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Andrew Mccabe's Memo On Comey's Firing Is Now With Robert Mueller; President Trump Weighs In On The Issue Of Roseanne Barr's Racist Tweets; Kim Kardashian Meets With President Trump To Discuss Prison Reform; President Trump Silent On Roseanne's Racist Tweet; New Book: After Trump's Victory Obama Asked What If We Were Wrong. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired May 30, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: -- and we have breaking news on the Russia investigation. Former FBI official, Andrew McCabe feared that Rod Rosenstein helped provide President Trump with a cover story for the firing of James Comey. So he wrote a separate memo about it last spring, a memo that's now in the hands of Robert Mueller, as the "New York Times" first reported. More on what that secret memo said in just a moment.
But it comes on a day where the president finally weighed in on the controversy over Roseanne Barr's tweet and just couldn't resist making it all about Donald Trump. Yes, President Trump said that undeniably racist tweet comparing Valerie Jarrett to an ape and he decided he was due an apology tweeting, quote, Bob Iger of ABC called Valerie Jarrett to let her know that ABC does not tolerate comments like those mad by Roseaane Barr. Gee, he never called President Donald J. Trump to apologize for the horrible statements made and said about me on ABC. Maybe I just didn't get the call?
There does seem to be something he didn't get. The president seems to think he's the victim here. He thinks he deserves an apology, even though he's never apologized for one word of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapist.
Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shut down of Muslims entering the United States.
You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group -- excuse me, excuse me, I saw the same pictures as you did.
Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a (BLEEP) off the field right now, out. He's fired. He's fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That is pure racism. And the president is cynically using that racism to appeal to his base. We're learning tonight that in a phone call last fall with Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones, the president said, quote, this is a very winning strong issue for me. That is according to the "Wall Street Journal." Just another example of this president framing everything in terms of whether or not it is a win for him. But this is not a game.
And don't forget Donald Trump's entire political career was founded on the racist birther lie that Barack Obama was not born in this country. A lie that he reportedly still believes. All that probably explains why the president has failed to condemn the blatant racism of Roseanne's tweet. And instead sends Sarah Sanders out to double down today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY: The president is simply calling out the media bias. No one's defending what she said. The president is the president of all Americans and he's focused on doing what is best for our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What is best for our country would actually be condemning racism in all forms. Not what aboutism, not I'm the victim. Well Roseanne appears to be having some trouble understanding that too. Tweeting today, quote, I'm not a racist. I never was and never will be. One stupid joke in a lifetime of fighting for civil rights for all minorities against networks, studios at the expense of my nervous system, family, wealth, will never be taken from me.
Well, you can't wash away a racist attack by calling it a stupid joke. There's nothing funny about it. And Roseanne is not a victim. She is paying the price for what she did. And in that, she's got something in common with another '90s superstar, one whose legacy is tarnished as forever as well. How the mighty have fallen. Much more on that a little bit later on the show, but I want to get to you some significant breaking news now.
This is on the Russia investigation. I want to bring in now CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, CNN political analyst Ryan Lizza and Jack Quinn, the former White House counsel to President Clinton. Good evening. A lot to get to.
Dana, you first. I want to start with this breaking news. A reporting about the former FBI director Andrew McCabe, in a secret memo he feared that -- reportedly felt that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein helped the president with a cover story for the Comey firing. And here's the kicker, Mueller has the memo. That's big.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is potentially big, Don. There's no question. A couple of things though to unpack here. First of all, we have -- we knew, because it was in public, at least the initial reason for firing James Comey, came from a memo prepared by Rod Rosenstein.
[22:05:00] Remember back then, that it was actually taken from kind of an internal memo, an internal report on James Comey's actions as FBI director, a critique. And realtime, we reported that that was kind of the ultimate explanation that they used after an initial memo written with the president and Stephen Miller that was a lot more explicit saying we're firing James Comey because of, you know, several things, including Russia. So, we understood that this was part of the explanations because it was in public.
What Andrew McCabe apparently has done in these memos is talk about the fact that it wasn't just about the conflict that James Comey had in overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation but he initially talked about Russia as well. So, we'll see how sort of inflaming those and how bad those are for the president ultimately when we see what Robert Mueller has.
But I think in the short-term, we also have to remember that Andrew McCabe is somebody who had a conflict with Rod Rosenstein, who didn't always see eye to eye with a lot of people inside the FBI, and obviously we also know that he is the subject of his own inspector general report that didn't do so well. So, there are a lot of conflicting characters and story lines that Robert Mueller understands he has to sift through.
LEMON: And then talk about Shakespearean here, the palace intrigue. So, let's unpack this a little bit more, Jack. Andrew McCabe recounts a conversation with Rosenstein. Here's what he told the "New York Times." First outlined it. Here's how they did it. They said, but in the meeting at the Justice Department Mr. Rosenstein added a new detail. He said the president had originally asked him to reference Russia in his memo, the people familiar with the conversation said. So, Jack, the Rosenstein memo was about Comey's handling of the Clinton investigation, but the president wanted the memo to reference Russia. Does that reveal the true reason for the president's decision to fire Comey?
JACK QUINN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: I think it bolsters the reasons that have been out there and that have manifest. I don't know who, you know, in this country thinks that the firing of James Comey did not have to do a great deal with the issue of the Russia investigation. The president has acknowledged that to Lester Holt. He has acknowledged that in any number of situations. Rudy Giuliani has acknowledged it.
I mean, it's inescapable that the Russia investigation was paramount on his mind when he decided to fire James Comey. My goodness, he told all these officials from Russia in the Oval Office that's why he fired him and, you know, the pressure was relieved by his so doing. I think -- you didn't ask me this, but I think Andrew McCabe's fingerprints are all over the "New York Times" story and I think that this story is something that a shot across Rod Rosenstein's bow --
QUINN: -- and, you know, I think in addition, this, you know, was calculated to enhance Bob Mueller's role. I don't know who -- for one thing, I sure hope Rod Rosenstein isn't conflicted out of this investigation not because, you know, I have any fondness for him, but because I think it would be a nightmare if the deputy attorney general had to be replaced in the middle of this.
LEMON: Okay. I want to bring Ryan in. Ryan, Jack mentioned what the president said to Lester Holt. So let's bring that back, play that and then we'll discuss. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK, Ryan, so it's your turn. So Russia -- this is another example of him saying, Russia was on my mind here.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, Jack laid it out. This is -- this new report by the "New York Time" gives us one more data point where Trump very specifically told someone he was taking this action because of Russia. Now we don't know a lot more than Russia. The "Times" report doesn't spell out if he went full on that but that way Russia was the very least mentions to Rosenstein according to this report.
So we have Giuliani recently saying it was about Russia. We have Trump telling Lester Holt it was about Russia. We have Trump telling the Russians in the Oval Office that it was about Russia.
[22:10:03] LEMON: But it wasn't about Russia Ryan and --
LIZZA: But the official reason is -- still the official reason was this -- was that Comey was too mean to Hillary Clinton during a 2016 election. I mean, it's laughable when you say it like that but that is what the Rod Rosenstein memo was, right. He said Comey abused his office by being mean to Hillary Clinton.
And so, it was laughable at the time, nobody believe that. The question is, does this add up to obstruction of justice and, you know, that's the legal debate we're going to be having going forward.
LEMON: Dana, can you hold that on the other side because I need to get to the break. I promise you I'll get you another side. Jack, thank you very much. Dana and Ryan stick around. Lot's more to talk about.
When we come back, President Trump has a long list of grievances against ABC. A really long list, but should the president really be expecting any apologies when he never seems to apologize for anything, anything that he has said?
LEMON: So, President Trump could have condemned Roseanne Barr's racist tweet. He could have but he obviously did not. Instead, he made the whole thing about himself, the victim-in-chief, and his long, long list of grievances against ABC.
[22:15:02] Back with me now, Dana Bash and Ryan Lizza. Joining our political discussion is CNN political commentator David Swerdlick. Welcome David. So why don't we start with you. President Trump didn't denounce Roseanne Barr's racism instead he went after the head of ABC's parent company for apologizing to Valerie Jarrett and not to him. Me, me, me?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I mean, first of all as you said, he made it all about himself, but also he missed an opportunity to change the tune that's been the whole tune for whole time that he's been president and when he was running for president, that he did not have a true regard for trying to be the leader of all Americans.
He's missed so many of these opportunities and we're at the point now where if you can't take a clearly racist tweet by Roseanne Barr and simply say as president, look, either not say anything at all or condemn it in the strongest terms, the message you're sending to people is either, A, that I at least personally, you know, think there's some merit to this kind of tone and vitriol that we see inn our discourse.
Or you're at least saying, I don't care enough about the feelings of the people offended by this tweet and frankly all Americans should be offended by this tweet to take a stand as the head of state, as the leader of the free world, as the president of the nation, to make a statement about it. And you're leaving people with the opportunity to then say, well, the president clearly doesn't care about this, doesn't have the right view on this for the leader of the kind of society that Americans believe they should have.
LEMON: Dana, it's a good point. It's so simple, you know, Roseanne Barr's show spoke to people who don't normally have a voice, but her tweet doesn't speak for the majority of Americans and we condemn it and we should be, you know, we should get this out of the way and stop. So why make --
LEMON: -- a controversy -- done. Why make it all about him and not about the issue?
BASH: I mean, that's the presidential statement that could have, should have, would have happened under any other circumstance, you know. As I was listening to David talk, I was thinking about the definition of insanity. This is a plan, but is to do something over and over again and expect a different result. In this case, it's to watch something happen over and over and again and expect a different result.
And I think in that way we're kind of all feeling that, are we insane to expect this different result? We shouldn't be. We should expect a president, any president of any party, any leader of any party in this country to say, we can condemn in the strongest of terms anything that even smacks of racism, and this did more than smack of it. But he doesn't do it. He just doesn't do it. And I will expect, and I think all of us will expect that our leader will do that and hope that it changes, but I don't really put a lot of stock in that potentially happening.
LEMON: And yet, Sarah Sanders echoed the president today and offered up a list of grievances the president has against ABC. Ryan, watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Where was Bob Iger's apology to the White House staff where Jemele Hill calling the president and anyone associated with him a white supremacist? To Christians around the world for Joy Behar calling Christianity a mental illness?
Where was the apology for Kathy Griffin going on a profane rant against the president on "The View" after a photo showed her holding President Trump's decapitated head? And where was the apology from Bob Iger for ESPN hiring Keith Olbermann after his numerous expletive- laced tweets attacking the president as a Nazi and even expanding Olbermann's role after that attack against the president's family.
This is a double standard that the president is speaking about. No one is defending her comments. They are inappropriate, but that's what the point that he was making.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Look, I'm not here Ryan to defend ABC. Some of the things she said were factually incorrect there and there's also the matter of context. Context is everything. These remarks set a tone that the Trump administration has stuck to, taking occasion that have traditionally been about others, they're needs, losses, their sacrifices and making them about Donald Trump's own grievances or accomplishments, right?
LIZZA: Yeah, I mean, put aside the fact that some of the stuff she said was factually incorrect or there would be as apples and some oranges comparison if you wanted to go through her list, I think you could have a real problem with the gravity of some of the things she talked about versus what Roseanne Barr said.
But put all that aside, this is what we talk about when we talk about what aboutism, rRight? The issue at hand is that one of Donald Trump's most prominent -- maybe not most prominent, but a prominent supporter of Donald Trump who he has had a friendly relationship with, said something that was so offensive and racist that she lost one of the highest rated shows in America.
[22:20:03] And, I mean, the president doesn't have to weigh in on that, right. The White House doesn't have to weigh in on that. They might think it's not important. But to make a decision to weigh in on it, and then the lead that your top line statement is not just at the beginning a condemnation, that is, you know, both incompletely predictable because we've seen this presidency for quite a while now, and, you know, still sort of shocking because we are used to presidents treating racism a certain way.
And, you know, to Dana's point a second ago, you know, as soon as Roseanne tweeted that, I think all of us could have written the script for the last 24 hours without getting most of these details wrong. You could have -- you knew she was going to get fired. You knew the outrage that was going to ensue. You knew that Trump was going to handle it in some horrible way that was different than a normal president.
LIZZA: It's, you know, it's sad that it's that predictable because we knew this was going to happen and we're getting used to this.
LEMON: Well David, two things. You can't say that , you know -- well maybe he didn't have to respond to it, but he did sort of, you know, elevate, if you will, Roseanne by saying, oh, you know, the show speaks -- she gets us or whatever, look at her ratings, and he talked about it a lot. And then there's the other issue, he has a track record of inappropriate and disrespectful statements. Watch this.
(BEGIUN VIDEO CLIPS)
TRUMP: Some of the media is terrific, but most of it, 70 percent, 75 percent is absolute dishonest, absolute scum. Remember that, scum.
Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a (BLEEP) off the field right now. Out, he's fired.
Written by a nice reporter. Now the poor guy, you got to see this guy, oh, I don't know what I said, I don't remember. He's going like, I don't remember, maybe that's what I said.
He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK. I hate to tell you that.
When Mexico sends its people they're not sending their best. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapist and some I assume are good people.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
LEMON: The media's saying mean things about me, but did you hear what he said? Where are the apologies for those comments, any of those comments, David?
SWERDLICK: And we won't ever get one. Look, the Navajo Code Talkers event, the Judge Curiel comments, the birtherism, the list is too long to name. The president never acknowledges those, he mischaracterizes some of those other people that Sarah Sanders was attacking, people like Jemele Hill. They didn't say things on the level of what Roseanne Barr tweeted.
And then finally again, you're the president of the United States, if you didn't want to bring people together in these moments, you should not have run for the job, that is part of the job.
LIZZA: The president often says that he is the least racist person you'll ever meet.
LEMON: He told that to me in an interview.
LIZZA: I am starting to think, Don, that that may not actually be the case.
LEMON: Oh, you don't say. Thank you all. I appreciate it.
LIZZA: Thanks, Don.
SWERDLICK: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: When we come back, President Trump says he had a great meeting at the White House today with Kim Kardashian. We're going to tell you what they talked about. A
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump wasn't the only reality T.V. star in the White House today. Kim K. made her way to the Oval Office. I'm talking about Kim Kardashian. There she is standing next to the president. The president tweeted, great meeting with Kim Kardashian today. Talked about prison reform and sentencing. And she replied tonight, I would like to thank President Trump for his time this afternoon. It is our hope that the president will grant clemency to Ms. Alice Marie Johnson who is serving a life sentence for a first time, non-violent drug offense.
Let's discuss now, Van Jones is here. The host of "The Van Jones Show." Joan Walsh, CNN political commentator and April Ryan, CNN political analyst. Good evening to all of you. April, what do you know about this meeting with the president and Kim Kardashian on prison reform? We know this is a key issue for Jared Kushner.
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what I do know, you know, the White House didn't want to leak out any information. But as you just said it yourself, she has an issue that she wants to or a person that she wants basically pardoned. But here's the issue, this is a hard issue for Jared Kushner. But because his father was in prison, but at the same time this is part of this urban agenda that we've talked about that this president wants to roll out.
He is bringing in people from everywhere to include people like Mark Morial, the head of the National Urban League, who says, you know, there are areas that we can push back, but there are areas that we can find common ground on. And Mark Morial and the National Urban League, they work on issues of job training and apprenticeship and things of that nature.
But then you have Hill lawmakers like Hakeem Jeffries of New York who is actually working with the administration on possibly helping to get something to move forward. But here's -- the devil is in the details. It's about, for this White House, it is about prison reform. It is not about sentencing reform. Sentencing reform and prison reform again are like fraternal twins. You have to be sentenced going to prison and a lot of people talk about prison being something, you know, privatization making money, profitability on it.
But the issue of sentencing, the White House is saying Jeff Sessions didn't want anything to do with it, but you have congressional black caucus members who are saying that all the White House has to do is listen to Senator Grassley, Republican Senator Grassley as it relates to the reduction in sentencing --
LEMON: And this is --
RYAN: -- and go with that, but they don't want to do it. So this is kind of -- yes, go ahead.
LEMON: Yes, this is something that Van Jones really has knowledge about because you support a prison reform bill, this is (inaudible) it recently passed the House, right.
VAN JONES, CNN HOST: Yes, with Jared Kushner.
LEMON: Do they -- speaking of what April said, do they recognize a tremendous racial disparities not only in this but also in sentencing as well, that the two, as she said, are fraternal twins?
JONES: Well, (inaudible) a couple of things, can we just say hats off to Kim Kardashian for going to the White House and trying to get something done.
[22:30:01] Ms. Alice has been in prison since 1996 for a first -- she's a 63-year-old grandmother, first time drug offense and she can never get paroled. Can you imagine this?
So the idea that Kim Kardashian -- people have always underestimated her. She is not a household name because he's a dummy.
JONES: She's a brilliant. She is now using her marketing to try to...
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Van. Van. Van. She's a household name for something else.
LEMON: I was waiting for you to say that because...
RYAN: She's a household name for something else, Van.
LEMON: ... because I wanted to put this up. And again, we are treating this -- I'm treating this seriously because I think it's a good thing if she does it, and I saw the cover of the New York Post, and I actually thought it was appalling. Could we put it up because -- and I though it was sexist. And, Joan, I don't know if you...
JOAN WALSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I saw that.
LEMON: She didn't use her -- she's using her platform for good now.
LEMON: And for them to put out a Kim thong on, which is whatever, so...
JONES: And that is disgusting.
LEMON: It is. So you take Stormy Daniels seriously, but you don't take Kim Kardashian seriously. She is trying to do something good.
WALSH: Right. No. It's appalling. It's just a disgusting cover. I'm glad she's trying to do something good. I will say Donald Trump has said worse things about Kim Kardashian...
WALSH: ... in the past. But, you know, she's there. She's trying to do something good. I mean, you know, April makes the point that they are detaching this from sentencing reform, and we need sentencing reform. But, Van -- I've known Van since he was working on these issues in San Francisco.
JONES: Twenty years ago.
WALSH: Twenty or 30 -- maybe not 30.
WALSH: Twenty-five. And so it would be important, the conditions in prison are appalling, the fact that people can't get out, the fact that there's no rehabilitation. These -- if we can find some common ground on this one issue, I'd be happy with that.
LEMON: Yes. So I want to play something that we heard from President Trump. This is last night in this rally in Nashville. He made a comment about African-American voters. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Remember when I make a speech, and I talk about African-American, and I'd say, highest crime rate, bad education, I'd go like 10 points, and they are always voting, African-American votes for Democrats for the most part. You know, vast majority, they have been doing it for over 100 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, since the 1960s.
JONES: Fifty years.
LEMON: Fifty years.
WALSH: Also can we say African-American were traditionally...
RYAN: ... a little over 50 years ago.
WALSH: African-Americans were traditionally Republican because they were the party of Lincoln. Dr. King -- Daddy King was a Republican. Dr. King was not. But this idea -- first of all, he gets the facts wrong, many black people couldn't vote until 1965 with the Voting Rights Act.
And then he get the facts wrong again because there used to be a huge black constituency at the Republican Party that they actually kicked out -- literally kicked out.
LEMON: But that is important, Van. That is important for people to know because there are probably people who are here in this country, and supporters who think that African-Americans have been voting for 100 years.
LEMON: And they should know, no, it had been about 50 years, and even then...
LEMON: Right, you had to count the number of jelly beans in a jar, the number of, you know.
JONES: All kinds of bureaucracy.
LEMON: All kinds of...
JONES: All kinds of barriers to voting.
JONES: I think what Trump is trying to do though is something we should take seriously.
JONES: There is a push now for Trump to try to split off some number of African-Americans. The prison reform effort may be a part of that. As much as I like the prison reform effort, there could be a political calculation.
Also, you have, I think coming up very soon a big you reach to African-American business owners. So you're going to see these out reaches, and it's going to -- it's going to be up to African-Americans to determine -- we might agree on policy things.
But politically, can we support an administration that on the one hand might give you a policy web, and then will dehumanize you, and degrade you. That's going to be, I think, a moral challenge for black leaders. LEMON: That's a real question. Especially when he's a national, it doesn't seem like he can get beyond campaign mode. And if he could, and get down with some real issues that affects African-Americans, and also learn the history of African-Americans voting in this country. It could make a difference. I don't know if it's, you know, too farfetched. What do you think?
RYAN: History's important. You know, this president traveled to the African-American History Museum on Culture. I mean, he had an abbreviated tour. He needs to really have someone in his camp to understand the minutia, the nuances of the black community.
It's not just cut and dry, it's not just I see it and that's it. It's hundreds from the time that blacks were brought in the bellies of ships making the middle passage to this country. It's always -- this community has the highest numbers of negatives in almost every category.
And last night national, the President was talking about blacks, and voting, well, that is a subject that many of the members of Congressional Black Caucus are very upset about, particularly as their saying that this Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is not firmly to the ideal of voting rights for black people.
So -- and then Van was just talking about going into African-America businesses, there is a big issue when it comes to access to capital in the black community.
[22:35:06] And minorities said, that's things of that nature, you know, infrastructure for schools. There are so many issues that are on the table. And the question is, how will this administration listen? Will they really have the ear, and heart to listen.
RYAN: It's not just about legislation and policy initiative, it's about heart, too.
JONES: I do want to say on this prison reform issue, and criminal justice reform, it is a good thing that there's at least one issue. Look, I got 99 conflicts with the Trump administration, but prisons aren't one.
It's good that there's at least one issue that might advance the cause of poor folks, African-Americans, Latinos, and others that we could actually get something done on.
I also think, you know, the dismissal of Kim Kardashian based on the mistake that she made when she was a young woman. I'm just tired of that. She -- a lot of people have had made that kind of mistake with the sex tape.
But they have not been gone on to build, you know, multi-hundred, $1 million, $1 billion businesses. And so, part of what has to happen, if we believe in redemption, if we believe in second chances, for Ms. Alice, for the federal 200,000 prisoners... LEMON: For everybody.
JONES: ... or for everybody, then let's believe it for everybody, and applaud people when they do the right thing. For once that's a plot people will do the right thing.
LEMON: You stole my ending.
JONES: I did?
WALSH: Oh, no.
LEMON: That's always going to end with something. And I was also going to that, like it or not, she does have black kids.
LEMON: And so, you know what I mean.
LEMON: In some ways she's looking...
JONES: Listen, I applaud the Trump administration for dealing with this. I applaud Kim Kardashian. I will fight them on 99 issues, but on prison let's get something done.
LEMON: The devil's in the details though.
LEMON: The devil's in the details. Thank you very much, I appreciate that. Don't miss the Van Jones show Saturday night at 7:00 eastern right here on CNN, his special guest this week, actor Jim Parsons and conservative activist Candace Owens.
When I come back, is America more divided under President Trump than it has been for 150 years? Carl Bernstein thinks we are now in the middle of a Cold Civil War? He's going to explain that next.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Tonight President Trump weighs in on Roseanne Barr's racist tweet without mentioning her racist tweet, instead making the whole thing about him, and his grievances. Is he using racism to divide America? Let's discuss now.
CNN Political Analyst Carl Bernstein is here, CNN Global Affairs Analyst Max Boot, he is the author of the Road Not Taken. Good to both of you. Fascinating what you're saying, and what you wrote today, so let's talk about it.
Carl, I'm going to start with you say obviously, there is a tweet for everything, right? This was six years ago. President Trump tweeted this, perhaps Barack Obama's biggest shortcoming as president is fail to unite the country. You say that this is a Cold Civil War in America. So explain me why do you think this country is more divided under Trump.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well first of all, I think Trump did not start the Cold Civil War that we're in, but rather he has brought it to the point of ignition. And to a parallel moment in our history, where people on both sides of this Cold Civil War are dug in, and there is scorched earth particularly as Max has pointed out in his column, disproportionately on the President's side are they dug in.
But what unites all the news that we're hearing, and you're talking about tonight is really that this President is the president of his base, he's not the president of all the people of the United States. He does not aspire to be, or appeal to the people of the United States as a whole.
He intends to govern for the cult, and the base that are his most avid followers. And that's something unique in our history. Max has a chair that he holds named after Gene Kirkpatrick, Ronald Reagan's U.N. ambassador.
Ronald Reagan would never act like this. This is a new development in our culture, and political history in which we have a president of the United States who does not aspire to the leadership of all the people of this country.
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think that's exactly right. And I think what makes Donald Trump so toxic is that he not only disagrees with the opposing party, he impugns their motivates.
And just yesterday in his rally in Nashville, in the last few days he's been saying, you know, Nancy Pelosi loves MS-13. I mean, that is bunkers, that is crazy, that is offensive to suggest that the minority leader of the house loves this criminal gang.
I mean, you can differ with Nancy Pelosi over here, stands on immigration, but should not be suggesting that she is rooting for criminals. And that is something that Donald Trump does routinely.
LEMON: So why does he -- before I get to your column. So, this is what gets me, he says the nastiest things about people, about groups of people, about situation, about everything, but in turn expects people to only report on him glowingly, and have positive comments about him, and the people who support him, the base that you said, they expect the same thing. That makes absolutely no sense. It's not even logical. What's happening here?
BOOT: I think you put your finger on this very interesting paradox, Don, which is that on the one hand, they -- you know, they sling personal insults, and invective, and accuse the other side of treason, and then are on a routine kind of basis, and they also play the victim card, whenever somebody hits back at them.
He criticizes them in return, and you saw that today with Donald Trump, he expects an apology from ABC for all of the statements that he finds offensive, where as he says things that are 10 times more offensive on a daily basis. LEMON: Yes.
BERNSTEIN: He does not -- Max, I don't believe he expects an apology. He knows what he's doing.
BERNSTEIN: He knows what he's doing.
BOOT: He's playing the victim card.
BERNSTEIN: And his numbers have been going up the more he does this...
LEMON: This will help you make your point because you say that this Roseanne story, this tweet shows both sides of this war that you talk about. We will play for the Washington Post, they asked some Trump supporters what they thought about the cancellation of Roseanne, watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATT HUNTER, AMERICAN CITIZEN: I was really disappointed in it because you had so many people out here speaking their opinions against the president, it's OK, so, The View, CNN special, say whatever they want, and get away with it.
[22:45:01] But Roseanne Barr makes a tweet, talking about someone who's acting really trashy, and just describe what two people if they had a kid, or tow beings really, they thought it's about people if they had a kid it would look like that person, and they went, and cancel her show. It's not right.
LYNN BARRINGTON, AMERICAN CITIZEN: It was not a wise thing to say. I don't think it was correct to say, but she apologized, and I think that many, many people have said horrible things, much worse to our president and vice president, and they haven't lost their television show, they haven't lost their movie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The first guy, I have no idea what he was talking about, he probably doesn't know what he's talking about because he doesn't -- I mean, I hate to be -- honestly he's ignorant of the facts. And the second lady I'm sure is a nice lady, but she is not -- she's ignorant of the facts as well.
BERNSTEIN: She may be, but the problem is the President of the United States not that women or man.
LEMON: Have we gotten to that point where we can't agree that something is blatantly racist? BERNSTEIN: Yes, we're at that point. Let me just make this point
about the President of the United States who's failed at any kind of moral or ethical leadership on any number of questions.
But particularly, he has trafficked in racism through his campaign. I'm not going to get in his head, and I don't know whether in his heart he's a racist, or not. He owned buildings in Baltimore where he refuse to rent to African-Americans.
BOOT: He's not a racist, but he's a good imitation of one.
BERNSTEIN: But he traffics racism, and makes these racist appeals to his base. That again is where we always end up. Now, why is it? Because that is his political momentum, and his ability to stay in office, should the Mueller investigation become more and more problematic for him, which it is.
BOOT: And what's -- And what's tragic here is that conservatives who used to say that the moral tone set by the President really matter. They were excoriating Bill Clinton.
LEMON: Right. That's what you write about in your column.
LEMON: You're talking about moral tone of this. It's connected. You said, this should not be such a radical idea for conservatives. They should believe -- they should -- they used to believe that the President's conduct matter because it set a moral tone for the entire nation. And now, all of a sudden it does not matter.
BOOT: Exactly. And I mean, they talked about how dangerous it was to have Bill Clinton engage in these sexual dalliances, and they have nothing to say when there was blatant racism, and hatred domination from the Oval Office today.
LEMON: I've got to run and take a break. But I do have to say, listen, I understand -- and I said the same thing that he traffics in racism. Look, I don't know what's in David Duke's heart, but I know what he says. I know what his actions are.
BOOT: I don't know...
LEMON: I didn't know it was in George Wallace's heart, but I know what he did, and know what his actions were. I don't know what's in Donald Trump's heart, but I know what his says, and I know what his actions are, and if the evidence points you there, it is what it is. It's like Hollywood...
BOOT: It's terrible that his supporters will not admit it.
LEMON: Yes. We'll be right back.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: A bit of breaking news to tell you about tonight. President Barack Obama and what he said in the wake of Donald Trump's election victory. I'm back now with Carl Bernstein and Max Boot. Carl, this is to you. This is Peter Baker from The New York Times has a review in Ben Rhodes new book, and has some interesting details.
It talks about how President Obama reacted in the wake of Donald Trump's election with President Obama wondering out loud to aides, what if we were wrong, and here is an excerpt from him. He says I don't know President Obama told the aids, maybe this is what people want.
I've got the economy setup well for him. No facts, no consequences. They can just have a cartoon. He added that we are about to find out just how resilient our institutions are at home, and around the world.
BERNSTEIN: The last point is the one that our institutions, and the rest of the world, we are going to find out how resilient they are because Donald Trump has tested them as no modern president ever has. But again, he has tested them through conduct that is totally different than any other president, including criminal President of the United States Richard Nixon.
BERNSTEIN: We have never had a president who appeals to the lowest common denominator in terms of who we are as a people, who incredibly day, after day, after day makes no attempt to appeal to our better natures, to our higher selves, to policies, and to our higher selves.
BOOT: And a president who is so unrelenting on his assault on the rule of law and the Justice Department. I mean, it's just something that Richard Nixon did in secret, and Donald Trump is doing it for everybody to see him, everyday we see new assaults on the Attorney General, on the Deputy Attorney General, on the FBI, on the Special Counsel, and he is getting away with it. In fact, he's mobilizing his base behind him.
LEMON: Well, that's what the former president said. He said maybe this is what people want. I've got the economy set up well for him which is true because he's -- look, we can give him credit but he didn't. No facts, no consequences.
BERNSTEIN: If the Mueller investigation goes on, and what we know the President keeps saying no collusion, no collusion, in fact we have evidence of an openness to collusion by members of his own family. Eagerness to...
LEMON: Did you feel, Carl, during Watergate that the truth might never come out?
BERNSTEIN: Yes. Yes. I think we both probably felt that at times. And -- but we know more at this point in this investigation than we did at a similar... (CROSSTALK)
BERNSTEIN: ... about some things.
LEMON: OK, I want to play this because I think it's important because the President's supporters, they're trying -- they're continually setting up this conspiracy theory, right, where there's one really important Republican who's just not buying it. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I'm even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.
When the President finds out what happened he's going to be, not just fond, he's going to be glad that glad we have an FBI that took seriously what they heard.
[22:55:06] I think the FBI if they were at the table this morning, they would tell you Russia was the target, and Russia's intentions toward our country were the target. The fact that two people who were loosely connected with the Trump campaign may have been involved, doesn't diminish the fact that Russia was the target, and not the campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I've got a short time, and I want both of you to weigh in. Do you think that this is significant?
BOOT: Well, of course. I mean, this is another crazy Trump conspiracy theory biting the dust. We have a Republican congressman saying, there's nothing to spygate, which is exactly what we knew, and just as there was nothing -- all these previous Trump conspiracy theories claiming that Obama wiretapped him, or unmasked aides, or that there was a conspiracy among these FBI agents to frame him. It's one after another.
But what's dismaying to me, Don, is that even though these theories have no substance to them, we know that when they are put out these, and they are knocked down very quickly.
Nevertheless, it's taking a toll with Trump supporters when you see polls like only 17 percent of Republicans support the Mueller investigation, Trump is basically throwing enough doubt out there to cast the investigation into disrepute among his followers, and that's how...
BERNSTEIN: He has thus far. But when you start to see people like Trey Dowdy, the tormenter of Hillary Clinton in Benghazi, say what he does, and you hear Mitch McConnell in the past week saying that the special prosecutor's investigation must be protected for the first time, there seems to be some real movement among some influential Republicans to put a line down that Donald Trump can't cross. And that has got Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani in particularly, who's
speaking in tongues these days, that has the two of them so bollixed...
LEMON: OK, I'm out of time.
BERNSTEIN: ... so boxed up that if you talk to people in the White House, they tell you they don't know what to do about this fact that the line may not hold.
LEMON: All right, thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate that. Fascinating comments. You can read Max's column, President Trump is Normalizing Racism in the Washington Post. We'll be right back.
LEMON: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. It is 11:00 p.m. here on the east coast, live with new developments tonight on the Russia investigation. Former FBI official Andrew McCabe fear that Rod --