Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

Justice Department, Says There Will Be Two Classified Briefings Tomorrow; The Second Briefing With The Gang Of Eight; Bishop Curry On America Divided; Truth Is Under Daily Assault From The President; Bowing To Trump, NFL Owners Requiring Players To Stand For National Anthem; Van Jones Supports Jared Kushner's Prison Reform Bill; Bishop Curry To Lead White House Protest. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired May 23, 2018 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I am Don Lemon. 11:00 p.m. on the East Coast. Live with new developments tonight including the Justice Department saying it will have two classified briefings tomorrow. One at noon for House Intelligence Chairman, Devin Nunes and Oversight Chairman, Trey Gowdy and the DOJ. Along with White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly.

The second, just two hours later, with congressional -- the congressional gang of eight, which includes Nunes plus Gowdy and Kelly. That as President Trump repeatedly and with no facts to back him up makes the outrageous claim that the so-called Deep State spied on his campaign. He says it over and over. And it's just not true. It's a lie. Facts matter.

And what the President is saying and doing runs the risk of tearing America part. I want you to listen to -- this is Bishop Michael Curry whose sermon at the royal wedding captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world. He is leading a protest tomorrow night at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Have we turned against each other, do you think?

REV. MICHAEL CURRY, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH: We are running that risk. We are running -- I'm reading the soul of America. I'm reading Jon Meacham's book now. We run that risk. And we must not turn against each other. You know, Shirley Chisholm said it a long time ago about this country, said you know, we all came over here on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: More from Bishop Curry, and just a little bit later on in this show. Now I want to bring in now Peter Wehner, he is a former adviser to George W. Bush, and Kevin Kosar, a propaganda expert and Vice President of policy at R Street Institute.

Gentlemen, good evening. It's a perfect night to have you on, especially to talk about this, propaganda and all of the rhetoric coming out of the White House and Washington on the President's allies' side. So, Kevin, I want to read -- this is at Merriam- Webster. This is the definition of propaganda. And it says propaganda, the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause or a person. You have written extensively about propaganda. Is President Trump guilty of spreading propaganda with all the lies and insinuations he makes?

KEVIN KOSAR, VICE PRESIDENT OF POLICY, R STREET INSTITUTE: Certainly some of the things he has said are propaganda. I think the Merriam- Webster definition is good, but there's a lot of deception that goes on in politics. I mean, politicians are not known for being absolute truth tellers. They're always misstating things and doing things of that ilk.

LEMON: You don't say.

KOSAR: But the intentionality behind the deceptions that the President issues, like today when he referred to an FBI informant as a spy, taking something that is a neutral term and turning it into a negative, inflammatory term, that is propagandistic. It's also propagandistic when you perpetrate the notion that there is a cabal or conspiracy against you and the people who support you. And the President certainly does that quite frequently.

LEMON: Peter, it's not just that he is attempting to influence Americans' opinions. He is employing a particular strategy, repeating the same lie over and over and over again. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a total witch- hunt. I've been saying it for a long time.

They have this witch-hunt.

They have this witch-hunt.

It's a witch-hunt. That is all it is.

They have phony witch-hunts.

It's like a witch-hunt. It's like a witch-hunt.

The witch-hunt continues.

The entire thing has been a witch-hunt.

This is a pure and simple witch-hunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: A lot of witches have been caught up in this witch-hunt. Are people more susceptible to believing even the most blatant lie if it's repeated enough, Peter? PETER WEHNER, CONTRIBUTING OPINION WRITER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes,

I'm afraid they are. I mean, this is known as the big lie. And there are some number of people in this country, primarily on the American right, that believe this, and the more they hear, the more inflamed that they get. I've just got to tell you that it may be true that politicians aren't known for truth telling, but what we have with Donald Trump is of a different order of magnitude than anything we've ever seen.

This is a man who doesn't just assault the truth. He is trying to annihilate the truth. That is, he is engaged in an effort to take it apart piece by piece. And we've never seen anything in this country like that -- like this. And that is why he is in some deep sense a fundamental threat to this country, because in the end you can't have a self-governing country, if truth itself is under assault.

If you can't agree on some kind of common reality. And that is what he is after here. And that is what makes him a particularly malicious and malignant figure in the American political landscape and really in American history.

LEMON: I want to bring in now CNN Political Commentator, Scott Jennings to join the group. Scott, thanks for joining us. We're talking about propaganda and lies here. And I just want to read something.

[23:05:00] This is Politico magazine. It published an article and it's called "Trump's Lies Versus Your Brain." It says, certainly after the President took office the writer Maria Konikova describes research on how people sort out what's true and what's a lie in their brains. First they have to accept any statement as true to understand it and then reject a lie with true facts.

But I want you to listen to this. Here's what it says. "When we are overwhelmed with false or potentially false statements our brains pretty quickly become so overworked that we stop trying to sift through everything. It's called cognitive load, our limited cognitive resources are overburdened. It doesn't matter how implausible the statements are. Throw out enough of them and people will inevitably absorb some. Eventually, without quite realizing it, our brains just give up trying to figure out what is true."

So are you concerned that people are becoming worn down by all of the lies coming out of the President's mouth?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, look, I think that for a long time, and this predates Trump, people were losing faith in what they were hearing out of Washington. So, I don't think this is unique to Donald Trump. As it relates specifically to this special counsel investigation, I actually think he is running virtually the same playbook the Clinton White House ran in the '90s with one exception. They have access to more powerful information dissemination tools than Bill Clinton ever had.

And I would also point this out. For all the worry there is about the lies, and look, I don't condone it, I don't think it's a good idea to lie, if you look at virtually all the polling, a vast majority of the American people will say I don't think Donald Trump is honest and trustworthy. So it's not as though people are buying everything that he is selling.

Some are, but a lot aren't. And that tells me that people are still paying enough attention to discern truth from truth stretching or outright lies. And so, I guess, my thought on it, Don, is that I trust the American people to sort out what is true. And I know it's concerning, but I think people are smart enough to wade through it.

LEMON: But shouldn't you trust the President of the United States to tell the truth? Because my question is are you concerned that people are becoming worn down by all the lies? Not that whether people will believe --

JENNINGS: Well, yes, look, I believe -- yes, I think people are worn down on a daily basis by the deluge of what's coming out of Washington right now. It's not just the lies. It's the drama. I mean, we are ping-ponging from one thing to another. They are hearing a lot of information. They're trying to decide what they can trust and what they can't. Yes, I do. I think this is one of the great dangers to Trump's political future. It's one of the great dangers to his re- election. By 2020, are people going to be so worn down that they've had enough and they need to move on to something else, because they're worn out? And I think that is something they have to pay very close attention to, so that it doesn't impact his re-election prospects, but it definitely could.

LEMON: CNN Commentator, Philip Mudd, joins us now. So the President is spreading propaganda. And people don't know what to -- I don't think people believe anything that comes out of his mouth anymore, Phil.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think there's a couple of challenges here. So let's go really serious for a moment, Don. Number one, let's look at the challenges in the future. You can look, for example, at what he said about President Obama's birth certificate. You can look at about to what he said about the false size of the crowd at the inauguration. Let's play that forward.

Let's say we have conversations about an Iranian nuclear deal as we know we'll have conversations about a North Korean nuclear deal. Let's say we'll have conversations about whether China is helping us or not helping us with North Korea. Conversations that the President leads about whether Russia is intervening in the midterm elections. What are we supposed to believe? Here's my bottom line. It's a bottom line you would not have said two years ago, six years ago, 10 years ago.

When we go into these key questions, the President is not the arbiter of truth. That will be the members of his cabinet. That will be the congress. And that will be the media. In the past we've been able to look at the President and say what's happening around the world, you give us the truth and then you help us understand what to do in the future. I don't think we can trust the President to do that. LEMON: So to Phil's point, Kevin, the President has a long history of

spreading conspiracy theories and lies to great success. I mean, pretending at one point that he was his own P.R. person, right? Remember that? Saying President Obama wasn't born here, that thousands celebrated 9/11 on rooftops. Millions voted illegally. President Obama wiretapped him. He had the largest crowds. I mean, I could go on, but we don't have that much time. Now he is trying to recast a legitimate FBI investigation that used confidential human sources as a plot to get him. People -- will people buy it? Are they buying it?

KOSAR: Oh, certainly people are going to buy it. Those who already support -- human beings have this really interesting way of filtering out information that doesn't agree with their political beliefs. So those who are already supporters of the President or people who just don't like Democrats or hate congress at large, they're just going to look at this and say yes, it's the Deep State that is out to get him. So this is just going to confirm their biases.

[23:10:12] LEMON: Peter, you want to weigh in? Seems like you did.

WEHNER: Yes, I did. It's not simply that Trump can't be trusted. It's that he is a fountain of lies. And Scott is wrong. It is not -- this is not something we have seen before. This is of a different category than we have. It's not simply the number of lies. It's the velocity of the lies. It's the character of the lies. And he is doing this intentionally, because of exactly what you've been talking about. We know this from brain science. Which is the disorienting effect of lie after lie after lie day after day after day.

Your readers should go back, there's a terrific essay that Vaclav Havel, the great (inaudible) and in playwright who was later President of Czechoslovakia wrote, "The power of the powerless." and he talked about the demoralized society and he talked about what it means when you live within the lie or whether you live within the truth.

And it's not simply that Trump is saying these things, but when some large number of the people in the country buy into this, if they make up their own narrative, their own script, if it's all make believe, if it's all once upon a time, then a society begins to fracture in the deepest way. And that is what is going on. And he is doing this day after day after day. And it's taking a terrific toll, a political toll and a civic toll and a social toll.

And the Republican Party is complicit in this. They are his sword and his shield. Some defend him. Some are silent about it. If you talk to them privately, they know he is a liar. They know all of his character defects. But they won't challenge him, because they're afraid of him. And this is a disgrace. Rudy Giuliani gave an interview with the "Washington Post" a couple of days ago where he said three words which are the credo of the Trump presidency. He said "truth is relative." that is not true.

And once upon a time the Republican Party and the conservative movement stood against people who said truth is relative. If truth is relative, then you can give up the game, because then it's all a power game. Then it's a Nietzschean world and that is an ugly world and we shouldn't enter it.

LEMON: Yes. Thanks Phil for coming back. Everyone else, I want you to stick around. When we come back. Just imagine how President Trump is going to react to this. A Federal Judge says the President is violating the first amendment by blocking critics on Twitter.

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump doesn't like criticism of any kind, and when he gets it, he goes on the attack. He just loses it. And he has no qualms about saying things that are absolutely not true.

So back with me now, Peter Wehner, Kevin Kosar and Scott Jennings. Also joining us April Ryan. I'm glad you could make it, April. Thank you so much.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALIST: I'm glad I could too, Don.

LEMON: That was a little sarcasm. She had a little trouble getting there. So, I understand your flight was late.

RYAN: I know. The flight was late.

Flight was late. Yes.

LEMON: Thanks for joining us. Seriously. The President says what he likes, whether it's truthful or not, April, but he is thin-skinned about any perceived criticism. His first response is to lash out. I want you to take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Some of the media's terrific. But most of it, 70 percent, 75 percent, is absolute dishonest. Absolute scum. Remember that. Scum.

Written by a nice reporter. Now the poor guy you've got to see this guy, "oh, I don't know what I said. I don't remember." He is going, "I don't remember. Maybe that is what I said."

I just learned that crooked Hillary, along with her friend -- you know, she is got this goofy friend named Elizabeth Warren. She is on a Twitter rant. She is a goofus (ph).

He is a war hero, because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured. OK? I hate to tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Every time I see him mocking that disabled "New York Times" reporter it's just -- it just gets you. He calls, it you know, fighting back. But what does it say about his own sense of self that he has to put everyone else down, April?

RYAN: You know, we've heard so many people, Don, equate this President to a petulant child when he doesn't get his way. But this is a grown man who is the leader of the free world. And this has a ripple effect. And I'm not just talking about a moral issue. I'm talking about globally, because you know, many of the leaders around the world, particularly in Europe, they really just don't know how to take him, and they've said this.

And you know, at issue is, you know, when you speak your words mean something. And if you have knee-jerk reactions and not think it can send a ripple effect. Let me give you an example, and luckily at that time it did not hurt us. But remember when the President was talking about Kim Jong-un having -- he had a bigger button than Kim Jong-un and he was calling him names. The rhetoric was heating up and there was a concerned that we were on the brink of war.

And they said that, you know, once South Korea -- once North Korea was able to go to the Olympic Games in South Korea it changed the dynamic and people were saying it was great to talk versus war. And now we're back in a quagmire, and if the President gets upset again what's to say what will happen? So this attitude, this temper tantrum, it means something. It reverberates. And it's real.

LEMON: Kevin, listen. So, the President, he hates dissent, and he has tried to block people on Twitter. Twitter followers who disagree with him. Several organizations took him to court on the first amendment grounds. And here's what the Judge found out, "we hold that portions of the real Donald Trump's account, the interactive space where Twitter users may directly engage with the content of the President's tweets, are properly analyzed under the public forum doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court that such space is a designated public forum and that the blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the first amendment." What do you think of that?

KOSAR: I wasn't surprised by the decision. We've seen similar decisions that have appeared already about politicians trying to block people from commenting on their Facebook pages and things like that. The decision did note that if the President wants to mute them he can. That way he doesn't have to see the dissent. But perhaps that is just not as delicious to him as being able to block somebody entirely. It's a weird situation, honestly.

[23:20:00] There is an official Presidential Twitter account that he could have used and he could have used that to conduct official business and then just kind of used his other account for other purposes. But he chose to stick with his private account. And basically, he turned it into a de facto government communication of propaganda venue.

LEMON: What's the likelihood that he is going to comply with that, Scott?

JENNINGS: Good question. I assume they're going to appeal it. There actually has been a different ruling here in Kentucky. Our governor, Matt Bevan was blocking people. The ACLU sued him. And he actually got a federal ruling in his favor last year that is still laying out there. So we do have two federal rulings that are at odds with each other. It's really fascinating to see how it plays out. I tend to agree with the mute idea. If you don't want to see somebody -- I mute people all the time. Pretty much after every "CNN Tonight" I'll mute three or four folks who don't like what we have to say here. But that is a way out of this that I think that, you know, could solve the issue for him moving forward.

LEMON: Yes. I just don't read it or just laugh at it, because after every broadcast there's a lot of trolls and a lot of bots. And have fun. If you have nothing better to do go for it. Peter, what do you think, you want to jump in?

WEHNER: Yes, I just want to take a half step back and what April's talking about, the rhetoric, and she said she didn't want to critique it from a moral perspective, but I do. Because there is something about Donald Trump and his attacks on people which is deeply dehumanizing. And that sets an example. That sets a tone for politics and for society at large. The other thing I would say is that, these are all manifestations of temperament, of disposition, and that is hugely important in politics and particularly in a President.

The reason that Richard Nixon got into so much trouble, because of Watergate was because of his temperament and his disposition, because he was paranoid and because he was thin skinned. He had these resentments that he hadn't been as respected as the Kennedy's. And he wanted to crush his opponents.

When you take somebody with that temperament, that attitude, that outlook, and Donald Trump has that on steroids, and you combine that person with the enormous and extraordinary powers of the presidency, you are setting yourself up for a lot of trouble. And that is exactly what we've got going on right now.

LEMON: Wow. If you think about it, that is right. He is so jealous of the former President. Because he knows, you can't buy class. That is one of the things money can't buy.

RYAN: Wow.

LEMON: Thank you very much. I appreciate, it all of you. When we come back, after an incredible amount of pressure from the President, the NFL deciding that players need to stand for the national anthem. If they're on the field or the team could be fined. Big win for President Trump?

[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: After months of pressure from President Trump team owners have decided that NFL players must stand during the national anthem this season. Commissioner Roger Goodell, says teams whose players and personnel do not stand and show respect for the flag and anthem will be fined.

I'm joined now by CNN Political Commentator, Joe Lockhart, a former chief communications officer for the NFL, CNN Contributor, Donte Stallworth, who played for 10 years in the NFL, and CNN Political Commentator, Ben Ferguson, the host of the Ben Ferguson show. Love having you all on. Thank you so much. Joe, you know the NFL essentially caved to political pressure from the

White House over an issue that you know, this is as simple as Americans exercising their right to free speech. Do you think this sets a dangerous precedent? Where does it stop?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think it's a difficult issue and politics should have never gotten in the middle of it. But it did thanks to our President. If they caved to anyone, I think it may have been some of the fan base. I think there was a very loud minority of fans who took what players were trying to do to raise awareness on social justice issues and make it into something it wasn't.

And at the end of the day these are businesses that have to appeal to all of their fans and this is -- you know, this was the best compromise, I think, they could have come up with.

LEMON: Those players wouldn't have had a microphone if were not for the President.

LOCKHART: Those players actually had -- were working it out among the owners until the President came in and dropped a bomb in the middle of it.

LEMON: The fans wouldn't have had the microphone unless the President had lied about their intentions.

LOCKHART: Well, sure. And it goes to a much broader issue of Donald Trump's politics. Football is a thing that is a threat to Trump, because it unites people. Trump thrives when people are divided. When people come together, he is in trouble. When people tell the truth, he is in trouble. When people are doing things for the right reasons, however they express it, he is in trouble. It only works for him, when he can divide people and demonize people who are not like him.

LEMON: And also because he -- they wouldn't allow him to own an NFL team. That is a whole other story.

LOCKHART: That is a whole other story.

LEMON: Probably the real reason behind --

LOCKHART: That is where it started.

LEMON: That is where it started. So Donte, the NFL players association announce today that they're considering challenging this decision. What's your reaction and what's the reaction of the players?

DONTE STALLWORTH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think they should challenge it. I mean, it's -- again, we're talking about stifling dissent. And anytime you have the President of the United States, who is calling for players, jobs, or citizens of this country, calling for their jobs for not participating in compulsory patriotism that is not what the founders had in mind when they were trying to decide what type of country we wanted to be.

That is why they made the first amendment the first amendment. It was the freedom of free speech. The freedom to peacefully assemble and protest. And the players have done that. Anytime people in this country, whether if its people of color or citizens just in general, whenever they've spoken out against justice, injustice and inequality in this country, they've always been met with fierce opposition.

And in particular professional athletes. Now, you know, they've been denounced. Calling them anti-American and saying that these players don't appreciate their country, don't appreciate what this country has afforded the opportunities for them. And that is just not absolutely true. They've tried to hijack the conversation. And honestly in some ways successfully did. The president getting on his pedestal as the head of state of the most powerful nation in the country and condemning players for exercising their First Amendment rights.

LEMON: Premiering this weekend, airing this weekend is a CNN documentary "1968," that I've seen, I screened. And I wonder if people will look back, the protesters, the people who are against the protesters, if they'll look back and say oh, my gosh, what was I doing? What was I thinking?

I think people who believe what the president is saying will one day look back and go, my goodness, I was duped, I was on the wrong side of history. Ben, after the announcement today, the vice president tweeted a screen shot of the story, CNN's home page, along with the hashtag "winning."

Pence of course made a very public show of walking out of an NFL game this past season. How is it winning to deprive others of their First Amendment rights to free speech and to express themselves over an important issue?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first you have to understand the First Amendment. And the First Amendment is not being violated by any of these players. When you go to work and you work in a place, you don't have the First Amendment right to go out and say or do whatever you want to do. You don't get to tell your boss to go to hell and expect he's going to keep you.

You don't get to tell your company they're a bunch of idiots and expect you are going to keep your job. Now, let's be clear. You still have the right to say that. They have a right to fire you. They have a right to say you no longer work here. No one lost their First Amendment rights over this issue.

The players still have the right to either say to the NFL, you can go to hell and I don't want to play here anymore and I'll play in Canada or some other league or retire. They also have the right to be involved before, after, and during the off-season in anything they want to do. It's a lie to imply that somebody lost their rights here.

You don't understand the constitution if you think someone lost the rights. And the owners have the right to actually have a set of guidelines and rules that they want to go by. Now, I'll be honest with you. I think the owners looked at the bottom line and realized this is a bad business decision.

They are a game where a lot of people come in. They want to honor men and women in uniform. They want to honor men and women that wear a uniform, whether it be here around the world. And you have someone like Colin Kaepernick who came out and start an issue and then wore socks on the field depicting police as pigs.

When he did that, you lost the narrative that this was about some big Black Lives Matter Movement, when you started attacking police officers that way. They lost. And a lot of fans walked away from this and said, I'm not going to give my money to an organization that allows for this to happen while you're in a uniform at work.

LEMON: OK, so, let me just say a couple things, Ben.

FERGUSON: Sure.

LEMON: So, any one of us on this panel, I work for CNN, I think you're a commentator. You can take a knee here. CNN is not going to say but -- that's apples and oranges to say that you cannot say something nasty about your boss --

FERGUSON: But you started saying anti-CNN --

LEMON: Oh, that's fine. I have said anti-CNN things before. I've criticized this company before. I still have a job. It's different. You cannot compare the two. And any job will tell you constructive criticism, anybody, any boss would want constructive criticism --

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But Don --

LEMON: I don't think that your argument holds water. I don't think --

FERGUSON: Here's what I'll say. Any player can still do this, though. If you really stand up for what you believe in these players, I would encourage the players then pay the fine. You make more than enough money to pay for these fines. I'll be interested to see --

LEMON: But they are enacting a rule --

FERGUSON: -- how many of these players are going to go out there and are going to say --

LEMON: -- saying you can't protest --

FERGUSON: No, you can do it and you can pay the fine.

LEMON: But they're enacting a rule saying you cannot protest.

FERGUSON: You can actually walk out there and you can pay. I don't think they are going pay it.

LEMON: They're enacting a rule. You're missing the whole entire point. Go ahead, Joe.

FERGUSON: No, but you can still do it. LOCKHART: Listen, from a constitutional basis my guess is if this went to court, the owners' position would stand. But we used to be better than this.

FERGUSON: Exactly.

LOCKHART: We used to be better than this as a country. And I hate to keep bringing it back to Trump. But he has made this about his group versus the rest of us. And the whole -- the whole appeal of football was it brought people together. And he has found a way to divide those people the way he has done it politically --

FERGUSON: The kneeling --

LEMON: So perhaps --

FERGUSON: The kneeling is what drew people apart.

LEMON: Ben. I've got to go, Ben.

FERGUSON: It wasn't the president.

LEMON: Ben, I got to go. So perhaps we should be more concerned about the rights of Americans and Americans being beaten down the street. African-Americans, people of color, and on and on, instead of some fake pageantry and patriotism. That's what real patriotism is about.

When we come back -- thank you all. Are things so bad in this country that a Democrat can't work with the White House on anything without taking heat? I'm going to ask Van Jones about the project he is working on with Jared Kushner.

[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: You might think there's nothing Democrats and Republicans agree on anymore, but our very own Van Jones is supporting Jared Kushner's prison reform bill, which just passed the House with broad bipartisan support.

And Van Jones joins me now. Van, good evening to you. Thank you for joining us. You know I said it was Jared Kushner's bill, but you had a lot to do with it.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, it's funny because I've been working, as you know, for 30 years for criminal justice reform, police reform, juvenile justice stuff. And what has happened is at the state level, at the local level, Democrats and Republicans get together all the time and have been making progress in Georgia and California and Texas, trying to have fewer people going to prison because it doesn't work.

But the federal level, we've been stuck on stupid. Gridlock, no bills, nothing for, you know, too long. And so when Hakeem Jeffries from New York decided he was going to do something, he reached out to Collins and they were able to come together with a bipartisan bill. I said I'm going to do everything I can. And Jared Kushner said the same thing. And believe it or not, we got 350 plus Congress people to cross the aisle, hold hands, and pass the bill out of the House to help prisoners, the people who are at the bottom, who nobody cares about most of the time. Nancy Pelosi supported the same bill that Donald Trump did.

[23:40:00] I think that is a remarkable breakthrough. And I give a lot of credit to people who are willing to say on some issues -- we can fight on 99 issues. But on one issue, can we at least get together and get something done?

LEMON: All right. Let me get a couple things in. Because you've gotten a lot of heat for working with Jared Kushner and a Republican- led Congress and your support for this bill has some people calling you racist.

One black progressive says this. "aiding Donald Trump is aiding racism and Van Jones is aiding Trump. Even worse, he did a dog and pony show for Ivanka, Jared and Rick Perry. It was gross and disgusting."

I mean, you have personally called out the president for some of the things you said that are racist, some of the things he says. How do you respond to this criticism?

JONES: Well, listen, I think that this is part of the problem. We are in a situation now where, you know, Donald Trump has offended so many people so often, you call him out, I call him out, and now we've gotten to a point where we are so anti-Trump that we almost got tricked into being anti-ourselves.

We have always as progressives and Democrats stood up for people behind bars, people who are addicted, convicted. You mean to tell me, I'm going to have Donald Trump not just running the White House but running my house and my agenda, that I can't defend prisoners? Donald Trump has 200,000 federal prisoners in the palm of his hand. He and Sessions can do what they want to.

If Congress wants to tell Sessions and Trump, here is a better way to deal with those folks, give them a pathway home, let them earn their way home by becoming model prisoners, stop shackling women, stop brutalizing women behind bars, give people the opportunity to get home earlier, I'm going to fight for that.

I'm not going to stand down and say, I'm not going to do anything. And I think most people feel that way. And guess what. Nancy Pelosi and the entire Democratic leadership agreed with me on that and agreed with Hakeem Jeffries on that. That's what I think we're about to see now. I think on the 99 -- yeah.

LEMON: Hold on. I think you can respond. Because I want to put this up. I think this is important. This is former attorney general, Eric Holder. He writes this. He says, the Trump administration is pushing a misguided legislative effort that threatens to derail momentum for sentencing reform.

I mean, your former Obama administration official colleague says what you're behind is misguided. How do you tell Eric Holder he's wrong on this?

JONES: Listen, Eric Holder in that same piece pointed out at the very end that by doing what he wanted us to do, we might derail the whole thing and lose the opportunity for any reform at all. And so I agree with Eric Holder. But if we had held out for everything, we would have probably gotten nothing.

And unfortunately that's what happened throughout the Obama years with the criminal justice people, myself included, put me in it. We said, we want everything, we want sentencing, we want prison reform, we want everything or nothing. And we got nothing. Who suffered? I didn't suffer. I'm fine. I have a job. You have a job. Who suffered were the people in prison who got nothing when it came time for congressional reform.

And so I agree with Eric Holder. Sure, we need sentencing reform. Sentencing reform is important. But I also agree with him when he says, holding out for that could cost us everything. The House of Representatives including Nancy Pelosi heard his counsel and other people's counsel and said, we can't let this opportunity for progress go.

And the entire Democratic Party leadership and 350 plus representatives on both sides of the aisle came together this week and said, let's do something, let's do something, and break this logjam. So the logjam has now been broken on prison reform in this country and it's a beautiful thing.

LEMON: I can see that you're very happy about it. The intrepid and always outspoken Van Jones. Van, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

JONES: I'm glad to be here. And I'll tell you this. People -- you know, when it comes to how do you deal with this sort of stuff, I say when it comes to the Trump White House, we've got 99 conflicts but prison ain't one. Let's fix these prisons and keep on pushing.

LEMON: Thank you, Van. I appreciate it. When we come back, the man whose sermon at the royal wedding touched the world. Now, he is getting ready to protest at the White House tomorrow. I'm going to ask Bishop Michael Curry about both of these huge moments for him. That's next.

[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: He stunned the crowd at the royal wedding and the whole world watching with his forceful message of love and social justice. And when he leaves my studio after this interview, he will be heading to Washington, D.C. to lead a White House protest and candlelight vigil along with other church leaders tomorrow night.

I am honored to welcome Bishop Michael Curry. Such a pleasure to have you here.

MICHAEL CURRY, PRESIDING BISHOP, EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Thank you so much.

LEMON: Why are you heading to the White House? What are you doing? CURRY: Well, a group of us came together, and this was an ecumenical group. These were liberals and conservatives. These were people who are Republican and Democrat, Protestant, Catholic and evangelical, who came together and we drafted a statement called "Reclaiming Jesus."

And it was an attempt to articulate what we believe are the core teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and of the scriptures and to hold those up for people in churches to begin to think about what does this mean for not only how do I live my life, but how do I give voice to my faith commitments in the public world. And so we came up with something that was non-partisan.

LEMON: In your statement that you put up for this protest, here is a quote, you said, we reject nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership. Who are you talking about?

CURRY: Well, oh, we're just talking about we reject nationalism, racism in any form no matter who it comes from, whether it comes from the left or the right, it doesn't matter who it comes from, that every person is created in the image of God, and we have to treat each other that way.

And we must fashion social policies that reflect that. And in the way that we engage in debate. Because see, this love thy neighbor stuff is not sentimental stuff. This is tough love. This is the love that means that if I disagree with you, I've got to love you.

[23:49:57] LEMON: It's tough to sit back and look at especially some of the evangelical community make excuses and say oh, we give a mulligan on this, we give a mulligan on that, oh we give a mulligan on that. And I say people seem to be led by their ideology rather than their faith. What do 2you say to those folks?

CURRY: Here is what we want to do. We want to say, here are the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The Jesus who said love God and love your neighbor and everything, depends on that. The Jesus who even said in this sermon on the mountain, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who despitefully use you.

The Jesus who said bless the poor and -- you don't want to hold bunch of Bible passages. But if you listen to the Jesus of the new testament, our invitation is to all people who are Christian, let's just follow the teachings of Jesus. Not anybody else's ideology. And whether we're conservative or liberal, follow the teachings and then we may actually find a common way.

LEMON: But if you had the chance to, people say lay hands on. If you had a chance to go into the Oval Office, pray for or with the president and the administration, what would you do? What would you say to him?

CURRY: I would pray for him. I do pray -- I pray for this president just like I prayed for his predecessor and will always pray for our leaders in authority. When I disagree with him, I'll disagree with him. But I will always pray for them because they're children of God, too.

LEMON: Have we turned against each other, you think?

CURRY: We are running that risk. We are running -- I'm reading "The Soul of America." I'm reading Jon Meacham's book now. We run that risk. And we must not turn against each other. You know, surely it was said a long time ago about this country. We all came over here on different ships, but we're on the same boat now.

LEMON: Amen. Let's talk about the royal wedding. I covered the royal wedding. I was -- it was amazing. You talked about the power of love. And your sermon was absolutely incredible. I want to play some of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CURRY: Think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved. Well, there is power. Power in love. Not just in this romantic forms but any form, any shape of love. There's a certain sense in which when you are loved and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it, when you love and you show it, it actually feels right. There's something right about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So a couple things here. Have you had a chance to sit back and watch?

CURRY: I haven't watched it. No. I've seen footage, but I haven't.

LEMON: OK. They're in love. You said to me, they're in love.

CURRY: Oh, yeah.

LEMON: And you could see it. And because of that, they brought the world together. And you conveyed that afterwards. You talked about that with the archbishop. We need some joy in the world. I remember you saying that. But I am wondering, is that the antidote to all the negativity?

CURRY: Actually, it is. It is the prescription. It is the cure. It is actually is the cure so that we can find light. I'll give you an example. Just take the example of those two people. I mean, obviously it was a royal wedding and people wanted to be there and see it and see what the dress looked like and all that kind of stuff.

But there was a sense in which the love between those two people, when they looked at each other, you can tell they love each other. They really do.

LEMON: You began and ended with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

CURRY: Yes.

LEMON: Play this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CURRY: The late Dr. Martin Luther King once said, and I quote, we must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world. For love, love is the only way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Loved that. That was from 1957 from Dr. King. His sermon, loving your enemies. Why those lines from the civil rights icon? Was that -- because some people saw that as political. Was it political?

CURRY: It was absolutely spiritual. Now, what the ripple effects of that spiritual are, that's beyond me.

(LAUGHTER)

CURRY: But it was absolutely spiritual, just as Jesus of Nazareth was spiritual. Jesus picked up that cue from Moses.

LEMON: The former chief strategist of the Trump administration talked about Dr. King to the BBC. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: I said Donald Trump has the lowest black unemployment in history. Donald Trump has the lowest Hispanic unemployment in 25 years. If you look at the policies of Donald Trump, OK, anybody, Martin Luther King would be proud of him of what he's done for the black and Hispanic community for jobs.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): You think Martin Luther King would be proud of Donald Trump as president?

BANNON: His economic policies to black. By the way, it's the lowest unemployment in recorded history. You don't think Martin Luther King would be proud? Look at the unemployment we had in the black community five years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURRY: And how are you today, my friend?

(LAUGHTER)

[23:55:05] LEMON: What do you say to that?

CURRY: You know what I really do say? We must have the conversation. He must have the conversation with people who disagree profoundly with him and sit in a room and let's figure out a way so that no child goes to bed hungry, so that (INAUDIBLE) children's defense fund, so that they don't have to do their work anymore because our children are taken care of, because our kids are getting educated in schools. If we would find a way to work together to do this, sacrificially, unselfishly --

LEMON: Yeah.

CURRY: We could do it.

LEMON: Listen, I think people -- I see that you're hedging a little bit. People can read between the lines, but I see what you're saying. I see what you're saying. You don't want it to be Republican versus Democrat because you think that's our problem, right?

CURRY: That's our problem. We're too divided.

LEMON: Too divided.

CURRY: Yeah.

LEMON: Any political aspirations? Would you ever run for president?

CURRY: No.

LEMON: No political aspiration?

CURRY: No political aspiration. All I want to do, I hope I can be a spiritual help. I really do.

LEMON: That's it?

CURRY: That's it.

LEMON: There are going to be a lot of Democrats and progressives who will be disappointed because there's already talk about you running.

CURRY: Oh, thank you, Don. God bless you.

LEMON: It is an honor.

CURRY: You're incredible.

LEMON: I really appreciate it. So are you. Thank you so much. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I will see you right back here tomorrow.

[24:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)