's just one document. There may be others that I don't have. And presumably this was a document filed with genuineness and authenticity by the campaign of the president that you so love. And so I'm just trying to figure out--

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We understand that this was--

BOOKER: -- who is lying here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And that's the thing about this truth challenged administration. It all starts at the very top with a president who says whatever he wants. Whenever he wants. Listen to what he told Fox News today about his fixer and long-time personal attorney Michael Cohen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction. But Michael would represent me and represent me on some things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And just like that the president gave the feds ammunition to argue that the documents seized in that FBI raid on Cohen are unlikely to contain a lot of privileged material, even though Cohen's attorney had argued exactly that.

But the president he wasn't done. Not by a long shot. He actually admitted today for the first time that Michael Cohen represented him in the Stormy Daniels case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal. He represented me--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: It was just three weeks ago, three weeks ago that President Trump himself told reporters on air force one he knew nothing about the $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels, one made by Cohen, and said he knew nothing about the case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

[22:05:02] TRUMP: No. No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why -- why did Michael Cohen make those if there was no truth to her allegations?

TRUMP: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. And you'll have to ask Michael.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Again, this is a president who will say whatever he wants whenever he wants and the question is who do you believe? And for those who believe it, why do you believe it?

I want to bring in now CNN politics executive editor at large, Chris Cillizza. I do that to you every time, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It's fine.

LEMON: Giving you a promotion. And CNN Political Analyst, Ryan Lizza and April Ryan, and CNN Counterterrorism Analyst, Phil Mudd.

Good evening to all of you. Thank you for joining us this out. So, I laid it out. Why do they lie so much, Phil. The president and this administration.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: What's the cost? You go through the initial electoral process and the president says -- the former president, President Obama, was not born here. He wins the election. Eventually acknowledges before the election obviously that maybe that claim about the birth certificate wasn't true.

LEMON: With no apology.

MUDD: That's correct. My point is the only bottom line here is not the truth. The bottom line is when you have investigators led by Robert Mueller who have to determine whether your violations of the truth are actually federal legal violations, then we'll hold you accountable, the accountability here is not the truth. It's whether it violates the law.

LEMON: OK.

MUDD: That's the bottom line.

LEMON: That is the bottom line. So, you know, it started with the whole birther thing, which was not true, which was a lie.

MUDD: Yes.

LEMON: And then, Chris, I mean, we could go on, I mentioned a little bit.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

LEMON: Go back to the beginning of this administration when Sean Spicer stood at that podium and lied about the inauguration crowd sizes. It's something that started on inauguration day, day one, isn't it?

CILLIZZA: Yes. And in fact, during the campaign, I mean, this is just someone who has not -- he has a very casual relationship with the truth. Donald Trump believes the truth is what he believes the truth to be. He believes you are entitled to your own truth. You know that old saying you're entitled to your own opinions and not your own facts?

Donald Trump believed he is entitled to his own facts. He told more than 2,000 either outright lies or distortions according to "Washington Post" within the first year of his administration.

What's difficult here is people say what's the penalty? Well, in the near term politics, at least for his base, there isn't a huge penalty. I would argue, however, that there is a long, medium-to-long-term erosion in our ability to agree on a set of sort of parameters, the rules of the game.

We don't necessarily have to agree which team we're rooting for but we agree that the game is let's say, it's going to go four quarters, it's going to be 12 minutes in each quarter, you can't tackle anyone because that's called a foul. If we can't agree on that, then the game can't be played. That's what worries me. Sure it hasn't hurt him yet. That doesn't mean it is -- that doesn't mean it is not detrimental in the medium to long term for democracy because I think it is.

LEMON: Yes. Ryan, Pruitt told Fox News that he didn't know about the pay raises. Today he seemed to contradict himself. Does Pruitt's changing story even matter to this administration?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, because the tone is set at the top. And when you have a president that lies about small things and lies about big things and lies about things that are right in front of his face and lies about pretty much anything he thinks he can get away with, that tone is set at the top and we see the effect it has.

It filters down through the press secretary Sean Spicer on the first day who sets the tone for the administration by lying about a small thing. Sets the tone for administration officials to lie to journalists.

Anyone that covers this White House knows that White House officials lie routinely to White House reporters covering the place. You know, previous -- previously aides in the White House in the Bush administration, the zObama administration, they lied, they would misdirect, not tell the truth, but the way that -- the sort of breadth of the lying and deceiving that comes from this administration is not like anything in the modern era with respect to a White House. And I think Phil and Chris, you know, hit the right questions, what's

the penalty? What are the costs? And, you know, there are -- in our democracy when bad stuff happens, when an administration is acting badly and lying at the top is bad, I think we can all agree on that, it's our job in the press to call it out, to speak honestly about what's going on and do it every day without partisanship and without becoming numb to what's going on.

[22:10:01] LEMON: Without fear or favor as it says.

LIZZA: Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But I want to--

LIZZA: It's the voter -- but it's the voters' job to decide if they've had enough.

LEMON: Yes.

LIZZA: Right? And it's Congress's job to decide if they'll tolerate it and right now--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I think people have had enough.

LIZZA: -- you have a party that protects him.

LEMON: I know. But I actually think people have had enough. I actually think that it's the, as yu said it's the party protects. The people in Washington, the congressmen and the congressmen and the senators on the Republican side who are not saying anything and the minority of people in the country who are sort of sick sycophants and they will, it doesn't matter to them, they know he's lying but it doesn't matter to them.

But Ryan, you mentioned the people who--

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: Does the means justify the ends attitude in the Republican Party right now.

LEMON: Yes.

LIZZA: And until that breaks, I don't think we'll get a lot of change.

LEMON: Well, history is going to be a very severe judge of that. Trust me. And I don't look--

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you, Don. LEMON: No, it's all right. But it will. April, Ryan just mentioned

the people who cover the White House every day. You cover the White House every day. And sometimes I watch the press briefings--

APRIL RYAN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

LEMON: -- and you guys are a lot nicer than I would be. And I wonder how you sit there every day and you can be so respectful when someone cuts you off, someone makes faces at you, they're rude to you, you know that they're lying to you straight to your face. So, but it's not just that, it is the sheer volume of lies, that's the problem. Why do they get away with it?

RYAN: They get away with it, Don, for the moment. People are taking note and the great thing about it is we have film, we have audio that we can roll back. And unfortunately, they get caught in a lot of this shading of facts or changing facts. You started out with Sean Spicer. And this is this in that first day, the day after inauguration where size did matter.

I mean, they were very upset about the inauguration crowd size being so thin and then the next day the women just started walking around, they dwarfed the crowd size from inauguration day.

So, what they like to do it's not in their face and you can see as clearly as a freshly washed window, Don. And that's why you don't get upset. Because the facts are there. When it does not bode well for them, they spin. And I really hope that it's not a lie.

Because I remember some of the press secretaries from previous administrations they made it clear they did not want to get out there and lie because it's on the record. And it makes them look bad. But the question is how far do you go down this road because they've gone pretty far. And they can't pull it back.

And one of the panelists said, you know, what does this do to the democracy? Because the next person that runs for president is watching. How far can they go? What can they get away with? Because each time a president pushes the ball or kicks the can down the road, whatever, or pushes the envelope forward, they take -- they move it a step forward for the next president to do something similar.

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: That's a great point.

CILLIZZA: Hey, Don--

RYAN: Yes. And the question is how do you stop it? And we are there as a fourth estate and the first line of questioning of an American president and the press secretary.

LEMON: OK.

RYAN: But all we can do is ask the questions and the American people with the transparency see it for themselves. LEMON: Yes. Listen, hold your thoughts everyone because I've got to

get to the break. But I'm going to ask you, Phil, did you see that interview this morning?

MUDD: It wasn't an interview.

LEMON: Did you -- I mean, you got to stick around.

(CROSSTALK)

MUDD: Yes, I did.

LEMON: When we come back, the president's--

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: It was a rant. It was a 30-minute rant.

LEMON: -- unhinged interview that had even the White House aides wincing today. He said he's tried -- he has tried to stay away from the Justice Department but at some point he won't. What does that mean? So is the president of the United States threatening the Justice Department, his own Justice Department?

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So the president gave an interview today that could only be described as unhinged. And sources tell CNN it had White House aides cringing.

Back with me now, Chris Cillizza, Ryan Lizza, April Ryan, and Philip Mudd. So, you guys know we have to talk about this, right. Because while interview on Fox and Friends this morning President Trump is denying that he told Comey that he didn't spend a night in Moscow in 2013. Here's the president talking about Comey and his memos.

(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)

TRUMP: He put a lot of phony stuff. For instance, I went to Russia for a day or so, a day or two because I own the Miss Universe pageant. I went there to watch it because it was near Moscow. So I go to Russia. Now, I didn't go there. Everybody knows, the logs are there, the planes are there. He said I didn't stay there. Of course, I stayed there. I stayed there a very short time but of course I stayed.

(END VOICE CLIP)

LEMON: SO this is a dispute between Comey and Trump though. What do you think?

MUDD: This is pretty straightforward. Exhibit a, on why the lawyers for the president don't want him to get face-to-face with the special counsel. Exhibit b, why the president has brought in Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani is going to talk about negotiations about whether there's an interview with the president for a simple reason. If the president sits down for four hours, six hours, eight hours with

the special counsel, the special counsel has interviewed dozens of people, reviewed millions of pages of documents and he sits down and says about this Don Junior conversation with that Russian lawyer, what do you think? The president says I don't know anything about that.

And meanwhile, there's six people in interviews who said the president knew and there's 18 e-mails who said he knew. My point is, the president has a problem with the truth and the significance of his comments on Fox this morning are that if he sits down with the special counsel and starts spinning lies like he did this morning, it's not just Twitter, it's not just Fox, it's a lie to a federal officer. That's a crime.

LEMON: So speaking of crimes, Justice Department. Here's what he's saying about them.

(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)

TRUMP: And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from but at some point I won't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

TRUMP: Our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Chris, he -- and a couple times in this interview he is saying that things that they're not working out the way that he wants to with the Russia investigation, that he's going to get involved. The Justice Department, I don't want to get involved but at some point I will. It sounds like a threat.

CILLIZZA: Well, I don't think it sound like. I think it is, Don. I think you're right. It's three times, I read through the whole transcript. It's three separate times, three different incident, so not one of top of the other. But three different episodes in this 30- ish interview where Donald Trump makes quite clear basically the sentiment that you played in that clip, which is if the Justice Department doesn't change course, sort of vague but kind of clear where he's headed, if it doesn't change course, I don't want to meddle but I will if I need to. I'll step in.

[22:20:12] Now, again, I don't -- I don't necessarily know what step in means, does it mean fire Bob Mueller, fire Rod Rosenstein, does it mean somehow try to shut down the investigation otherwise? I'm not sure he totally can do that. But the point is step back.

Sitting president of the United States runs down his Justice Department, suggests that if they don't course correct, he's going to step in. And by the way, he did this is in a 30-minute interview with his favorite television show on his favorite network on the phone. I mean, I just -- there's so much of this stuff that it's hard--

LEMON: Yes.

CILLIZZA: -- it's hard because I just -- just substitute George W. Bush, Barack Obama. I was just going to say--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Well, what happened when Barack Obama did this, what did we do?

CILLIZZA: -- I was going to say George Washington--

LEMON: When Barack Obama did this, what did we do? He didn't.

LIZZA: He wouldn't call it.

CILLIZZA: He would never -- I mean, and, Don, I would urge people because I did this. Go and either listen to the -- listen to the audio of Donald Trump's interview or read the transcript. I wrote something on our site about it. There's so many non sequiturs, so many times where I was reminded of that description James Comey said where Trump -- it's sort of like a monologue, it just washes over you, washes over you. You don't know where to jump in, when to jump in. He's just talking at those three people. That is not an interview in any sense of the word.

LEMON: Yes. What do you think, Ryan?

LIZZA: I think it was a 30 -- it was a 30-minute rant. This is what, you know, you know when you see a lot of reporting a daily -- you see a lot of daily reporting that is off of conversations Trump has with his circle of friends that reporters also talk to you to get the sort of second-hand accounts of what's on Trump's mind. And this is what it is.

It's just constant calling up friends and ranting. And in throwing out the things that he is aggrieved about at any given moment, some of it is nonsensical. We don't really know what he meant about the Justice Department. He just, he knows there is this thing called the Justice Department and it's the locus of this investigation and he doesn't know what to do about it so he just rants about it.

He has misstatements the way he talked about the Comey thing and the hotel room. I mean, what's more credible on that? Is it more credible that James Comey just made up the idea of the early departure, or is it more likely that Trump knowing that he departed early on the second night tried to sort of slip that in and see if Comey would buy that as an excuse for why he didn't stay overnight.

LEMON: Yes.

LIZZA: I mean, which one of those is more likely?

LEMON: April, you wanted to jump in?

RYAN: Yes, most definitely. There are several nuances there. LIZZA: Speaking of ranting, sorry.

RYAN: You guys have talked about.

LEMON: But where do you start, right.

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: There's several nuances there that you guys have talked about. I know, I know. So here's one thing. Covering the White House for 21 years, you know, you always want to get a president. I have never seen anyone have to stop him or to save him because he didn't realize he couldn't save himself. I've never seen that. So they were shutting him down, shutting him up.

Two, the question is will the president learn his lesson? He needs to stop talking. He talks too much. Three, when a president is upset like this, it shows you who he is, it shows you the mood of the president. And then a lot of times that trickles down to his mouth piece, to his spokesperson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Going back to your question about how, you know, the lies or their attitude and their smugness towards us. What we saw here is what translates into Sarah Huckabee into that briefing room. It was a very, very telling interview today, if you call it that. This president if he -- they need to let him -- it's almost like he's the emperor with the new clothes. They need someone needs to go there and say, Mr. President, take a listen to this.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: New clothes?

RYAN: Because he really, he really he's just nailing his coffin shut.

LEMON: OK. Well, Phil--

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: And Don, can I?

LEMON: No, I need to get Phil in. I'm sorry. Phil, she's saying, you know, he's the emperor with new clothes but maybe no clothes. He is saying, you know, stop, he needs to stop talking. I think I want to hear what he has to say.

MUDD: Why the heck would you stop talking? Why? He started out as a clown candidate. That clown candidacy in the midst of serious competitors, including a man named Bush, won the election and he's saying why would I stop what led me to win the election in the face of commentators, including us, who said this is a clown show.

I think he's looking at this saying I came from New York trying to upend Washington. The guy, he's not a liar. He believes his own stuff. He's walked into Washington saying I've transformed the tax code, I've transformed immigration. Why would I stop? I've won the election. It's allowed me t continue for with some legislative victories. If you're him, Don, why the heck do you stop? I won.

[22:25:07] LEMON: Yes. I got to go. Sorry, Chris, I can't get you in.

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: Obstruction of justice, collusion and all that stuff.

CILLIZZA: All I would say--

LEMON: That will stop you from talking, perjury and all those things.

CILLIZZA: Phil Mudd is a smart guy, you should listen to him.

LEMON: Thank you all.

RYAN: That's right. That's right.

LEMON: Thank you. When we come back -- when we come back we told you the president's interview landed with the White House staffers, how it landed. But the anchors interviewing him looked pretty uncomfortable, too. We'll talk about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The president's stream of consciousness interview on Fox News this morning rambled from Michael Cohen to Ronny Jackson to Russia, exactly what his own aides wish he wouldn't talk about. Even the Fox host looked stunned by the whole thing.

I want to bring in now CNN Contributor, Frank Bruni, a "New York Times" columnist, and Michael Kruse, a senior staff writer for Politico. So good to have both of you on. Frank, I just, I wanted to play how this interview ended, OK?

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.

LEMON: Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There is no collusion with me and Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.

TRUMP: And everyone knows it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone. We talked to you all day but it looks like you have a million things to do.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: You better--

[22:30:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I hope you can join us again, Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much for being us.

TRUMP: Good luck with you folks. It's going to be a winner.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So what can I tell you? Before I get to that someone on Twitter said "Please talk about the Fox reporters dump the interview." Look at how they dump the interview this morning. They looked like, oh, you know what. He's on himself, how do we get him to shut up.

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's exactly right.

LEMON: You did it right. Thank you, Tracy Taylor, you are exactly right.

BRUNI: You know, the only way to get him to shut up is to end the interview. Well, I mean they are not -- let's be clear, Fox and Friends, those people are not interviewers. They're ego masseuses for Donald Trump, right?

And they recognized that they're -- the person that they're fans of was making a fool of himself, telling different stories that he told before. And I think they realized that the only way to save daddy was to get him off the air and fast.

LEMON: Yes.

BRUNI: And it wasn't fast. It was 30 minutes after he it began.

LEMON: Yes. Here's -- this is another collection of clips we put together form the President's interviews. And as you watch, I want you to take note of the facial expressions of hosts, OK?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It says thought you're running -- if you are a runner, you are practicing for the 100 yard dash as opposed to the one mile. The Electoral College is different. I would rather have the popular vote. It's an absolute disgrace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.

TRUMP: And by the way, the only collusion is the collusion with the Democrats with little rocket man, and with the buttons, and you know, my button's bigger. And everybody said this guy is going to get us into nuclear war. And our Justice Department, which I try, and stay away from, but at some point I won't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

TRUMP: I would just -- there is no collusion with me and Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.

TRUMP: And everyone knows it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone. We'd talk to you all day, but it looks like you have a million things to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

BRUNI: Actually, he doesn't have a million things to do.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I'm sorry. This is serious. We shouldn't be laughing, but when he said I would rather have the popular vote, he lost the popular vote.

BRUNI: By what, three million?

LEMON: Yes.

BRUNI: But, you know, he then has an answer for that. If said yes, but my strategy was to win the Electoral College, and if I adjusted my strategy, I would have beat Hillary in the popular vote by 5 million.

LEMON: Yes. Michael, talk to us about that. I want your reaction because the whole spotty language during the interview, and do you think this was a good case study on why Trump's allies are so concerned about him sitting down with the Special Counsel?

MICHAEL KRUSE, SENIOR STAFF WRITER, POLITICO: I mean, this is what he has always done. He would call into these shows when he was a reality TV star, and do exactly the same thing. The only difference of course is that he's the president, and he is doing as the president what he did before.

He often listens to the people around him. He not as often does what they tell him to do. He has always done what he wants, and he does what he wants now, and if he wants to given on Fox and Friends, and we really should undermine himself, and put himself into potentially legal jeopardy because that's what he's does, because that's what he's always done.

LEMON: Hey, I wanted -- this is from your -- this is your piece in Politico that I really think is fascinating, and you write -- it's called, "How the Trump Show Gets Old." And you compare Trump's presidency to "The Apprentice."

And I want to read just a portion of your piece about it to the panel, about a panel with Trump after the first season. You said, "The Apprentice" was a hit right away, shockingly successful by any -- by this account.

But by the time this panel discussion barely into season two, it had already piqued. Interest in Trump's show would never again approach those original heights. So you say, this mirrors Trump's presidency. How is that, Michael?

KRUSE: You know, Trump has always had more successful first seasons than second seasons, and he typically responds to those strong first seasons with more Trump -- with even more Trump, and that doesn't always serve him well.

His buildings were like this, and his casinos were like this, even literally his football season when he owned the New Jersey generals were like this, and "The Apprentice" was like this. The first season was by far the most successful season.

And then in the second, he shows up even more, the volume has turned up, the meanness has amped (ph) up, the board room scenes are longer, he shows up in the middle of the shows of the episodes in the way that he did not in the first season, and it didn't fix his problem.

The twist, of course, is that he didn't so much pay the price for the dipping ratings, and the consistently dipping ratings from second season to third to fourth, and so on.

You know, to some extent The Apprentice was a runway for him, rehabilitated his image, it allowed him to should have come out of the relative doldrums in the 90s, and set himself up in retrospect for his successful presidential candidacy.

LEMON: Well, Frank, "The New York Times" put this latest disaster in context for us, and you may say proximity to Mr. Trump has been a crushing opportunity for many who arrived with stellar careers, and independent reputations yet ended up losing so much.

Rex Tillerson, run the world's largest energy company, David Shulkin was a respected doctor in the priest of the medical world, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster was an admired warrior, so was John F. Kelly.

[22:35:05] Jeff Sessions, held the safe seat in Congress, so did Tom Price, now all of them are known for unhappy associations with Mr. Trump. And then there is, of course, Dr. Ronny Jackson, the latest example that everything Trump touches dies.

BRUNI: Well, I mean, there should be a big banner sign over the White House that says abandon all hope, and you enter here, you know. In some cases, their reputations have been savaged by what they have done in the Trump administration.

And in some cases as of Ronny Jackson's stuff that we have learned about, and we'll find out how much of it is true, and all the details, and time, but it definitely is not a great moment when Donald Trump comes knocking.

LEMON: Yes, one word. This is from "The Times," all of them, of course, had varying degrees of responsibilities for the troubles that would ultimately befall them, but like Dr. Jackson and Mr. Cohen, they have all emerged from the other end of Mr. Trump's world deeply damaged.

And their collective fate serves as a cautionary tale for those who might otherwise be tempted to join the President's team, but worry they, too, might pay a price that would be too costly. So on that last point, do you think that people are going to be reticent to join this administration?

BRUNI: I think they're already reticent to join. And I think it's a very dangerous thing for the next year, or the course of three years, because I don't know, this is a shallow and evaporating pool of talent that's available to Donald Trump, and to the country.

LEMON: Do you agree with that, Michael?

KRUSE: Look, leaving wreckage in his wake is not a new thing for Trump. Ask Atlantic City bond holders, ask New York bankers who lost money on Trump.

The difference before of course is the stakes are so different because Donald Trump is no longer a casino tycoon, or a builder, or a brander, he's the president. So the consequences potentially, and the stakes for the country are just in a completely different realm.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, Michael. Thank you, Frank. Appreciate having you guys on. When we come back, the President has a lot more to say today about Kanye West. Why does he react very differently to Kanye than some other people of color?

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump talking up his new-found bromance with rapper Kanye West, and using it oddly enough to tout unemployment numbers. Here's what he said on Fox and Friends.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the left goes ballistic. What's your reaction?

TRUMP: Yes. Well, they do. You know, I have known Kanye a little bit. And I get along with Kanye. I get along with a lot of people, frankly. But Kanye looks, and sees black unemployment at the lowest it's been in the history of our country, OK.

He sees Hispanic unemployment at the lowest it's been in the history of our country. He sees, by the way, female unemployment, women unemployment the lowest it's been in now almost 19 years. He sees that stuff, and he's smart, and he says, you know what, Trump is doing a much better job than the Democrats did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. So, let's bring in the Political Commentators, Ana Navarro and Tara Setmayer, and Republican Strategists, Shermichael Singleton, and also Stacy Washington is a Nationally Syndicated Radio Host.

I just have to get some facts out here before I go to us guys, OK? Because you mentioned a lot of things, and the hosts (ph) didn't him on it. Black unemployment peaked at 16.6 percent in April of 2010 when Obama was president.

Then it fell by more than half to 7.8 percent by the time Obama left office in January of 2017. So it fell to 6.9 from 7.8, but Obama brought it down from 6.6 to 7.8.

Unemployment in all categories that he mentioned are at historic lows, however, the trend of lower unemployment in all the categories began during President Obama.

Black unemployment has been declining since April of 2011, Hispanic or Latino unemployment has been declining since November of 2010.

Women unemployment -- the women's unemployment rate has been declining since November of 2010. So those are the facts that have been discussed, and everyone interpret those numbers, those are the facts.

But what do you think of the interview -- he also mentioned Kanye West, Tara, this new love fest, the dragon energy brothers, black Kanye, what do you think this says? What's going on here?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, we all know that Donald Trump is motivated by who shows him the much -- the most praise. He's driven by an insatiable need to be adored. We've seen this with his -- with his praise of dictators across the world country -- across the world from Kim Jong-un to Putin.

They say nice things about him, then he'll say nice things about them back. What's curious about Donald Trump is that, he is so racially insensitive. We've seen this.

We've seen him make bigoted comments in the past about a number of people of color, but then there are the ones that he's likes because they show -- they praise him, they give him credit, they like him, they talk about him in ways that makes him feel good, so he likes them.

I mean, he also brought up diamond, and silk, and praised them as conservative warriors. I mean, we're talking about political minstrels here, and that go out there, and support him, and put on a shuck and jive show.

And he thinks he's a wonderful people, and conservative warriors? It boggles the mind. But it's just consistent with how Trump feels, you know, these are the good ones in his mind.

LEMON: So, Shermichael, Kanye's friend and fellow musician John Legend texted him, and I couldn't get enough of this text today, trying to get him to change his mind. Legend said in part -- he said, I hope you'll reconsider aligning yourself with Trump.

You're way too powerful and influential to endorse who he is, and what he stands for. As you know, what you say really means something to your fans. They are loyal, and they respect your opinion.

And then kanye tweeted, I really appreciate this dialogue with John Legend, because I'm actually very empathetic. I'm still the kid from the telethon.

I feel when people think of MAGA, they don't think of empathy. And then adding that this is year one. We can't add empathy to MAGA by hating. We can only add empathy with love, and time, and truly hearing all sides. What do you say to that, Shermichael?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I mean, Don, I think that's a bit ironic, right? Because when you think about the President himself, and Kanye West is talking about love, et cetera, that should come from the person at the top, right?

[22:45:04] I remember when Donald Trump was running for president, if you remember the African-American protesters who were attacked by individuals, who were going to Trump rallies, and guess what, the president encouraged those attacks when there were protesters who protested rallies on the outside.

He encouraged law enforcement to use force against those individuals. This is the same President who has stereotyped minorities from Africa, from South America.

He's stereotyped African-American communities, He's stereotyped Muslims. So when you talk about love, and you talk about empathy, he should direct that towards Donald Trump, and not the people who criticize Trump, and everything that he stands for.

LEMON: Yes, that sides thing, it just -- it's shows a lack of awareness, and nuance, because remember, you know, there are good people on both sides, like, you know, should ever on all sides be heard? Should you -- should you weigh equally what everyone on all side says.

Hitler, we should hear, all sides. (Inaudible), we need to hear all sides. George Wallace, we need to hear all sides, the head of the KKK, we need -- Jim Jones, we need to hear all sides. It's a ridiculous statement.

So, Stacy, President Trump has attacked Congresswoman Fredericka Whitfield, calling her a wacky liar, after the Congresswoman called him out over his phone with the Gold Star widow.

Does this all boiled down to the President only liking people of color who flatter him? Frederica Wilson, sorry. Did I say Whitfield? Sorry. That's my colleague. I'm sorry. Frederica Wilson, I know. Sorry, Fredericka Whitfield. I love you.

STACY WASHINGTON, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: So, Don, I think, first of all, we have to acknowledge that most of us like people who like us back. So, if you find someone that doesn't like you and criticizes you, then that's not going to be one of your favorite people.

That being said, I just find it stunning that we can't take one second, just one moment, and say that what Kanye West was trying to convey in his tweets yesterday was that he's looking for a chance for people to communicate with each other. And there's a lot of rancor in our discourse.

There's a lot of -- really, it's gotten really negative. And so I know for most people, especially people, you know, on the panel may feel like that emanates from President Trump, and so it's his fault. And, well -- OK, fine. Let's go with what you just said.

Does that mean that everyone has to engage in that? Does that mean that everyone -- because I'm not talking to President Trump on a daily basis, but I am talking to other people, and I think there's room for us to sit down, and say, I know we disagree on all of this, but where do we agree?

I was just at the White House yesterday talking to a staffer with other members of project 21 about our policy recommendations that are going to be rolled out here pretty soon for a better black America.

That's a conversation that I'm willing to have with anyone, White House staffers, the President. I didn't get to meet him, but I would love to talk to him about it, and anyone else.

LEMON: OK, I've got to get Ana in.

WASHINGTON: But I think he is right.

LEMON: Just for the sake of time. But here's -- OK, Stacy. I understand what you're saying. But why should we have higher expectations for just every day average citizens, which fine, than we have for the person who is the leader of the country?

WASHINGTON: Well, my behavior is not dictated by President Trump. I don't lower my standards based on someone who is in the White House because if that's the case, this would be a bad situation starting back with Bill Clinton.

This is a situation where all of us as Americans, there are over 300 million of us. We have to take the time to come together, regardless of what you feel about President Trump.

SETMAYER: Did you say that to Donald Trump, though, because you...

WASHINGTON: I would, I would.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Can you say that to Donald Trump? But then you say that to him, and his behavior -- you doesn't expect everyone else to understand, and change their behavior, but you don't expect the President of the United States to change his behavior.

WASHINGTON: I didn't say that, Don. I didn't say I don't expect him to do that, but I do understand that we're talking about someone who is 71. Do you know how hard it is to change behaviors?

LEMON: Yes.

WASHINGTON: So my intention is to -- you look at the lay of the land, and you try to figure out what you can accomplish. What can I do? I cannot from where I am change President Trump. But I can talk to people who are willing to listen.

LEMON: That's true but that doesn't mean you have to accept -- you don't have to accept something...

WASHINGTON: I am not accepting anything.

LEMON: ... that's detrimental to the country, that lowers the bar for the entire country.

WASHINGTON: The bar is low, Don. The bar has been lowered by so many other people.

LEMON: The bar is so low now -- the bar is so low now, Stacy, you can't even limbo under the bar.

WASHINGTON: OK.

LEMON: And that is from...

WASHINGTON: I agree with you.

LEMON: ... this particular administration.

WASHINGTON: It's not all from President Trump.

LEMON: I have to get to the break. Ana, I will give you as much time as you want on the other side of the break. I know you have been sitting here patiently. I got to go. Sorry, I'll be back.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm dying to talk about Kanye.

LEMON: We'll be back.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. So we're back now. I have the entire panel here, but really, Ana, is the only one who's going to get to talk this block.

Ana, listen, there's nothing wrong with people of color supporting Donald Trump. That's your business. But at least know what you're talking about, and if you're going to go to Twitter, and you have the influence of Kanye West, at least vote. But, go on.

NAVARRO: Look, I'm somewhat torn about this. First of all, you know, I almost think that talking about Kanye, I'd rather, you know, have splinters of wood put into my nail beds than talk about -- just because I think there's just so many other things that are important.

On the other hand, I think it brings out the point of people of color, you know, Hispanics, African-American, frankly transgenders, LGBTQ, all the people that have been under attack it feels like for the last year and a half under Trump, supporting Trump. I take umbrage, I take offense, I think it's unacceptable when

somebody says to LeBron James shut up and dribble. Therefore, I think we cannot tell Kanye West shut up and rap. We've got to respect his right to have an opinion, even if we think he's lost his damn mind.

Even if we think his opinion is ridiculous, and crazy, and he doesn't own a mirror. Look, I don't know how you can be Latino, I don't know how you can be African-American, and support a guy who equates Nazis -- neo-Nazis with those who protest against them, who calls Latinos bad hombres, and who call Mexicans rapists.

I don't know how you can be African-American, and be with a guy who's capable of tweeting a congratulations to a guy who just wrestled an AR-15 from a killer in a Waffle House.

I don't know how you can be African-American, and support a guy who refers to over there, my African-American. But if Kanye West wants to do it, that is his right, even if I don't agree with it.

[22:55:00] LEMON: But, Ana -- hang on, Tara.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But, Ana, I just said what you said, but I agree with you. He should be able to say whatever he wants, but know what you're talking about, and understand the influence that you have when you're saying it. At least know the facts about it, but go on.

NAVARRO: And I'll tell you what, he's going to learn the influence that his fans have, right, when he loses fans on Twitter, when people start throwing away and not buying his products, when people start not attending his concerts.

We have seen in the last year and a half, since Trump has been president, an amazing pocketbook activism. We have seen people show their support and distaste through their pocketbooks, and through their economic support.

And I think that his fans have got the same freedom of expression that he does. You know, I don't like it when somebody goes after Cher, or goes after Bette Midler, or goes after some of the fans -- artist that I support because they are anti-Trump. I don't think that because you are a celebrity, you lose your First Amendment right.

LEMON: Yes.

NAVARRO: I go back, and tell you, I think Kanye West needs to buy a mirror. And I think somebody needs to talk some sense into him. But I think he's got the right to say it. And I think his fans have got the right to show their displeasure, or support on what he says.

LEMON: I've got to get to the break, but, listen, Stacy I loved having you here, and I love having your perspective. And, again, it's OK if Kanye West wants to support whoever he wants. But know your business.

SETMAYER: That's the problem.

LEMON: You know who you're talking about, know how dangerous sometimes the things you say might be -- the affects you have on young people, on old people, on people who were impressed, know those things before you do that, and he has an album coming up.

SETMAYER: Kanye is doing it for attention -- for attention like Trump does. That's the problem, that he's not having an informed discussion. I don't have a problem with him having a different...

LEMON: You're a black conservative.

SETMAYER: I have been for 20-plus years.

LEMON: So is Michael, so is Stacey.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Ana is a conservative of color, yes.

SETMAYER: Kanye is a narcissist the same way Trump is, and he desires attention. Now he's a darling of the conservatives.

LEMON: Yes.

SETMAYER: But he wasn't when he said, you know, Bush hates him.

WASHINGTON: He's not a darling to me.

LEMON: When you said George...

WASHINGTON: I was questioning it.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: When he said George Bush didn't care about people, the same people who are phrasing him now calling him all sorts of names that we can't say on television. I have to go. I'm sorry, Shermichael. Thank you, guys.

SINGLETON: That's OK, Don. Next time.

LEMON: We'll be right back top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)