Return to Transcripts main page


Immigration Chaos And Race In America; President Trump's Immigration Fail; The Real Story Of Donald Trump Jr.; NFL Players Respond To The President; Champions For Change. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired June 21, 2018 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Don Lemon. 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast live with all the new developments for you. Chaos tonight at the border. President Trump's immigration policies putting children in cages, ripped from the arms of their parents. We're talking tonight about the role race plays in all of this and how this President has fanned the flames of racial division in America. So back with me now Charles Blow, Scott Jennings, Adam Stuart and also Peter Wehner. So, Peter, today President Trump was asked whether his administration will continue prosecuting families who come across the border, this is how he responded.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to have a very tough policy, otherwise you have millions and millions of people pouring into our country. We can't have that. We have no choice. We have to have a very strong border. And if you don't you'll have millions and millions of people. And look at what is happening today, it will look like child's play. It'll be a terrible thing if we ever did that. So we have to be very, very strong on the border. If we don't do it you will be inundated with people, and you really won't have a country anymore. You know, without borders you don't have a country.


LEMON: Peter, you said to "The Washington Post" if the President takes, and this is quote, a blowtorch to the tinder of a cultural war about race and ethnicity, is this part of that?

PETER WEHNER, CONTRIBUTING OPINION WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES: Sure, it is. And so is this policy separating children from parents, but so is his original announcement in June of 2015 when he came down the escalator and said that implied that Mexicans coming across the border were primarily rapists and murderers. Again, this is the thread that goes through. Donald Trump is inconsistent. He flip-flops. He is volatile, but there is a malicious thread that runs through his presidency and his rhetoric, and it comes back to race and to ethnicity. That is the new culture war. Years ago the culture war was defined by

issues having to do with abortion, gay rights and so forth. That is not the case now. Now it has to do with race and ethnicity. And remember, race is the original sin in American life. And it has been the most consistently besetting sin. And Trump keeps coming back to it. The country has had Presidents before had been polarizing, that happens, but we never had before is someone who is so intentionally divisive and so intentionally malicious.

LEMON: It is hard for him.

WEHNER: He goes out of his -- yes, he does it all the time and he does it with an intention to divide on these kind of fault lines of American society. And so it's not a surprise that America is fracturing.

LEMON: So Scott, Peter, mentioned his rhetoric. And I just want to remind -- this for you -- so, I just want to remind our viewers what the president -- how he has described immigrants in the past few years.


TRUMP: We are bringing in some very bad, bad people. We don't want this group of people anymore. You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals. I referred to them as animals, and guess what? I always will. The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility. It won't be.


LEMON: Scott, invoking fear to otherwise immigrants, you think?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the President has always been pretty clear that he does not want people who intend to commit crimes or criminal elements to come in to the country. I think, he is also been clear that he doesn't mind if we do have a legal immigration system where people no matter their race can come here as long as they are doing it in accordance with our laws.

I don't agree with the president excuse on refuges, I think the United States should frankly take in more refugees and set an example for the world. I've seen refugee camps all over the world and there are a lot of people who need our help. And the United States has the room and capacity to provide our help, but when it comes to immigration the President has always said, I want a strong border. I want to tighten up the porous nature of the border. I want to have people coming in through points of entry, where we know is coning and I want to make sure we're not letting in criminal element.

I actually think those sentiments most Americans agree with that, so, especially when it comes to MS-13 which has been very strong on. I don't think you are necessarily racist if you want to have an order control and an immigration system in which you can track the folks who are coming here for the right reason and the folks where coming in here to commit crime.

ADAM SERWER, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Just very quickly, Scott, the problem is that is --

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Maybe most Americans would agree with that, but it is also blind to history. So, you wouldn't have a country if it was not flooded with criminals in the very beginning, right? So there's a period in the 1700s, like 1718 to about 1775 in which Britain was just sending criminals, literally sending their criminals.

[23:05:10] We always think about Australia, them sending their criminal to Australia. They only started to send their criminals to Australia when we -- when the American colonies started to revolt. And the people who had come who were criminals were not their best. Britain wasn't sending its best to America. Only a few of the aristocracy of Europe came to America. These were peasants. So when you look at like, what the founding of this country, the original citizens, the original colonists of this country, and you look at the people coming across the southern border and they kind of have the same kind of profile, right?

There are some criminals, and we need to try -- figure out we don't want to have the people who are coming to America to commit crimes, although that is exactly the kind of Europeans that we got in the beginning, but there are also peasants, they are people who are looking for a better opportunity looking for a -- an opportunity to start over. And that is why people originally came to this country. I just find it hypocritical when people say America is a country of laws and it is not a country we don't have borders, we can't have just anybody coming in and they're not sending their best, but that is exactly who we were. I juts -- I don't understand, it's incredibly hypocritical -- it's not even hypocritical. It is completely blind to history.

LEMON: So here -- this is what you wrote in the Atlantic about the president's immigration policies, Adam, you said to preserve the political and cultural preeminence of white Americans against a tide of Democratic change, to keep America more white and less brown, the Trump administration has settled on a policy of systematic child abuse intended to intimidate prospective immigrants into submission. You said this has a lot of uncomfortable echoes of America's past similar to what Charles is saying.

SERWER: Yes, I mean, look, you know, the irony of the president's statement that we are not going to be a refugee camp, it is the president's policy that is turning the United States into a refugee camp. United States doesn't need to prosecute every single person who tries to cross the border for a misdemeanor illegal entry. In fact, when you do that, you have to house them which means that you need to start looking for places to put people, and that diverts resources from prosecuting the people who are actually dangerous.

So instead of focusing on the people who pose a threat to public safety we are literally doing what the President says that he doesn't want to do, which is turning people into a refugee camp. And I think it's just very clear at this point that the President has a racial conception of citizenship, and there's a hierarchy in which white Americans are at the top and the rest of us, you know, are potentially a threat to that cultural preeminence. I mean, you can see them in a way he talks about immigrants infesting the United States.

What do you do with an infestation, you exterminate it. I mean, that is dangerous language, but it's also reflected in the President's policies. I mean, you don't, you simply -- something like separating families is not something you do when you respect people as human beings. It's something you do, when you are capable of that kind of respect.

LEMON: So, Peter, I just want -- let me read this, because I know you want to weigh in. I think this may help you make that -- whatever point you are trying. This is new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. It shows the number of non-Hispanic white people in this country decreased for the last time -- for the first time in the nation's history between 2015 and 2016. And then it shows that trend continued between 2016 and 2017 as non-whites grew. Do you think data is behind some of the support for President Trump?

WEHNER: Yes, I think so. And I think the data shows and I think some of the social science shows that there is a sense among some number of people, whites, that they're losing their country, that they're losing positions of influence, and that they're losing the culture. Look, I want to be clear not everybody obviously who supports Donald Trump is a racist, but there is just simply no question that Trump's presidency and his pre-presidency was based on appeals to racism and this ethnic division.

That list that Scott ran through said, you know, the President said this and this and this, Scott's a decent guy and a good guy, but that is not all he had said, Scott. And if he had said it would be completely commonplace. What's different about this President and you just have to acknowledge this, is that, he does make these racial appeals. And we've seen it. We saw it on the segment before we came on, and that is what's different here. And this is malignancy.

And this kind of thing and this kind of attitude when a President does it, can really do tremendous civic and political damage to a country, and it can rile people up and it can embolden the worst elements in American society. And what's happened is these groups that have always existed, that have been on the fringes which is where they should be kept. And they were kept by people like George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, this is different. And now that they've been emboldened and they had been essentially pulled in, and that is just -- that is just bad.

[23:10:00] This is like, you know, Lucy and the football saying Trump should say this, he should say that. He should say a lot of things. The trouble is he never does and we're paying a cost for it.

LEMON: Scott, what you're saying is you say, well, he wants to have strong borders and what have you, but we don't hear the good things about immigrants as much as we hear the negative things he has to say about immigrants, but I'll give you the last word. Go on. JENNINGS: Well, look, you know Pete and I disagree about some of what

is going on the Trump presidency, but on the issue of race in this country and attentions around race. We talked about it a number of times on this show, I think it is the most worrisome civil society problems we had. I mean both parties can do better. I think the President could do better. I hope he denounces or chooses to ignore and marginalize these people who are coming to the White House. And I hope we do wind up in a place where we get the border security that Americans want and also the immigration system that has made this country great and makes our economy strong. I think, most Americans think we can do both. We can all do better on our rhetoric that includes the President. So, let's hope these kind of conversations civil that we're having tonight lead us into a better place.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, I understand what you're saying. This is beyond rhetoric, though. This is about something this country has never really dealt with on a serious note, that there are people who are -- who feel guilty about what happened in the past and therefore they are reticent to talk about it, discuss it or even believe that it exists. And so if it doesn't exist, it doesn't exist. People are going to be guilty all your life, but who are we as a country, and when are we going to finally face-up to the ravages of slavery, Jim Crow and on and on? We haven't done it, and this President certainly is not helping. He is making it worse. Thank you all.

When we come back intense pressure from Republicans and Democrats alike forcing President Trump to cave on immigration. Could this be the issue which emboldens Republicans to challenge the President?


LEMON: The chaos at the border forced President Trump to back down on his own immigration policies. The policies that sought thousands of children taken from their parents and sent across the country. Won't this energize Republicans who don't agree with the President? I want to bring in now CNN political commentator, Alice Stewart, Republican strategist Rick Wilson and CNN global affairs analyst, Max Boot, the author of "The road not taken." Good evening, everyone.

Rick, so let's start with the impact here at home first and specifically with Republicans. Republicans in Congress, many of them, some Democrats and the American people, stood up to the President. And this time he backed down. Do you think the play book has changed a little bit moving forward on how to deal with his outrage or is it just a one off?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think this is one of the first times there's been -- you know, to quote the great part of the western philosophical (inaudible) the movie "Predator," if it bleeds we can kill it. And so these guys saw this week, a lot of them who had been very, very upset about Trump on many things and kept their mouth shut, they saw him fail. They saw him not only fail, they saw him fail spectacularly. They saw him panic. They're still watching him panic right this minute.

This has been a bad week for the President. And a lot of the Republicans in Congress, they are not going to all jump ship right away, but they saw that this guy was defeated by the images of crying children from a program he pushed forward and wanted to force on them to take responsibility for, and frankly one of the reasons you're not seeing an immigration bill until at least at next week is they have no desire to help him out of this problem. They don't want to take any more of the stink from what he and Stephen Miller has designed here.

LEMON: So they just want, you deal with this, and then we'll pick it up once it is subsided? Si that, do you think that is the game plan here?

WILSON: Well, look, I think there's very little appetite in Congress among Republicans to spend $20 billion on the wall. And the fact of the matter is Donald Trump has blown up the immigration debate right now to the point where it is -- it has come to a complete standstill. We are not going to do border security that would make any common sense. He is engaged in this very racially inflected and very divisive program of dividing families. This executive order was just a -- because Trump was in a panic. . There has not been a real fix to this problem and it is not going to end. And they don't feel like they have a good negotiation partner, you know, given his tweet today that blew up the negotiations in the middle of the day today.

LEMON: Yes. So what about, you Alice? I mean, it's no secret, the Republicans have been more critical of the President. They do it anonymously all along, but they haven't really done it in public so much. But he is still extraordinarily popular with his base.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He is very popular. We saw it last night when he was in Minnesota. Clearly the base there loved him, and he was at his finest last night, but in terms of what you want to call it a flip-flop or changing of his position or reversing of his position, I truly believe that this is one off. We're not going to see moving forward whenever the President is pushed on an issue, him changing course.

And this was one he clearly, really have no choice. Clearly he felt he was being strong on immigration, he was enforcing the immigration laws and being tough on the border, but it really backfired on him. And part of what he came out yesterday saying and today is giving himself some credit for showing sympathy to these children, but in my view, while initially I thought he was correct for standing firm on immigration as we saw images of these children and the family separation it was too much. It was a bridge too far.

And anyone who wants to give him any praise for this, it's like giving credit to an arsonist who grabs the fire hose from a fireman putting out the fire that he started. What the President did do the right thing by reversing course on this, but what he needs to do now is get together with Congress and let us get together and put together a serious immigration reform. I think it is -- I think we're right, we need to do a more merit based system.

LEMON: To Rick's point, though, they don't want to touch it right now, because it's a toxic issue right now. I want to get to Max. Max is in Jerusalem. There are implications abroad, Max as well. And we have you here, because you are abroad. Any reaction there to the president's policies that resulted in the separation of thousands of children from their parents?

[23:20:00] MAX BOOT, COUNCIL FOR FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, I think generally, you know, Donald Trump is taking a blowtorch to the American -- to the way that America is viewed in the world, Don. I mean, this is heart breaking to see because, you know, when you think about a policy of a country separating children from their parents and putting them in steel cages, I mean normally that is the kind of human rights abuse that the United States condemns. And now this is the kind of human rights abuse the United States is conducting and we're being condemned by the rest of the world. I mean, it's just doing devastating damage, I think to the way that the U.S. is being viewed around the world.

I mean, Israel is actually one of the few countries that has a positive view of Trump, because of his move at the U.S. embassy, but it's very much an outlier. If you look at public opinion polling around the world, perception of the United States are hitting new lows. We're becoming about as popular as a communicable disease around much of the world, because of what Donald Trump is doing it. Our competitors, our enemies, countries like China and Russia are now about as popular as in United States in many parts of the world. That is going to do long-term damage to American foreign policy and American standing in the world.

LEMON: Theresa -- just what you said, Theresa May and Justin Trudeau today, watch.


THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, BRITISH: The pictures of children being held in what appears to be cages are deeply disturbing. This is wrong. This is not something that we agree with. This is not the United Kingdom's approach.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER, CANADA: What's going on in the United States is wrong. I can't imagine what the families going through this are enduring. Obviously, this is not the way we do things in Canada.


LEMON: That was Wednesday, by the way, but Rick, it used to be that this was not how we did things in the United States either.

WILSON: Look, there are -- there's a vacancy, Don, right now in the job of leader of the free world. Donald Trump has abdicated it for a number of different reasons. He sucks up to dictators, he spends his days, asks how often he can wash Putin's car. He praises Duterte, he praises these people who represent everything counter to American values and principles. And now we have policies that look like things out of the worst kind of authoritarian dystopias.

And you know what, the whole argument on the Republican side right now that, oh, this is Obama's policy, this was something of the past. I am sorry, it's the policy now of this administration. And if you are going to address it the retrospective what about it doesn't meet the test of being a great power and great leader of a great power. So the leader of the free world is an open job right now, because Donald Trump is sure walking away from it. And the crisis this week and handling of it hasn't approved, our reputation on the world or his as a leader.

LEMON: Yes. I have very short time here, Alice. Have we lost moral high ground in the U.S.?

STEWART: We've done tremendous damage to it. Look, anytime you have the Pope, Theresa May and the Prime Minister of Canada as well as the Ayatollah Khomeini, saying we're doing wrong and immoral things it's a really bad day. And I think it's one thing for the President to basically piss off a lot of these foreign leaders when it comes to the Paris Climate Accord and the Human Rights Council and to NATO and other issues, but when we're talking about something as precious and meaningful as a bridge too far with these small children, we've got a lot of ground to make up when it comes to how we're viewed across the world.

LEMON: Thank you all, especially Max who joined us from Jerusalem. We really appreciate it everyone.

When we come back, the real story of Donald Trump, Jr. We are going to speak with the reporter who did an incredible deep dive into what it's like being the President's eldest son. Plus, this new details from inside the infamous Trump Tower meeting with the Russians.


LEMON: One of Donald Trump's -- President Trump's fiercest supporters is his eldest son and namesake Donald Trump, Jr., but the father-son relationship has not always been exactly smooth. Julia Ioffe, is out with a fascinating profile, it is called "The real story of Donald Trump Jr." and I mean it is fascinating. It's full of new details including revelations about the Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016 where he and top Trump campaign officials, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, met with Russians who had ties to Vladimir Putin. So joining me now, Julia Ioffe, who wrote the article, again, it's fascinating. So, thank you for joining us and we are going to discuss -- there's so much on this article that I want to get to, but I want to start with the insight that you've got into this Trump Tower meeting that I just mentioned. You spoke to a source who was at the meeting and described Don, Jr.'s interactions with the Russians. Tell me -- tell us what happened.

JULIA IOFFE, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, according to the source, and this was confirmed by the meeting -- various meeting participant's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee was that Donald Trump, Jr. was quite keen to bring the focus back to what he believed he was promised in setting up this meeting, which was dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

You know, people came in there, came into the meeting at Trump tower, started talking about what a great view of Central Park it was, and he said let's talk business, I believe you have something for me. The Russians started talking about something else entirely. He said, what does this have to do with Hillary? So, he was very, and the second he understood that he wasn't going to get the dirt on Hillary that he thought he was going to get or he hoped he was going to get, the source that I spoke to said the light just went out in his eyes. He was not interested.

LEMON: Wow. OK. So let us talk about the article now, because I want to give a couple of quotes here. OK, so let us go as fast as we can here. You talk about him trying to be useful to his father, and you write, that meeting which Don had hoped would prove useful has since become as useful as a hole in the head. It is now a prime focus of the investigation led by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. I mean he wanted to please his father, you said the light went out, right, but he wanted to please his father, so, it seems like he was way out of his depth here.

IOFFE: I mean, like in so many things in his lifelike, in business, in politics, he is kind of gotten a hang of things that he has had to go into this things, because of his father. I mean, his father basically pick whom he would marry. His father allegedly stopped the alleged affair Donald Trump Jr. was allegedly having.


So the amount of control that his father has on his life and the fact the way that it dictates what he does in his life, what he focuses on in his life, and the way he's constantly trying to kind of get his dad's attention and approval, I don't know, it made me want to give him a hug and flip him the name of a good therapist.

LEMON: OK, well, here's one more then, because you tell --

IOFFE: To be fair, I read this. I wrote the story. Wrote and reported this story before the child separation.


IOFFE: I want to be clear.

LEMON: OK. So, you write some antidotes in the article about the older Don, the president, his relationship with his children including Don Jr. And you said when Don Jr. was born, it was Ivanka who wanted to call their newborn -- it was Ivana, excuse me, Ivana, who wanted to call their newbord Donald Jr.

You can't do that, Trump is quoted as saying in Ivana's memoir, it is called "Raising Trump." "What if he's a loser?" That was what he said. What father says that?

IOFFE: Donald Trump. I mean, he -- this is a thing, you know, when you have one of the Russian participants in the Trump Tower meeting, one of the congressional investigators looking at you and just saying, man, I feel really bad for the guy, he's just trying to please a man who will not be pleased by anybody but himself. And, you know, when the Russians see you as their kind of delivery boy, when they're -- when they feel pity for you, it's maybe not the best.

LEMON: Yeah. OK. And then you write this. When he was growing up, his dad called him Donny, which is a moniker the elder Trump would never go by. It's a name I hate, he explained in the art of the deal. Why would he call his son by a nickname that he despise himself? What does that say about him?

IOFFE: I think -- you know, he saw him as the junior to his senior, somebody who is always living in his shadow and always having to kind of strive for his approval. There's so many other anecdotes in there.

The time when Donald Trump, Sr. and Ivana Trump got divorced, and they started having this epic public battle over their assets, over their marriage, and Donald Trump send up body guards to the triplex and said, I'm taking my eldest son.

And he basically held him hostage to try to get leverage over Ivana Trump. And when Ivana Trump said, fine, keep him, I have two other kids to raise, Donald Trump said, screw it, and sent him back up.

LEMON: Wow, wow. OK, well, it's called "The Real Story of Donald Trump, Jr." and it's in GQ and it's by Julia Ioffe and it's fascinating. Thank you. I appreciate it.

IOFFE: Thank you.

LEMON: When we come back, President Trump asked NFL players to come up with a list of people they felt were treated unfairly by the justice system, saying he consider pardoning them. I'm going to talk to two players who responded with an op-ed in today's New York Times.


LEMON: So members of the NFL players coalition sending a message to the president in the wake of his attacks on players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. In The New York Times op-ed under the headline, "NFL Players to Trump," here's whom you should pardon. They're calling on him to use not only his pardon power but also to make policy changes to address systematic injustice in the criminal justice system.

Joining me now are two of those players, Anquan Boldin, a wide receiver who retired last year, and Benjamin Watson, a tight end with the New Orleans Saints. I'm so glad both of you are on. I commend you on what you wrote, so let's discuss now.

So, Benjamin, the president previously asked players for a list of people that you thought were unfairly treated by the justice system. If he agrees, he says he's going to consider pardoning or commuting the sentences of those prisoners. Do you think that's a serious offer?

BENJAMIN WATSON, NFL PLAYER, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Well, I have no reason to believe that it's not. I have to take the president at his word and respect the office that he's in. I applaud him for even making that offer. But as we were thinking about a response, obviously, there are thousands of names that the president and his staff are reviewing at this time for pardons and clemency and those sorts of things.

While if we send a list which we could do for those people, that would be a great thing, but there's a larger issue here. And our point and our mission I think was to get people to think about the larger issue of mandatory minimum sentences and life without parole.

The effects that those things have when people -- when they have to pay for their crimes, when they are being kept in prison for longer than they should.

And actually how those sentences are administered across our population many times has done in a way that is unfair and unjust. We want to be people who bring people's eyes back to justice and really what that means.

LEMON: You want to put the focus back on what it actually is and also get some action. So, Anquan, I want to read some of the -- you and your fellow players, Doug Baldwin, Malcolm Jenkins, Benjamin Watson, you responded. Here's part of what you wrote.

You said, "as Americans, it is our constitutional right to question injustices they occur and we see them daily, police brutality, unnecessary incarceration, excessive criminal sentencing, residential segregation and educational inequality. Law enforcement has a responsibility to serve its community, yet this responsibility has too often not met basic standards of accountability."

Is your hope for a bigger conversation with the Trump administration and if so, do you think it's going to happen?

ANQUAN BOLDIN, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Our hope is definitely for a bigger conversation. Will it happen? We're not sure. But I think the one thing is that all of us are affected by these issues.

[23:40:01] When you talk about police brutality, I'm currently dealing with that situation in my family. I had a cousin who was killed by an officer after he broke down on the side of the road. So these are real issues that we're dealing with.

These are not things that are made up by players but things that we see every day in our communities with our families. So it's the conversation that we feel like needs to be had.

LEMON: Listen, so sorry for your loss. It's awful and thank you for sharing that with us. Have you heard from the White House, anything?

BOLDIN: At this point, we haven't.

LEMON: Benjamin, have you heard anything?

WATSON: I have not heard anything from the White House. Hopefully we will soon, and whenever that happens, whether it does or not, I agree with Anquan that we hope that this pushes a further conversation. We hope that it makes people maybe put themselves in someone else's shoes and makes them realize and maybe investigate if some of these claims are true.

And we also want to point back to the fact that, you know, these are are the reasons why players have been protesting. We've said it over and over again that we are people who love this country. We have friends in the military, family in the military.

The reason why we stand up and we speak in sometimes situations where it's not popular is that we want this country to be all that she can be. And so we hope that it pushes a longer conversation. And if that goes to the White House, we welcome that as well.

LEMON: I think this quote that I am about to read now is the most impactful one for me of this piece. Anquan, I will direct this to you, listen, "President trump, please note, our being professional athletes has nothing to do with our commitment to fighting injustice. We are citizens who embrace the values of empathy, integrity and justice and we will fight for what we believe is right. We weren't elected to do this. We do it because we love this country, our communities and the people in them. This is our America, our right."

Wow. Do you have any indication what the first game of next season looks like? Do you guys, Anquan first, do you guys think players are going to be taking a knee during the anthem?

BOLDIN: Honestly, I don't know. I don't have an answer for you at this point in time. But I think we made it clear in the letter, we're citizens first.

I know a lot of people say that we should shut up and just stick to football, but that's not what we're about. We're about improving this country, we're about improving the communities that we see are being -- being treated wrongly, unfairly in this country.

We said it. We don't stand for the injustices or the inequalities that are happening in our country. And we want to do whatever we can to see that that changes. That's why you've seen guys protesting in the past.

But at this point, for us, we've moved past protest, although I do think the protest was even necessary to even bring this conversation nationally. But for the players, I think we're more to the point of coming up with solutions.

LEMON: Yeah.

BOLDIN: We're out in the communities. We're doing the work. We're educating ourselves on these issues. We're trying to come up with real solutions for these problems. We're working with different groups on a daily basis that have been in this area for a number of years.

So, this is not something a fly-by-night situation for us. It's something that we're committed to. And like I said, we're committed to making a change in this country.

LEMON: I'm glad that you said that because people may not realize the work that you do in communities especially in light of the president calling some of the people -- or the people who protest sons of bitches. It doesn't sound like that's what you are to me if you're out working in the community to help others. I just -- real quickly, Benjamin. Do you think people are going to take a knee to protest?

WATSON: I don't know. I don't know the answer to that either. Obviously the NFL has come out with a new rule and owners are right now discussing how they're going to levy fines, if they're going to levy fines. You got different owners saying different things. And so all that stuff will become clear as the season nears.

I don't know what players will do, but I can agree, I can echo that players will still be involved in the local communities. They will be involved with the different work that the guys that you've seen, the guys that have written these op-eds, the guys that are doing these listen and learn tours and educating themselves.

LEMON: I don't mean to cut you off. I want to get this in because I just wonder how you guys, what's your reaction to the president canceling the visit with the Philadelphia Eagles to the White House? Benjamin?


WATSON: I thought it was -- I thought it was sad, honestly, the way that it happened. I thought it was a kind of a tit for tat immature thing, kind of a back and forth thing. I'm sad that it happened.

LEMON: Anquan?

WATSON: But I commend the Eagles for continuing to go and do work that they were going to do in the D.C. area.

[23:45:03] LEMON: Anquan?

BOLDIN: Yeah, like Benjamin said, it was expected. You have a lot of Eagles players that didn't agree with different policies that he was pushing. But like Benjamin said, those guys have been out there on the forefront making a change in communities.

Doing the listen and learn tours, meeting with different senators and congressman, meeting with state and local officials to change policy. I mean, pushing for DA's up in Philadelphia. So guys have really been out educating themselves and doing work in the community to create change that we all want to see.

LEMON: Listen, you guys are awesome. I call you gentlemen. You are not what the president said. You are gentlemen, and I appreciate you. Good luck. I'll talk to you soon.

WATSON: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: We'll be right back.

BOLDIN: Thank you.


LEMON: The Harvey Weinstein scandal, the "Me Too" movement, and the alleged abuse by a former White House aide Rob Porter, have helped propel domestic violence into the national spotlight. According to the nation's leading victim assistance organization, Safe Horizon, calls for help are up 40 percent.

[23:50:02] Our Erin Burnett visited Safe Horizon for our special series. It's called "Champions for Change." Erin met extraordinary people who are making a difference. It is a dark side of American life where domestic violence affects a startling one in four women.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): Hello, Safe Horizon hotline. This is Stephanie. Are you somewhere safe where you can speak freely?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): I can't talk for long. He could be back any minute. I might have to call you back.

He kept on arguing with me. He was punching me and slapping me in my face. I blacked out. I didn't even know what happened after that.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): More than 20,000 people call Safe Horizon hot lines every single day.


BURNETT (voice over): We met this 23-year-old woman at a Safe Horizon shelter in New York City. She asked us to call her Denise but did not want to disguise her voice.

DENISE: My husband, he was abusive verbally, mentally, and physically. It was easier to deal with in the beginning. And the older my oldest son got, the more questions he started to ask and the more I had to explain -- hold on. I'm sorry.

BURNETT (on camera): It's OK.

DENISE: I haven't talked about this really since i got here.

BURNETT (on camera): She would tell the child a monster. Monster attacked me. And he would say, where's daddy? Daddy was here. Where is daddy? And she'd say daddy was protecting me from the monster. And, you know, it's hard to think about having to make that sort of a lie up.

When you left that night, was it different than what had happened before that made you say this is the last time or --

DENISE: It was a lot worse than it usually is. And I felt like if I don't leave now, I'm not going to be able to. I had to leave when I did.

BURNETT (voice over): It's this, right?

DENISE: I have permanent bruises that I'm going to have for the rest of my life. It hurts to talk about it.


BURNETT (on camera): Thank you. It's amazing how welcoming this is.

ZWANG: Absolutely.

BURNETT (voice over): Safe Horizon shelters are unmarked to protect the families inside. My sister worked at a shelter for survivors of domestic violence. I remember her staying overnight to be sure the families felt safe and abusers didn't find the home.

ZWANG: On any given night, I have about 700 people sleeping safely under our roof. Federal public health research says that one in four American women in her lifetime will be a victim of domestic violence.

BURNETT (voice over): Denise came to Safe Horizon without any identification, without her children's birth certificates, without a change of clothes, without food.

SIDONIE SCHOTCHMAN, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, SAFE HORIZON: When a client comes to shelter, they basically have nothing. They literally have their life in a bag. So we have to make sure that we provide for their basic needs.

BURNETT (voice over): Which include childcare. On average, 400 children are in Safe Horizon shelters in New York every day.

DENISE: It wasn't my first abusive relationship. I didn't want it to be normal for my kids.

BURNETT (on camera): These women, they did this for themselves, and they did it for their children. And they say that. First and foremost, they did it for their children. And those are the real champions for change.

(voice over): CEO Ariel Zwang says calls to Safe Horizon are up 40 percent since the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the "Me Too" movement became front page news. She says former White House aide Rob Porter's alleged abuse also caused women to come forward.

ZWANG: It's affluent women and women who don't have as many means. It's educated women and women who don't necessarily have a GED. People in all walks of life can be abusive. They're affable and pleasant in public. They're not beating up their boss.

BURNETT (on camera): Right. You don't see it in the public persona at all.

ZWANG: They choose to engage in that behavior only at home. And that's how someone can keep doing that and fool everybody. BURNETT (voice over): Denise still wears her wedding ring, but she believes one day she will move on.

DENISE: He told me I was ugly. He told me nobody else is going to love me, so I had to stay with him. I was going to leave him and go. And I believed it for a long time.

BURNETT (on camera): You really believed that?

DENISE: I did. Maybe about a month ago, we did a photo shoot. They did makeup and hair. And that's when I really realized I'm not ugly.

[23:54:59] And somebody else is going to love me. One day, somebody else is going to love me.

BURNETT (voice over): Denise says she's met with a recruiter from the marines and has even taken a test to become a corrections officer.

DENISE: I don't want to give up now. I haven't really -- I've dealt with a lot of bad stuff. And I know that there will still be sunshine.


LEMON: So how's Denise doing now, Erin?

BURNETT: It's just so incredible to see what she's been through at such a young age. She's only in her early 20s. She has two children. So she left at Christmas. It's been six months. You can only stay at an emergency shelter like the one we visited her at for a short time. She now has moved to a longer-term shelter.

She's trying rebuild her life. Her children come first. She's made that very clear. But it is incredible when you think of the bravery of what she's gone through and the fact that she is at this longer-term shelter, Don, because for so many women, you know, they go back again and again.

LEMON: And again.

BURNETT: Before they're finally able to leave. So where she is right now is an act of great strength. Herculean strength, frankly, when you think about it. Her story is pretty amazing and inspirational for many.

LEMON: We wish her well. Safe Horizon, they do amazing, amazing work.

BURNETT: They really do.

LEMON: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right.

LEMON: Very important story. All this week, CNN presents "Champions for Change." Anchors from across CNN, they joined forces with people making a difference in causes close to their hearts. "Champions for Change," a special series, all this week on CNN. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching.