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CNN TONIGHT

What Did Trump Get from the Historic Summit?; Liberals Lowering the Bar; CNN Projects GOP Rep. Mark Sanford, Trump Critic, Will Not Finish First in South Carolina Primary; Rosenstein to Brief Trump Thursday on DOJ I.G.'s Report on FBI's Handling of Clinton Probe; Will President Trump Sit for an Interview with Mueller's Team?; Judge Approves AT&T-Time Warner Deal Opposed by Trump Justice Department. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 12, 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] (JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Because you never answer. You blow me off and you just go on with your show. So I felt, you know, I felt little beast. I'm glad he's out there.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: It was your director actually, your director went to block the other night and I was still talking to you. I feel dissed by you.

But listen, I got to tell you, you're exactly right what you said about AT&T and what happened in court, the judge says even if they appeal this it would be manifestly unjust. Basically saying to them you better think long and hard before you think about appealing this because saying that they really had, you know, no case in court, Chris. So I think you're exactly right. Great show my friend as usual.

CUOMO: Always a pleasure.

LEMON: Yes, see you soon.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

So now what? President Trump on his way back from the summit in Singapore tonight tweeting, "The world has taken a big step back from potential nuclear catastrophe, no more rocket launches, nuclear testing or research. The hostages are back home with their families. Thank you to Chairman Kim, our day together was historic."

But what about the deal he's bringing back with him? Sure it was a photo op for the ages, something no other president chose to do. But talking face-to-face, yes it is better than threatening. It's a lot better than the days of fire and fury, little rocket man and dotard. Some people say dotard. But will Kim Jong-un ever really give up his nuclear weapons, that's the question even President Trump doesn't seem 100 percent certain what all of this will amount to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because I may be wrong, I may stand before you in six months and say, hey, I was wrong, I don't know that I'll ever admit that but I'll find -- I'll find some kind of an excuse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, his words not mine. And is there any surprise that the president who thinks of himself as above all a show man, with pitches message with a movie, trailer-style video, one created by the National Security Council.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two leaders. One destiny. A story of a special moment in time, when a man is presented with one chance that may never be repeated. What will he chose? To show vision and leadership, or not?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Can you say propaganda? And what about all Trump's praise for Kim? Is that just the art of the deal? Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He's got a great personality, he's a, you know, funny guy, he's a very smart guy, he's a great negotiator. He loves his people, not that I'm surprise by that but he loves his people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So the president neglected to mention there is the fact that Kim Jong-un rules the world's most oppressive state. He enslaves and starves millions of North Koreans. So should the president believe Kim? Has he made a deal that will make or break the world, will it make the world safer, or is it the North Korean leader who really knows the art of the deal?

We'll discuss all of that. Let's bring in now CNN's Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash, CNN Global Affairs Analyst, Max Boot, the author of "The Road Not Taken," and CNN Political Commentator, Scott Jennings.

Good evening to all of you. Welcome to the program.

Dana. Dana, you first, we don't have a lot of details but the president is feeling so good about this summit that he says he plans to invite Kim Jong-un to the White House. Would that be premature?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Of course, it would be premature. There's a lot of roads to travel before that should even be a possibility. But you're right about how he's feeling. I've spoken to three people today, throughout the day who have received phone calls from the president on air force one, Don, and he sounded euphoric about the way he thought the summit went. About the fact that he did something that no other president has ever done. Because I mean, if you sort of cut through the very important

diplomatic situation here, the geopolitical decision that he's going to have to make, he likes to do something that no one else could do.

Now, at this point, that something is just having a meeting, shaking hands, putting flags next to one another which is something that got a lot of attention and a lot of criticism.

And the question now basically going forward is going to be, how to turn that and the way that the president is trying to kill this dictator with kindness, whether or not that is going to be turned into real negotiations, a real potential deal to do ultimately what the president and really everybody else on the globe wants, which is to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and to force Kim to get rid of those nuclear weapons, still a very, very big question mark, because he didn't walk away with any verification that that is even possible.

LEMON: So, Scott, listen, let's be honest here. And if you -- I don't know if you've read it, I've read it, is very short here, the agreement. There's no verification there's no timetable. But one thing we did see is the president's lavish praise on Kim. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[22:04:56] TRUMP: He's a very talented man. He is very talented. He's got a great personality. He's a, you know, funny guy. He's a very smart guy. He's a great negotiator. He loves his people. Not that I'm surprised by that. He is a working negotiator. His country does love him, his people, you see, the fervor, they have a great fervor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, I mean, Scott, is he forgetting that the people that don't favor -- who don't have fervor for Kim, get thrown into gulags or they're killed, is he going overboard with this flattery, because he has harsher things to say about Robert Mueller?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, this -- yes, right, right. Well, a couple of things. Number one, I don't think President Trump knows a ton about the history of North Korea or exactly what's going on there, it's not his objective. His objective here is to sell. I mean, this is the way he treats everything. And in some cases it works, and in some cases it doesn't.

We've also seen him used this flattery tactic on political people to try to get them to come over to his side so I'm not surprised he is doing then. At the end of the day this whole thing hinges on verification. If he thinks he struck a deal with Kim, a personal accord, which Kim will allow for verification then we're going to get somewhere.

But if we never get verification then we have to partner to be disappointed the way we've been disappointed by these people. But I think the fact that we've stepped back from the brink of nuclear war, where we were this time last year is a positive step that everybody should be rooting for the continuation now. So I'm happy for the president that he's happy, and I hope that his

attempt to sell Kim the way he would like to be sold, that's how I saw the movie, works on the guy who clearly, you know, was feeling the pressure.

LEMON: OK, Max, let's put, because I have some other dictators that he's had nice words. So let's put that on hold for a second, OK, and talk about what Scott said. You know, we're at least we're off the brink of a nuclear war. Well, wasn't that the president's rhetoric in the first place that put us in that?

And if you -- and all you have to do -- I'm wondering here did you need to have this summit in order to get what these two people got? This short little letter that basically said, and this is a key. I don't know if anyone else has notice that it's number three, the whole crux of this, it says, "Reaffirming the April 27th, 2018 Panmunjom declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."

Well that was decided back in April, and that's what they have been working for all along. So, do they need to do this, Max?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: No. I mean, I think you're exactly right, Don, that a lot of the reason we were on the brink of nuclear war last year, I mean, part of it to be sure it's because of the North Korean nuclear test and their missile test but also because of the reckless and irresponsible rhetoric from Donald Trump ratcheting up the tensions.

And so now this is kind of the arsonist getting credit for putting out the fire. But what's striking to me about the summit is how little Donald Trump got in return for legitimating Kim Jong-un on the world stage.

For treating this leader this too bad dictatorship as equal of the president of the United States, for suspending U.S./South Korea joint military exercises which is a huge concession to the North and describing those exercises as provocative war games which is adopting the language of Northern propaganda, for describing Kim Jong-un as this very talented, smart, funny guy, I mean, it sounded like, you know, Donald Trump wanted to invite Kim to the prom.

And in return for all of that, what does he get? Nothing except the empty bluster that you just quoted, about working towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, which is what the North Koreans have been saying since 1992.

LEMON: Yes.

BOOT: I mean, I can say that I'm working towards beating Roger Federer at Wimbledon, that doesn't mean that's actually ever going to happen.

LEMON: You never know. I mean, I've seen you in person, you look pretty strong.

So, listen, this is what I saying.

BOOT: You haven't seen my tennis game right, Don.

LEMON: He's called -- I'll just see you in (Inaudible) -- he called him a fantastic guy. Putin was a better leader than Obama. Erdogan in Turkey gave him credit for how he handled the failure (Inaudible) that he turned that around. And Duterte in the Philippines, he describe their conversation as very friendly.

OK. So, having set that up, Dana, this is possibly a double standard when you look at what Fox News and how conservatives slammed Obama--

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: That's right.

LEMON: -- for his willingness to talk to dictators. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you as president meet with leaders of a country like North Korea? Obama extraordinarily said I'd meet with him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Obama made his intentions crystal clear on the campaign trail.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will meet not just with our friends but with our enemies.

MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: President Obama likes talking to dictators.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He would meet with some of these madmen without any preconditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I'm going to reach out to these crazy people around the world and try to get things done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I think that's a mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama is bowing and scraping before dictators.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, if you open the dictionary to the word hypocrisy does that video play, Dana?

BASH: Loudly and proudly that video plays. There's no question about it. I said earlier today that if Donald Trump were a Democrat the impeachment articles would be written right now if the Republicans were in charge doing the same thing.

[22:09:55] Having said that, that wouldn't make it right. Because there is rightly so a bipartisan feeling and sentiment that having a diplomatic conversation is the right way to go.

Now, as Max was saying, whether or not he went way over his skis is a different conversation. You have people like Marco Rubio today saying that he is appalled at the kind of language that Donald Trump used about this dictator given the way that he has tortures and starves his people. He kills his own family members, executes them when they don't do what he wants. And he's following the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

But having said that, this is, you know, many people say, better than, and not this many say, it sound like the president now, this is flatly better than the alternative, which is a horrendous war. Now the--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I said that in the open, Dana.

BASH: Exactly.

LEMON: I said that this was better--

BASH: No, you're totally right.

LEMON: Right. It was better than fire and fury and little rocket man.

BASH: And you're totally -- and again, there is bipartisan -- exactly, it's like how you talk to your kid. I would talk to my almost 7-year-old, just because somebody said this about you doesn't make it right to say it about them.

LEMON: Right.

BASH: And I think that is the case right now the way people are looking at--

(CROSSTALK)

BOOT: I mean, I don't think we should--

BASH: Go ahead.

BOOT: I don't think we should fall to the trap by saying that the only alternatives on nuclear war or the kind of diplomacy that Donald Trump is conducting where he's making a lot of unilateral concessions and not getting a lot in return and kind of fanning over this dictator. I'm all in favor in engaging with North Korea but I think we need to do it firmly. I don't think you allow the North Korean dictator in meeting with the U.S. president without getting some concessions upfront, and we're just not seeing--

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: Yes. There is a third way. There is a third way that we can keep doing what we were doing and that was not working. And I think the president has dealt with Kim--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Scott, I think you're right.

JENNINGS: Sanctions reform, the threat of military--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Listen, I think you're right, but answer this for me, Scott. We can continue to do what we were doing, OK, fine. And you said that didn't work, all right, I'll grant you that. But when that wasn't working the former president was being criticized by your party for wanting to talk to Kim Jong-un and wanting to talk to dictators. How is that not hypocrisy? What is different now? Please explain that to me.

JENNINGS: I will give you one thing about Obama that Republicans always believed, and that is that they never believed he would show the result necessary in conversations with dictators. And he proved it. He draws red line on Syria, for instance. And then, you know, then he did--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But that's not what they said in the video. That was their criticism there.

JENNINGS: nothing. But that's the point, it's fine to talk to people if you have the resolve to use military force or to go back to the sanctions--

(CROSSTALK)

BOOT: Trump has not--

LEMON: Hold on, Max. Hold on, Max. That's not what they said, Scott in those videos. They said he wants to talk to dictators.

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: That's what I'm saying.

LEMON: They didn't say he doesn't have the resolve--

JENNINGS: You asked me what I think, that's what I'm saying.

LEMON: OK.

BASH: can I just inject a little bit of historical context on Donald Trump's part here? It is true that Republicans said what they said across the board, both conservative commentators and members of Congress, Fox News.

But the one person who has been consistent is Donald Trump.

LEMON: Donald Trump, yes. BASH: He told Wolf Blitzer, you know, 10 years ago that, more than 10 years ago that he thought it was not a bad thing to try to figure out the North Korea situation by sitting down with him.

The other thing to Max's point is that there's a third way. Of course there's a third way. Of course--

LEMON: It was Scott.

BASH: -- doing what Donald Trump did going so overboard and lavishing praise is not necessarily the way to go when you're the president of the United States. But that is the way he is, that is the way he tries to get a deal, it always has been and it's the way he feels that he can do it now.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But Dana--

BASH: It doesn't mean -- it doesn't make it right because he's giving up the--

(CROSSTALK)

BOOT: But he has a very little track record of successful deal making.

LEMON: -- he's giving up the moral -- the moral leadership.

LEMON: So, Max, I'm going to give you -- I'm going to give you the last word here.

BOOT: Yes.

LEMON: But I just want Scott to know that, listen, Dana is right. The president has always said that he said about talking to dictators. I'm talking about members of the Republican Party and Fox News who were saying this president shouldn't talk to dictators. Well, you know, basically what's wrong with him. So, you know, Donald Trump has been consistent the following have not, that's all I'm asking, isn't that hypocrisy? Max, I'll give you the last word.

BOOT: Well, you're absolutely right, Don. I mean, the hypocrisy is off the chart here. I mean, Republicans would be hyperventilating if this was Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama who was showering praise on Kim Jong-un and not get anything mutual concessions in return. And I would have been right.

I mean, I was critical of Barack Obama for his diplomacy with Iran and other countries, but Barack Obama never said remotely anything like what Trump has said to Kim Jong-un in his dealing with Iran or Cuba or other countries.

And you know, Donald Trump criticized the Iran nuclear deal as being the worse deal ever but the Iran nuclear deal is about a million times stronger than what he has gotten so far out of North Korea. So maybe it's time for Republicans to apologize to President Obama.

LEMON: Max, Scott, Dana, I love the conversation. Thank you, guys. See you soon.

BASH: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, President Trump on his way back from Singapore tonight clapping back at Robert De Niro for slamming him at the Tony Awards. But is Hollywood playing right into the president's hands? I'm going to ask Mark McKinnon and Frank Bruni. They're next.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump thanking Kim Jong-un tonight for a summit he calls historic, as he makes his way back from Singapore, he'll return to the fallout from a series of public insults by celebrities on the left. But are they playing right into the president's hands?

Let's discuss now with CNN contributor Frank Bruni of "The New York Times," and Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain and executive producer of Showtime's The Circus.

So, good evening, gentlemen, to both of you. Thank you so much for joining us. So, Mark, let me first get your take on the North Korea summit. How did the dealmaker in chief do? How did he do?

MARK MCKINNON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, SHOWTIME'S THE CIRCUS: I think it's a big win. Obviously there's a lot of questions a lot of follow up that needs to happen but the meeting happened. That was the most important thing. There's dialogue that's begun. Where it goes we'll judge it later. But I think it's a big win for Trump on the world stage.

LEMON: Do you agree with that, Frank, do you think it's a big win?

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's premature to say that. I agree with Mark that the proof will be on what happens next, you know. And to be too negative right now is not the right way to go. But you know, he just legitimized one of the world's ruthless terrible leaders on the world stage and we're not sure what we got out of anything out of it. I mean, we'll see. But to call it a big win now - premature.

LEMON: Well, that's what I want to ask, because listen, and not to be negative. I mean, I'm looking at the agreement what they came up with.

[22:19:58] And it doesn't take long to read it. It doesn't--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: No. It doesn't take long to read it. But basically I think number three, you know, if you look at it online, number three says it all, reaffirming the April 2018 Panmunjom declaration, the DPRK commit to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

That was in April of 2018. Max Boot says they've been saying that since the 1990s. So, did you need a summit to get to this point when it was already what we were working towards before the summit?

BRUNI: No, it all depends on what happens after this point. No, I mean, I share your skepticism. There was nothing about what was said or about the way it was done that leads one to believe we're on the brink of some whole new era. But if we are going to get to a new era it's got to start somewhere. It's got to start somewhere.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let's hope. Let's hope.

BRUNI: So let's hope that's the start of that.

LEMON: So, Mark, here at home the president has been under withering attack from the celebrity class. And I want to play, this is a clip from some of the expletives coming from celebrities about Trump and his family. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: I'm going to say one thing, (muted) Trump.

SAMANTHA BEE, HOST, TBS: You know, Ivanka, that's a beautiful photo of you and your child but let me just say, one mother to another, do something about your dad's immigration practices you feckless (muted).

BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: I feel like the bottom has to fall out at some point, and by the way I'm hoping for it. Because I think one way you get rid of Trump is a crashing economy. So please, bring on the recession. Sorry if that hurts people, but it's either root for recession or you lose your democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Mark, here's how you tweeted today, you said, "Hollywood, here's your problem. De Niro says f Trump. Bee says Ivanka is a c. Maher hopes for a recession to get rid of Trump. That's all you got? Do you have any clue as to how this plays right into Trump's play book? Keep it up and you'll help to ensure four more years." I can't say that I disagree with you on that, Mark.

MCKINNON: Well, listen, I look at it as a strategist and I just pull the lens back and I'm thinking, OK. So this is the attack on Donald Trump, there's no ideas. All it is and you have somebody actually advocating for a recession, which would hurt poor people more than anybody.

They hate Trump so much that they want to hurt their own constituency. Listen, as an ad maker I can see those ads right now that the Trump and his supporters are going to make. And they are going to quote Bill Maher and they are going to say Democrats hate Donald Trump so much, and don't have any ideas but all they want to do is go into a recession to hurt people like you and your neighbors in order to get elected.

That's pretty tough stuff. And listen, it's like you're in an argument with somebody and you get to exasperated when you don't have a good argument to come back--

LEMON: Yes.

MCKINNON: -- and you just out of exasperation and frustration you say, f you.

LEMON: Yes.

MCKINNON: And that's all you got.

LEMON: Yes.

MCKINNON: And you know, I just, to me, it just says it is completely out of gas in terms of ideas and if that's where the campaign is going to head, if that's like a signal to where Democrats are going to go that's a big problem.

LEMON: Listen, Frank, I'm sure people will say, they can say whatever they want, yes, they can. But Mark's point, which I think is a correct point--

BRUNI: One hundred percent.

LEMON: -- it's all about strategy and being strategic.

BRUNI: Right.

LEMON: This does not help them in their -- it just plays right into Trump's hands.

BRUNI: Right. If you think Donald Trump is terrible for this country, and I happen to think that, you know, be strategic about that, channel your anger in a way that's actually going to lead to Democrats controlling one chamber of Congress and that's blocking him -- don't just stand there on the stage and shout expletives.

The whole point, and Mark is a 1,000 percent right on this, the whole point is to show Americans a better way, a better alternative.

LEMON: Yes.

BRUNI: And when you do what Samantha Bee did, when you do what Robert De Niro did you are descending to trump's level and you are showing all the Americans that you end up seeing at ad nauseam, you know, in Twitter and in viral ways, you are showing them that you can be just as gross as the president, just as vulgar, just as mean.

LEMON: Yes.

BRUNI: What have you accomplished with that?

LEMON: Here's case in point for you that you're making. Here's what the president tweeted about De Niro. He said "Robert De Niro, a very low I.Q. individual has received too many shots to the head by real boxers in movies. I watch them last night and truly believe he may be punch drunk. I guess he doesn't realize the economy is the best as it's ever been, with employment being at an all-time high and many companies pouring back into our country. Wake up punchy."

BRUNI: OK, and so where are we in the sand box with two men throwing sand in each other's eyes, right? And what are we not talking about at that same Tony ceremony, the Parkland students were there, right, making, you know, as part of their crusade they're trying to do something constructive for the country, those headlines were stolen by Robert De Niro shouting profanity at the president of the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So, Mark, Robert De Niro spoke in Toronto just yesterday. I know you want to respond to this, but along the same line after the president's attacks in the G7 leaders and the Canadian prime minister. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DE NIRO: I just want to make a note of apology for the idiotic behavior of my president.

(APPLAUSE)

DE NIRO: It's a disgrace. And I apologize to Justin Trudeau and the other people at the G7. It's disgusting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:25:00] LEMON: So, listen Mark, a lot of people have said this so can an actor?

MCKINNON: Well, certainly they can, we got the First Amendment here. But the point simply that I'm making is a strategic one, and that is what helps your cause. And listen, Robert De Niro has a huge platform, has a huge opportunity, I would have loved to have heard a thoughtful response to Trump and his ideas and what's working and what's not.

That would have been helpful, that would have been constructive to talk about where to go. And as Frank have said, show us a better way rather than critique the president or call him names because it just descends into the sand box, as Frank said. So I just think it's wasted opportunities at bottom.

LEMON: Yes. OK, so both of you stay with me, a lot more to talk about. When we come back, we're going to talk about the president's Twitter attack on the sitting Republican congressman just hours before polls close in his district's primary. We're going to tell you how he fared in the election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Primary results coming in from races across the country tonight. Our breaking news, CNN project Republican Congressman Mark Sanford, a Trump critic will not finish first in South Carolina, not finish first in South Carolina. [22:30:06] Back with me, Frank Bruni and Mark McKinnon. So Frank, among the primaries tonight that we're watching this one the one that stands out is really Mark Sanders, because he has been critical -- Mark Sanford -- he's been critical of President Trump.

And tonight, just three hours before the election, the President tweeted this, he said Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA. He is MIA and nothing, but trouble. He is better off in Argentina. I fully endorse Katie Arrington for Congress in South Carolina, a state I love. She is tough on crime, and will continue our fight to lower taxes. Vote Katie!

So Sanford is not going to finish first. He is going to be in the run-off. But is this what happens when you go up against the President, and shows at this risky business?

BRUNI: Sure. He has done this before with other people. If you are not a loyalist, and he has the choice between you and a loyalist, he is going to throw his support to a loyalist. What's interesting about this is what did he really accomplish by doing it several hours in advance.

LEMON: Several hours, right.

BRUNI: He got something out of his system, he satisfied his own emotions, which is always his driving force, but I don't think he did anything extremely tactical here. He just got something off his chest.

LEMON: Red flags for Republicans tonight in Virginia, Mark, because so far, candidate Corey Stewart, he won the Republican nomination for Senate, he's going to face Democratic Senator Tim Kaine. Stewart has been fiercely criticized for associating with white nationalist. I mean, isn't he exactly the kind of candidate Republicans need to stir clear off?

MCKINNON: Yes, and we've sure seen examples of that in different races around the country. But I think we're seeing that the volatile blue wave may turn into a ripple just given all the dynamics that are happening.

It's interesting on the Sanford front. I know Sanford pretty well, and I've always admire his independence, but he's paying for his independence tonight. And this is just more evidence that Trump has completely taken over the Republican Party.

Now, you talk about historical, you know, what does Republican Party mean? It means much different things to people like me who was attracted to compassionate and conservatism of George Bush. But if you are -- you are in a Republican Party today, it's Trump's party. And so you wonder why Republican congressmen and Congress don't take on Trump, exhibit A in South Carolina tonight.

LEMON: So, Frank, in terms of 2020, the President was quick to latch on a recent speech. This is by Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney said I think President Trump will be re-nominated by my party easily, and I think he will be reelected solidly. Romney told big donor -- dig dollar donors at a retreat in Deer Valley, Utah.

I think that not just because of a strong economy, and because people are increasingly seeing rising wages, but I think it's also true because I think our Democratic friends -- or our Democrat friends, sorry -- our Democrat friends -- I don't want to get that, you know --

BRUNI: Yes, no, no.

LEMON: -- I don't want to get that wrong. President's likely to nominate someone who is really out of the mainstream of American thought, and we'll make it easier for a president who is presiding over a grown economy.

BRUNI: That statement utterly proves the point that Mark McKinnon was just making it, at the degree to which Donald Trump has taken over the Republican Party.

Two or two and a half, whatever it was years ago when Donald Trump was running for President, Mitt Romney got out ahead of other Republicans, and made a big speech about how Donald Trump was, you know, so dangerous, as unfit for office, blah, blah, blah.

Here, we have a great economy, but what did Donald Trump is telling the office, has laid all the fears that Mitt Romney laid out then. But Mitt Romney is now running for office, and he doesn't want to be --

(CROSSTALK)

BRUNI: -- with Donald Trump. So, Mark is correct.

LEMON: OK, but is there a Democrat -- but is there a Democrat who can go up, and who can beat Trump at this point?

BRUNI: I think there are more than a dozen of them. Whether the right one will be nominated, we won't know how strong people are until they go through a primary, until we see them on an international political campaign. But I can name a dozen for you, I think had the right stuff.

LEMON: Mark, I want to hear it, I've got some breaking news though. Can you tell me quick, do you think there's a Democrat that can go up against the President and win?

MCKINNON: I just have a different version what's going to happen, I think the Democrats will likely -- who had somebody very progressive given the dynamics right now. I think Trump will go into the Republican primary. I think what that means is that a Republican establishment-type will run maybe as a dream tick with a Democrat as a V.P. because there will be a huge opening there.

LEMON: Interesting. OK, Mark and Frank, thank you very much. When we come back, the breaking news about Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein, he is set to brief President Trump on the up coming IG report just before it becomes public. More about that, next.

[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So here is breaking news right now, President Trump getting a briefing Thursday on a highly anticipated report from the Justice Department and inspector general. CNN Justice Reporter, Laura Jarrett joins me now with all the details.

OK, so this briefing comes on Wednesday from the Deputy Attorney- General on the IG report on Thursday I should say. So what can you tell us about it? What do you know, Laura?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, Don, this is sort of eye brow raising. Of course, the President has been hotly anticipating this report, tweeting about it every now and then saying it's been delayed, suggesting that it's been watered down.

But I have now learned this evening that the Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein will brief the President on Thursday before the report is publicly released that day.

And I also got a statement, and an interesting one from a spokesperson for the Inspector General's Office who noted that this has been done in the past under the Obama administration.

And he goes on to say, no changes are made to the OIG's report on account of these briefings. So, clearly, the office is mindful of what the President has been tweeting, Don.

LEMON: So, apparently there is this escalating war, Laura, between Devin Nunes and Rosenstein. Talk to me about that.

JARRETT: Yes, this battle gets uglier by the day. And Justice Officials are pushing back on this one saying the fact have been turned upside down.

Now this latest feud between Rosenstein and the staff on the House Intel Committee all goes back to a heated meeting in January of this year right on the heels of the House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes who start regularly threatening Rod Rosenstein with contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents related to the Russian investigation.

Well, earlier today, another network reported that at that meeting, Rosenstein essentially threatened House Intel staff in the room with a criminal investigation for their own conduct.

[22:40:04] But two sources tell me, Don, that that is false. And instead, Rosenstein essentially said if you hold me in contempt, realize I will be able to defend myself.

LEMON: Laura Jarrett with the breaking news tonight. Laura, thank you, I appreciate that.

JARRETT: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Let's discuss all of this now with Congressman Eric Swalwell. He is a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. First, what's your -- what's your assessment with this breaking news that Rosenstein is going to brief the President on Thursday?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: I mean, it's all right. You know, it was a critical point in the election, the President should be briefed on it, I'm not bothered by that at all. But remember, Don, Donald Trump, just days before the election, wanted to throw a parade for Jim Comey for reopening the investigation.

And now, it's to suggest that he's offended by the way that he handle it. What I'm more upset about is that the President refuses to be briefed on what the Russians did in 2016 in the election, and what they're willing to do in 2018. He's obsessed with Comey, but he is not obsessed -- because that's about him. But he's not obsessed about us, and our democracy, and what it takes to protect that.

LEMON: I don't think that's going to happen.

SWALWELL: No.

LEMON: So...

SWALWELL: No.

LEMON: So, I mean...

SWALWELL: So we have to fix that.

LEMON: This is not going to happen. So let's talk about -- our reporting is that Devin Nunes and the Attorney General whose overseeing the Russia investigation is in a fight -- they're in a fight. I know you can't disclose everything because -- you know, because of the position that you hold, but what can you tell us about their relationship? What went wrong?

SWALWELL: Well, Devin Nunes saw his job as not conducting oversight, or protecting the battle box, or protecting the President. That was from day one of our investigation, I saw that behind the scenes, and I saw that in public.

And I think Mr. Rosenstein is concerned that you have a member of Congress trying to reach into the FBI evidence locker, and then give that evidence to subjects of the investigation. That's very dangerous for the rule of law, and our country. And at some point, he has to just say no. We don't do that in America, and we're not going to let you do that for this President.

LEMON: So, everything you know about the Deputy Attorney-General, would he threaten House staff as he alleges what the DOJ denies?

SWALWELL: I don't think so, Don. You know, I was a prosecutor, and I think most prosecutors, you know, they go above and beyond to follow the law, and meet the highest standards of the law to prove their case. You know, we were always told when we were trying that, you know, you wear the white hat, and you do the right thing.

I just can't see him saying that, but I can see because I have with seen my own eyes, Chairman Nunes obstructing, and preventing Rosenstein from doing what he has to do to allow Mueller to complete his job.

LEMON: So, when the evidence that you have seen -- you have seen with your own eyes? You haven't seen that the Deputy AG would do I with it -- the Attorney-General would?

SWALWELL: That would be out of character for...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK. So, the Attorney-General Jeff Session in just a short time ago, he said that -- he said that they have been cooperative with the DOJ, they've turned over information, they have made progress on that front, would you agree with that?

SWALWELL: That the DOJ has been cooperative with House Intelligence?

LEMON: Yes.

SWALWELL: I think our job is to look, you know, whether Civil Rights are being violated, you know, whether investigations are within their scope, but we don't do that when the investigation is on going.

LEMON: Too corporative?

SWALWELL: Yes, too corporative. Devin Nunes is not interested in even learning, and there's been reports that he doesn't even read what's been turned over. He just wants Rosenstein to say no, so then he can use that as a reason to undermine Rosenstein and Mueller's investigation, huge purpose.

LEMON: You have said that from the very beginning, I remember you coming on the show, and even you weren't in the show, you were standing there in Congress saying that you believe that Nunes should have been off the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation a long time ago.

He seems to keep all of this in the spotlight. Why is he able to do that when the investigation -- the House investigation is essentially closed as Republicans are concerned?

SWALWELL: Paul Ryan won't stand up to him. Paul Ryan appointed him. He 2can take him off the committee. He can get us back to that cooperation. I want so many times...

LEMON: Why won't he stand up to him?

SWALWELL: I think he's afraid of Donald Trump. He's afraid of him. The same reason Mark Stanford's afraid of Donald Trump, because Trump wins. When you go against Trump, he wins, and democracy loses.

You wouldn't believe the number of times I saw Mr. Schiff in our committee say to the Republicans, why don't we just meet. Go on the sidelines, have an informal meeting, you tell us what's bothering. We will tell you what's bothering us. And not once did they take them up on it.

LEMON: So do you remember when the President's attorney was his new attorney? Not exactly knew...

SWALWELL: Which one?

LEMON: Rudy Giuliani. When he said that the President didn't have time to sit down with Robert Mueller because he was preparing -- too busy preparing for this North Korea summit, right? Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: If Mueller said to me tomorrow, bring him in two hours like you want, no questions that you don't want, and we're pretty much ready to clear him. I could not go to the President of the United States, and say, take two days off and get ready for that, and screw the whole thing with North Korea. How can any American do that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK, so there's two thing, number one, summit's over, right, the investigation still going on.

SWALWELL: Yes.

[22:45:02] LEMON: And number two, the President admitted as much that he didn't really prepare. Because I've been preparing for this for all my life, I'm going with my gut, and how I feel. So, what gives here?

SWALWELL: Yes. He didn't prepare. He saw this as a match.com date without any repercussion.

LEMON: So what does that -- what does that mean when Rudy Giuliani said, was he just flat out lying?

SWALWELL: Sit in the chair now -- what's you excuse for not sitting in the chair now? When you -- and to hear all of these complaints from Vice President Pence to the President that it's taking too long -- by the way, hasn't gone as long as whether (Inaudible) or Watergate.

But when you tamper with witnesses, whether you lie, when you obstruct, and when you're not willing to sit in the chair when you've already been given the questions, yes, that's going to take a little while.

LEMON: Congressman Swalwell, thank you, sir.

SWALWELL: Yes, my pleasure.

LEMON: I appreciate it. When we come back a federal judge approves AT&T's merger with Time Warner despite the administration's objection to the deal. And that judge is also given President Trump's DOJ a stern warning. We're going to tell you about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: A federal judge ruling in favor of AT&T's merging with Time Warner, the parent company of CNN. The Justice Department tried to block the $85 billion deal, but the judge warns tonight, your case was so weak, don't even try to appeal. Let's discuss now. CNN's Senior Media Correspondent Brian Stelter, and CNN Legal Analyst Renato Mariotti joins us.

2[22:50:03] Well, good evening, a lot to talk about so let's get to it. So, Brian, the statement -- Time Warner spokesman Gary Ginsberg said the court's resounding rejection to the government's argument is confirmation that this was a case that was baseless, political in its motivation, and should have never been brought in the first place. And we have mentioned that, you know, Time Warner is CNN's parent company. But the President's animosity towards CNN, was that the main reason for this case in the first place?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I don't know if we can say that for sure, but that has been the cloud that has been looming over this deal the entire time. And even though the judge didn't want that to come up in court, it was being talked about the whole time outside the court room, and you can even see him hinting at it in his decision today when he says hey, Justice Department, don't come to me asking for a stay.

Don't try to delay this any further. That would cost a loss of faith in the Justice System, and in the court. He is saying it's over. It's done. AT&T and Time Warner can get together. And assuming there is no radical surprise or radical action in court this week, this company will merge next week. I mean, CNN in other change will be own by AT&T next week.

LEMON: Renato, I want you to weigh in, but before you do that, I just want to remind our viewers of what the President said before and after the election about the AT&T-Time Warner merger. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few. Personally, I've always felt that that was a deal that's not good for the country. I think your pricing is going to go up. I don't think it's a good deal for the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I mean, Renato, come on, was this always political?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think so. And frankly, what I would say, Don, is one thing that really surprise me is the Justice Department brought this case using a very, very aggressive unusual argument in challenging this merger.

And typically Republican administrations are not very aggressive in anti-trust enforcement. They -- you know, those are years -- I practiced anti-trust law for many years, those are years where the Justice Department is less aggressive.

STELTER: Right.

MARIOTTI: So why is the Republican administration targeting this merger when in another context like Sinclair, they're being very permissive. It's very unusual.

LEMON: This was a scathing decision by the judge in the case. He not only ruled in favor of AT&T, but also told the government not to request a stay as Brian mentioned or appeal. First, Renato, I have to ask you how unusual is that, what does that say to you, and then I'll get Brian to weigh in.

MARIOTTI: Sure, what it says is the judge does not want the government to effectively deny this merger. A lot of times -- the viewer should understand -- there is a lot of times when the government decides to oppose a merger, companies just throw up their hands and admit defeat because they don't want to deal with the delay. The judge is telling them do not use this as a way of trying to blow up the deal.

LEMON: Do you think they will or could?

MARIOTTI: I think they could, but I -- the Justice Department I know wouldn't do it. And if they do it, it suggests to me there's more evidence that's politically motivated.

LEMON: OK. So, if it is not -- if it is politically motivated which most people think and it seems like the judge may be going that way, although didn't specifically say it, then it stopped them from doing a stay in anyway in trying to kill the deal.

STELTER: Yes, they can certainly try, but, you know, it's notable that the anti-trust team (Inaudible) did not immediately appeal today, saying he's going to consider his next steps. Maybe we'll hear from him tomorrow.

It's so interesting, Don, it's sad when this deal was announced back in October 2016 when Trump run, that he didn't see any sign anti-trust problems with this deal. It was only after Trump was elected, and after he was appointed anti-trust boss, then he suddenly saw serious problems.

Now, you could say he was talking to his career officials at the DOJ. They're the ones that wanted to sue. We don't know exactly what went on behind the scenes.

But I hope that through freedom, and information, and that request, and other processes, we will find out more about what went on behind the scenes, and whether there was political interference.

Right now, there's a lot of smoke, but no fire. But the smoke is important because it undermines faith in the system. Today, the system worked, checks and balances worked, the judiciary spoke up against about the executive branch.

LEMON: I'm just wondering, Renato, how much of this judge's warning would it play -- would it have any standing on a appeals court judge?

MARIOTTI: I think you -- it will allow, what I see here, Don, the most important thing, you have 170-something page very well reasoned decision. I think a Court of Appeals would look very poorly on a Justice Department appealing this. I think they know -- you'd have to know -- the Justice Department you have almost no chance of winning an appeal.

LEMON: But just Judge Leon said that he hopes the government, and this is a quote, has the wisdom and the courage not to seek a stay. And we should say that the judge was appointed by our President George W. Bush.

STELTER: Right, a Republican appointee. Now there is about six days here where that could happen, or where there could be more illegal maneuvering. And then AT&T will bring these companies together.

That means this time next week, CNN and others will be owned by AT&T. And we're going to see a lot of other companies trying to do deals as well.

[22:55:02] Comcast, (Inaudible) Fox --

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: This is domino effect, and the first domino happened today, and a lot of people were waiting to hear what the judge would decide.

LEMON: Never a dull moment, everyone. Thank you, Renato. Thank you, Brian. I appreciate it. When we come back, the video President Trump used to pitch Kim Jong-un on peace. Is it persuasion or propaganda?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. Getting close to 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. Just a couple seconds away. We're live with all the new developments. President Trump on his way back from the summit in Singapore, but what about the deal he is bringing back with him?

Sure it was a photo-op for the ages, something no other president chose to do. Yes, talking face-to-face is better than threatening, it is. But, will Kim Jong-un ever really give up his nuclear weapons?