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CNN TONIGHT

McCabe Turned Over Memo On Comey's Firing To Robert Mueller; Avenatti Alleges Michael Cohen Recorded Inappropriate Conversations; Donald Trump Jr. Retweets Roseanne's Anti-Semitic Comments; Why Is Donald Trump Jr. Pushing Conspiracy Theory; Trump, Kaepernick, And The NFL. Aired 11p-12m ET

Aired May 30, 2018 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Don Lemon. It is 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. Live with new developments tonight 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 secret memo about it last spring, a memo that is now in the hands of Robert Mueller as a "New York Times" first reporter. More on what that secret memo said in just a moment.

Plus new allegations from Stormy Daniels attorney, Michael Avenatti. He said Trump Attorney, Michael Cohen, recorded conversations, including conversations with Donald Trump and he wants them released to the public. A lot to get to, but joining me now, straight out, Michael Avenatti. Thank you so much for joining us. So you said that Michael Cohen recorded inappropriate conversations with his client.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIEL'S ATTORNEY: Correct.

LEMON: Basing that statement on what?

AVENATTI: Well, I'm basing that on two things, well, three things actually. I am basing it on a call that I received from a reporter last week asking me about a specific questions about a recording relating to the communication that had occurred between Michael Cohen and Mr. Davidson relating to my client. So, that is the first thing.

The second thing I'm basing it on, is Mr. Ryan, Mr. Cohen's attorney's admissions in open court today, relating to the fact that this recordings actually exist and very likely relate to the President of the United States.

And then the third thing I'm basing it on is a source that we have and additional evidence that strongly suggests and in fact shows on at least one of these recordings that Donald Trump and Michael Cohen are conversing.

LEMON: So, what is on these tapes that the public needs to know about, conversing and what?

AVENATTI: Well, there's, I mean there's a whole host of things relating to these tapes concerning communication between the President and Michael Cohen on a whole host of topics. And we believe ultimately when those tapes are released the American public is going to learn that is shows a -- or likely shows a conspiracy to commit various federal offenses.

LEMON: So you are calling these tapes, you call them the Trump tapes.

AVENATTI: That is correct.

LEMON: And to -- which are evidence at the President is on these tapes. Is that by calling the Trump tapes you are saying --

AVENATTI: Well, I think, I just stated that we have significant evidence --

LEMON: You said there's significant evidence that there are tapes, but not the President was on the tapes.

AVENATTI: Correct. I just told you that there were three sources of evidence that suggest to us that these tapes exist and I also told you that we have significant reason to believe, in fact we have more than significant reason. I know that on at least one of these recordings, the President is on one of the recordings. And look, if we're wrong, Don, lets Mr. Ryan, Mr. Cohen's counsel who's been very vocal in his criticism of me, let him come on your show tomorrow night or any other show and claim that there's no recordings of Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump.

He is not going to do that, because he knows to make that representation would be false. These tapes exist. They're incredibly damaging. Michael Cohen should have never been recording conversations with the President, Mr. Davidson and others. And ultimately it's going to come back and bite Michael Cohen and the President.

LEMON: Do you think that these tapes, what's on them, contains attorney-client privilege?

AVENATTI: I think certain information on some of these tapes may be covered by the attorney-client privilege. But there may be an exception called the client product exemption to that privilege in that if Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen were conversing about activities that may constitute the commission of a crime that would not be protected under the attorney-client privilege under what is called the crime (inaudible).

LEMON: So, today it was revealed that they were -- that Michael Cohen shredded some things and the FBI is trying to patch them back together. They said they needed a couple of weeks to figure it out. What is that all about?

AVENATTI: Well, evidently, Don, they have forensic specialists in Quantico, Virginia, the FBI lab that are now trying to piece together information that was found in the shredder of Michael Cohen at the time of the FBI raids. Evidently Michael Cohen was too dense and too cheap to invest in what's called a cross cut shredder in which case nothing can be pieced back together. Evidently he has one of these cheap sheet shredder that allows for the reconstitution of documents. And that is why they are looking to reconstitute these documents. It's going to be very interesting as it relates to the documents that were shredded right before the FBI raids.

LEMON: So, I've heard attorneys weigh in on this and they say anytime the FBI is trying to put together -- back together shredded documents, that does not bode well for you, if you're the person that they're investigating. What do you say to that?

AVENATTI: Well, I agree 100 percent. I mean, I've been saying for weeks that Michael Cohen is going to face considerable federal charges, criminal charges. There's no question that is going to happen. He is in a very, very bad place. This case gets worse and worse for him, Don, by the day. Michael Cohen should be spending morning, noon and night in the U.S. attorney's office in the Southern District of New York. He ought to be cutting a deal right now.

LEMON: So, you -- so today, you said that it wasn't going well for him. Do you think today went well for you, because the Judge said you couldn't be a party in this, and then you dropped, right? Didn't you drop your claim that you wanted to be a party of this? What happen in court today?

[23:05:08] AVENATTI: No. We had a discussion with the Judge relating to whether we were going to formally intervene in the case. That was tabled by an agreement between us and the government. We then had a further discussion as it relates our motion, my motion to be admitted into the case formally. She indicated that she was going to postpone that and she was going to take it up in connection with the motion to intervene which I just touch on. And ultimately after the hearing, we withdrew that motion, because we determined that there was no need for it to sit out there un-ruled on for weeks on end, and we'll probably refile it when and if the appropriate time arises.

LEMON: You did it without prejudice which means that you can bring it back up.

AVENATTI: Correct.

LEMON: She referred to you a thing on the publicity tour and suggested that you stop the publicity tour, because it is deferential to Michael Cohen getting a fair trial.

AVENATTI: Well, that is not exactly what she said. What she said was that in the event that I was formally admitted into the case that there are certain things that she would want me to adhere to. She referenced this term publicity tour which the press has picked up on. But many outlets have not reported what she said next which was, she was not using that in a derogatory sense, but rather she recognized the right to publicity and first amendment.

And look, Don, here is the bottom-line. I am not on a publicity tour. My client's not on a publicity tour. My client and I were on what's called a truth tour, and we have been on a truth tour now for about ten weeks. And that relates to the disclosure of evidence and facts relating to what happened here and when the President knew and knew it and what he did about it, period.

LEMON: So, I want to put up, this is the Wall Street Journal. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting saying that investigators believe that you're slowing down and complicating this investigation. How do you respond to that?

AVENATTI: That is ludicrous. I mean, I've talked to the U.S. Attorney's office on a regular basis, Don, almost on a daily basis. Sometimes multiple conversations or communications in a day. We have been very cooperative with the U.S. Attorney's office. We are providing documents to them. We are working closely with them as it relates to them completing their investigation. I don't know what the unnamed or who the unnamed sources are for this article in the Wall Street Journal, but it's without all basis.

LEMON: So, I have to ask you about this, because you know, it's been in the news that your personal life and finances have garnered a lot of attention lately. Lawsuits and those kinds of things. You've called it completely bogus, I think, B.S. maybe is something that you said. How do you respond to that? Do you think that has undermined your credibility?

AVENATTI: No, not at all, Don. I mean, look, I'm a guy doing a job. I'm an attorney representing an incredible client. I think I've done an admiral job. I don't think there's any question about that. This is all designed to distract away from the facts and the evidence relating to these cases. Designed to undermine my credibility. I think people see it for what it is. It's a bunch of nonsense. It's ironic to me that none of the other lawyers in the case, Mr. Ryan, and there's a lot of lawyers in that courtroom today, none of them have had their personal finances, their marital proceedings, et cetera examined by the press. I am looking forward to reading those articles, because they shouldn't just be all about me.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, Michael Cohen --

AVENATTI: Thank you.

LEMON: Michael Cohen --

AVENATTI: Please, whatever you do, don't call me anything other than Michael Cohen.

LEMON: That was good though.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. When we come back. A secret memo turned over to the Special Counsel's office by the former FBI Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe. More on that. About what the President specifically wanted to mention in the memo used to fire James Comey when we come back.

[23:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We have some breaking news tonight on the Russia investigation. The former FBI acting Director, Andrew McCabe, feared that Rod Rosenstein helped provide President Trump with a cover story for the firing of James Comey. So he wrote a secret memo about it and turned it over to Robert Mueller last spring.

Let's discuss now. Former federal corruption prosecutor, Kan Nawaday is here and also former federal prosecutor, and CNN legal analyst, Laura Coates. Good evening to both of you. So, Laura, let's start with you. In this memo by Andrew McCabe he says that President Trump had originally asked Rod Rosenstein to reference Russia in Rosenstein's Comey memo. Rosenstein didn't end up doing that, so what question -- does that raise any questions to you given what we know about how President Trump wanted Russia referenced?

LAURA COATES, CNN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL ANALYST: I think it answers several questions that we've had. Remember we've known through a variety of sources whether it be his meeting with the Russians in the White House or a statement to Lester Holt or a statement through Rudy Giuliani and a number of other sources that he actually did have Russia on the brains and that was one of his motivations and he wanted to craft a narrative around that.

Remember he said, I said to myself this Russia thing is a made up story. Now you have Andrew McCabe probably inadvertently perhaps maybe intentionally bolstering what the President had already said and giving further credence to his statement that Russia was one of his motivating factors. Now it ultimately shows some independent on the part of Rod Rosenstein who by all accounts did not even mean to try to have the role that he did in this overall investigation or the role he may have had in James Comey's firing. Because it puts him in a position at this point in time to perhaps be a witness and perhaps to be ask at some point whether he is conflicted out.

LEMON: So, that is a difficult position that it puts Rosenstein, that he is the guy overseeing the Mueller investigation.

COATES: Absolutely. That was always his concern remember. He didn't not understand or did not interpret or mean to have his memo referencing points of why he believes that James Comey use her patience of Loretta Lynch's role as the Attorney General by having that press conference was going to then put him into the water and wade him into the case. It did just that. And I think that was probably an unintentionally consequence, but one he should have anticipated.

LEMON: Yes. So, this is interesting Kan, because Rudy Giuliani would not rule out the President firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GUILIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: He is not going to fire him before this is over. More than I think he should.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before the special counsel's investigation he is not going to fire him? GUILIANI: There's got to be a resolution. Remember the Special

Counsel writes a report. Once the report is out, I'd have to read it. He takes whatever actions he believes is necessary as President, it may be some may want to leave.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And are you predicting he will in fact ask for his resignation or fire him?

GUILIANI: No. No. Look, I know -- I know Donald Trump for a long time and yes he gets angry. I do too, I'm very similar.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[23:15:03] LEMON: So, what do you think significant?

KAN NAWADAY, FORMER FEDERAL CORRUPTION PROSECUTOR: I actually think it makes abundant sense, right? Because really what's going on here, what Giuliani is saying is keep everything the way it is. And that is for the President's benefit and for the public's benefit. Because what everybody wants, and I actually agree with Mr. Giuliani on this. What everybody wants is that the process is above reproach. And so that is for the President's benefit as well. Because whatever happens we can't predict what's going to happen.

But what we can do is control the process. And if you assert any influence on that process, then whoever wins at the end of the day, if anyone is a loser at the end of the day, they can say, well you know what, I had a fair shake. And I think that is why Giuliani is saying, what he is saying and I think that is the right thing to do.

LEMON: What about -- he refers to it as yes, I get that known Donald Trump for a long time, you know, I get a manner of paraphrasing here, he is just sort of spouting off is what he is saying. But is that a fair assessment, because it appears he tries to influence his investigation in a number of ways either behind the scenes telling people, I would like to have this person fired to that or I want loyalty from you or some of his tweets?

NAWADAY: I think what this shows is maybe a turn in the way that the administration's approaching things. And I think what it shows is that perhaps now they're waiting to see it all play out. As ultimately is the way to go.

LEMON: Yes. Well, case in point, Laura, "The New York Times" has reported that President Trump tried to have the Attorney General Jeff Sessions un-recuse himself from the Russia investigation. I mean if true, could that seem as obstruction?

COATES: In and of itself, no. But what it does is lead to believe the larger conclusion and gives contextual clues about the fact that what are the stages and steps that were put in motion to have the overall obstruction case be built against the President of the United States if any. Remember the President seems to have a chicken versus the egg game playing out. And he believes that it was the firing or recusal of Jeff Sessions that let them of course led to in many ways the firing of James Comey was led to Special Counsel Appointment. But in reality, he has (inaudible) himself in every stages of that

process and it has led to this self-fulfilling prophecy that he in fact is or his campaign is being investigated the way it is. And so, in isolation every single stage is important, but not going to be critical in telling you its absolute obstruction.

But certainly if he is attempted to do so in a way to undermines the investigation and also begs the question of why do you require somebody's to be a loyalist, who's supposed to have a role over an objective agency, it begs the question to me, do you believe that if you do not have a loyalist then the process with what my colleague is talking about will ultimately lead to your particular indictment. Or do you think that the loyal have another function for you. To me there is only result.

LEMON: So, Kan, the President says that Mueller's investigation is meddling in the mid-term elections. And we know that he is considering an interview with the Special Counsel in January. Do you think that he is intentionally delaying or his attorneys may be deliberately delaying this process?

NAWADAY: I don't think you can tell either way. And I agree with Laura that there's, frankly, been a lot of inconsistency with the administration's approach with this investigation. So it's hard to say whether there are any delay tactics going on or whether this is really just a change in the approach.

LEMON: Yes. Ken Starr released the information I think it was in September and people said it was really close to the election and he was trying to do it on purpose. He said it was because the President then Clinton and his lawyers were delaying the process. Do you think that they'll release the findings, the Special Counsel's findings if it's close to the election?

NAWADAY: I think they're going to try their damnedest to avoid that. Because there's DOJ guidelines about when that type of information should come out, and you try to do it really far in advance of any election, because you don't want to influence any election.

LEMON: But Laura, it didn't seem to happen in the '16 election, but go on.

COATES: Well, exactly. And the point is, when you have deregulations that were issued by (inaudible), rubber stamp again by Eric Holder. It is so universally accepted that you do not want to have an investigation interfere in some way with the election. Which means that either you have to wrap it up beforehand or you had to do so after the election.

Well, Donald Trump has delayed unnecessarily the interview process, which would probably be the end of the investigation in a very large part. So he has delayed in some way, and I think he is using that as a strategic reason to try to get closer and closer to the mid-terms and closer and closer to the end of his first term of presidency if he tries to run for re-election. And the bottom line is he cannot have his cake and eat it too here.

You cannot try to say the process is important and then try to say it undermine the credibility of how it is run.

[23:20:00] You cannot say it's impeding the mid-term or influencing the mid-term elections and then delaying it to the point where, if he were to have an interview by the end of the summer, you are knocking on the door of the mid-term elections. So in many ways he is trying to have his cake and eat it too and I'm just not biting.

LEMON: All right. Thank you Laura. Thank Kan, I appreciate it. When we come back Donald Trump, Jr. retweeting Roseanne's conspiracy theory laid in tweets. And it is not the first time he has spread misinformation and lies online. How much of a problem is all this as the President's eldest son gears up for a role in the mid-term?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Roseanne Barr losing her hit ABC show after tweeting racist and anti-Semitic comments. But the President's own son Donald Trump, Jr. retweeted one of those comments from Barr and he is pushing the same debunked conspiracy theories. It's part of a pattern for Trump junior. Jason Caroll has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

JASON CAROLL, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: No apologies from Donald Trump, Jr. for retweeting the anti-Semitic tweets that played a role in getting Roseanne fired instead, early Wednesday, Trump Jr. again retweeting the same unproven conspiracy theory Barr did. The retweets says, Only in the crazy world of 2018 could Donald Trump, Jr. retweet a Jewish woman attacking a well-known and admitted Nazi sympathizer George Soros be considered anti-Semitic. Nonsense."

[23:25:16] Soros is a billionaire business magnet and a Democratic mega donor. He survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary as a 13 year- old Jewish boy. Wild conspiracy theories about him being a Nazi sympathizer, have been repeatedly debunked. Trump, Jr.'s re-tweets come after Barr's series of tweets falsely claims Chelsea Clinton was married to Soros's nephew and that Soros wanted to overthrow the U.S. Government. Trump Jr. senior adviser defended the re-tweets saying, one retweet certainly doesn't mean Don endorses every single thing someone believes.

He went onto lash out at the media saying its pieces like this that dishonestly use innuendo and six degrees of Kevin Bacon like separation to unjustly smear political enemies. That have led to fewer and fewer people trusting news outlets like CNN.

The President's eldest son has been one of his father's staunchest supporters. And in that role he has supported a number of conspiracy theories. Shortly after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Trump Jr., like two tweeter post that falsely accused one of the shootings survivors, 17 year old David Hogg of being coach by his father, former FBI agent to speak out against Donald Trump. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's unbelievable to me that these people are even

saying this and the fact that Donald Trump, Jr. liked that post is disgusting to me.

CAROLL: Critics coming to Hogg's defense and calling out Trump Jr. for supporting conspiracy theory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have known people, people like Donald Trump, Jr., the President's least favorite son, perpetuating this kind of stuff. Did you hear Donald Trump, Jr. took time to like two of the stories that attacked this kid and his father? This is the President's son doing that, liking a story that directly defames a student that survived a shooting.

CAROLL: In 2017 critics again took issue for Trump Jr. for tweeting Mike Cernovich outright media personality deserved a Pulitzer for a story he did on Susan Rice. Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nation under President Obama. Cernovich was a central figure in Pizza Gate, a bogus conspiracy theory that claimed members of the Clinton campaign were involved in a child sex ring. Cernovich also tweeting inflammatory statements such as, who cares about breast cancer and rape, and date rape does not exist.

In 2016 Trump Jr. took to radio creating another controversy when he referred to warming of the gas chamber while complaining about how his father had been treated in the press versus Hillary Clinton.

DONALD TRUMP JR., OLDEST SON OF DONALD TRUMP: The media has built her up, let her slide on every discrepancy, on every lie, on every DNC game trying to get Bernie Sanders out of the thing. I mean, if Republicans were doing that, they'd be warming up the gas chamber right now. It's a very different system. There's nothing fair about it.

CAROLL: The anti-defamation league called on Trump Jr. to apologize.

TRUMP JR: I said the same thing two weeks ago that the media bias used the term electric chair. It was poor choice of words, perhaps, but in no way, shape or form was I ever even remotely talking about the holocaust. I would not do it, I think that is disgusting. It's not my style.

CAROLL: And while critics would like to see Trump Jr. sideline in a political environment where conspiracies flourish don't expect to see him dialing back. Sources tell CNN he is gearing up for a more involved role in the upcoming mid-term elections.

During the mid-terms Trump Jr. will be focusing on states such as Indiana, West Virginia, Montana, and Missouri. And do not look for him to stop tweeting or retweeting anytime soon. Don?

(END VIDEO)

LEMON: Jason Caroll, thank you very much.

When we come back, just who is the President's son trying to reach with all of these conspiracy theories, and is it working?

[23:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT HOST: Roseanne Barr and Trump Jr. both pedaled the same anti-semitic conspiracy theories, so why isn't the president's son facing any consequences? Let's discuss now with CNN political commentators Matt Lewis, Symone Sanders, Steve Cortes.

Good evening to all of you. So good to have you on. So, Matt, let's see, I'll start with you. Just a few minutes ago, Donald Trump Jr., we said he has a history of re-tweeting conspiracy theories. What do you think is behind it and who's buying what he's selling?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there's two possibilities. One is that this is like the 21st century version of a dog whistle. It's him trying to overtly signal all of his followers. You know, there is this thing with alt-right where they use mims and humor and satire and they always have plausible deniability.

Hey, man, I'm just making a joke, right? I just like to tweet. I just read -- I didn't tweet that. I just thought it was -- you know. And so that's one possibility. The other is simply that this is not him overtly trying to influence people but just a reflection of who he is. There is a Bible verse that says, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. I think in the 21st century, it's out of the abundance of the heart, the hand tweets.

LEMON: All right, Matt.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Preach on, brother.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Come on, Matt.

LEMON: All right.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Preach. Preach mission. Preach.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: So, Steve, let me -- let's -- do you think it's irresponsible for the president's son to be getting involved spreading conspiracy theories? Do you think it's -- well, it could be irresponsible and a deliberate strategy to keep his base engaged. But do you think it's irresponsible?

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I don't believe in conspiracy theories. You won't find me re-tweeting any of these. Why is he doing it? I don't know. I also know this, he has no role in this administration. He happens to be the president's son. He is not an aide. He has no government job.

When you say he faces no consequence, we're talking about it right now. Obviously there are consequences to what he re-tweets. I'll let him answer for what he re-tweets. I don't know.

LEMON: Discussing is a consequence. All right. But, I mean --

CORTES: Of course it is.

[23:35:00] LEMON: So do you think it's appropriate or not appropriate? And why -- why do you think he's doing it?

CORTES: I don't know why, OK? I don't know Don Junior. I don't know why he's doing it. And I wish some of the things that he has re- tweeted, I wish he hadn't, quite frankly. I don't delve into conspiracy theories, don't like him, doesn't think it serves us well.

But I will say this too, Don. Let me -- I think I'm being very conciliatory here in agreeing with you. But let me also defend the Trump movement because I think you're making this illogical leap to say that there's a dog whistle to an alt-right crowd to a sort of racist --

LEMON: You're talking about Matt, not me, right?

CORTES: -- conspiratorial -- yes, correct, conspiratorial crowd. And that, by the way, I will absolutely take issue with because the Trump base which is tens of millions of hardworking Americans is not racist, is not retrograde, is not deplorable despite what we heard during the campaign --

LEMON: OK.

CORTES: -- and does not believe in conspiracies, by the way.

LEMON: Simone, well, it's got to be working on some level, Simone, because he is doing it. The president does conspiracy theories. What do you say? Weren't they supposed to be focused on family business, his sons?

SANDERS: Family business, who knows this week or this month? To respond to Steve, what I will say is that while I absolutely don't believe that the large surplus of folks who support the president are in fact racist, there is a racist contingent and alt-right, i.e. white supremacy in khakis contingent of the president's base, and we'd be very wrong to ignore that.

In terms of Donald Trump Jr.'s tweet, I think Donald Trump Jr., this is who he's always been. It's just now that folks have cared enough to pay attention. And I think that's important to signify. I don't think Donald Trump Jr. is doing anything different than he has previously done. But this is in fact who he is and we have to acknowledge that.

CORTES: But Symone, I think -- listen, are there crazies who happen to support the president? absolutely there are. Are there crazies who supported your former candidate, Bernie Sanders? Of course there are, including the man who shot -- literally shot Republican congressman in a ball field. Does that mean that Bernie Sanders is responsible for him? Of course not. Just as Donald Trump isn't responsible --

SANDERS: So I just like to note that, you know --

CORTES: -- for a small group of crazies who may happen to support him. They may endorse him, but he doesn't endorse them. And that's a critical --

SANDERS: So that's a good -- that's a good example, Steve. That's a pretty good examaple. I am glad you brought that up. Senator Sanders was extremely clear on denouncing very fringe aspects of his movement. One could argue he could have done it maybe swifter, but he was very clear on denunciation of said individuals.

Meanwhile, President Trump is out here talking about there are many people on both sides in Charlottesville. So I think that is where folks have a question, if you will, about the president. That is why there are folks who say he may be identifies with pieces and fringes of this alt-right again white supremacy in khakis movement. I don't think that's an outlandish assumption to make. I think I'm going off --

LEMON: It is --

SANDERS: -- to what the president himself has said.

LEMON: Yeah, but -- people --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I got to get Matt in. You guys are hogging (ph) the conversation. Matt, listen, Don Jr. headlined an event just to elect the congressman, Greg Pence, the vice president's brother. He's slated to do an event for New York Congressman Lee Zeldin in August.

He gave an unofficial foreign policy speech in India. And he and his brother, Eric, are raising a lot of money. The question is, he said he's not part of the campaign, but he certainly sounds like he's part of the campaign, asset --

CORTES: I said government.

LEMON: But still -- OK, fine.

LEWIS: This isn't right but this isn't Bill, you know, Billy Carter or Roger Clinton. This is a guy who is part of the political team to some degree and there are no consequences. Like, you know, people do stupid things. Sometimes people accidentally like things, right? Or the butt dial.

But is anybody going to call him out? Will President Trump get on the phone and tell his son knock it off, don't do this again? Is John Kelly going to call him into the office? Is anybody that has any sort of authority in Trump world going to say this is not acceptable, you can't --

LEMON: Maybe he believes it, Matt. Maybe he believes the conspiracy theories.

LEWIS: I think it's entirely possible he does. He's either engaging and trying to spread false information and mislead people over the internet or he is himself a product of this world view and sincerely believes it. Those are the two options.

LEMON: All right. Stick around, everyone. When we come back, was Colin Kaepernick denied a job on an NFL team because of what the president said? I'm going to ask Kaepernick's lawyer and what one team owner said about that. That's next.

[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Tonight we learned that several NFL owners have testified under oath that conversations with the president influenced their handling of players taking a knee during the national anthem. That is according to The Wall Street Journal.

They reported that Dallas Cowboy's owner, Jerry Jones, has recollection of a phone call with President Trump talking about the protests and the rallies. This is a winning strategy. So very winning strong issue for me. Tell everybody you can't win this one, this one lifts me.

So Jones's comments were part of his sworn deposition in Colin Kaepernick's case against NFL owners. And I want to discuss it now with Colin Kaepernick's attorney, Mr. Mark Geragos. He is a CNN legal analyst as well. Mark, good evening to you. Thank you for joining us. Good to see you.

So the president seems to be saying to Jones that his attacks against protesting NFL players taking a knee during the anthem was benefiting him politically. It also seems like the president is suggesting that Jones needed to relay that message to other NFL owners. Explain exactly why this is so pivotal to Colin Kaepernick's case.

MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Let me start with the preferences (ph), Don. Before I got on the air, the NFL was already seeking to have me personally sanctioned because some journalists did their job and is reporting on this symbiotic relationship between the NFL and Trump in this partisan political conspiracy, which is actually if you take a look at the code section of the law, looks to be something that is sanctionable by the law.

[23:45:12] So without commenting before I go in front of whoever, whatever authorities, I will tell you this, if anybody reads the arbitration demand, this is not a hard paint by the numbers to connect.

You take a look at where Trump was back in March, who he was riding with on his jet, then you take a look at his campaign rallies where he's talking about the sons of bitches, referring to my client, Mr. Kaepernick, and presumably Eric Reid who is also a client, then publicly reported that they've had conversations.

Why the NFL is against that or wants to sanction me because they or somebody else leaked the deposition testimony is beyond me. 0But I will tell you that it's apparent to me at least from what has transpired that the evidence that we've collected supports everything we put into that arbitration demand under the collective bargaining agreement.

LEMON: You said earlier today that there are Super Bowl winning coaches who have testified under oath that Colin Kaepernick hasn't been hired since the 2016 season because of his national anthem protest. Does that prove the basis of his suit?

GERAGOS: Yeah, I think that clearly the thing that I couldn't believe and I now understand in retrospect what happened here, they went running in to try to get discovery closed in this matter.

And once they did that -- the reason they did that is that they then wanted to go in and under kind of cover of night without consulting with the player's association, without consulting with the players, they wanted to announce this unanimous policy, which by all published reports was clearly not unanimous because the owner of the Jets came out immediately and said, I'm not going to pass this onto the players. It was then reported that Jed York abstained.

This was all orchestrated in some kind of kabuki theater that the NFL owners figured this is the way we were going to appease the president, this is the way we're going to play along with his partisan political conspiracy.

And, you know, it should be -- I think frankly The Wall Street Journal and CNN now reporting about it has done a great service to the country to show exactly what's going on because today is the nationalistic football league. Tomorrow, it's Amazon. After that, it's ABC.

You know, you're in there -- literally we've tied up the courts with the AT&T litigation. This is an administration at least that appears bent on insinuating themselves not only in the Department of Justice and we can talk for hours about that and you have -- but in the administration of justice and kind of creating their own enemies list in the business world as well.

LEMON: Now that you've gotten all these depositions in, so what is next for the case?

GERAGOS: Well, I would stay tuned because this case is about to take a dramatic turn. And I will be -- I'll wait, Don, and come back here and announce it.

LEMON: Any hints?

GERAGOS: Well, I will tell you that everything that we laid out in our demand under the collective bargaining agreement, we've now -- we've now made a pretty good analysis of -- we've tested it and it looks like we were either pressured or somebody has decided they were just going to dime out the NFL for what they were doing.

LEMON: Interesting. Come back and talk to us about it. Thank you, Mark. I appreciate it.

GERAGOS: I will. Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Back with me now, Matt Lewis, Symone Sanders, and Steve Cortes. Symone, even though some of the -- you heard the conversation. The owners objected to the president's stance on national anthem protest. Kaepernick is still unemployed. The NFL has a new policy, finding players who may kneel during the playing of the national anthem. What do you think?

SANDERS: Well, I want to quote CBC chairman -- congressional black caucus chairman, Cedric Ricmond, I would like to live in a country where people are not made to stand for the national anthem but rather they want to stand for the national anthem because they feel as though the country represents who they are.

I want to take people a little bit -- back a little bit. I don't know if folks remember when commissioner -- when the NFL commissioner originally put out a statement, a letter if you will, a couple months back.

That statement came about -- and I have this on authority from, again, members of the NFL executive office who I've spoken with. That statement came about because the commissioner is battling two things.

[23:50:00] He had two factors (ph), if you will, it's the owners and it's also the players. And that original statement came about because he wanted to keep the owners -- you know, you have to at some point keep the owners at bay. I think what we've seen in the last couple weeks and days actually is that it backfired and the NFL has now sided with the owners over the players.

And I ask you, what is the National Football League without the players? The players have a decision to make. I think what we'll see in the coming weeks, Don, is that the players are going to choose themselves. They're not going to side with the owners. I don't think they're going to go quietly into the night.

LEMON: Steve, you heard my conversation with Mark Geragos there. You have three NFL owners testifying under oath that the president spoke to them about protesting players. Does this show an attempt to bully the league, you think, into submission?

CORTES: No, I think an attempt to persuade the league which he did very successfully into recognizing that no one, none of us, has a right to unfettered protest at work. Not a plumber, not a TV commentator, not an NFL player.

The reason, let's be very frank about Colin Kaepernick, by the way, the reason he's not playing is because he's not a good enough quarterback. The last --

SANDERS: That's not true.

CORTES: -- let's talk -- yes, it is true.

LEMON: Steve.

CORTES: Let's talk football. Let's talk football.

LEMON: Steve, he has statistics that are --

CORTES: The last 12 games --

LEMON: He has statistics that are superior to other --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Hold on, hold on, stop. Symone -- Symone, Steve -- Symone, Steve, stop. He has statistics that are superior to other quarterbacks.

CORTES: No, he doesn't lately. No, he doesn't. Not lately. That's over his career, he was amazing at first.

LEMON: He's not playing, Steve.

CORTES: His last 12 games, he was one and 11 as a starter. One and 11. And one of those games, his quarterback rating was 39.

LEMON: Have you seen his ratings compared to other players? Have you compared them to other players?

CORTES: That's over his career. That's over his career. Don, he was great early on. He was then figured out. And by the way, his style of play is no longer that effective in the NFL. This is a football issue. The NFL is very willing to give second chances to controversial people. Michael Vick --

LEMON: I don't think your information is accurate.

CORTES: Johnny Manziel. It is accurate. He went One and 11. One and 11, his last 12 games. If he were better at football, he would be playing.

LEMON: Yeah, OK, what do you say that?

CORTES: That's a fact.

LEMON: I don't think your information is right because every study shows that he is superior to other players who are --

CORTES: Don, that's over his career.

LEMON: No. It's not his career.

CORTES: Not his last several years.

LEMON: Anyway, we're getting off topic here. Matt, what do you say?

CORTES: That is the topic.

LEWIS: We'll talk football. I think he would be in the NFL, he might be a backup. He certainly isn't what he used to be. But he would be in the NFL were it not for the controversy. But that's not necessarily Donald Trump's fault.

You know, you could become a controversial figure that, you know, has nothing to do with your on-the-field play, but, you know, still would turn teams off to you. But look, I think two things are --

LEMON: Let me just -- you said -- yesterday you tweeted, you said, how he had to focus his energy on trade, North Korea, the economy, with all the responsibilities of the presidency, why do you think he's spending so much time and energy on the NFL? You thought he should be spending his time on other issues. Didn't you say that?

LEWIS: I don't know if that was me or something I liked on Twitter, but --

LEMON: Oh, that was Trump who tweeted -- sorry, got my information wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

LEWIS: That's OK.

LEMON: It was Trump who tweeted. It was Trump who tweeted.

LEWIS: You know, I would say a couple things. One, I think it is perfectly legitimate for the NFL to have a rule that governs, you know, their employees, when they're on duty. But by the same token, I think it's inappropriate for the president to intervene in a company like this.

You know, it's one thing to say something at a rally, it's another thing if you pick up a phone and call Jerry Jones and try to get him to do something. That's the part of this that, you know, my spidey sense goes off as a conservative. I don't necessarily like the idea of a president getting involved in business to that degree. That doesn't quite sound appropriate to me.

LEMON: It just seems weird that he would get involved in this at all. Symone, you know, in the NFL, almost 70 percent of the players are black. Black people own majority stakes in none of the 32 teams. Zero. So if players aren't being represented by the players union, as you say, how do they get a voice?

SANDERS: Absolutely. And so what the union, which is not an actual union, if you will, it's the NFL Players Association, was the primary voice at the negotiating table over the last couple of months. When the controversy started, the NFL was not, in fact, talking to Colin Kaepernick, they were talking to the players association.

There were key folks in the players association that represented the players. One could argue that the negotiations didn't go well, Don, because now they got a policy that sides with the owners. And so I think what we will see is the players decide to take their destiny into their own hands.

A number of prominent players have suggested in private that they are not going to pay their $15,000 to $18,000 dues to the NFL Players Association. And I would argue that the association has rendered themselves not effective in these negotiations.

[23:55:00] And so players have to now come to the table themselves and cut out the middleman.

LEMON: I'll give you the last word, quickly, I'm almost out of time. Go ahead, Steve.

CORTES: You know, you made a great point. Isn't that sad that I think every owner is a white man in America, diverse a country as we are? The way to rectify that is more wealth and prosperity for Hispanics, more wealth and prosperity for African-Americans.

Donald Trump, by the way, is moving that ball forward so someday they can be NFL owners and not just the players. Symone, you can roll your eyes, but that's the economic reality. We right now are not the owners of assets, we people of color. We want to be and we need to be for America to realize its full potential.

LEMON: OK. So, I have a couple articles -- Steve --

SANDERS: I'm just saying the African-American unemployment rate has been --

LEMON: I got to go. We're over time. We're over time.

SANDERS -- for the last 20 years. We are celebrating that.

LEMON: I got to go. But I have so many people saying your statistics are wrong and I'm going to send you a couple articles when we're done, OK? Thank you, Steve. Thanks, everyone. I appreciate it. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.

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