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Rudy Giuliani States that President Trump Was Aware of Payments to Stormy Daniels; White House Official Blindsided by Giuliani's Comments; President Trump Silent On Porn Star's Payment Fallout At National Day Of Prayer; United Shades Of America, Sunday At 10:00 pm ET. Aired 11p-12m ET

Aired May 3, 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 TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Don Lemon. It is a little past 11:00 p.m. here on the east coast. We are live with new developments. Shockwaves still being felt in the White House tonight over Rudy Giuliani's bombshell admission that President Trump repaid his fixer, Michael Cohen for that $130,000 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. Sources tell CNN the whole thing was a strategy cooked up by Giuliani and the president leaving the rest of the team, Team Trump, in the dark.

Giuliani himself telling CNN, the strategy is to get everything wrapped up and done with this so that it doesn't take on a life of its own. I want to bring in now Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti. I mean, it's already a life of its own. Thank you for joining us.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY REPRESENTING STORMY DANIELS: We're not going away anytime soon.

LEMON: So you were on the show last night following that interview with Rudy Giuliani where he made, you know, admitted that the president repaid Michael Cohen. Since then, he's spoken to a number of different outlets. Is he helping his case? Is he cleaning up what he said?

AVENATTI: No, he's helping our case. In fact, if we need to send a car for him to take him studio to studio, we will Don because --

LEMON: How is he helping your case?

AVENATTI: Well, because every time he speaks he says something that's more damaging or he makes another admission or he makes another stupid statement that helps us in our case. I'll give an example, this morning he went on "Fox & Friends" I believe and made this statement about the importance or the need for the payment to have been made when it was and I think he positive the question, can you imagine if this would have come out in connection with the mid-October 2016 debate with Hillary.

He actually tied the payment to the election by positive (ph) in that question. I mean, that's fantastic for us. Every time he speaks, every time the president speaks, our case only gets better.

LEMON: Hold on. Let's play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE DOOCY, FOX AND FRIENDS HOST: You're saying that Stephanie Clifford made these allegations, told Donald Trump's lawyer --

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: And denied them. And then said it wasn't true. However, imagine if that came out October 15, 2016 in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton.

DOOCY: So to make it go away, they made this --

GIULIANI: Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen made it go away. He did his job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So to make it go away - so then do you have any proof -- he said Cohen made it go away (inaudible). Did you have proof before this that the president knew about this or that he reimbursed Cohen before Rudy Giuliani went on television?

AVENATTI: Yes.

LEMON: But you were surprised that he admitted it publicly?

AVENATTI: Yes. We didn't think it would be this easy, Don. We didn't think that the president's lawyer would go on national television, not on one show, and then try to backtrack from it or walk it back, been on multiple shows. He's been on shows now for about 24 hours saying the same thing time and time again. And all this is going to be fodder for the depositions we're going to take of Michael Cohen and Mr. Trump. We're going to use all of this in connection with the depositions and we're very much looking forward to it.

LEMON: OK, so let me get back to this because you said you had proof he reimbursed, right. You said that you, OK --

AVENATTI: We have evidence, yes.

LEMON: You have evidence that the president knew about it, all of this.

AVENATTI: Yes.

LEMON: OK, so then what would be -- would that be communications with her former attorney like, do you know what Stormy Daniels' attorney, Keith Davidson, right, spoke to Michael Cohen about and was it to - they say they had to get this done before the election?

[23:05:00] AVENATTI: I want to be very clear about this. There is no question that this payment was linked to the timing of the 2016 presidential election. No question. There were extensive communications between Michael Cohen and Keith Davidson in October of 2016 tying the payment date of the $130,000 to the need for the payment to be made in advance of Election Day in 2016, period.

There's evidence of those communications. There's going to be testimony about communications between those two. Any suggestion that this payment, this $130,000 payment that was initially made by Michael Cohen, that the timing was just a coincidence is complete nonsense. And Don, let me just say this. Right now, I'm pulling what's called an Avenatti. I'm not pulling a Giuliani. And here's the difference. When you pull an Avenatti, you actually have facts and evidence to back up what you say. When you pull a Giuliani, you just appear on Fox and spew a bunch of nonsense that you don't actually have any proof for.

LEMON: So then what is your next move then? What has this done for your case legally? You said it helps, so then what's the next move? Do you just sit back and watch the interview?

AVENATTI: Well, we're not going to -- that's actually not a bad strategy in this case right now, but we're not going to telegraph our next move. I mean, if we were going to do that then, you know, we'd be operating like the president's legal team. We're going to actually be smart and strategic and methodical about how we're going to go about this.

LEMON: So, and I want to make sure I get this right because the nonpartisan government watchdog group Common Cause filed complaints against Trump and Cohen with the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice, saying Trump may now be on the hook for breaking campaign finance laws. Were other laws broken?

AVENATTI: Well, I think other laws may have been broken relating potentially to depending on how this was done, money laundering, bank fraud. I mean, I'm going to go back to something that I've said pretty consistently in the last 24 hours. If the reimbursement of this $130,000 was legit and completely above board and there was nothing wrong with it and there was nothing to hide, then why did they go to such efforts to hide it?

Why create this LLC? Why create these bogus legal invoices? Why go through the process of paying multiple payments until you gross up the amount to $130,000 plus taxes plus a little profit, which is what Mr. Giuliani said? Why wouldn't Mr. Trump simply write a check for $130,000 in reimbursements or send a wire for $130,000? They're never going to have a good explanation for that, Don.

And the reason is, because there is no good explanation. They conspired to hide this payment, to bury this payment and they then proceeded when somebody began to call them on the carpet on it, namely us. They then proceeded to lie to the American people repeatedly.

LEMON: OK. So let's talk a little bit more about the timing because Rudy Giuliani -- I spoke with Bob Costa over at the "Washington Post," OK. I just want to read it. Giuliani says, "Well, the original payment from Cohen was sometime right before the election. The repayments took place over a period of time, probably in 2017, probably all paid back by the end of 2017, that and a few other situations that might have been considered campaign expenses. And then Costa said, "Do you know how those payments were structured in 2017? Giuliani speaking now, "Don't know, don't know. Actually, I think probably in 2018. They were paid in the personal funds because they never considered this a campaign payment. This was considered more a harassment case." So a couple questions, does the timing of the reimbursements matter? What did the timing say to you?

AVENATTI: I don't think the timing of the reimbursements matter. And let me tell you this, Don. I think if you look at timing of Michael Cohen's statement in connection with "The Wall Street Journal" article, which I believe is in late February or early March, where he said he facilitated the payment, used this word facilitated. He also said that at no point in time was he reimbursed by the campaign or the Trump organization.

So the first time I saw this payment, I said, well this used the word facilitated is rather suspicious because it doesn't say that he paid it. And I also thought it was interesting that it did not mention Mr. Trump individually. I don't think there's any question that as of the release of that statement, that date of March 2018 or February 2018, that Michael Cohen had already started receiving reimbursement or had already been reimbursed.

LEMON: Rudy Giuliani said that there was no daylight between him and the president. So, do you think that last night, all of this was some sort of strategy? Then if so, what is the motivation?

AVENATTI: I think it was a strategy. I think it was an effort by Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Trump to try to get out in front of this. You know, that maybe a legitimate strategy four months ago. Before you appear on Air Force One on video and lie to the American people, before you have your personal attorney Michael Cohen lie to the American people, before you have Michael Cohen's personal attorney, David Schwartz,, lie to the American people.

[23:10:00] Before you have the press, the White House press -- spokespeople take to the podium and lie to the media and the American people. You don't get out in front of something after three or four months of lies.

LEMON: So then, Michael, what is the end-game here? What is it, to sue to get money, for her to speak, to reveal lies? What is the end game?

AVERATTI: Don, we have been very consistent in our approach to this for weeks now. The end game is as follows. We want the NDA invalidated, we want Michael Cohen held responsible for his defamatory statements about my client. We want Donald Trump held responsible for his defamatory statements against my client. And we want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth laid bare for the American people so that they can know what happened in connection with this and they can make their own determination as to whether this is acceptable conduct, period.

LEMON: So, what is that? Is that adjudication or is that an admission from those individuals? AVENATTI: It's a full disclosure. It's a disclosure of all the

information, all of the documents, all of the payment receipts. It is all laid out for the American people. We're going to let them decide and to the extent that the other side has a different narrative, that they want to try to apply to that evidence and facts, so be it.

LEMON: Thank you Michael. I appreciate it. When we come back, Rudy Giuliani's media bombshell tour left even White House insiders reeling. So, is the new strategy Rudy and the president against the world? Is that what it is -- Rudy and the president against the world? And how will the Trump legal team handle that?

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Multiple sources telling CNN that Rudy Giuliani's bombshell comments have thrown President Trump's legal team in disarray especially the revelation that the president repaid Michael Cohen $130,000 to cover the Stormy Daniels hush money payment. I want to bring in now CNN political analyst, Ryan Lizza, Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney and CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin who was Robert Mueller's special assistant at the Justice Department.

Gentlemen, so good to have you on. Thank you so much. Harry, I'm going to start with you. Our Gloria Borger is reporting that Giuliani's media blitz angered and blind-sided some members of the just assembled legal team. So how did this benefit Trump's legal strategy?

HARRYT LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It's very hard to see and you can imagine Emmet Flood, a real pro who is now onboard feeling completely blind-sided. Giuliani seems to somehow have managed to increase Trump's exposure on both flanks. On the one hand, the revelation or admission that Trump knows about the payment puts him a giant step closer to co-conspirator liability with Cohen for whatever campaign finance violations there may be.

And on the other, the reiteration of the narrative that he really didn't know anything about the hush agreement when it was made makes it harder to enforce the MBA (ph), makes it more likely he'll have to sit for a deposition. There's just dozens of headaches this will create down the road. And you have to imagine it was not at all cleared with the people who are now supposed to be actually in charge of figuring out Trump's legal strategy.

LEMON: Well, let's see if our other legal mind on the panel agrees. Do you agree with that, Michael?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. In fact I think that what Rudy Giuliani did, whether he did it in coordination with the president or some think or I thought he was freelancing and then now they're trying to in retrospect figure how to describe to the American people what happened yesterday and today. I think exactly as Harry says, that this makes the president of the United States, then candidate Trump, an accessory to the campaign finance violation.

And depending on the facts and depending on the timing of the repayment, it may well be that it's a willful violation, which would make it a criminal offense. Otherwise it's just a campaign finance reporting violation, which is civil violation which is directed mostly at the campaign and not so much the individuals involved in the certain actions.

LEMON: OK, OK. Good point. So if it's a campaign violation, then the campaign has to pay it and it would be civil right depending on the timing?

ZELDIN: Right. It would be a reporting violation. That is the campaign should have reported the loan and they failed to do so.

LEMON: What does that mean? How much money and with just slap on the wrist? What is it?

ZELDIN: You know, the Federal Election Commission moves --

LEMON: Hang on, I need to hear his answer. Say again Michael, sorry, someone was talking to me. What did you say?

ZELDON: I said the Federal Election Commission moves at a glacial pace and it's hard to know whether in our lifetime we'll see that penalty they impose, but it won't be significant.

LEMON: OK, and then for Michael Cohen, what does that mean? You said if it's a civil violation, what does that mean for him? Is there any criminal exposure --

ZELDIN: Well, again, depending on intent, whether it was a willful violation makes it a criminal violation. If it's not, it's just a recordkeeping violation, but there's no easy way to understand Cohen's contribution whether it be his services or the money as being not an excessive contribution beyond the limits that are allowed for individuals.

LEMON: More on that later because I want to talk about the FEC and the rules. Just give me a moment because I want to bring Ryan in here, just talk a little bit more about Giuliani. Is Giuliani the new voice of Trump? Do they not only have an undisciplined client but an undisciplined colleague as well or a spokesperson?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, I think the best explanation I've heard for this is that these are two man of about the same age who know each other quite well from New York politics, view the world in similar ways, talk about the world in similar ways. Both deeply immersed in the conservative media environment that can be a bit of an echo chamber.

And, you know, you could see the two of them sitting around saying, no, we've got to get ahead of this campaign finance thing. Oh, I know, I'll go on Fox and say you paid it. And then, you know, that'll get us square with campaign finance laws. Perhaps the kind of thing you want like a young associate at your law firm to do a little double-checking on in whether that helps or hurts you legally. But I think Giuliani genuinely believed he was helping their legal case by saying that Trump made the payment. I don't think -- LEMON: Do you think the president thinks that he helped the case,

really? Do you think he really thinks so because that's what Giuliani is saying?

[23:20:01] LIZZA: Well, you know, it's like with a lot of things with Trump he gets an idea in his head or someone brings him an idea. He says, yes, execute that. He likes the initial thrust of the argument. He likes the initial - the way it plays in the media, but then there's some blow back. This reminds me, frankly, of the whole Scaramucci episode, Don.

While originally Trump thought it was great that Scaramucci went on this crazy rant with me, but then the more he thought about it, he thought oh, this guy is a loose canon. He would be a terrible communications director. I've got to get rid of him. So, I wonder if something like this could be going on with Giuliani.

The initial reports were last night that Giuliani talked to Trump before that interview with Hannity and after the interview with Hannity. Giuliani reported I think to Robert Costa in the "Washington Post" that Trump had no problems with it. But now we've got 24 hours of almost universally negative coverage and a lot of additional question, and that's the period where Trump starts to think maybe it wasn't such a good idea.

LEMON: So they want to get it all out there, but adding fuel to the fire. So let's talk more about this, Michael and Harry about the legal part of this because besides the issue of, you know, if the president knew about the payment to Stormy Daniels, there's also the issue of the payment being a campaign finance violation. So, the FEC says that this is in contribution. A contribution is anything of value given, loaned or advanced to influence a federal election.

And that when a third party that is not a campaign committee or candidate, but they pay an expense, that's counts as a contribution. There are some exceptions for that third parties like payments that began prior to the candidacy. The payment to Stormy Daniels was made in the homestretch of the election, but Giuliani says it wasn't campaign money. So, Harry, how do you explain that? Was it made for the campaign?

LITMAN: So, it certainly seems as if it was, and Giuliani only bolstered the case when he went on T.V. and said imagine had this come out on October 15th. That seems clear what the reasoning was and in your segment, Michael Avenatti says that there is evidence of it. But I want to underscore what Michael was saying. If this is just simply a regulatory violation, the FEC doesn't have a history of being very vigorous or quick about it. But there's the potential for a criminal offense here, not FEC but actually the Justice Department if it's a willful violation.

And this does altogether begin to feel like a really sort of nefarious scheme to try to keep the truth from coming out until the election had passed. And that is the sort of thing -- the law has a checkered history they tried to apply against John Edwards and that wound up with egg on their face. But there's reason to think that if this sort of tells a story of concerted action to really keep the truth from coming out, that could be a criminal offense.

ZELDIN: Right. And may I add to that, Don. And I agree with Harry's analysis. And when you see words out of Giuliani's mouth like this money was funneled through the law firm and that an LLC, a limited liability corporation was setup with purposes of channeling that money. And then the repayment of that was done through these $35,000 retainer for no work types of (inaudible), that does speak to willfulness.

And I think one of the things that will be interesting for the prosecutors is to see how this was treated on the taxes of both Cohen and the Trump organization. Was this income that was attributed to Cohen? Was it not? Was it a loan?

LEMON: Giuliani talked about the taxes. He said part of it - he said last night was to help out with taxes, but this is what I want to say. Giuliani is a third party. Giuliani is speaking on behalf of the president. Maybe he's just speaking from what the president told him. Does that mean he knows Michael Cohen's side?

ZELDIN: No, I don't think that he knows it necessarily, but the taxes point that I wanted to make was that how Cohen treats this on his taxes, whether it was income or repayment of a loan, whether Trump takes it as a business expense deduction, all that stuff will indicate the intent of the parties that Harry is talking about, that takes it between a civil or criminal willful violation. So there's a lot of stuff the prosecutors can gather which will impact that analysis.

LEMON: All right. That's a very fine point there. So listen, I want to talk about other things that happened during this interview because, Ryan, this is Rudy Giuliani calling Jared Kushner disposable in the same breath saying Ivanka Trump is off-limits to the Mueller investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: If they do do Ivanka, which I doubt they will, the whole country will turn on him.

[23:25:05] They're going after his daughter.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: What about his son-in-law? They talked about him. I guess -

GIULIANI: Jared is a fine man. You know that. But men are, you know, disposable. But a fine woman like Ivanka, come on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So saying that, you know, in a context of a federal investigation is stunning. Is there more behind it, do you think? I mean, could she be on Mueller's radar, do you think?

LIZZA: You know, she's not a name that comes up very often in all of the reporting on this case, right? Jared obviously is someone that has come up quite frequently. And I just think it's very, very strange that Rudy Giuliani seems to think that the criteria for a prosecution is whether the American public is sympathetic to the target of an investigation or not. You know, I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think that's how it's supposed to work. And my question, Don, is where does that come from, this idea of putting Ivanka on a pedestal, better not touch her --

LEMON: The 1950s called, they wanted --

LIZZA: But then that Jared is disposable and, you know, this is probably a little bit of an armchair psychiatry in guessing, but was this like a conversation Giuliani had with the president and he was sort of reflecting it back? I just - I want to know --

LEMON: That's why I said to Michael, is Giuliani just simply regurgitating what the president has said to him regarding Michael Cohen, regarding Ivanka, regarding Jared. That's why I told --

LIZZA: We're speculating, but that was the vibe of that interview, is this is Giuliani and Trump in a room getting each other worked up, talking about these things.

LEMON: He comes and repeats it on television. I got to run. Thank you guys. I appreciate it. When we come back, with all the lying and misdirection at the White House are the president's aides his enablers? Veteran political adviser Mark McKinnon joins me next.

[23:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: White House officials caught off-guard by Rudy Giuliani's bombshells about everything from the Stormy Daniels hush money payment to the firing of James Comey. I want to talk about all of this now. Mark Mckinnon is here, he is the executive producer of the Show Time's "The Circus" and a former advisor to President Bush and John McCain. I love having you on, I miss our fireside chats, so get back home, so we could have one or come up on the set.

MARK MCKINNON, THE CIRCUS ON SHOWTIME CO HOST: Yes, sir. Yes, captain.

LEMON: We will have the fire -- I had been wanting to talk to you about this since last night when this happened. The White House was blind-sided by Giuliani that interview. You're a communications expert. How would you rate this performance?

MCKINNON: Well, I mean, I'm reminded of Mark Twain's great adage that telling the truth is so much easier, because you don't have to remember anything and part of the problem is that there's just so many different story lines now that people are trying to keep up with. And I just, you know, I just think the President is continuously putting the people who work for him in untenable positions to defend what he is saying. Because it is clearly, in fact, I'll just quote "The New York Times" report that just came out that said, from sources close to Giuliani said, Mr. Trump and his aids see lying to or misleading the news media as far less troublesome than lying to investigators. So that is sort of the strategic shift they made now and say, you

know, let is just lie to the press, that is OK, because there's no sort of criminal liability there, but there might be for investigators. So, the press comes team is constantly put in the position of being blind-sided the left and right, all the time as it were in the last 24 hours, and it's very difficult to watch.

LEMON: Yes. And we have been reporting on that and on this show as you know, we call out the lies. But you wonder if people even care it's going to affect this President at all. Listen, I want to -- Giuliani is apparently speaking directly with the President and then putting information out unfiltered. And you heard the White House sources there telling Dana Bash that managing that Stormy Daniels story is now out of control. Can anyone put the lid on Rudy? Is this just an opening act for him?

MCKINNON: Well, I think it's exactly what Trump wanted. I think it's exactly what a lot of people expected having seen Rudy Giuliani in the last couple of years and he just likes to throw the grenades and let the shrapnel fly. And that is what's so dangerous, and I think, you know, it's a great discussion by your legal experts. I mean they talked about all the new sort of potential avenues of legal liability, because it was just such a, you know, such a provocative move on Giuliani's part which I think reflects Donald Trump's instincts.

But it's not what I think most lawyers would have recommended. And you know, I think -- I think it is a one-on-one Trump-Giuliani strategy without the input of a lot of the other legal team would be my guess. But it is precisely what would Donald Trump would do, which is just to make it a political attack, and not a legal strategy.

LEMON: OK. Let us also -- having though about, let's get back to the lies. Because again with my take at the top of the show at 10:00, I talked about the lying and the misdirection, the gaslighting and on and on and on, and that this administration, you said that they've made a decision to lie to the press, which means lying to American people.

And the only way that is going to change, Mark, is if they get rid of the enablers in congress, the enablers in the White House, the enablers in the senate. I mean, do you think anything will change after this? Or what could possibly change, because they've made a decision as you say to lie to the American people.

MCKINNON: Well, it's a great point, Don. But what I would observe is that there may be an infliction point here. I mean, I think there comes a point in which, there has been a lot stuff that people just consequential, doesn't really like my life, does really -- you know, we did not witness, this is not a surprise from Donald Trump, we kind of heard this during the campaign. But suddenly it gets to be sort of a very suspicious thing when, you know, clearly said one thing and that clearly saying another thing under threat of legal exposure. And what I was going to say is, you talk about the enablers, well, Neal Kabuto on Fox today had a pretty rough direct --

[23:35:13] LEMON: We played some of it. MCKINNON: Yes, I mean, it was quite something I thought. So that

could be, you know, a real signal which that, you know, you would might call enablers or people who are sympathetic to the President or finally saying enough is enough.

LEMON: Yes, it was quite stunning. I think everyone -- I tweeted it out. I said every American and especially Trump supporters should watch this Fox News segment. Let's talk about your show instead of shows on this network --

MCKINNON: Thanks. Let us do my favorite stuff.

LEMON: You've got another episode of "The Circus" this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. and you talk to a lot -- you talk to a lot of folks about the President's effects on the national political climate including a very high profile Republican. Let's listen in and we'll talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So then we went to (inaudible) to the Trump era. Like, how's that different?

MITT ROMNEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I don't know that it's different. You express what you believe. I think for people for whom this is their occupation, politics is something they have to succeed at or their life has been a failure. I don't feel that way. And so it's very different for me. I have my career. I raised my family, I was active in my community and church and have a successful business and I see politics takes this away to make a difference on things I care about. And if people choose something else, fine, I can go back to my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He doesn't know that it's different to run in this era? That is shocking.

MCKINNON: Well, John follows up on that. We get a little different answer. The best part of that that you're going to want to watch is from Mitt Romney, Curling.

LEMON: You mean with the sweeper, the broom and everything?

MCKINNON: Yes. He is curling on the ice. So this episode, because Congress is out of town, we decided to go out across the country and gets a sense of, you know, how the Trump factor is playing in races around the country. Went to Wisconsin, Utah, Florida, Georgia, and now I am in Texas for the NRA convention and Trump's speech tomorrow.

But what's fascinating is that Mitt Romney is a great example of Trump's impact on a lot of Republicans. As you mentioned earlier, alluded to the, you know, Republicans in Congress said that kind of bent to Trump's will. And Romney certainly was one of them. Because he was a -- as you recall, I mean he lit up Donald Trump in one of the toughest speeches I've ever seen by anybody.

LEMON: Right.

MCKINNON: You know, a year and a half ago. And then now suddenly he is running for the senate again and he has really changed his tune, because he knows it is Donald Trump's Republican Party now. And if he wants to get elected, he is got to kiss the ring.

So, you know, and I think at my view, Mitt Romney, there's campaign Romney and governing Romney. And I still think there's great potential for governing Romney. But as long as you're running a Republican primary and trying to get a nomination and trying to win in a Republican State, you're going to hear a lot of Trump affection.

LEMON: There is also the, want to be the Secretary of State Romney in the Trump administration as well. Thank you.

MCKINNON: That is exactly right.

LEMON: I got to run. Thank you.

MCKINNON: Kick it had.

LEMON: All right. We'll be right back.

[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The President welcoming religious and evangelical leaders to White House today for the national day of prayers, hours after he learned he reimburse -- we learned he reimbursed his attorney for $130,000 at hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels. Let us discuss now, CNN political commentator, Tara Setmayer, and Alice Stewart. And don't think -- it went past me I was saying prayer breakfast in one and porn star in the same breath actually. So good evening to both of you.

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi, Don.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi, Don.

LEMON: Alice, Rudy Giuliani admits the President did in fact reimburse his attorney for paying porn star hush money. You say evangelicals are getting tired of the do as I say not as I do from the President. Why now?

STEWART: They admit they're in an uncomfortable place and they say the latest revelations so to speak that we had over the last 24 hours makes it difficult for them to defend. But a lot of them -- some of us had a dinner this evening, and after all is said and done they still say that they cannot be focused on the porn stars and the playmates and the pay outs.

LEMON: Do you have people reaching out to you?

STEWART: I've spoken to several of them today. And this evening some of us -- we had a dinner and they're not focused on a lot of these issues, because they're focused on his policies. While none of them are going to step up to microphone and defend what's going on, they say, look, Donald Trump has never claimed to be an evangelical Christian and as long as he continues to defend religious liberty and he stands for life and will support conservative Supreme Court justices, they will continue to stand behind him as much as difficult as it is. And they say, look, you know, we -- the "Access Hollywood" may have actually helped him. We saw what kind of person he was. We know that he is someone that is had affairs and not surprise you --

LEMON: All right. I got to get Tara in. Tara, go ahead.

SETMAYER: OK. Well, first of all, you know, maybe today should have been a national day of repentance given what's gone on and given the fact that Donald Trump seems to think that he never needs to ask for forgiveness for anything. Not quite sure where that is in the bible. I also don't understand this whole thing about evangelicals saying they're just going to give him a pass on his moral character. That was never the case before. Why has that changed now?

I would like to know where in the bible that says that being an evangelical means becoming a political party over what the mission is, which is supposed to be spreading the word of Christ, the gospel, living up to, you know, what Christ's life is supposed to be, being a light of the world. How is what they're doing now accomplishing that? It's not. I'm sorry, how are you winning souls? By making excuses for someone who is a Charlottean (ph), a liar, an adulterer, a potential sexual deviant. You know, the list goes on and on about Donald Trump.

[23:45:00] And he still just gives lip service to the Evangelicals and they say, well, you know, he is pro-life. Actually he wasn't. He is pro-choice, he is only pro-life now. Because he is conning people into believing that he want -- telling them what they want to hear including evangelicals. How in the hell did the "Access Hollywood" tape help him from Evangelical perspective? I want to be sure about that.

LEMON: Well, she said that they knew what he is.

SETMAYER: And that is when they should have yelled stop, this is unacceptable, this is embarrassing, this is not what the gospel of Jesus preaches. That Evangelicals are really responsible for why Donald Trump is where he is, by giving him a PAC and they're hypocrites for it.

LEMON: You want to respond to this, Alice?

STEWART: No, I like you, Tara, he wasn't my first choice or second or third or fourth or fifth choice for the Republican nominee, but unfortunately he was the last man standing.

SETMAYER: I know.

STEWART: And when it got down to the final choice between he and Hillary Clinton, evangelicals realized, look, we have to get behind someone that we understand is going to help support our agenda with regard to life and these important issues. And look, originally they gave him a mulligan. As long as a lot of these things happened many years ago -- exactly, and they were able to forgive him. But this latest revelation with regard to pay outs and the denials and the conflicting time lines and the conflicting stories they're having some heartburn over. But at the end of the day they will continue to stand behind him for filing for religious privilege.

SETMAYER: They need to speak up, Alice. They need to speak out.

LEMON: I got to go.

SETMAYER: They are not speaking out, they were clapping there like happy seals. No one is speaking out and they need to.

LEMON: I got to go. Heartburn but not soul burn.

SETMAYER: They're going to have to pray about that.

LEMON: Yes. A lot of prayer. A lot of people are going to be on their knees praying. We'll be right back.

[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: This Sunday Kamau Bell is back with an all new episode of the CNN original series, "United shades of America." It's a journey to the heart of America's Sikh community to get a better understanding of one of the country's most misunderstood religions. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

W. KAMAU BELL, HOST OF UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA, CNN: What's your name, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Bill (inaudible).

KAMAU BELL: Bill (inaudible), wait a minute, did I meet your dad?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

KAMAU BELL: What grade are you in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in fifth grade.

KAMAU BELL: Do you go to a school where it's all Sikh or do you go to school with lots of different kids and different religions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's only one other Sikh.

KAMAU BELL: Really? OK. So, do kids ever make fun of you because of your religion? Because you cover your hair or anything like that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had some issues like that last year, because I moved to a new school. A kid would make fun of me for having long hair.

KAMAU BELL: So when the kids were bothering you, you never thought I should go home and take this off and get a haircut and try to blend in? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually think that I'm lucky to be a Sikh, and

I'm happy.

KAMAU BELL: Nice, nice. That is well said. That is definitely going to be on TV. Just so you know. That is definitely going to be on TV. He is definitely be going to be on TV. He just made the cut.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAMAU BELL: A man of my word.

LEMON: Kamau is here, he is the host of "CNN's United Shades of America." We are going to get to your show in just a minute, but I need to -- I need to ask you about a couple of things going on.

KAMAU BELL: Sure. Sure.

LEMON: OK. What do we call them in the news, hot topics?

KAMAU BELL: Hot topics, I'm on the view. Or Wendy.

LEMON: And don't forget Wendy. So listen, Pastor Darrell Scott spoke with the President today about a plans to hold a series of race summits at the White House. He said he is going to -- why are you making that face? Black athletes and artists would be invited. You know it was inspired by Kanye West, the love fest between him and the president. Why does he need a summit in order to communicate with black people?

KAMAU BELL: Because he doesn't know black people. You know he doesn't have black --

LEMON: He knows Darrell Scott.

KAMAU BELL: Yes, but he has to have a summit? Can't you just get him on the phone? I mean, you know, this is that tokenism, that sort of the Kanye effect, you know, that has spread throughout all of show business and all of America. Like, there's this talk towards we're going to do something, but that is not doing anything. That is not helping the neighborhoods. It's not helping Chicago.

LEMON: Yes. This is a case at point. This is West Virginia senate candidate Don Blankenship, did you hear about that? He called Mitch McConnell's father-in-law, I think he said, a wealthy China person and he doubled down and said it's not racist, now he has put out this ad. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON BLANKENSHIP, SENATE GOP CANDIDATE: Hi, I am Don Blankenship, candidate for U.S. Senate and I approve this message.

Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (LAUGHTER)

KAMAU BELL: I mean, there's so many things in there. First of all the idea that creating jobs for Chinese people is a bad thing. But China people, that is a new one for me, China people.

LEMON: Is he just not even bothering? It is obviously --

KAMAU BELL: Trump has given people permission to not bother. He give people permission and not pretend.

LEMON: But it's also said that this might actually help him. What does that say about us?

KAMAU BELL: Well, if it does help him that does say a lot about us. But I wanted to look to the example of Doug Jones in Alabama. We have his opponent, Roy Moore, who people are afraid, what if that guy gets into office and so people mobilized to make sure that didn't happen, probably the same thing that happened there.

LEMON: So listen, I want to talk about, United Shade of America. The episode is coming. The Sikh religion, you said it was misunderstood. A lot of people say Sikh, but it's Sikh.

KAMAU BELL: We talked about that in top of the episode.

LEMON: So why are they so misunderstood here in America?

KAMAU BELL: Because we don't even -- most people don't know there is a Sikh religion. When they see a man with a turbine and a beer, a beard, they assume it is a Muslim. And a Sikh man have been victims of a lot of hate crimes, because the fact that people when they are -- when they're targeting Muslims, which they shouldn't do, they're targeting Sikh's in the process. And so Sikh's have work hard to say, it is hard to sort of go, don't beat us up, because we're not Muslims, but they are also saying, also don't target Muslims.

LEMON: Yes. Again that speaks to what we just said, our ignorance about people who are different.

KAMAU BELL: Make more friends who don't look like you.

LEMON: Yes. You know, that is what you said on the United Shades of America, the browning of America. A lot of people are afraid of that.

KAMAU BELL: That is right.

LEMON: That is what's happening.

KAMAU BELL: I'm doing it in my house. Me and my wife browning up more babies every day.

LEMON: Look at you with that terrorist fist bump.

(LAUGHTER)

You guys, google it. The new season of "United Shades of America" continues Sunday night at 10:00. We'll be right back.

[23:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Last year we shared a story of Coach Khali Sweeney, a top 10 CNN hero from Detroit, who uses boxing to lead kids on the path to academic success. The story perseverance and sacrifice has inspired so many people, but it really struck a chord with one social studies student from Alton, New Hampshire, who wrote Khali a letter as part of an assignment. She had no idea of the power she had to inspire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come up here for a second. Remember we said he wanted to Skype with us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He decided to do a little more than that. I want to introduce, Mr. Khali Sweeney, from Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program in Detroit, Michigan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my god.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was so honored to meet him, meet somebody like Khali Sweeney, who changes lives every day.

LEMON: To see the full story of Khali's surprise or to nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero, go to CNNHereos.com.

That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching.