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CNN TONIGHT

Trump Does Not Regret Signing Executive Order on Immigration; End of Civility in America?; Trump Delivers Explosive Speech in South Carolina; Sarah Sanders Asked to Leave Restaurant; Trump Supporters, Super Elite; President Trump Criticizes Jimmy Fallon; Former Trump Aide's Racist Remark; End of Civility in America; Rep. Maxine Waters Calls For Peaceful Protest; Former A.G. Mukasey says Trump was Probably Right On Surveillance Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 25, 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: But those are the emptiest of cowards and I don't see how any of that is going to be a cure to a fever that is getting hotter by the day. That is all for us tonight. Thank you for watching "CNN Tonight." The Don Lemon the man starts right now. I'm playing with a metaphor there, but I think the message is pretty obvious.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So I have a question for you then. I get what you're saying. So what happens if the president is the sugar rush, if he is the candy bar, if he is the high fructose corn sugar that is serving -- or syrup -- that is serving ll of this chaos, then what do you do? That's the question.

CUOMO: You have to think about what your goal is and then realize what Draymond Green was saying. You got to make sure that what you do is not just reaction but strategic --

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: -- and get you to a better place. And there is a space right now in the dialogue for somebody who gives people reason to believe in something better than this and reminds them what this country is really about. That could be someone on the right, or the left, we'll see.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, I understand what you're saying. I think it's easier when you sit at certain perch, but when you're on a ground level and it affects you, and we're going to talk about the whole Sara Sanders thing and on when the policies affect you personally.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: You were talking to Draymond and you were saying that African- Americans have a unique experience in this country, and we do, right? Considering how we got here. When those policies are detrimental to you or they affect you, sometimes I'm not condoning it, but people act from anger and they act from their emotion and they don't see any difference and not wanting to serve someone because of your religion or bot wanting to serve someone because you think that their policies are regressive or reprehensible and they are defending those regressive reprehensible policies.

It's a sticky situation. I have to agree with you. I'm not sure -- I think someone should always be served but I understand their feeling about it. Do you get what I'm saying?

CUOMO: A 100 percent. But that's the dialogue. And by the way, we're doing the right thing. Talk about it, don't fight about it. Get the ideas out there. That's why I had Antonio Sabato, Jr. on tonight. He decided to use it as an opportunity to make us the bad guy, his mistake. Not on my watch, but it's a conversation we need to have.

LEMON: I wonder where he got that from. All sir.

CUOMO: He's Italian, is that what you're saying Don? I'm coming to your set right now. See you later, pal.

LEMON: See you later. Thank you Chris.

This is "CNN Tonight," I'm Don Lemon. We have some breaking news for you. At a rally in South Carolina just a little while ago, the president claimed he thought the uproar over immigration would be good for him and his party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have my own feeling, and when I heard them talking about the children -- first of all, they were using pictures taken in 2014 when Barack Obama was president. I wasn't president. And what I learned is one thing. Our facilities are cleaner, better kept and better run, that's the one thing I learned. Okay. I saw it. But what we have is two extremes and I liked it. I said, hey, this is fine for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, he mixed a whole lot of things in there, but you heard the president claim that the pictures of immigrant children were taken in 2014 when Barack Obama was president. Maybe there are some pictures out there but they were not the ones we're talking about, that is a lie. And it comes as President Trump insists he doesn't regret signing the executive order on immigration that spread across the country, all across the country. And the opposition to the president's policies really getting personal right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them, and you tell them they're not welcome anymore, any where.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: So, is this the end of civility in America if there was any left? Are we fanning the flames of division? Republican versus Democrat, non-Trumpster versus Trumpster, white versus brown and black, and straight versus gay, and all of that. When al disagreements turn into personal attacks, are we playing into the hands of those who want to divide us? It is their purpose. Remember, people are doing this on purpose. Is turning instability (ph) against members of the Trump administration really the answer?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: My husband and I politely left and went home. I was asked to leave because I work for President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, or is it the unfortunate result when this administration, this president rips more than 2,000 children from the arms of their parents and uses language claiming that immigrants and their children are invading, infesting our country? Excuse me.

This president and this administration are outraged when their own are heckled or asked to leave a restaurant, yet they support a business refusing to serve gay people claiming religious freedom.

[22:05:01] This is a president, who just the weekend slammed Senator Elizabeth Warren again with a racial slur.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Whacky Jackie is campaigning with Pocahontas, you believe this?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Who attacked Senator John McCain, a war hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He's not a war hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a war hero.

TRUMP: He is a war hero -- he's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He is a man who encouraged his supporters to use physical violence at his own rallies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I would have been out there fighting folks. I don't know if I would have done well but I would have been boom, boom, boom. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He launched his campaign with multiple attacks on Mexicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're bringing drugs. They are bringing crimes. They are rapist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: A president who acquitted anti-fascist with neo-Nazi and white supremacists saying they were very fine people on both sides in Charlottesville even after a woman was killed. The suspect charged with first degree murder just happened to be a Trump supporter.

Well this president has never stopped slamming NFL players for exercising their constitutional right to protest as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a (BLEEP) off the field right now? Out, he's fired. He's fired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And so on, and so on, and so on. So, if this is the end of civility in America is anybody really surprised? But the real question for all of us is, can we turn it back around? I have other questions as well. I want to bring in now CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta first to discuss some of this and what happened today. So, I just want to get your thoughts on what you saw on the ground tonight at the president's rally especially comments about his detention centers being better than President Obama's essentially?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think on the detention centers, Don, you hear the president trying to make this distinction by saying, well, President Obama had children in detention centers when he was president. But I think what the president's message boils down to is Barack Obama's cages were worse than my cages.

First of all, the Obama administration looked at this idea of separating children from their parents and they rejected it. President Trump and this administration looked at this idea and said, yes, let's do it. And you heard the president at this rally tonight say not only does he think it is a good idea, he was essentially saying to this audience here tonight in West Columbia, South Carolina that he think it's good for him politically.

And as for civility, Don, I mean have to tell you, it reminds me of a show on NBC called "This Is Us." To me, the show that we're all watching right now should be called "Is This Us?" Because when I go to these Trump rallies, when I listen to the president speak to these supporters out there at these rallies, obviously many of them are well intention.

They are good patriotic Americans, but the frenzy that people gets whipped up to -- that people get whipped up to at these events, it's astonishing, it's unlike anything I've seen in my entire career covering politics and I think at time it is scary and we saw some of that tonight.

LEMON: Yes. And I think it's important also, Jim, to point out the other administrations chose not to handle the separation of family the same way. This law was signed into law in 2008 -- enacted in 2008, passing (inaudible) to Congress signed by Republican George W. Bush. It focused on freeing, and otherwise, helping children who come to the border without a parent or guardian.

It does not call for family separation. There is a distinction there. But I want to move on with the short time that I have with you. I want to ask you about Sarah Sanders being asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Virginia because she works for this administration. She said she tries to treat everyone with respect, but I mean, you've gone toe to toe with her in many times in professional settings.

ACOSTA: Right.

LEMON: Has that always been your experience?

ACOSTA: It has not always been my experience, Don. I mean, you will recall the briefing that we had about a week and a half ago when she said that I couldn't understand short sentences. She's also gone after April Ryan and others in the briefing room. You know, my take on what happened with Sarah is I'd love to see Sarah and her family to be able to enjoy a meal in a restaurant without something happening to her.

But Don, we're all living in this culture right now that has been just worn down. And, you know, to me it should come as no surprise to her -- as no surprise to all of us, that administration officials are being yelled at at restaurants. Do we want any of that to happen? No, of course not. Don, when I was at this rally tonight people were coming up to me and saying, why are you mean to President Trump? Why are you mean to Sarah Sanders? And then an elderly woman came up to me and said that I need to get the "F" out of the basketball gymnasium that we were having this event in.

[22:10:01] and then she turned to the crowd and she whipped them all into a frenzy and they were saying go home Jim, CNN sucks, fake news and so on. And to me it sort of like, really, this is civility? I don't really understand what's going on. And it sort of -- it sort of like being beamed into the twilight zone, Don, covering a political rally where your fellow Americans you stand for the pledge of allegiance and you do the national anthem, and then they all turn on you and start screaming at you like this.

It's just anything -- it's just unlike anything I've ever seen before and it's quite sudden (ph). There was another moment though, I have to tell you, Don, where a man came up to me and said, listen, there's an elderly woman here that needs a chair can anybody give her a chair. I got up from the table, I gave her my chair so she could sit down, and people were saying hey, thanks for doing that. And we sort of got into a conversation -- I did along with some of the other people there in the crowd.

And you know, we did have a civil exchange. And so I do think it's possible for us to have civility in this society, Don, but we really -- we all have to work on it. Press secretaries, presidents, journalist and people who go to these rallies as well, Don.

LEMON: Yes. We have the tweet. One of your colleagues tweeted about it. Jim, always interesting to get your perspective. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

ACOSTA: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Now, I want to bring in CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, CNN political commentator Charles Blow and Alice Stewart. Also, Republican strategist Rick Wilson. Good to have you all on. So, this is another very important discussion. So, David, I want to start with you. You've worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations. If you -- the person you work for in the highest office in the land, may be the most uncivil person that we have seen in this level or just in normal life, can you expect the same civility? Can you expect people to treat you the same way?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENOIR POLITICAL ANALYST: You can't expect it if your Sarah Sanders, if you're working in an administration, but the country should expect it. This president has been provocative from the beginning. He has insulted everybody. He's lied to us continually. He has all the attributes we call demagogue. He is a demagogue. And he has very strong authoritarian tendencies.

You know, he thinks, I can get away -- I can do anything. You actually sort of -- should be on bended knee to me. And just after we have seen the elections in Turkey, Erdogan winning yet again, he had to be very aware that authoritarianism can rise up in a western or secular country.

And your aspects of President Trump are clearly very authoritarian. Having said that, the only way we're going to restore civility is if others become more civil. And I think that, you know, we just can't have -- if every time they hit you, you hit back we're never going to solve this. And civility has been drained from our national conversation. We've become extraordinarily tribal. Once you start saying no to Sarah Sanders, you drive people into the other tribe and you just have to go back into your tribe.

LEMON: Where does it end? Like, where does it end here?

GERGEN: It may end in some sort of break down of the system.

LEMON: So here's my question then, Charles --

(TECHNICAK DIFFICULTY)

LEMON: -- we were told that the owner of the Red Hen and several of the employees were gay. They were offended by this administration's policies on transgender ban, on, you know, the cake or the baker and all of that, and on separating the children at the border. So then what you are talking about -- they thought it was completely okay that you can support someone who didn't want to serve an American citizen because they happen to be gay. But it's not okay to be asked to leave -- and again, I'm not saying its right or wrong, but what is the difference?

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think we have to acknowledge this that this is not simply about policy. Separating someone from their parents, taking someone's child away is a violent act. It is a violent act. We can't pretend that that is just okay. One of the things he did is a policy decision that he makes. Every night I go to bed, I think about these kids are going to bed not knowing where their parents are. There are parents of 2,000 kids, who may not know physically on the planet, in this country where that kid is.

It could be 2,000 miles away when you realized that someone is being shipped to New York. Do their parent think their here in New York? I couldn't imagine the terror that I would feel if somebody forcibly took one of my kids and I would not know where there were. And so I think put in that context, it is a -- people are responding to violence. And when you put it that way, I don't have any problem with people protesting.

I don't think that we should be encouraging people -- Willy Nilly (ph) to go up and invade peoples' space because once people start to feel threatened you could do anything once you say your physical body is threatened.

[22:15:06] But they are not exempt from being protested and I do not believe that there -- I think we have a romantic notion that there was this period of civility in this country. Well, that's not the way I've read this history. This country -- the history is full of incredible amounts of violence, and also extreme rhetoric and I don't know when that period was.

LEMON: So, I want to get the other guys in before I have to go to break, and we're going to bring you guys back so. But Alice, you have known Sarah Sanders for 15 years, and of course, you know, as Jim said you want people to be able to go out and enjoy their dinner. But can you also understand why people are so upset? I'm not saying that it's right. So what is your take on this?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, yes, I've known Sarah and her father for 15 years, 17 years. And look, she is a public servant but she also have a private life, just like all of these other members of the administration who had similar situations that happened with them, whether they were shouted out at a restaurant or whether they were booed at a baseball stadium or whatever. This is not the way you go about doing it.

And look, I'll be the first one to say President Trump is not the poster child for civility, but at the same time, we should be trying to rise above it and not have a race to the bottom. And look, Democrats and those on the left claim to be this party of tolerance and inclusiveness and acceptance. They need to practice a little bit of this tolerance that they preach so much about. And look, I think it's extremely important if you want to say that you're open minded and you include people from all sides, then you need to be open mined.

Governor Huckabee, when I worked for him, he had a motto in his office that said, "come let us reason together." And what that is about is bringing people from all sides together and having a civil conversation. Look, we're talking about political stability, this is --

LEMON: Governor Huckabee -- you said Governor Huckabee, that was the Govern Huckabee then. That's not the Governor Huckabee now.

STEWART: Exactly.

LEMON: It's not the governor. But listen, I got to go and I'm going to bring you all back. So Rick, I'm going to get you on the other side, OK. You'll be the first one to speak.

When we come back, we return to Congresswoman Maxine Waters calling for people protesting the president's policies, to make members of his administration unwelcomed in public places, and the president pushes back calling her, of course, derogatory term, low I.Q. Have we sunk a new low in American politics? Can we turn things around?

[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We come back now with David Gergen, Charles Blow, Alice Stewart and Rick Wilson. So Rick, we were talking about the lack of civility and everything. The refusal by this restaurant to serve -- let's just say they asked Sarah Sanders to leave. What are your thoughts?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I do think there's a certain tension here between the free market and the choice of this restaurant. Last time I check, being a mendacious liar or working for a mendacious liar was not a protected class. And, the question of, do you want to drag this down in every single moment all the time? But I do think this administration from the very top that has diminished and corroded our public dialogue at every turn.

This is a president who from the moment he started this campaign has sought to divide and diminish this country in many, many ways that, you know, I don't even think we had a full accounting of yet, but we know this is a man who plays with fire when it comes to racial tensions in this country. He plays with fire when it comes to ethic attentions and immigration law of sorts. And this is a guy who wants, you know, to keep a small segment of the population in an ultimate state of terror and arousal.

And so, you know, this whole 50 shades of Don (ph) games he's constantly playing with his base to keep them hepped up all the time, to keep them jazzed up all the time. You know, the external damage that gets done to the rest of the society, the rest of the country, is incalculable. And I do think, you know, as David said, we are in a point where now the authoritarian and demagogue characteristics of Donald Trump are, you know, you'd have to be living in a cave to miss them at this point.

But I think that, you know, Sarah right now, she certainly was quick to whine about it and quick to go on the podium and was quick to tweet on her government twitter account, you know, the poor, pitiful me. But I'm sorry, you know, there's a scope question here where, you know, the behavior of Donald Trump towards his political opponents, which is everyone, and the behavior of his fans towards people.

You know, this is -- we've already hit a pretty low mark in this country and I don't think we have stopped yet. I think we got a long way to fall still.

LEMON: I want to -- (inaudible) you said that now -- do you want to talk about Maxine Waters, but is he starting or has he started a race war in this country, Charles? I mean, is that too much -- is that going too far?

BLOW: I don't know if I would describe it that way, but I do believe that there is an incredible kind of racial anxiety that exist among his base as well as being created among other races of people, and that is attention and that it could become something more.

LEMON: What do you think?

GERGEN: I think Charles wrote a provocative column in the "New York Times" a couple of days ago about your point. And I do think that there are many whites in this country who believe as Patrick Buchanan has been arguing for some years now, that whites are going to become a minority and they feel like they're losing their country. And I think that's one of the motivations for the Trump base and sticking to him and what he's playing to. He's playing on the --

LEMON: Studies show that is the motivation. It's not economic anxiety is --

GERGEN: Well, there is -- isn't that kind of a (inaudible) but it's definitely a racial component here. I do think we have to say, you know, we're not the only country experiencing this. It's been experienced all over Western Europe now. Countries that are very similar to ours -- this is a serious issue. It's going to be (inaudible) a lot of conversation.

LEMON: Listen, I just want to talk about Maxine Waters now because Maxine Waters is telling people, you know, just get out there and get in the face of the Trump administration. She didn't say supporters, although, the president and members of his administration are saying to his Trump supporters -- she said members of the administration or whatever, and then -- watch this. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Maybe should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.

[22:25:02] Knock the crap out of him, would you? Seriously. OK. Just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise.

We're not allowed to punch back anymore. I would like to punch him in the face I tell you.

Try not to hurt him. If you do I'll defend you in court, don't worry about it.

I would have been out there fighting folks. I don't know if I would have done well but I would have been, boom, boom, boom. I'll beat the --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK, so Alice this is for you. So the president talks about Maxine Waters and calls her low I.Q. person and that she's the face -- of her and Nancy Pelosi is the face of Democratic Party and on and on. He said a (inaudible) things about her, but then he's there talking about punching people in the face. It's far more specific than what we heard from Maxine Waters. Doesn't the president bear some responsibility for any of this?

STEWART: Of course he does. He has been doing this ever since he ran for office and continues to this day. People knew this was the tone and tenor of the way he talked and the way he ran and the way he's leading this country.

LEMON: I think your right, Alice, but is that okay though?

STEWART: No, it's not okay. It's not okay. My point being is that this is the way Donald Trump is. We knew that. People voted for him anyway. He has tremendous popularity amongst those in the base and his approval has not faltered because of this. That being said, what Congressman Waters said is not just not smart, it is an extremely dangerous to encourage people to go out there and harass and provoke and get in the face of those that work for this administration. It's extremely dangerous.

And to be quiet honest, if this is all that she and the Democrats have, they're going to be in a serious hurting when it comes to the midterm elections. They need to get past the resistance of just in your face and being against this administration. And give a message that people can support. If this is all they're going to do, they're not going to do well in the midterms. And I think they need to rethink their strategy if this is what the resistance plan to do to win over seats come midterm election.

LEMON: I understand. It's similar to what Charles said earlier. Listen, protests and the foundation of this country, it's in the constitution but we feed to be careful about telling people to invade personal space and getting into someone's face and all of that because it can escalate. So at that, just careful language. I think Maxine Waters should have been more precise and more careful with her language.

You can say you can challenger your lawmakers. You can call their offices, you know, you can confront them on issues that you disagree with them with, but not, you know, get in their face and that sort of thing. Rick, we have heard this president talk about the elites before. You brought that up tonight, but he had a new phrase for his supporters. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They call them the elites, right, the elites. You know what you are, you're the super elites. I'm changing titles. I'm changing. No, no, look at everybody here, makes money, works hard, pays taxes, does a great job. You're smarter, you're better, you're more loyal. We have the greatest base in the history of politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I was just -- as that was returning I was just thinking of Barack Obama giving that same speech to a group of African-Americans. I wonder how some people would have responded to that. So listen, Rick, he says Trump supporters are the super elites. What do you think about that name?

WILSON: Look, Donald Trump -- his whole purpose in life is to satisfy and to feed one narrow segment of the political spectrum in this country, and that's his base. And you know, he may throw a little candy like that out on a night like tonight, but mostly what he feeds them is a diet of fear about dangerous Mexicans and wily Chinese and all these forces that are coming to get them.

And he feeds them a sense of, you know, Seneca says that all cruelty descends from weakness, and that a lot of these folks, they are weak, they're weak because they can't adapt to a modern world, they can't adapt to a country that isn't, you know, the racial composition of 1950 or 1850. And so they feel the sense of fear, he feeds that constantly.

And so, you know, calling them the super elites, you can call them redheaded Martians. I doesn't matter what he calls them. The fact of it is, they are a captive group that he feeds a certain diet that they have been very responsive to from the entire course of the campaign. And it's a diet that is like fear and racial animus and all these things. And frankly, it is beneath what a president of this country should do. It is far departed from the great traditions of presidents.

You know, when we created this country, the executive was designed so it wouldn't be a king, but there would be a definite moral character to it.

[22:30:00]

WILSON: George Washington set the standard for it, you know, at the founding of the country. And Donald Trump has departed so far from it and so from the norms of any president. And that's not a compliment. That's not saying, oh, good job on you, Don. It's, you know, you're way off the guide rails, pal, and this is not good for the country in a long term fundamental way about the character of this nation

LEMON: Just say Donald, please because you kind of freaked me out when you said that, when you say, Don, OK. So, listen, I'm enjoying this conversation so much. Well, you guys stick around. We're going to do -- we're going to have you come back and we're going to continue our discussion and add some other substance to it.

When we come back, why the president is attacking late night host Jimmy Fallon, tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump going after late night TV host, Jimmy Fallon tonight. Back again with David Gergen, Charles Blow, Alice Stewart and Rick Wilson. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, Jimmy Fallon apologized. He apologized for humanizing me -- the poor guy -- because now he's going to lose all of us. When you apologize because you've got somebody else that didn't go on the other shows, you know. So I go on the show, I agree, do whatever you want with my hair, go ahead, let's go. And that was it. You walk off. Like what is it, a year and a half, two years later, he's now apologizing because he humanized me.

And he really hurt himself. So, I said, Jimmy, you called me up after the show, and you said thank you for the incredible -- you called a monster rating -- they were very big ratings. I said, thank you, Jimmy. That's very nice. I said, don't hurt yourself by apologizing. So, I said to him today on social media, I said, Jimmy, be a man. Just relax. Just relax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:35:09] LEMON: What does it say to the president? That he just can't let it go. He can't let it roll off his back and sit up. I mean, most presidents would consider that punching down, right. They're the leader of the free world, but in this, it is actually we're in an upside down world because if you respond to him, then you're punching down so, what is going on now?

GERGEN: It goes along with civility point. When you lack civility you also begin to lack dignity. This office, which is so precious, it's the most powerful office in the world. It represents so many people who are suffering and it has been responsive to those people in the past. When you strip the office of the dignity, you hurt your successors.

One of thee things, Don, is always the distinguished presidents that I've known they understand I'm a link and a chain. Somebody preceded me and left me this powerful office. I need to leave this office with dignity and respect of the American people. And this is just -- it corrodes the trust and the faith and the civility of our system in ways that I just think we haven't ever experienced.

LEMON: And the whole Fallon thing was -- that was two years ago. But I want to get this in before I have to let you guys go. Race, Charles, is a major factor and I just want to get your reaction. This is a moment from Fox News commentator -- the Fox News commentator, the former deputy Trump campaign manager, David Bossie, said this. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEL PAYNE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You don't have to be a Golden Retriever to hear all the dog whistles coming out of the White House these days from my friend David over here.

ED HENRY, FOX NEWS HOST: Final point David.

DAVID BOSSIE, FORMER DEPUTY TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Michael Hayden --

HENRY: You said that about David. David, go ahead.

BOSSIE: Michael Hayden posted a picture of Auschwitz. Don --

PAYNE: Yes, that liberal -- that liberal Michael Hayden. That's screaming liberal Michael Hayden.

BOSSIE: You're out of your cotton-picking mind --

PAYNE: Cotton-picking mind? Let me tell you something. Let me tell you something.

BOSSIE: You guys are out of your minds.

PAYNE: Listen, I've got some relatives who picked cotton and I'm not going to sit here and allow you to attack me like that on TV.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, he's since apologized, Charles. (Inaudible) he's reporting that Bossie was suspended. I think I have asked you this question before, do people even know when they're racist? They don't know.

BLOW: Well, (inaudible) about, that's the good time when you have people in boxes and in different studios because that case -- you can't be sitting right next to me with all that foolishness. But I do want to say this though. We've given Maxine Waters the business here tonight, right. Turn that (inaudible). Look at all those people at that rally cheering and having no objection whatsoever to the violence of removing those children from their parents.

That is more disturbing to me than anything that Maxine Waters said about confronting people to protect those children. Everybody in that thing is cheering what he says -- I think it's good for us. That is an outrageous spectacle that we just saw on that screen.

LEMON: And a double standard and hypocrisy. I got to run Alice, I'm sorry. When we come back -- thank you everyone -- when we come back, Dan Rather weighs in on the big questions we've been discussing tonight. Is this the most polarized America has been in recent history and who is to blame?

[22:40:00] OMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Thousands of children separated from their parents at the border. Opponents of the president's immigration policy is calling for members of his team to be made unwelcomed in public. And the president, while he has no fear of launching personal attacks on anybody he believes has crossed him. So, what is happening in America? I want to bring in now legendary journalist Dan Rather, the host of AXS TV's "The Big Interview." So, a slow news day -- you want to talk about the weather? What do you want to talk about? I need a laugh --

DAN RATHER, THE BIG INTERVIEW HOST, AXS TV: There is no slow news days anymore.

LEMON: So, do you think in modern history have we ever seen this level of increased polarization, lack of civility, nastiness in the public arena and beyond? Have we seen it?

RATHER: Yes, it's a good question, Don, and I think historically looking at the whole sweep of American history, there were some very nasty periods of incivility in 1880s, for example, in the 1920s. But no, I don't think we've ever seen anything completely like this. And part of the reason is, that whether he is or he is not inside himself, President Trump gives every indication by what he says and what he does and what he doesn't do. That he's mean as a wolverine and we've never had a president who had that reputation.

The reputation of presidents who are not very good, presidents who broke the law in the case of President Nixon, but to have the perception in widespread, not necessarily a majority, but probably a majority, but widespread that the president is that mean, (inaudible) and this lack of civility, not just among competing candidates for an office, but on a day-to-day basis, sinking.

You know, decency and civility has to be born anew with each generation. And the question is the president has a lot to do with setting the tone. And the tone is reduced to a low level that I have not seen before.

LEMON: So, couple of things here. So, it is extremely selfish and child-like, right. If you either -- if you like me -- I want your attention if you like me and if you don't like me, then I want to make miserable yet I still want your attention. So it's very selfish and child-like in one sense. But I'm wondering on the other side, have people lowered themselves to match this president's rhetoric?

RATHER: No. People should not in my opinion --

LEMON: Well, have they?

RATHER: -- but people are doing that. I think they have and I think they've helped President Trump by doing that. That's my own personal opinion because of label (ph). But on a much more important and fundamental basis, Don, you had again today and last night, the president saying he wants to make the law.

[22:45:02] This is completely contrary to American ideals and the American idea. LEMON: You're talking about due process and not --

RATHER: Yes, he's basically saying that he is above the law. Now, one of our fundamental tenets is no man, no person is above the law. And the president, the president of the United States is not a descendant of some sun god and he doesn't serve because he's been given something -- a divine mandate.

He serves because he's been elected by the people and to say what he said about -- listen, I'm just -- never mind the courts, never mind the law -- this is a paraphrase of course -- I'm going to do it may way. This is, and I think everybody either recognizes it or should recognize it, this is classic authoritarianism which can very quickly lead to dictatorship or even totalitarianism.

LEMON: When you think about the rhetoric that is being used and the lack of respect for each other, do you think that -- does it say something about the yawning lack of leadership in this country, people who are in the -- especially people who are in the president's own party, who just refuse to stand up to him or say that this is wrong? That's a strongly worded tweet or something?

RATHER: Well, history is going to not judge well, particularly those people, Republicans in Congress for example and others who don't speak out when their heart, when their conscience tells them that they should. I don't think there's any question about that. Furthermore, we are at a critical point here, and that is we need to start listening to one another.

I know it's become a cliche but we got to start listening to one another rather than shouting to one another. And really listen and try to discuss what we have at stake, immigration being full most in some civil manner. But the president has a leadership responsibility. He sets the tone, and his tone -- you described earlier, is one -- he caters to his supporters, he damns everybody and everything that even gives one scintilla of questioning or resistance.

This is why we are at a very critical point in the country. It's not an overstatement to say that what's going on now is a great and decisive battle for the soul of the country.

LEMON: Yes, I have said a number of times, we have to decide -- this administration is offering us, if there's anything, offering us the opportunity to decide or figure out who we're going to be as a country. I have to go, I'm out of time, but it's always a pleasure to have you.

RATHER: Thank you. Good to see you, Don. Thanks.

LEMON: When we come back, I'm going to ask a Democratic congressman if he agrees with Maxine Waters, her call to protest against Trump supporters or if that's actually playing right into Russia's hands. Congressman Eric Swalwell joins me next.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Congresswoman Maxine Waters insisting tonight that she is calling for peaceful protests against the Trump administration and that she did not call for anyone to be harmed. So joining me now is Congressman Eric Swalwell. He's a California Democrat who sits on the Intelligence Committee. Good to have you on, sir --

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank, Don.

LEMON: -- Thank you so much. So, I have got to ask you straight up. Do you support what Maxine Waters said, basically calling on people to confront Trump administration members and members of the cabinet?

SWALWELL: I don't think that's where we should be directing our energy, Don. I'm angry. I'm passionate. My constituents and people I talk to across America are, but I think we should be focused every day on going to town halls, marching at town squares. And then as Dr. King called upon us to do, move our feet and march on the ballot boxes because if we're going to throw anyone out of any buildings, we should throw Republicans who have these policies out of Congress.

LEMON: Yes. I think it is ironic and maybe you find it as well. It this part of what the Russians tried to do in the election in 2016 and --

SWALWELL: Pit us against each other.

LEMON: Yes. And so, on culture, cultural and racial issues, right, and differences. And here we are fighting amongst ourselves over all of it, just as was stated.

SWALWELL: Yes. You know the Russians, they went after, Don, the idea of America. And they knew that in America, that if you worked hard, you could be anything. But if you had an idea, you could you debate and it we could walk away and still be united, and they knew that that could be true in America, it could be true anywhere, and that many (ph) could be true in Russia.

So they thought we would go at Americans and try and beat it there. So, it never comes to Russia. So, you know, the intelligence committee, we're just trying to find unity as an antidote against what the Russians are doing. And so, I think you can be passionate about what you believe in but not, you know, I think turn to violence. And I'm glad that Ms. Waters clarified tonight, and I never believed she was calling for violence. I think our effort should be focused entirely on the ballot box.

LEMON: So I'm going to put it up, this is a new Gallup tracking poll, congressman. It shows that Trump's approval rating is at 41 percent, that's down 4 points from the previous weeks. And the president still has 87 percent approval among Republicans, down 90 percent last week. I mean, what do Democrats need to do to cut into the president's support? And I'm not sure if that was taken after all of this, you know, during all this whole, you know, separating.

SWALWELL: Yes. Well Don, I think it is talking about not the president but about voters and what they care about. They want to see their paychecks grow. They want to have careers they can count on. They want to have modern schools for their kids in this uncertain economy. They want to have a health care guarantee so they don't go broke when they're poor.

You know, Don, I've gone across the country. I've talked to a lot of the candidates running. We have got about 60 people under 40 who are running for Congress and they are just burst of new energy, new ideas, and new confidence. And they're focused entirely on the people at home, not on the president. I think that's a winning message more than anything.

LEMON: Yes. And I just learned that that poll was during this whole debate, but again, this is all still playing out so we will look at the next time and see what the difference is if that indeed changes. So, listen, the president's obsession with Russia and this investigation, never far beneath the surface. Seemingly out of nowhere today, here's what he tweeted. He said that former attorney general Michael Mukasey said President Trump is probably correct that there was surveillance on Trump Tower. Actually, far greater than would ever have been believed.

[22:55:03] There is no explanation for the tweet. We know who Mukasey talked to about this on the Sunday show on March 2017, but Mukasey said the president was not right, that his phones were -- saying that his phones were being tapped and that there was a FISA warrant granted because of suspicion of a Russian agent. So, what is his goal if there is -- he's just tweeting out things that are not true?

SWALWELL: Well, he's proved throughout this investigation that he's willing to say things that are not true. And Don, in a criminal court, every juror in America is told that if a witness deliberately lies about a fact in a case, you can throw out anything they say because liars are going to lie. And I think he's doing that because he's got a lot to be worried about.

And I think the FBI early on saw a concerning contacts among people on his team were traveling over to Russia. His family members were taking meetings with Russians. His fixer, Michael Cohen, was trying to put a Trump Tower in Russia during the campaign. They didn't disclose any of this. Of course we would want the FBI to look at this. We don't want any American president or candidate for president to be compromised.

LEMON: Thank you congressman. Appreciate your time.

SWALWELL: Yes, my pleasure, Don. Thanks.

LEMON: When we come back, the president suggests undocumented immigrants should be deported without due process. But what about the over 2,000 children still separated from their parents?

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