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CNN TONIGHT

President Trump's Escalating Lies; Trump's Base Remains Loyal; Trump's Campaign To Distract And Deflect What You Are Seeing Is Not What Is Happening; How Trump Gaslights America; CNN Heroes. Aired 10- 11p ET

Aired July 27, 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] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. The news continues so I want to hand it over to Don Lemon. "CNN TONIGHT" starts right now. Don?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

Donald Trump's presidency can be defined by lies. Well over 2,000 of them so far. And those lies are coming fast and furious. Last week alone President Trump made 54 false claims. The last six weeks are among Trump's most dishonest as president.

That's according to the Toronto Star's Daniel Dale, who is taking the toughest jobs on news counting all the president's lies. And in the face of all that lying, all that dishonesty, the president took it to a new level this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just remember what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, this is a president who doesn't hesitate to tell you that what you see with your own eyes and hear with your own ears is not the truth. The sheer number of lies can be overwhelming, and the danger is that we'll become numb to all of this, that we'll tell ourselves it's just Trump being Trump.

But there's a larger question here. Can the truth survive President Trump? Well, as a New York real estate developer he built his business on his own blatant lies claiming that Trump tower has 68 floors when the truth is easy to see, it has 58.

Claiming to be worth $100 million in 1992 when according to a Forbes reporter his real worth was closer to $5 million. And in a lie on top of the lie, calling that reporter claiming to be a fictional Trump spokesman name John Barron.

This is man who built his campaign on lies starting with the racist birther lie that President Barack Obama was not born in this country, a lie he reportedly still clings to in private. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If he wasn't born in this country which is a real possibility. If he doesn't it's one of the greatest scams in the history of politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Claiming he saw Muslims celebrating on roofs in New Jersey on 9/11. Never happened. Claiming he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning when the fact is his first critical comments came 18 months into the war.

Suggesting Ted Cruz's father was somehow involved in the JFK assassination which is just beyond belief. And now as president, Donald Trump is lying more and more and doubling down on his strategy of trying to discredit anyone who questions his lies.

Well, what are these lies doing to our democracy? To our standing in the world? Facts still matters, right? The truth still matters. So are you going to believe the man who tells you to ignore the facts, to ignore the truth or are you going to believe what you see with your own eyes or hear with your own ears? Good question.

So let's bring in now CNN Political Director, Dr. David Chalian. David, thank you so much for joining us.

President Trump's lies are coming fast and furious. As I've just said before, he has made 54 false claims last week, false claims last and says that in the last six weeks there are coming -- the last 10 weeks his most dishonest weeks as president. That's according to the Toronto Star's Washington correspondent Daniel Dale. So the question is, why do you think what is going on, why is this getting worse?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, two things are going on. One, I think the president is clearly under increasing pressure from the Mueller probe from Michael Cohen story and I think we're seeing that play out that pressure time and again.

But the real reason why I think you see an uptick in this and no desire from the president to step away from this behavior is because he doesn't suffer huge repercussions for it in terms of his base of support, in terms of the people that work for him and are interacting with him every day.

In terms of his party's members of Congress who he's dealing with. There's nobody, there's no flood away from him that this is unacceptable in some way from his circle of influencers. And that to me is what gives him sort of the permission to continue to do this.

LEMON: Yes, no repercussions so far. I mean, but President Trump, he's been astonishingly effective, David, in getting his followers to believe him even in the face of bold faced lies. Is there any sense that things are changing and you know, as this becomes more frequent and even boulder as he does that? CHALIAN: I don't see any evidence of that change, of what you're

saying about his supporters starting to not believe what he's saying. I just, I don't see any evidence of that. That's not to say there aren't repercussions larger for the president, Don.

He has completely lost independent voters. That was a group that was actually with him in the 2016 presidential election. He won independents. They're nowhere with him now.

[22:05:01] So it's not as if he hasn't had some problems with the public at large. But, again, his own information stream from the voters that support him, from the press he takes in, from his own fellow partisans, from his staff, it doesn't seem to be that there's anyone saying, you know, not telling the truth to the American people is a fatal flaw to a presidency.

LEMON: Yes. I want to ask you about the feedback loop that is Fox News as well. Because you're talking about his own, you know, what he watches on television and what have you. But the question is and maybe I should have asked it better before, do they -- do his supporters believe him or do they just don't care or is it a combination?

CHALIAN: I think his supporters believe what they hear from him, a lot of what they hear in Fox News sort of amplify what he had said. When I -- certainly during the campaign when I would attend rallies and you would talk to voters what they would say to you back about certain stories, let's say you mentioned the 9/11 story or even Barack Obama's birthplace, there are folks out there that believe certain things to be true that are proven not true.

So I don't see any suggestion that some of his core supporters don't believe him. But you are right to also note I do think that even when they see something and they say, OK, that may not be, he's just shading the truth there, that they're OK with that because he's giving them other things they want. He's shaking up the system, he's doing well on the economy, they believe. So they give him a pass on it.

LEMON: Yes. And again the Fox feedback loop, does that contribute to this?

CHALIAN: There's no doubt about that. So you have Donald Trump say something let's say that is not true -- let's say that his campaign was spied on, not true as he claimed it to be. That then gets repeated time and again on Fox News to all the Fox News viewers, to Trump's orbit there.

That gets fed back into the White House. He sees it, he feels validated by it that Fox News is repeating his untruth, and he continues to do it. So I think that feedback loop is hugely a big part of this scenario of the president not breaking with this habit of his of not telling the truth time and again.

LEMON: David Chalian, thank you. I appreciate it.

CHALIAN: Sure. LEMON: Now I want to bring in legendary newsman, Mr. Dan Rather, the host of AXS TV's the Big Interview. You always laugh when I do that. Thank you so much for joining us.

I know that this -- you've been doing this for a while, let's say quite some time, but this bothers you greatly. Have you ever seen anything like this?

DAN RATHER, HOST, AXS TV: One, of course it bothers me as a citizen (Inaudible). And no, neither I, or anyone else has ever seen anything quite like this. We need to see this clearly. We begin with the truth is the currency of democracy.

Without truth you don't have government, you don't have an informed electorate, you don't have a democracy. You don't have a constitutional republic based on the principle of democracy. You just can't do it. That's central.

Now, Donald Trump has been very effective with a certain segment of the population. Surprising to me and I think there is a large segment of the population, roughly something over a third, running up to maybe 40 percent. I would say about the previous interview you did with David, that there are some signs that some of his base, women in the suburbs but according to polls are beginning to say we've had enough. We'll see whether it holds to the election.

Just a footnote (Inaudible) effect. Look, what's happening now Donald Trump is authoritarian. He wants people to believe that the only truth, the one and only truth comes from him. This is the home historically with authoritarian regimes.

And that when he says don't believe what you see and read, you know that old story.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You compared it to Orwell and what you wrote, you said when he said, don't believe what you see or what you hear, that's not what's happening. You said it's like it's 1984. It's dystopian.

RATHER: Well, it is. It's straight out of Orwell. And Orwell, what he wrote it's practically a shooting script for Donald Trump. I'm not suggesting that Donald Trump read it. The evidence is he doesn't read very much at all. I don't think he's read Orwell.

But the point being here there is a method to this, and the method is to convince people that the only truth is the truth that comes from me, the ultimate power. I'm the man with the ultimate power. And he has made some way in that -- as several people have said before me he's not just attacking the truths, he wants to annihilate the truth.

He wants to move us completely into the post-truth political era in which there's no such thing as objective facts. He is the only fact. He has all the facts, he has all the information, just listen to him. That's what he's preaching and that's his presidency will rise and fall on that. [22:10:00] I also agree that there is some desperation lately. I do think that the appearance of closing the Mueller investigation, some of what's happening with his former counsel, Mr. Cohen, I think thing is beginning to tell on him some. And that he gets more desperate.

As he gets more desperate he takes bigger risks in telling bigger lies or more often telling lies, and telling people, look, don't believe what you read or see anywhere else, just come to me. I have the ultimate truth, I am the way.

LEMON: So I asked David, I said do his supporters not believe him or do they just not care. You say most Americans see through the propaganda. I hope you're right. Why do you say that?

RATHER: Well, first of all, that's my experience. I have great confidence in the American people (Inaudible). Secondly, the polls indicate that let's remember that while Donald Trump has a solid base of support a majority of the Americans still indicate that they're very skeptical of him and in many cases can't stand him.

LEMON: You -- but there was even when Nixon went through what he went through there were checks and balances in the Congress. But Washington, folks in the Capitol they're not holding him accountable.

RATHER: First of all, when Richard Nixon went through the widespread conspiracies, as we call it Watergate, there were profiles encourage Congress including Republican senators and congressmen who stood up and said there's more to it.

Secondly, the institutions were holding much better, more firmly during the Watergate time as a check and balance. For example, both Houses of Congress eventually moved against Richard Nixon. The judiciary upheld what the special prosecutors at the time was thinking it will upheld giving the tape.

If you compare that with today the profiles encouraged particularly among Republicans in the House and Senate so far have been very, very few and far between. That opens them to charges of being, quote, "gutless wonders."

LEMON: Yes. Did people believe the media then? Was there this distrust of the media as much?

RATHER: No, there was a great deal more trust in the media at the time partly because there were voices other of President Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew who were made to resign in disgrace.

But nonetheless, that all kinds of voices in the Republican party who supported the idea of a free and independent press saying, look, I don't like the press has but it's no good attacking him. And we -- there was a deal of more trust. And by the way, what the press did during the Watergate time of course endured a great deal of more trust into press in the late 70s or 80s.

LEMON: I just hope the system isn't broken when you think about what's happening in Washington and the distrust in the media and then you see him, you know, the administration kicking out reporters or reprimanding them for asking questions. It's terrible.

RATHER: Well, it hangs in the balance. The reason I say that one interview (Inaudible) and profound about it. We're in a battle for the soul of the country. LEMON: Right.

RATHER: Donald Trump represents one way to perceive, and those who are appalled by what he's doing represent another. Some people in between. But make no mistake, all of the chips from the table here this is a battle for the soul of the country.

LEMON: We get back to you I think where we can agree on, you know, the whole thing about Putin and would or wouldn't and that's what I meant to say, as you said universal truths, he said what he said when he tried to fix it, but--

RATHER: Well, is the question do I think we can get back to then?

LEMON: Yes.

RATHER: I don't think we can get back to that during this presidency? I would love to be proven wrong.

LEMON: After this presidency?

RATHER: After this presidency a lot depends on how it goes in the next few months.

LEMON: Thank you, Mr. Rather.

RATHER: Thank you.

LEMON: I appreciate your time.

RATHER: Always glad to be with you.

LEMON: When we come back Donald Trump's tangled relationship with the truth goes way back. How he built his real estate empire on a foundation of lies and how he got away with it for so many years.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump is a serial liar, and that's been true from the beginning. He built his real estate business on a foundation of lies.

CNN's Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger and Tony Schwartz, the co-author of "The Art of the Deal" are both here to talk about that. But first, Gloria takes a long look at Trump's history of lies.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: From the election itself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: In many places like California, the same person votes many times. You probably heard about that. They like to say, that's a conspiracy theory. Not a conspiracy, folks. Millions and millions of people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: To the inauguration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We had a massive field of people, you saw it packed, it went all the way back to the Washington monument.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: To statements like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: Donald Trump has had a fraught relationship with the truth. One that goes back decades. To the building and selling of Trump tower where Barbara Res managed the construction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA RES, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: He planted that Princess Di was looking for an apartment in Trump tower.

BORGER: And that didn't happen?

RES: No. But it made the papers.

BORGER: Sure. So voracity wasn't a part of it. It was just getting the buzz out there about Trump?

RES: Yes.

BORGER: Did you guys laugh at it or--

RES: There was nothing so terrible about it. I mean, you know, it was kind of like puffing. You know, it was like exaggerating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: Tony Schwartz, co-author of Trump's "Art of the Deal" has a name for this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, TRUMP: THE ART OF THE DEAL: I came up with this phrase truthful hyperbole, which is, you know, I call it an innocent form of exaggeration. Now I can call something that I actually sold for $2 million, I can say $10 million and that becomes truthful hyperbole. The problem is that there is no such thing as truthful hyperbole. The truth is the truth, hyperbole is a lie. They don't go together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: And they didn't go together during the troubled opening of Trump's Atlantic City Taj Mahal casino in 1990 when some of the flacks didn't work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALAN LAPIDUS, ARCHITECT FOR DONALD TRUMP: When the casino control commission went down there on opening day to check out that all the things have been done, many things hadn't been done. They shutdown a third of the slots.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: Slots that were critical to the casino's success.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[22:20:01] LAPIDUS: The slots are the prime revenue of the casino. To shutdown a third on opening day was both humiliating and financially disastrous, and it was only done because he doesn't have, you know, an organization in-depth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: But that wasn't the story Trump told.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACK O'DONNELL, TRUMP PLAZA CASINO: Something could go bad like the opening of the Taj, and he would say it's because we had so much business here that this happened. Not because the systems broke down, not because we didn't know what we were doing. We had so much business that broke down. Truly he would just lie about everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: And he did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the slot machine thing when they were down for a while?

TRUMP: The slots were so hot. Nobody's, again, nobody's seen people play that hard and that fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it blew out the slots.

TRUMP: It blew apart. We have machines that--

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're like so much--

TRUMP: They were virtually on fire. (END VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: Donald is so wrapped up in hyperbole it's almost constant lies, you know, whether it's the littlest things, you know, where if you had 2,000 people at an event, you know, he would say there was 5,000 people at an event.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: And he got away with it.

SCHWARTZ: There's no belief system. If it will work I will say it. If it stops working I'll say it's opposite and I will not feel any compunction about saying it's opposite because I don't believe anything in the first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: Switching gears is exactly what President Trump had to do after his press conference with Vladimir Putin, attempting to walk back this remark on election interference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.

In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word would instead of wouldn't. The sentence should have been, I don't see any reason why I wouldn't or why it wouldn't be Russia.

SCHWARTZ: Seeing it from his perspective doesn't make a distinction between what's true and what's false. His only distinction is what will work and what will not work.

BORGER: And what happens when he's challenged with facts? What does he do?

SCHWARTZ: He has a genius, you know, perverse genius for turning any situation into something that is evidence of his brilliance. Even if it's not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Wow, we have a lot to talk about. Gloria, Tony, when we come back I'm going to ask both of you could Donald Trump have been a success without the lies?

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Donald Trump has a strategy of ignoring the truth. First in business and now as president. Because it doesn't suit his narrative. The truth gets in the way -- in his way, and lying is his main M.O. to get what he wants. So let's discuss now with Gloria Borger and Tony Schwartz. Hello to

both of you. Gloria, great reporting but I want to start with Tony because he wrote, co-wrote the "Art of the Deal." He really wrote the "Art of the Deal."

So I got to ask you though, you know, without the lying because he had been as successful or the appearance of being as successful -- a successful person, as people think he is?

SCHWARTZ: Well, he's the product of his own marketing, so I would say, no, he actually couldn't have been as remotely as successful starting, for example, with the success he had getting on the richest the Forbes 500 list when he was worth almost nothing, and he managed to trump it up and to, I don't know, convince them that it was $10 million or $20 million or $100 million.

LEMON: Himself about pretending to be somebody else or--

(CROSSTALK)

SCHWARTZ: No, I think he did it directly. He would pretend to harangue the reporters who gather that information.

LEMON: Financial reports tell me there's no verifiable proof that he's a billionaire.

SCHWARTZ: You know, there is a guy who is his lawyer back when I was doing that book and I kept in touch with him. Actually the guy name Nick Rivas (Ph), he seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth, but he once said to me, you know, Donald is not worth anything. It's a complete joke. It's a house of cards.

LEMON: House of cards. Wow. Gloria, what about in politics? If he didn't lie the way he does do you think he would have gotten to the presidency or been able to survive the multiple scandals he's survived so far?

BORGER: Look, he's a brander. And he brands himself, and as Tony pointed out in the piece quite astutely I think, it's not -- with Donald Trump it's not about true or false. It's about will this work for me or won't this work for me?

So in a campaign he will do what works for him. And if it doesn't work for him anymore he will turn around and do something else. And that's what we saw after Helsinki, for example. And I think, you know, I think this is -- this is the way he markets himself.

And by the way, what he does is exploit the fact that his supporters hate the media, don't trust the media. You know, three quarters of Republicans don't -- trust Trump more than the media. So he doesn't care. He doesn't care because he'll say believe me because you don't trust those guys, you trust me more and it works.

LEMON: Yes, and some actually believe him. But you know, as I say -- as I've been saying since the election or during the election that New Yorkers knew, people around the country didn't necessarily know. Because they saw him as the apprentice, right? And so maybe that works, that thing you call truthful hyperbole, maybe it works in that instance.

SCHWARTZ: Well, I mean, it clearly works for the man.

LEMON: Alpha male.

SCHWARTZ: Yes, the man is president of the United States. It clearly works.

BORGER: Yes.

SCHWARTZ: But what I think is that Trump actually believes, and this is the totalitarian instinct in him, and it's very strong. Trump actually believes that if he says something over and over again no matter how totally outrageous it is, for example, and I would say this is the best example so far, yesterday the day before when he said what you're seeing is not true -- we just saw it repeated.

LEMON: Right.

SCHWARTZ: What you're seeing is not true, that's prima facie insane.

LEMON: Right.

SCHWARTZ: Of course what you're seeing is true. But he genuinely believes and he's not wrong. Every totalitarian leader in history has used this unique that if you say it enough time, no collusion, no collusion, that you could have collusion in living color, 360 degrees and you still would have no argument to make.

LEMON: And Gloria, I mean, some have said that they believe it, even legal minds that collusion, according to them, has already been proven with the meeting in Trump tower and you know, with the one with Jared and the one with Donald Trump, Jr.

[22:30:08] I don't know if that is so, but legal folks have said that. But there's so much out there that people I guess don't believe because of what the President and this administration have said about it. And then if you look at the intensity of what's happening with him saying don't believe what you see or hear, why is it ramping up all of a sudden?

BORGER: Well, look, I think he to a certain degree feels some of the walls closing in on him. He has the Mueller investigation still going on. His attorneys are still talking to the Special Counsel about whether he is going to testify and talk about the question of lying, I think one of the reasons his attorneys don't want him to testify is because they're worried about it, right? They're very worried about it. And I think his back is up against the wall.

One of his most ardent loyalists, Michael Cohen, has now turned on him. There is a subpoena for the chief financial officer of the Trump organization to talk to the Southern District of New York. And I think that Trump feels the need every day to gather his troops and to say do not believe this, there's no collusion, and again I'm not saying there is, because I'm not Bob Mueller, but there is no collusion, don't believe this, the media are lying about this, and that is the way he keeps his supporters activated to a degree because he motivates them.

LEMON: Go ahead, Tony.

SCHWARTZ: Well, I think that in addition to what Gloria said I agree with it. There's something going on psychologically. And the media has it, the culture has it a resistance to talk about mental health, to talk about mental illness. And then you've got the gold water rule that says, you know, even professionals can't diagnose from afar, but what you can do is you can observe the behavior, and the behavior is the behavior of a man who is decompensating, who is essentially falling apart. And he is falling apart in the sense that he is upping the most extreme behaviors.

So when we try to understand why is he lying more, why is he tweeting more frequently, why is he saying more extreme things, all of these are a function of what's going on inside him. Which is I am used to controlling the narrative. I am not seeming to be able to do that.

LEMON: What does this say, though, Gloria, about his supporters, the way he feels about the people who support him when he constantly lies to them or gives them false hope and expectations?

BORGER: Well, you know, I don't think -- it's interesting, and I -- you know, I'm not a psychologist, you know, but I think after a while if you tell a lie long enough you believe it's the truth. And I think that may be Donald Trump. And I think Donald Trump is very attach today his supporters. I've never seen a President reach out less to people who didn't vote for him than Donald Trump.

Normally Presidents get elected, they try to unite the country. They say you didn't vote for me, but please give me a shot. That is not what we have seen. We've seen Donald Trump instead try to consolidate the base even more. And this one way to do it and he is a politician and he wants to motivate them. He doesn't want to lose the Congress. He doesn't want to lose the presidency if he runs for re-election, and they are devoted to him and he knows it and he is not going to lose them, and this works for him. And setting up enemies always works in politics. And so the press is the enemy, the Democrats are the enemy, you name it. And that is what he does. And it works.

LEMON: I've got to go quickly. Tony?

SCHWARTZ: I think you asked the question, what does it say about his supporters? It says something about how aggrieved and how empty --

LEMON: What does it say on how he feels about his supporters? You lie to the people you really care about.

SCHWARTZ: There's no one who he cares about less than his supporters. They, to him, in his honest moment are America's losers.

LEMON: Why do you say that? SCHWARTZ: Because they're people without power, they are people

without success, they are people without all the things he values most they have least.

LEMON: I thought you were going to say they're a means to an end.

SCHWARTZ: They are absolutely a means to the end.

LEMON: Thank you both, I appreciate it.

BORGER: Sure.

LEMON: When we come back the big question. Will truth in America survive Donald Trump's presidency?

[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All of President Trump's lies in office, all over 2,000 of them so far. Damaging our democracy, and can we ever get back to where we were? Let us discuss now with CNN's Presidential Historian, Douglas Brinkley, CNN Political Analyst, Kirsten Powers and "Washington Post" book critic, Carlos Lozada. Good evening, welcome to all of you.

Douglas, listen, the President is lying more often than ever, and the lies seem to be more bold. They seem to be bolder than ever. Is the public desensitized to all of his lies?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I don't think they're desensitized. They let him get away with too much. Collectively to mean people didn't read his character correctly. Donald Trump lies like breathing. It is not a matter of counting 2,000 or 4,000 or a 100,000. He doesn't know what the truth is, but I think he is kind of an odious aberration in American politics. He is had momentum, he is shocked our system, he is a product of social media environment in changing, you know, television media dynamics, but the idea that we're going to have more Donald Trump's yet to come doesn't seem likely to me.

I think what's hurting, Don, is that the United States, has always been that we like, that we are the beacon of light that the world looks up to us and now we're being laughed at all over the globe, that we produced this kind of caricature of a President. But I see his continuing lying is showing the President that is unraveling before our eyes right now.

[22:40:15] LEMON: Carlos, you wrote a powerful article about whether truth can survive this presidency, and you explore this idea of what you call truth decay. Tell us about that.

CARLOS LOZADA, BOOK CRITIC, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, you know, people talk about the death of truth, whether we leave in a post truth environment. It's probably more productive to think about ways in which truth is decaying or eroding. You know, more than really post- truth, we may be in a post-shame sort of environment where the consequences of lying are vastly diminished. And that is not quite sort of the death of truth, but I think it's

just as insidious, because when there are no consequences to lying accountability is diminished as well. And that is really what's going on with the President's sort of torrent of falsehoods is that he is looking for ways to not be held accountable. If you can't agree on what's truly happened, then how can you decide, if your leader is doing a good job. And if you can't decide they're doing a good job, then what kind of democracy do you really have left?

LEMON: Yes. Kirsten, listen, studies show that it's very difficult for people to tell lies from the truth. The brain first has to accept a lie as a truth and then make a judgment to discard it as false. The first part is natural to the brain. The second part can be disrupted. So people can end up believing the lie. So then how do journalists and thinkers overcome that?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's important to keep calling it out and keep making it clear when something isn't true, and I think it's important to stay outraged. So a lot of times I see people rolling their eyes and sort of saying oh, that is just Trump being hyperbolic when in fact he is lying about something and there is no question that he is lying about it. And so I think it's important to continue to say that and not get lulled into this idea that this is normal.

And I think one of the problems like you said, people believe it and then they repeat it. And so oftentimes when you're trying to have a conversation perhaps on your show or another show and you're talking to somebody who is just, they're not actually having a debate. They're not actually talking about facts, they're just saying things that aren't true, and you spend your entire time explaining why it is not true.

LEMON: You know how frustrating that is for me. You've been here when we've had some of those arguments. But let me just say this, I will let you finish and that is why this whole theory about people have to believe the lie first, right. Before they -- it has to be true and then you have to sort of think about it and say, OK, well, that is not real, and that part as I said can be disruptive. That is why I like to shut it down right as it's happening or fact check people in real-time before they continue on with the lie. And I think that is important to do. People get upset and say, oh, well you're shutting down my right to speak. No, you're lying to people and I understand the process of repeating it and people will believe it. Go on, sorry.

POWERS: Yes and I think -- I recommend a book called "On tyranny" by Timothy Snider. And I have interviewed him for one of my columns. One other thing he said is, post truth is pre-fascism. So this is something that all authoritarian leader do. They create - they try to destroy truth, and they don't want there to be any truth. They want everybody to be fighting with each other and turning against each other and eventually tuning out, because they get to this point where they say this is too much spectacle. This is what Putin does. There's too much spectacle, and we don't really know what is true. We're just going to get mad at each other and we are just going to stop expecting anything from the government. And so that is what Trump is doing. I think it is wrong that he is --

LEMON: It's clearly a strategy.

POWERS: Yes, I think it's wrong to think that he is too dumb, which I hear people saying. You know, he is too dumb to do that. You know, I think he understands what he is doing. It's true he has a distorted reality, but I also think he knows that some of these things are objectively not true and that he can say it and it doesn't matter.

LEMON: Carlos, a number of books have been written about all the lies the president is telling including by CNN contributor Amanda Carpenter called gaslighting America where she outlines a pattern that Trump uses to gaslight America. Step one, stake a claim on a fringe issue, step two advance and deny which is what Trump does when he says things like people are saying. And step three, create suspense, by promising new evidence and step four discredit the opponent. Step five, declare a victory. So if we can outline a pattern, you know, identify what the President is doing, why can't we stop it?

LOZADA: Because he keeps doing it. He understands the power of repetition very much. You know, if you keep saying that you won the biggest electoral landslide in decades, if you keep saying that the tax cut was the biggest tax cut in history. You know, that is going to stick eventually with some people. Especially if the falsehood is in keeping with someone's pre-existing political believes.

[22:45:04] If you're inclined for instance to believe that immigrants have a detrimental impact on the American economy or American society, then you might be inclined to believe it when the President says that, you know, millions of them voted illegally in the election, even though there's no evidence to that effect. And so I think he understands the kind of rhythm of how he keeps doing this.

What's also important in this context, remember, is that affirming, accepting or even defending Trump's falsehoods is not necessarily about conviction of -- in that fact. It's about allegiance. It's about standing by your guy. And that is the quality Trump prizes above all else which is loyalty.

LEMON: And I've been watching that happen for the last three years. I think it's astute that you said, listen people say that this country was a great experiment in democracy and I think it's fair to say that this presidency is a great experiment as well. The question is and I want to ask my historian Douglas Brinkley, can we survive it. We will do that on the other side of the break.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Back now with Douglas Brinkley, Kirsten Powers and Carlos Lozada. And so we laid it out before the break is that we are the great experiment this presidency is as well the question is, is can we survive this? Douglas?

BRINKLEY: Yes, I think we can. We have to remind ourselves that as historians that, you know, the pass is not, you know unique -- the presence is not uniquely oppressive. Our country has gone through such horrific things, before John Meacham has a book out right now talking about how we gone to perilous times. The key here is education and I have three kids in school, Don. Everybody knows, we don't care what Donald Trump thinks like George or well that two plus two equals five. Every math teacher in America is two plus two equals four.

I have grade kids in history, it is December 1941's Pearl Harbor, and facts still matter. If you are going to think facts don't matter, you are not going to get very far in the 21st century. So, I think we are in a rut, and we have broken Washington politics. It was not about Barack Obama being just a beacon of light, but people like John McCain and Mitt Romney were able to, you know, have a good match with Obama. Trump has just been a nightmare and the problem is that the Republicans are not showing courage standing up to somebody who is a serial liar and somebody that no kid in America can look up to and aspire to be.

LEMON: Yes. I want you guys to the listen to this clip. It is from President Obama last week talking about politicians and lying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unfortunately too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up. They just make stuff up. We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders who are caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, here is the thing, Carlos. You heard what the former President said, and in your piece, you talk about shame and the role that plays with people, and, but more importantly, you also talk about, you said, that we are no more post racial than we are post truth than under Obama. That is the quote up there. Talk to me about that, what did you mean by that?

LOZADA: Well, at the, you know, outset of the Obama Presidency, there is a lot of optimism that we had, you know, conquer and racism or stuck with a fatal blow with the election of Barack Obama. You know, being post racial ended up being something of a myth. America is quite racial as it turns out. And I do think that, you know, speaking of the death of truth or being post truth maybe somewhat premature and not to undercut the seriousness of what is going on, and the truth, and fact-based information remains vital in many other arenas of American life, and in politics is where it is really being degraded.

LEMON: Yes. And Kirsten, just a short time here, but what does it say about us, meaning all of us, as Americans, that someone who can appeal to the lowest common denominator can have, can become the President of the United States?

POWERS: I don't think it says anything writ large about the United States. I do think it says something about people who are very tribal and want to believe whatever the leader that they support says, but I don't know if it is an indictment of the entire country, and I would say that I am a little bit more alarmed than Carlos is. I think that the fact that it is happening in politics is probably, you know, pretty critical, because this is where we shape our policies and how somebody like Donald Trump gets re-elected if this continues. And so, I think that -- I do think that it is important to be outrage, to be concerned, and if people are looking for the practical things to do, look for the first thing that authoritarian leaders do is they go after the media. And so we are watching it happen right now and so it very important for people to speak up for free press, speak for the media.

LEMON: And it is important as well to vote, don't just get upset.

BRINKLEY: Exactly that is the thing. Vote in the midterms.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you, Douglas. Thank you, Kirsten. Thank you, Carlos. I appreciate it. We will be right back.

LOZADA: Thanks for having me.

[22:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We spent a lot of time tonight talking about lies, and all of this can be pretty discouraging, but one thing I know is true. Every week we honor an everyday person do an extraordinary work to help others. We find these amazing people through your nominations. Earlier in the year we recognized Dr. Rob Gore, he is an emergency room physician doing the anti-violence work in Brooklyn, New York, and now, meet the woman who helped him to become a CNN hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I nominated Dr. Gore to be a CNN hero, because we grew up together and I saw him doing all of the wonderful community work. I am very familiar with the CNN heroes, and I'm a fan of the show and as I was volunteering here, I said to myself, wait a second, CNN heroes, Dr. Gore, perfect match. And here we are. I am so proud of my friend to see him excel in this way and show the world what he does. So surreal, so exciting and so rewarding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And you may recognize Dr. Gore's nominator from a recent blockbuster superhero movie. Which one? Find out at cnnheroes.com and while you are there, tell us about someone you think should be a CNN hero. But heads up, nominations close Tuesday night. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.