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Trump Lawyers To Seek To Narrow Scope Of Special Counsel Interview; CNN Projects Stacey Abrams Will Win Democratic Nomination in Georgia; Pushing Trump To Attack Rosenstein; President's Aides Help Him Write Tweets; Stacey Abrams Is The Nation's First Black Woman Governor Nominee; Trump Administration To Lift Obama-Era Hunting Restrictions In Alaska. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired May 22, 2018 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon, 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast, live with all the breaking news for you. Sources telling CNN that President Trump's lawyers are trying to limit the questions Robert Mueller might ask the President in an interview.

They want the Special Counsel to agree not to question Trump about -- wait for this -- anything he is done in office. Which doesn't seem, it sounds like a deal that Mueller would take, since it would mean not asking the President about the firing of James Comey and possible obstruction of justice. And it comes as the President doubles down on his unproven claims that he is a victim, a victim of the so-called Deep State conspiracy.

Repeating his suggestion of spies in his campaign, even though there's no evidence of that. And officials have told CNN there was no such sources planted inside the Trump campaign. And we have more breaking news for you tonight.

CNN projects Stacey Abrams will win the Democratic primary in Georgia's gubernatorial race. She now has a chance to become the nation's first black female governor. We're going to have more on tat in just a moment.

But I want to bring in CNN Senior Economic Analyst, Stephen Moore, who is senior advisor to the Trump campaign, also CNN Political Commentator, Amanda Carpenter, and the author of "Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us," and National Security Attorney, Mark Zaid and CNN Contributor, Frank Bruni of "The New York Times."

Frank, you should have joined us here in Washington. We would have loved to have you on set with us. So since you're not here I'm going to start with Mark. Good evening, so , Mark, sources telling CNN that Trump's legal team -- the team is trying to limit the scope and that they don't want them to ask him anything about that took place after he took office, which means the firing of Michael Flynn, James Comey and nothing about obstruction of justice. Do you think this is something that Mueller is likely to agree to?

MARK ZAID, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: No, I can't imagine that he would. I mean, it makes perfects sense for the Trump lawyers to try and do so anytime that they were handling this types of cases that would make the most perfect sense. But there's no way given what the scope of the investigation has been and has brought into from what we understand it to be. That he could eliminate, meaning Mueller could agree to eliminate that type of scope of questioning. And we could talk probably like length of time, perhaps maybe going somewhat often, some tangents, but there's enough in the sense of limiting it, but there is enough that is out there so far that brings into play financial transactions, especially with the indictment of Manafort on bank fraud issues, money laundering type issues and all tied together that will go back in time. So, he will never agree with it.

LEMON: Listen, Mueller and his team have been airtight, and I'm wondering if the Trump team, if they're taking advantage of it. Because we have repeatedly seen the team try to negotiate to the Special Counsel through the media. But Robert -- I mean, obviously Mueller cannot respond. It would not be in his best interest or the country's best interest to respond. So this how the president and his team try to create a new reality to (inaudible) the American people with their side, it is the only side that we hear about?

ZAID: Well, yes, I think they're taking advantage of the fact that they know the other side isn't going to talk. And you know, some of this is substantive. Much of this is substantive, it is about getting the truth and that id Mueller's principle lane, but there's another dimension here, which is the dimension of public relations, and I think Donald Trump and the people around him especially since Giuliani came on board and Guiliani in his erratic way they're trying harder than ever to project to the public that they are talking, they are negotiating, they are trying to be reasonable. They're giving terms under which they're willing to cooperate. And they know they have our attention and our ear and the other side isn't talking and I think yes, they are trying to use that very much in their advantage.

LEMON: Steve, Here is what the president said today. Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If they had spies in my campaign that would be a disgrace to this country. That would be one of the biggest insults that anyone's ever seen, and it would be illegal asides from everything else. If they had spies in my campaign, during my campaign for political purposes, that would be unprecedented in the history of our country.


LEMON: So he is demanding an investigation into the investigation in which he is involved in. Isn't that what's really unprecedented here?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMIC ANALYST: No, look, I agree with everything that Donald Trump just said there. If there's evidence, and you said last night there is no evidence. We'll find out about that. If there is no evidence that the FBI was investigating his campaign, then this is much bigger scandal than the Russia investigation. Because it suggests that you've got a Justice Department of one administration and one party that is interfering in an election and trying to undermine that election. So, I think this is more serious than Russia.

[23:05:07] LEMON: You are very -- to get in here.



CARPENTER: If all that happened it would be a big deal. And so, yes, we're going to have the inspector general look into it. Fine. I think that is a pretty easy ask. The second part of the president ask this week and having the Intelligence Committee turn over sensitive material to Republicans in Congress is pretty worrisome.

I don't understand how you don't invite the Democrats to also get that information. Since we have someone that specializes in this kind of law, what happens if that information leaks? What's the exposure to the people that leak that material, because I don't think for a second that is not going to get out?

LEMON: By the way, let me remind everyone that Amanda is Republican.


LEMON: I think that is important to say.

ZAID: Look, the worst case is someone can be killed when you have -- I've represented spies. That is what I do for a living. I've represented informants for the U.S. government. I've represented agents, which are the ones that we hire overseas. And when their identities get out they could potentially lose their lives or their families could lose their lives. But in this particular case if it's this individual American who's over in England, doubtful that is what is going to happen to him. But what kind of message does it send to others who we would want to have work for the U.S. government?

Whether here in the United States or even state and local governments when we can't protect our, whether it's informants, spies, assets, agents, whatever you want to call them. The -- what this shows as an example is a really bad one. And the biggest problem when anything goes to Congress, as we all know, it is more likely than not it leaks out.

LEMON: to me the interesting thing that I mentioned this last night, is that, there was such a fuss about the potential unmasking of Americans names, and this is very similar. They're asking for a very similar -- I guess you'll agree with me, Frank. They're asking to really reveal the name, or they actually did reveal the name of someone who is a source. What's the difference here?

FRANK BRUNI, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": You're just noting certain inconsistencies, Don, and those are prevalent in the Trump administration. But I also want to say that bite you played of Donald Trump where he talked about spies in the campaign, this is classic Trump where we know that a long time informant talk to people in the campaign. It's an enormous leap in exaggeration to go from that to be talking about multiple spies embedded in the campaign. And this is the kind of disinformation that Donald Trump is so good at, because he is so shameless about it. He is willing to take a tiny morsel and to make an entire buffet out of it. A buffet of half- truths and in some cases are outright lies.

LEMON: So, here's -- Amanda, this is a Jake Tapper is reporting that Trump allies, Steve Bannon, Corey Lewandowski, Dave Bossie and Steve Cortes, they want him to attack Rod Rosenstein as part of the so- called Deep State. And here's what Lewandowsky and Bossie said on Fox News tonight after leaving the meeting at the White House. Watch this.


COREY LEWANDOSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: If there are spies placed on Trump campaign, thee had be better become accountability, somebody had to be had be better be walked out in handcuffs, because it is the most egregious, most disgusting thing that our country as a democracy has ever seen. And if that is been done by a government official with their knowledge, or their tacit knowledge then that person that he walked out in handcuffs as well.

DAVID BOSSIE, FORMER DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It's an outrage this President should be, you know, -- I believe he is very upset about this and I am very upset about this. You know, that all of us who worked on this campaign and work hard for our candidate to have -- to think that the United States government was spying on us is outrageous.


LEMON: Jake reported this yesterday and viola, there you go. Your book is about gaslighting, and this is why the Donald Trump, the President is so effective at gaslighting, and completely reinforcing, his allies are constantly reinforcing his message even though again under false premises.

CARPENTER: Yes, it is like whether, you look up, is the sky is blue or green. If you I think are a rational person you can look in this investigation and say wow, there's a lot of coincidences here, there is a lot of undisclosed contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, a lot of lies.

Or if you're seeing it through the Trumpian lens, you think the sky is green and you think this is evidence of entrapment and a secret coupe by the Deep State to unseat a President they always hated. So you have this competing narrative which one is completely unhinged, not base on reality and now they have, you know, paid operatives who are going to go to the media and continue to blanket the air waves with it.

MOORE: Let me respond to that. Look, you all are making the case that, gee, there's nobody in the Obama administration that would possibly, you know, engage in this act of illegality. I mean, that would never happen.

LEMON: That is not the case.

MOORE: Here's the point, we know these kinds of things did happen. We know what happened with the IRS where the IRS was under Obama was spying on conservative groups.

[23:10:02] CARPENTER: No, that is completely different. You're misrepresenting what happened there. I understand that scandal, and it was legitimate.

MOORE: I am not misrepresenting it.

CARPENTER: They weren't spying on groups. They were not allowing people to get tax-exempt status.

MOORE: Yes. That is a pretty big deal.

CARPENTER: That is not spying. You know what spying is?

MOORE: It was illegal.

LEMON: OK, Stephen, you all, let's take it down a notch here, because no one listens when we're all taking over each other. OK.

So, just for facts, those are two different things. That is not spying. So, you're conflating two different things.

MOORE: I'm saying that there was a pattern. There were examples --

LEMON: One is not a pattern.

MOORE: OK. Well, it was a pretty egregious occasion, and to say, well, gee, there would never happen with the Justice Department. Well, it happen in the IRS.

CARPENTER: Here's the facts of what happened during the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign warned that there were Russians trying to infiltrate them or possibly spy on them, and yet they continued to have people associated with the campaign go into Moscow, go give speeches, run back and forth, try to arrange meetings between Trump and Putin. Why did that happen? Why did Don Jr. invite the Russians up to Trump Tower?

And I think, I actually think there's a plausible explanation, maybe they wanted to keep the business interests open in the event they lost the election, and they wound up in Trump Tower. But Donald Trump is offering nothing except for this crazy Deep State conspiracy theory. So maybe they should start answering questions rather than floating out these wild ideas that are just not believable in any rational sense.

LEMON: Mark, you want to say something?

ZAID: Well, you know, even in his tweets tonight, I always -- when I see what he is doing, I want to just remind him, you know, you're the President of the United States.

LEMON: Let's put up the tweet as he talks about that.

ZAID: You can get these answers really easily without tweeting them out in this Deep State conspiratorial fashion to energize the base. All he has to do is ask the FBI and the Justice Department to find out what reporting was done, who signed off on this individual? You don't have to cater to regardless of what side, Democrats or Republicans on the Hill, where there is encroaching upon Justice Department, law enforcement intelligence boundaries that no President regardless of party should want done to keep the branches separate, to protect the ability of these agencies to function.

And instead of obtaining the information first he then tweets. Now, an I.G. investigation, you know what, every Federal Agency should have authority and exercise it to investigate whether its own personnel has broken the law. I don't have any issue on that. I've represented people before, inspector generals all the time. But all he had to do was ask the question privately first to find out if there is something is there?

LEMON: Instead of floating -- Frank, I haven't forgotten about you, because I want to ask you about your piece first, but just for the folks in the room -- I just -- and Steve I'm going to give this to you. Because after the 2016 election, CBS correspondent, Lesley Stahl, met with Trump before their "60 Minutes" interview and he began to attack the media off camera. So, she ask why, he was still hammering the press after the election, and Stahl told this story through a room full with reporters last night at the journalism event. Watch this.


LESLEY STAHL, 60 MINUTES CORRESPONDENT: He said you know why I do it, I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you. He said that.


MOORE: I don't even get the question. I mean, the media was 90 percent against Donald Trump. It was an avalanche of negativity against Trump. I was part of the campaign. It was not fair treatment.

LEMON: The media was not 90 percent against Donald Trump.

MOORE: Absolutely, I mean, look, every --

LEMON: You are talking about -- that is not the point -- hold on -- I spend my time -- most of my time as you know, Frank --


LEMON: -- trying to pull people back from the shiny objects and from the deflections. The media was not 90 percent against Donald Trump. You're talking about someone who did a poll saying the coverage was 90 percent negative of Donald Trump. This president operates on a different level than anyone else.

You can't expect to have the same level in this presidency of reporting as other presidencies, because he is unprecedented. He attacks the media. He says negative things all the time. He says outrageous things all the time. How do you put a positive spin on that?

MOORE: Because, -- let me answer that question --

LEMON: Someone -- no, no, no.

MOORE: You never report on that.


LEMON: Again, that is a deflection. That is not true. We talked about that last night. We discussed that last night. And every time you come on you give the same answer, because you're deflecting.

MOORE: It wasn't about Russia.

LEMON: If someone calls country s-holes, oh that's great, should we say that is great. That is great if the President does that.

ZAID: Where is the two sides of that exactly, yes?

LEMON: Where is the other side -- if someone says there are fine people on both sides, oh, how do you spin that?

[23:15:02] Is that supposed to be positive? If someone is rude to a Gold Star Widow on a phone call are we supposed to spin that in a positive manner?


MOORE: My philosophy of Donald Trump is very simple. Does he sometimes say completely out mannered --

LEMON: Not sometimes.

MOORE: Absolutely yes.

LEMON: You still didn't answer the question.

MOORE: The key to this President is you have to look at it --

LEMON: He says outrageous things every day.

MOORE: But you have to look at the results on -- the lowest unemployment rate --


LEMON: He says and does outrageous things every day. He attacks institutions. He attacks norms. He does things that are --

MOORE: He attacks back.

LEMON: He doesn't attack back institutions. He is attacking institutions. He is undermining institutions.

MOORE: Don, the media was against Donald Trump from the first day that he start.

LEMON: He received an estimated billions of dollars of free coverage --

MOORE: Actually that is true.

LEMON: -- and he says the media is fake and that it was negative.

MOORE: Well, he did certainly --

LEMON: But you still didn't answer the question.

MOORE: Which was?

LEMON: Which was he admitted that he does that because he wants to undermine the media. That is again attacking another --

MOORE: He thinks the media has been completely unfair to him and I think most Americans would agree with that.

LEMON: Billions of dollars. Frank, I'll give you the last word.

I want to talk about your reporting.

BRUNI: The media coverage of Trump is flawed. It certainly is, and I wrote a whole column about this last weekend, but that is not the point of what Lesley Stahl just said there. What she said and we all know is that Trump attacks the media just because if he can completely invalidate us then any criticism we give of him, no one will hear and that is exactly, by the way, what he is trying to do as well right now with the Mueller investigation. Same thing, different objects of attack.

LEMON: OK. We had a little technical issue here with the lights in the studio, but we will be back. The President didn't like what we were saying, the media, so he put us in the dark. Thank you all I appreciate it.

When we come back the secret meeting behind the President's tweets. Who is really writing them and why some of them may have intentional typos in them? And we're going to take you back to Hawaii and talk about that exploding volcano there, Kilauea. We'll be right back.


LEMON: And we're back. We know President Trump loves Twitter, but there may be more to his tweeting than meet the eye. It may not even be his tweeting.

I want to talk about this with Annie Linskey, the national political reporter at the "Boston Globe". Before we get started, we often read his tweets and say I don't think he wrote that just from the way it is structured and written. So it appears from your reporting that his staff may be getting better at tweeting in his voice?

ANNIE LINSKEY, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "BOSTON GLOBE": Yes, so I think, I talked to some of his staff about this, and they said that they sometimes do have a hard time telling, knowing was it Trump tweet or a staff suggestion tweet?

LEMON: Right.

LINSKEY: So they're getting better. And it's interesting point, because you think the staff is going to mold the President and in this case the President is definitely molding the staff.

LEMON: OK. So, you say that the staff will oversee the exclamation point, overuse I should say the exclamation point, capitalize random words to give the tweet a sort of Trumpian touch, you say. I want to go through some of the more notable tweets.


LEMON: OK. That we have seen lately from Trump's Twitter account. First of all, one yesterday "The Wall Street Journal" asks where in the world was Barack Obama? And that is in all caps, right? A very good question. Who do you think wrote that? Was that a Trump or a staffer?

LINSKEY: You also have to look at the time, the time stamp on.


LINSKEY: It is another critical thing.

LEMON: What was the time?

LINSKEY: The time is sort of --

LEMON: 8:51 a.m.

LINSKEY: 8:51, so that is probably a Trump tweet.


LINSKEY: So the 9, you know, the starting 9:30 to 10:00 and going to 5:00 or 6:00 is when the staff drafted tweets tend to go out. Even if they're in his voice. So you'll see him talk about went to an event to honor our great vets with great and vets both capitalized. And that is typo pigments -- typically probably a staff member.

LEMON: OK. How about this one? The witch hunt finds no collusion with Russia, so now they're looking at the rest of the world. Oh, great.

LINSKEY: Yes. Well, the, oh, great in there is a big giveaway.

LEMON: And that is 1:13 p.m.

LINSKEY: Yes. 1:13 p.m., yes. But the, oh, great with that little apostrophe in there was particularly odd. That one was a Trump tweet.

LEMON: The giveaway is what?

LINSKEY: That Trump did that.

LEMON: That it is Trump.

LINSKEY: It's such uncommon error that is not one that are (inaudible). I haven't seen him do that before. So, that means his staff hasn't seen it either, so that is sort of a new error that he is inserting into his tweeting.

LEMON: OK. Despite the disgusting and illegal and unwarranted witch hunt we have had the most successful first 17 month administration in U.S. history by far. Sorry to the fake news media and haters, but that is the way it is.

LINSKEY: I think that is one a little harder.

LEMON: What time was it written?

LINSKEY: What's the time stamp on that one?

LEMON: 9:52 a.m. It doesn't sound like (inaudible).

LINSKEY: I could go either way on that one.

LEMON: And then you spoke with a professor who says that Trump's imprecise language plays into, this is a quote, the narrative of that elites who don't understand ordinary Americans who make typos. So he is just an ordinary American?

LINSKEY: Well, I think he certainly wants us to believe. He is not a billionaire or he is not a New York elite, that he has a common touch. And I think, you know, part of what happens here, too, is he likes the outrage. They like the idea that the so-called elites are a little bit annoyed by his grammar. His imprecise grammar, I mean we all make typos. I make typos, I am sure you do too, but I mean, I strive not to, and I think what's different here is the staff is striving to do that.

LEMON: If I do that, I apologize and say I'm sorry, that was an error.

LINSKEY: Yes, you do.


LEMON: Don't let me -- most people do that.

LINSKEY: I have a correction.

LEMON: But he is a New York elite. He is the elite, went to an Ivy League school and lives at the top of the tower.


LEMON: OK, so, listen, there is a process that these tweets go through at the White House.

LINSKEY: Yes. I was really intrigue by this, sort of, White House staff member has an idea or topic that they want tweeted about, so let's just say Veteran's Affairs. There's a veterans bill moving or a farm bill moving through Congress. The staff member will come up with a list of maybe five -- you know, up to five draft tweets.

[23:25:05] And the staff member will write them in the way that they believe. So the message will be the same in each tweet, but there will be different flourishes on each one. And Trump will get the memo and he'll look at it and he will read all of them and from there he'll either circle or decide he indicate --

LEMON: Do they hand it to him? Or do they send or hand it to him on --

LINSKEY: On a piece of paper.

LEMON: All right.

LINSKEY: On a piece of paper and then he'll either select one or lightly edit one and send that one.

LEMON: Wasn't there one recently that he spelled Melania wrong?


LEMON: Who wrote that one?

LINSKEY: Nobody has specified that. If he had a dog, that would be blamed on the dog.

LEMON: Fascinating. Thank you, Annie Linskey.

LINSKEY: Thank you.

LEMON: When we come back breaking news. Democrat Stacey Abrams wins her Party's nomination in Georgia's gubernatorial primary tonight, becoming the first black woman in the country to win a major party's nomination for governor. But does she have a shot at winning at all?


LEMON: So here we go with the breaking news tonight. Democrat, Stacey Abrams, wins her Party's nomination in Georgia's gubernatorial primary. She is the first black woman in the country to win a major parties nomination for governor. GOP run off on July. And I want to bring in now CNN's Politics Senior Writer and Analyst, Harry Enten.

Harry, I appreciate you joining us on this. Do you think a black woman Democrat has a shot at the governorship in the heart of Trump country?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: Well, I wouldn't say Georgia is necessarily in the heart of Trump county, but Stacey Abrams is certainly an underdog. No Democrat has won the governorship in Georgia since 1998. That's 20 years ago. And obviously, Donald Trump carried that state two years ago by a five percentage point margin. So Abrams is an underdog, but she certainly has a shot at winning this.

LEMON: Yeah. So, Democrats had high hopes in Georgia sixth district earlier in the Trump presidency, and those hopes were dashed really. Has the political landscape changed since then?

ENTEN: Well, it certainly changed a little bit over the course of 2017 and became more more Democratic. But we've obviously seen in the generic ballot more recently that it's again shifted a bit more Republican. And I should point out that Georgia sixth was emblematic of special election. We have seen on the state legislative level as well in Georgia whereby Democrats have not really been outperforming the baseline as it had in the 2016 presidential election.

LEMON: Yeah. So, the larger -- the larger landscape both in Georgia and nationwide in 2018, let's talk about that, because it's looking like this blue wave might not be such a wave or tsunami after all.

ENTEN: Yeah. I mean, if you look at the generic congressional ballot which traditionally has been a pretty good guide (ph) of the national environment, what you see is that the Republican Party has made a bit of a comeback. Now, the Democrats are still ahead. But instead of being ahead by double digits, they are ahead more like by mid-single digits and that points to a very close race with the House of Representatives in the fall at the polls.

LEMON: Harry, thank you. I appreciate that. Let's bring in now, political commentators Scott Jennings, Symone Sanders, and Kevin Madden. Hello to all of you.


LEMON: What do you think? What do you think of her chances, Symone? Black woman in the south in Georgia, and it's still Trump country. He says it's not the heart of Trump country, but --

SANDERS: But it's over there. Georgia is definitely a Trump country, I would say.

LEMON: Yeah.

SANDERS: It's in the neighborhood as we like to say. I think Stacey Abrams definitely has a chance. What she did in this primary election is she went out there and people criticized her for spending money early, but what she did is she put that money on doors and folks, to knock those doors in a very heavy field program where she had had more touches in every single county in Georgia than her Democratic opponent.

I think we're going to see her do some of the similar things in the general election. And the question is all about turnout. I think Stacey Evans has a message that speaks to a wide swath of people in Georgia. The question is, will they come out?

LEMON: Is that similar with Doug Jones did, you think, in a way, to reach out to -- Doug Jones sort of reach out to more Democrats and --

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right, and try to play more in the suburbs, I think.

LEMON: Right.

MADDEN: I still think though that Stacey Abrams is a bit of a long shot. I think this is still pretty safe seat. The demographics of those suburbs around Atlanta, for example, I think, are changing. The question is, are they changing fast enough?

LEMON: Right.

MADDEN: Democrats were very bullish on Michelle Nunn, for example, in 2014 for her chances. She ended up losing to now Senator Perdue by about 10 points. So this is kind of like that old joke about Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown. Georgia has been one of those states where Democrats say, this is swing state, it's going to change, it's going to turn blue. We just yet to see it really, that really come to fruition.

LEMON: What do think, Mr. Jennings?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good ground game and a low turnout election, obviously allowed her to roll up a really big margin. I still think and I'm with Kevin on this, it's a bit of a long shot.

Although Georgia is one of those Sun Belt states that demographically is changing, you can see there's a large swath of states along that, you know, Sun Belt part of the United States that have been really red, but you can see in the future could be more problematic for the Republican Party if they don't do better with Hispanics and younger voters.

So, I think that Republicans are likely to hold here, but certainly it's an attention attracting race because really, she won by a huge margin.

SANDERS: Yeah --

LEMON: Are they turning purple, those states, or lavender? I mean, they're getting close, right?

JENNINGS: Yeah, that's definitely a -- that's definitely a trending purple area.

LEMON: Yeah. OK, so, listen, I want to talk about things looking better for Republicans nationally, because I asked Mr. Antonette (ph) earlier. What happened, Kevin, to that blue that was supposed to come? MADDEN: Well, I think a lot of Republicans are coming home. Some of them are coming home on some of the hot button issues like immigration. That has been an issue that we have been talking about. It has been in the focal focus of public policy debates around the country.

I think the economic optimism that you see right now has Republicans and many even independents and some voters in some of these swing areas trending more towards Republicans.

[23:34:55] But I think the greatest gift that we have is that Democrats have yet to figure out a very coherent economic message to a lot of those voters that may be disaffected by --

LEMON: And the economy is doing well now.

MADDEN: Right.

LEMON: Right.

MADDEN: And if you track some of this economic optimism with the generic ballot, it projects pretty closely.

LEMON: And I remember having the Democrats on the panel earlier when, you know, when it was high like oh, the Democrats are going to be a blue wave, do you think, and everyone said, slow your roll, it's early. Like Kevin said, Republicans usually come home.

MADDEN: That's me and May (ph), they said.

LEMON: Right.

MADDEN: Now May (ph).

LEMON: Right, so it's now May (ph). So do you think that, you know, Democrats should stop talking about this wave and just wait and see or get a message together like Kevin said?

SANDERS: Well, I don't agree that the Democrats don't necessarily have a message. We've seen House Democrats come out with this -- people have been critical of it, the better deal. But I will say that the House Democrats are going out there --

LEMON: Did you see that reaction? Can you do that again?


JENNINGS: Please save us from this hellish economy where unemployment is lower than four percent.

SANDERS: What Democrats are saying in the past is, look, a better deal for you means "X." And Republicans, when they had a chance, they did, yes, they passed a tax bill where you were seeing short-term returns, but in the long run it's corporations that have permanent tax cuts that see big, big, big pay backs and the little guys don't. And so that's what Democrats are talking about. I'd like to note that everything that I have seen, a lot of these vulnerable Republicans are not running on their tax bill, Scott, so Democrats are talking about the economy.

The problem is, we spend a lot of time when folks turn on the television, we're not talking about the economy. We are talking about Stormy Daniels. We are talking about Russia. We are talking about all these things that I think are also important for us to talk about. But the voters don't want to talk about Russia.

LEMON: Remember what happened when the news focused on the Monica Lewinsky scandal, right? Bill Clinton's numbers went up.

SANDERS: Yeah. So that is why Democrats are not out here running on Russia. They are out here talking about health care. They are talking about the economy. They are talking about holding this president accountable. Look --

LEMON: Scott is loving this. You should see his reaction. He's like --


SANDERS: I think the Democrats have a really good chance. The problem here is, you got -- I saw an article in Politico the other day. You read that. About the shadow organization, Super PAC on the right that put $71 million in a ground game, sending folks directly to people's houses telling them about what the Republicans have been doing for them.

LEMON: Yeah.

SANDERS: We don't have that kind of money on the left, so we got to do some real tough work to make up.

LEMON: I want to play this. I played it last time. This is Leslie Stahl, sharing a conversation that she had with the president back in 2016. And she said -- we don't have it? OK, anyway, back in 2016, she asked him why he kept attacking the media. And he said because I want the stories that they report about me, I don't want people to believe them.

Basically he admitted that he does -- why he does it. Not that the news is fake, he just doesn't want people to believe it. Does that bother you?

JENNINGS: I think it's pretty consistent with what most politicians who don't like the negative stories try to do. I mean, they don't want people to believe negative stories. I don't think I ever worked for a politician who wanted people to believe the negative stories. I'm a little surprised that he said it in terms that he did.

But it's no big surprise that that's why you would do it. I do think that he has gotten some unfair shakes at times. I thought he got a real unfair shake on the whole comment about MS-13. That was a recent example of I think what he's talking about which is, you guys try to make me --

LEMON: What about MS-13?

JENNINGS: He said in the meeting --

LEMON: Oh, yeah.

JENNINGS: -- MS-13 gang members are animals.

SANDERS: But that's not what he said, Scott.

JENNINGS: It is what he said.

SANDERS: He didn't say the MS-13 gang members are animals. He said, these people are animals directly after talking about, after the sheriff mentioned MS-13 --

JENNINGS: The MS-13 --

LEMON: OK, got it. That is the first time we talked about it on this program because we didn't report it because it was not in context. So everyone is not reporting that. I think they're hyping that up a bit.

JENNINGS: But that is an example, I think, of Republicans see the way the press sometimes treats the president. I think that's why he reacts the way he does.

LEMON: I want to talk to you guys about -- I have a bit of breaking news here. It says, Scott Jennings' wedding anniversary is tonight. It's 14th --


LEMON: -- and I'm supposed to give his wife a shout out for letting him come on.


LEMON: What's your wife's name? Autumn?

JENNINGS: What a romantic --

SANDERS: Your wife is a saint.

JENNINGS: Autumn Jennings.

LEMON: Can you look right there and say --

JENNINGS: Autumn Jennings, hello.


JENNINGS: Happy anniversary. We've been married 14 years. We got married during the '04 Bush campaign which Kevin and I both worked on.

LEMON: Just say happy anniversary. JENNINGS: And I did a conference call -- I did a Bush campaign conference call from the church rectory.



LEMON: She's waiting on you to look in the camera and say happy anniversary, honey, I love you.

JENNINGS: Happy anniversary. I love you. I hope the kids are in bed.


LEMON: Some people.


LEMON: Congratulations. Happy anniversary. Thank you all. We'll be right back.



LEMON: The Trump administration wants to loosen some hunting restrictions on federal land in Alaska. Some hunters may be happy, but many think the changes are not fair game. CNN's Dan Simon has the story.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you're a big game hunter, there may be no better spot than Alaska. Bears, wolves, and caribou are among the many majestic animals that are part of the state's natural habitat. Three years ago, the Obama administration made hunting them more difficult on federal land.

But under President Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, an avid hunter himself, a striking reversal. The National Park Service issuing a notice that it wants to roll back regulations for sport hunting in Alaska's national preserves. Trophy hunting could get a lot easier, and that has conservation groups outraged.

COLLETE ADKINS, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY: Trump has just been pushing time and time again to open up additional opportunities to kill big game like wolves, bears here in the United States and abroad.

SIMON: Among the changes, bait hunting would be OK again. Foods like bacon and doughnuts previously outlawed would be fair game to lure and shoot brown bears. Wolves and their pups could also be killed in their dens, while motor boats could be used to shoot swimming caribou. High- powered lights would also be OK to allow hunters to better see their prey.

[23:45:01] Critics like Collete Adkins note that President Trump's sons are avid trophy hunters and believe it may have been a factor in the decision.

ADKINS: Killing mother bears and their cubs near dens using artificial lights, that's not sporting. That's not fair chase. That's really blood sport.

SIMON: But in Alaska where big game hunting is embedded in the state's culture, state wildlife officials are pleased with the decision because the federal rules would become more consistent with state rules. Rural communities in particular don't want to be told by the feds how to do their hunting. As for using doughnuts and bacon as bait --

MARIA GLADZISZEWSKI, ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME (voice over): It is a method of taking bears that is legal in Alaska and in fact legal in many states. And it's generally done in very rural places. It is a legal method of taking of bears.

SIMON: In a statement, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game says, the state's goal, as primary wildlife manager on all lands within its borders, will be to continue maintaining healthy and sustainable wildlife populations, both predators and prey.

The roll back, though, won't happen immediately. The public will have 60 days to provide comments. But assuming nothing changes, animal rights group say they will challenge the decision in court.

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


LEMON: All right, Dan, thank you very much. When we come back, Jeff Corwin joins me. I'm going to ask him what he thinks about the Trump administration rolling back protections for wildlife.


LEMON: The Trump administration wants to end an Obama-era ban on hunting practices that some people say are cruel. Listen to some of the things they want to allow. Using food like bacon and doughnuts to lure and shoot bears, killing wolves and their pubs right in their dens, and using high-powered lights so hunters can better see their prey. Is this fair game?

Let's discuss all of this now with wildlife biologist, Jeff Corwin. Jeff, I appreciate you joining us. Good evening to you. How common are these kinds of practices among hunters?

JEFF CORWIN, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST: Well, Don, we're talking about national preserves, which are managed by the National Park Service. These are the most prestigious, most celebrated landscapes on our planet, especially when it comes to symbols of who we are as a country.

So the idea that you would allow techniques of this sort to hunt in landscape and wildlife that belongs to all of us is absolutely absurd and demoralizing and incredibly depressing. LEMON: So, what about the fact that these are -- you said land that

belongs to all of us. These are public lands. Granted at times very remote, but where other people come to enjoy recreation and wildlife. Should that be a factor here?

CORWIN: Absolutely. These are the symbols of who we are as a nation. For example, many states allow for hunting and fishing. I'm a hunter and fisherman myself. I love to connect with the outdoors and natural resources, in addition to my work as a wildlife biologist. And each state, Don, has its own regulations in how it manages wildlife.

But federally and nationally, we go through the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that primarily use data and science as the backdrop to putting forth regulations when it comes to connecting resources.

For example, if you're in Yellowstone National Park, you need to fish with a barbless hook. And we're talking about killing pups and bear cubs and wolf babies and taking undulates down from boats and rivers. It's incredibly unheard of.

But unfortunately, Don, it's really not surprising. There has never been a presidential administration more willfully intent on being negligent when it comes to managing our resources than this administration.

Look at the stance on climate change denial. The shrinking of national monuments. The absurd border wall through Mexico and the United States and these protected habitats. The importation of elephant lion trophies. This is just one more crack in the dam.

LEMON: I want to talk -- I will talk to you a little bit more on that. But just to be clear, a lot of -- don't a lot of people hunt this way?

CORWIN: Do a lot of people hunt this way?

LEMON: Yeah.

CORWIN: In what way? No, very rarely have I ever heard of states allowing people to spot hunt wildlife. In fact, most states, including my state in Massachusetts, it's illegal to spotlights to hunt the animals. You don't kill the offspring, their future generation of a species survival.

LEMON: OK. Listen, and you mentioned, you talked about the Trump administration. It's not the first time that they have rolled back protections on wildlife and land.

They're also allowing imports of trophies derived from big game hunting, which you talked about on a case by case basis. Drastically reduced parkland surrounding to national monuments in Utah. What do you think the motivation is for rolling back these regulations, Jeff?

CORWIN: I believe it's a willful and purposeful negligence when it comes to managing our resources. I think this is what happens when you allow big business to secure the director of the EPA, Scott Pruitt. And when you allow the president's son, who is a big game hunter in Africa, to select the director of the Department of the Interior, Secretary Zinke, this is what you get.

And elections have consequences, Don. And the consequences here are devastating when it comes to the future of our natural resources. Again, it's not about accessing resources and using resources. It's about being pragmatic, wise and sustainable. And I see none of that here.

And in the end, Don, I think it's my children that's going to pay the price. We know for a fact that there are species on the brink of extinction. We know for a fact that a specie and race of rhino just tipped into the extinction threshold with the passing of the only surviving male.

[23:55:05] Yet this administration is opening up the importation of trophies from countries that have proven themselves to be unstable when it comes to wildlife management. So unfortunately, it is depressing and it is shocking. But it kind of goes with the territory.

LEMON: I wonder if -- speaking about the son -- you mentioned, Don Jr. and Eric, avid hunters. But the president has at times expressed distaste for their trophy hunting. What impact do you think the publicity over this rule change will have, if any?

CORWIN: I think there's just so much embarrassment of riches on the radar screen that this will just kind of blip and disappear. As with the whole allowing the importation on a case by case basis when it comes to trophy hunting. And again, for me, it's not about an access to resources or hunting or fishing.

It's saying that a country like Zimbabwe that had a dictator who was served roasted baby elephant on his 90th birthday, to say that this country is in a stable place with the checks and balances that we traditionally have in our country when it comes to resource use, I mean, that's preposterous.

But this is kind of how this administration plays. We know that President Trump said in the past that he found this distasteful and what happened? We were focused on other things, Don, and they came in and they slid this under the door. And now this is just one more example of how our country today is being steered down a path of potentially no return when it comes to the protection of our species.

When science doesn't matter, Don, when we deny climate change with regard to a changing planet, this -- I mean, this is just the frosting on the cake.

LEMON: Yeah. Jeff Corwin, we're out of time. Thank you so much. I appreciate the time we had together. Thank you.

CORWIN: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow. [24:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)