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CNN TONIGHT

Lebron James One-On-One With Don; Woodward's New Book, Fear. Aired 11-12p ET

Aired July 30, 2018 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: This is "CNN Tonight," I'm Don Lemon, a little past 11:00 here on the East Coast. We got much more of my exclusive interview with Lebron James. His career path is taking him to Los Angeles. He is keeping up his philanthropic efforts close to home using his charitable foundation to open a school for at risk kids. We talked about that and about his possible future beyond basketball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Would you ever run for office?

LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: Run for office?

LEMON: Would you ever be a politician and run for office?

JAMES: I don't think so. I don't think so. I sit here and say, I don't think so, I don't know.

LEMON: I'm being serious. If someone tried to recruit a Lebron to run for President and said, listen, they have no one. If you don't run, Trump is going to win, would you run?

JAMES: Well, in that case I may. If they had no one. I believe there are some people out there. I hope. Let's see first. Let's see first.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: We also talked about living while black and how even money and fame don't insulate you from racism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Do you think it's harder now or you think it's always been there and we're just seeing it because of cell phones.

JAMES: No. I think it's always been there. I think the President in charge now has given people -- they don't care now, they throw it to your face now.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Lebron also gave me an exclusive tour of his brand new, I

promise school. It is a joint venture between Lebron James family foundation and the active public school system. Not only, its tuition is free, so does uniforms and transportation for every student who live more than 2 miles away. Every student gets breakfast, lunch and snacks. College tuition is guaranteed for everyone who graduates. There is a food pantry for families. Parents can get their GED in job placement services. And because how important a bicycle was for young Lebron in escaping dangerous parts of his neighborhood, every student will receive a free bicycle and helmet. It is an ambitious project with an even more ambitious future. Take a look at our tour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: This is the coolest thing. Tell me about these shoes. You guys are going to auction these off, right?

JAMES: Yes. It is 114 game worn shoes that I wore in an NBA game. And each shoe is being auctioned off and all the proceeds going to the Foundation. So, I didn't know we were going to do this wall like this. This is a surprise for me. But I knew there -- the shoes would be auctioned off. I love this right here. You know, they come to the front door and it's like you can, kind a, walk in my shoes, in my footsteps.

LEMON: You have worn all these?

JAMES: I've worn all these shoes in a game. Yes.

LEMON: They get to keep one shoe and their name goes up there?

JAMES: Their name goes right above each shoe.

LEMON: When you see this, what do you think?

JAMES: It's still so surreal. I don't know. I mean, it's hard to be like, this is my school. It is like, I never envisioned having a school. I envisioned, you know, being in the community, giving back to my community in some way, but I never thought that it would turn into a school, but this is above and beyond.

LEMON: You had this growing up, what do you think? If you had this? You're successful, but --

JAMES: I think early on I would have been able to start my path a little bit, you know, earlier in my life and kind a start it a little bit later, but I don't even know if I would have this school if I didn't have the trials and tribulations that I had when I was a kid and the upbringing that I had.

[23:05:07] So, you know, it just let me know when I was younger, when I got all -- if I ever had the means or if I ever became successful or anything, you know, I want to be able to give back.

LEMON: Do you ever like look around and get down and depressed? I know you said you always want to be positive with Dr. King and those guys when you see what's happening in the country, oh, man, we're going backwards?

JAMES: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, that is human nature. There is no way that you can look at certain things and not feel like, why are we not pushing forward? You know, for me, as one of the leaders of America or one of the leaders of my community, it's my responsibility to kind a stay as positive as I can and continue to let people know that we can go further up and not down even though sometimes we do feel like we're going backwards and even though we feel like we are going back to places of -- some kind of slavery or Jim Crow and things of that nature, you don't -- you just want to kind of continue to move forward and I think it is very important for all of us.

LEMON: Do you think we can get back from this craziness that is going on?

JAMES: I think so. I believe so, but it's not going to be today, it is not going to be tomorrow, it is not going to be next month. It will be an ongoing thing. It might be after me, you or we are all gone, but if we can look at the positive things then we can figure it out.

LEMON: I see President James might be -- look who's in here.

(CHEERS)

Did you see those faces?

Do you guys know who this is?

CHILDREN: Yes.

LEMON: Who is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lebron James.

LEMON: Come say hi. Oh, my gosh!

JAMES: What's up? Give me five, give me five, man. Give me some. What's up you all? How you all doing? Are those my shoes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

JAMES: You made my shoe, how you doing? Nice to meet you. What's up? How you doing? What's up, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want your autograph.

JAMES: How you're doing? Very good. Those are nice. I might have to put those on the wall. Did you see the tennis shoes on the wall? We have to make shows shoes and put them on the wall. What size shoe are you? I'm a 9, my shoe is smaller than you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm 8.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Size 6? 5?

LEMON: Do you love this guy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LEMON: You think he is awesome? Do you watch him play?

CHILDREN: Yes.

LEMON: Yes?

JAMES: There you go.

LEMON: This is your first day, right? Are you guys excited? You're at Lebron James School.

JAMES: You did?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw it on the video, my dad --

JAMES: You saw it on the radio? You heard it on the radio.

LEMON: Did you know you were going to meet him, though? Did you think you were going to meet him? Now, you did.

What does this do when you see this?

JAMES: This is what it's all about. Whatever these guys want, man, whatever these guys want.

LEMON: One person knows me, Lebron. She said, are you the news guy?

JAMES: I don't know. I like them all. These are cool. These are the Foundation shoes, the "I promise" shoes right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You made those?

JAMES: Yes, I made those, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You made this one?

JAMES: All of those.

Thank you, brother.

LEMON: You guys go ahead and get back to school now.

JAMES: Thank you, guys. Thank you. You guys are awesome. Look at you. You got a loss for words.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Oh, boy, sorry about that. He is really generous with his time. He was really generous. Thank you very much for that amazing tour and those kids. So, I'm bringing in now CNN political commentators, Charles Blow, Margaret Hoover, also CNN contributor, Frank Bruni. I mean, I didn't think that would hit me like that. I saw the kids and I was so excited. But when I was thinking was because we were dealing with this whole race thing, those kids don't care what color he is. They just love him, they are in a school. He is Lebron James, like can we learn from all of that? Isn't there a lesson for all of us? No?

FRANK BRUNI, NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED COLUMNIST: It goes without saying.

LEMON: But it is not that simple. He said to me, just before we walked in with the kids, he said, with all this rancor he thinks we will get back, but it may not happen in our lifetime.

BRUNI: I hope he is wrong about that. But, he also said he worries or thinks we're moving backward. I think that is what all of us are concerned about during this presidency. I think it's an important observation. Because we frequently talk and answer the questions since Donald Trump came along or was elected, you know, has he just kind of ripped off and shown us some ugliness that was always there. And he has done, but he has done more than that. I think, he is actually bringing us backward. He is making us an uglier country than we were. He is giving people permission to talk and feel in ways they shouldn't and encourage the wrong things. He is throwing bombs here and there to divide us.

[23:10:00] And so, it's not just a matter that we learned under Trump things about our country that we often ignored, yes, we have. But he is also making those things worse. He is exacerbating the situation. And I think, several things Lebron said during that tour of the school to you and he said on that interview touched on that and that was very wise.

LEMON: That is why it upsets so many people. When you have Lebron is doing great things. There are other athletes who do great things in their communities and you don't always see them on CNN. Lebron, he is a megastar, right. Doing this great thing, the parents get GED's, you know the kids get -- there's a food pantry, they get all this food, he is moving hours, sorts of like, 8:00 to 5:00. A long day. I mean, this is -- it is amazing stuff. So, when you hear someone calling professional athletes SOB's, right, that is why people get so upset about it.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good for you for doing the story and for showing it. We all need to feel good about something and this is like something that he just feel good about it. I think, you're right, Frank, there has been permission for the rhetoric to become coarsened and negative and makes the responsibility of all of us and beacons of light like Lebron James really stand up. Because, Donald Trump is a President and he has the bully pulpit of the presidency and he can set the tone. Tone does come from the top. But then it makes it more incumbent on us, and anybody on the public sphere which is all of us now, because we all (inaudible) to be better, right? It has been Michelle Obama, you know, when they go low, we go high. And that gives all of us responsibility to do that and stand up and to push back against those forces, because we don't have to sit down to that.

LEMON: that is our better -- you're appealing to our better angels. And what I said before, you know, isn't there a lesson in it for all of us and that is appealing to our better angels. But I'm really wondering, I hope you're right. I am really wondering, does it work that way in this day and age when it seems that, everybody else seems to be playing by the rules except one person or a few people because the President doesn't play by the rules.

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. But these athletes and any celebrities for that matter have individual agency. I think it is important for everyone to exercise their individual agency. What can I do here locally in my community that will make a difference for someone else? That is touched by the President, but that is not governed by the President, right. And when people say, you know, these guys should just be quiet, they don't understand --

Shoot and dribble, because you don't understand -- you know, all of these sports groups, sports teams outside are basically in big cities, cities to which black people migrated during the great migration. So, they have these giant pockets of community where these athletes are very often the most well-known people in that community, at least they have or they are among that group. And they have a voice. Whether they decide to use it or whether they decide to use their wealth or decide to, you know, use any of what they have access to is up to them, but if they should do it, they can play a giant role in those cities, because there are giant clusters of black people in those cities and they're often locked into circumstances like those kids, right? And on one hand, it's great that he is doing that and on the other hand, it shows how poorly our educational system is set up in this country that someone should have to come in.

LEMON: You said you think he will be an education reformer.

HOOVER: I said that with the cameras off, but I will say it with the cameras on.

(LAUGHTER)

Look, I think because he is sincere and his energy is there that he'll stay involved. I will be very curious to see how this develops as it goes on. I think this is a project that has been done in conjunction with Akron public schools, and we have often seen in public schools versus some of the charter schools and opportunities where there is school choice is that there are disparities in terms of the outcomes and terms of how well students do. And so, I suspect he will stay engaged and I suspect that if there is any lack of progress or any educational standards that are not meeting Lebron's high standards of education, he will address that.

LEMON: Right. He has the means to.

HOOVER: And he has the means to and that will be very interesting.

LEMON: So, in speaking to him, you saw the full interview?

BRUNI: I did, yes.

LEMON: In speaking to him, he said that for him, the turning point was Trayvon Martin. Certainly, he was moved by Charlottesville because he tweeted about it and he talked about it and he has been vocal about these things. I said that I was so impressed and it was so refreshing that he spoke with such candor, that he wasn't worried about, oh, my gosh, not that he is a musician, I'm not going to sell another -- more albums to this demographic, this person is not going to watch my movie or this person is not going to come to buy a ticket to my ballgame, he doesn't care about that. He is doing what he knows is right within him. Do you think that offers other athletes the agency or at least the freedom to be able to start doing the same thing?

[23:15:10] BRUNI: I think it gives them some encouragement. I was struck by all the things you just said you were struck by. I was also struck Don, by his tone. You know, he could have sounded angry. He sounded to me really sad and really concerned. And sad and concerned I think is what defines all of us. I mean, we're worried about what's happening to our country under this President and he is clearly worried about that and he is realizing that because he is Lebron James he has a voice that will be heard. When he was giving you a tour of the school he several times used the word leader, he is asking himself, what is the responsibility of a leader and what is does leadership look like? Leadership is constructive. Leadership gives back. There is a certain human being in the White House that who could learn a lot from what he is saying and what he is doing about leadership.

LEMON: And from during the interview, there was no, excuse me, excuse me to jump in. If I said something and interrupted him he kept his train of thought. He knew what he wanted to talk about. Talked about the school and he is like he talked about the school and then he said, yes. But it goes beyond the school and he kept going back to that. Quite frankly, I have to be honest, I am taking people behind to think I was worried that his P.R. folks would be like, you didn't talk about the school enough. Lebron James wasn't worried about that. Because, he kept bringing it up because he knows, I think Lebron James is smart enough to know the power of CNN and what impact this is going to have on the larger community, it is not just about this one school, it is about the overall community.

BLOW: I would also like to say that I liked the fact that celebrities are going back to activist.

LEMON: Yes.

BLOW: Because if you look at the number of celebrities, including black celebrities who are active during the civil rights movement, I mean, risking everything. I mean, Harry Belafonte and Sidney Portier jumped on a plane with a bag full of money to go take to the kids in the south during freedom riders and (inaudible) took finance them and when they got off, the KKK entered the thing, entered the strip, they chased them down the dark road, shooting guns into the air, maybe at them, that is what people did. That is how active people were. They were at the height of their popularity and they did that.

LEMON: Right.

BLOW: Sidney Pointier and Ozzie Davis, you name a celebrity, they were on board. And they did it and they could have lost everything.

LEMON: Yep, certainly did. More than just Twitter doing a hashtag or being outraged on Twitter or just protest. All those things are important, but there has to be more action behind it. Stick around, everyone, when we come back, what could the mother of a Trump tell all of all Trump tell all, Bob Woodward's new book on the Trump administration. It is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with insiders. I got that, maybe you didn't. But we will explain when we come back.

[23:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're about to get another Trump administration tell all, this one written by claimed journalist Bob Woodward, the book is called "Fear," it is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with administration officials. So, back with me, our Charles Blow, Margaret Hoover and Frank Bruni. So, it's called "Fear," that is the book's title, it is based on the 2016 interview of Trump by Woodward and Washington Post reporter, Robert Costa where Trump says, real power is, I don't even want to use the word here, fear. That is a pretty dark statement, Frank. Should he be worried how he comes across?

BRUNI: Trump?

(LAUGHTER)

He is going to start worrying about when it comes -- well, is he going to worry about this book? I don't think he is going to worry that much because Donald Trump has spent his entire candidacy and presidency telling people, telling his supporters, his fans, that anything they hear about him that they don't like is fake and made up. So, I guess the questions about this book, if its interviews with people who are not consistently named it will be a he said-they said thing. As I also heard that there are documents and there are things in Trump's own handwriting and stuff like that, that is a lot harder to say that is made up and to get away from. So, what is actually in this book matters so much, because Donald Trump has done such a thorough job with telling people his critics are making things up.

LEMON: You remember how he reacted to "fire and fury," right? So, you think it will be the same?

BLOW: I've given up on trying to engage on how he is going to react to things like this and not giving up on the people who follow him off the ledge. Because I don't know how they're reacting to it or how they are processing things like this. If it's just falling into kind of the tribalism that we have grown and used to where, the people who hate him love this sort of thing and people who love him discount it completely, then I don't know where it takes us on the political spectrum, if it matters in that way. It may be good juice, I mean, we're in this and cover this all the time and you talk about it all the time, it will be good for us, it will be fun to read.

LEMON: "Fire and fury" --

(CROSSTALK)

I think it has to do with what you're going to say, it's just weeks before the midterm, so I am just wondering if Republicans should be worried about, but go on. Sorry.

HOOVER: I mean, most things with Trump end up fallen his favor, his base loves it. But, here's the thing. I mean, first of all, the idea of definition of fear comes because the question is how you derive power. The answer is through fear, right? And so, this is a fundamentally different and deeply starkly contrasting philosophical difference in leadership than what we were talking about in the last segment, right?

And so, you know his supporters will excuse this, but we as Americans and everybody needs to think through how the President of the United States thinks that his powers is derived from fear rather than citizenry actively bestowing on him the right and the privilege to govern and lead. We live in a representative democracy that stands for certain things and certain values and we should be reflective of that.

[23:25:05] It also like explain as lot psychologically. This is a man who compliments Putin. Compliments, dictators who murder millions of their civilians or jail millions of their civilians without fair trials, I'm looking at you China. I am looking at North Korea, I will hate you Russia. Duterte of the Philippines. Right, so it tells us a lot about how the President -- if you didn't already know you are already paying attention cares and thinks about authoritarians and admires them while having much less respect for the leaders that represents democracies and our allies around the world.

BLOW: It's also him trying to prioritizing emotional responses over intellectual ones. I mean, I think, that we often don't talk about that enough that he is just not an intellectual person.

LEMON: That is a very good point. It is all emotion.

BLOW: Because he doesn't have that, he falls back on the emotional part, because he understands it and he knows how to work that system rather than more of the cerebral system.

BRUNI: And not just emotions, but negative emotions. In which brings us back to the book's title. We have gone from a President if you associated one noun with him it was hope to a President who now has a Bob Woodward book about him titled I think hugely appropriately "Fear." Hope to fear. That kind did says it all.

LEMON: So, the President, Frank, tweeted about the July 20th meeting, the New York Times publishing had with Sulzberger and with Sulzberger urged the President to stop attacking the media. The president first tweeted that they, this according to the president, spend much time talking about the vast amounts of fake news being put out by the media and how the fake news has morphed into a phrase enemy of the people, sad.

Well, he has his definition of what fake news is, wrong, right? The question is, I mean, why do this? Because it was an off the record meeting, right? He puts it on the record by doing this. He is the one who started calling people the enemy, the press the enemy of the people and he is the one that twisted the definition of fake news. So, why is he now doing this?

BRUNI: When I read that tweet, who knows -- Donald Trump is not much of a wordsmith so reading tone into a cluster of Donald Trump words is a very dangerous game, I thought that tweet had a sort of proud tone to it. I've invented these terms, fake news and enemy of the people, and by god the chief representatives of the New York Times came in and we got to talk about my vocabulary. Left out of that tweet is what they were talking object, which is our representatives, Charles and I work for "The Times," we are saying, you by using these phrases, you created a climate journalists are in danger. Where journalist have to worry about doing their jobs. Where there are security guards. It was fascinating because if you read our publisher's account of the meeting which he gave only after Donald Trump had broken the off the record agreement, they said to him, Mr. President, you need to realize that there are now security guards outside newspaper buildings, news stations where there weren't before and rather than him saying that is terrible to here, he said, oh, they weren't there already? I mean, it was sort of like a child's fascination that we hadn't. He thinks we've been living in this climate for a long time. No, President Trump, you created this climate of fear.

LEMON: You created this climate. There weren't security guards when you walk into the building and there weren't security guards as there are now in most operations on every floor or journalists who have private security guards now, because of this President. I am one of them. I speak the truth here. You created this climate.

BLOW: It's a power trip. He wanted to say, I summoned them to the White House, they came, and I told them all the things I don't like about them and here is the evidence of it. It was a power trip. He put it on the record, because he wanted everybody to know that he had asked them to come and they had come.

LEMON: Do you remember after the election, when he summoned all the journalists, all the anchors to Trump tower and whatever, I was one of them. I kept sleeping. Because I'm not getting up and doing this, because I know exactly what he wants to do, he wants to get us there, he wants to berate us and he wants to call us fake news. A lot of people went, I don't know why, but I said, no, and I kept sleeping. And so I agree with Lebron James, do you really want to talk to someone who will use you as a prop unless -- no -- people are smart enough to know when someone is using you as a prop. You know when someone -- there's a possibility of that someone may get something out of having a conversation with you. This president did.

BLOW: He has never demonstrated an ounce of contrition about anything. That means that you cannot trust that.

HOOVER: But, but I --

LEMON: Can you hold until after the break? Seriously.

HOOVER: When they go low, we go high, that is what I'm going to say.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: OK. All right. We will be right back. Don't go anywhere.

[23:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT HOST: So we're back. You said, when they go low --

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, to answer, Lebron James says he won't sit across the table from Donald Trump. First of all, anybody who is going to have influence over Donald Trump unless they have a nuclear arsenal, it's Lebron James. Right? People with celebrity and wealth and fame. And that is the kind of person who is going to have more influence over the president, even if it's momentary.

But beyond that, it's the symbolism. It's like -- the problem in our culture is this coarsening of our rhetoric, the fact that we can just tune out people we disagree with, that we don't sit down and engage, and we don't make -- there is no best -- there is no assumption, goodwill assumption for the people that we disagree with.

LEMON: Don't you think --

HOOVER: And so that I think it's a better tone for Lebron to say --

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We get along because your intentions are good. We could have a real debate on the issues. This is not what this man is doing, right? You can't talk about human beings the way this person had and never take it back, never apologize for it, and then expect me to treat the person who's devaluing human beings with humanity.

LEMON: Yeah.

BLOW: I can't do that. I don't know what that means. I don't know how that operates.

LEMON: There is a difference between sitting down as a journalist, I think, interviewing him --

BLOW: Yeah.

LEMON: -- and challenging him with questions than going to have a conversation like that because he's going to use you, he is going to use Lebron James.

[23:35:03] HOOVER: It can be private. You don't have to know about it.

LEMON: And then he is going to tweet about it.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is the dilemma of this presidency. There are a lot of people who want to continue showing the office of the presidency respect, because they feel that's important for tradition for the future, and yet this is a president who is showing the office no respect. So how do then -- how do you then relate to him in way that is respectful of the country --

HOOVER: They said the same thing about Bill Clinton. They literally said the same thing about Bill Clinton.

BRUNI: Bill Clinton had many, many flaws.

HOOVER: Relatively speaking, it doesn't compare.

BRUNI: Relatively speaking, it is so unfair to say it's the same with Clinton.

HOOVER: The rhetoric. I'm not likening it, they're not apples-to- apples, but literally Republicans said the same thing.

LEMON: I got to this -- I hate to cut you guys off. One hundred days before, less than 100 days before the midterms and Biden and Obama are having lunch in a bakery in D.C.

BLOW: What are you suggesting?

LEMON: I'm asking you what is going on. Is there something more?

BRUNI: They're reminding voters of a different day. But also, Joe Biden is running for president.

LEMON: Thank you. Do you think he's running?

HOOVER: That is a staged viral video to announce your presidential intentions if I've ever seen one.

BRUNI: It's a visual --

LEMON: That's a lot of carbs.

BLOW: Joe is a nice guy. However, I would love for the Democrats to have a new crop of candidates. This idea of --

BRUNI: Amen. Amen.

BLOW: -- the whole leadership being a whole different generation than where the energy is is so out of sorts and problematic.

BRUNI: Amen.

LEMON: OK, I agree with you. Just a question. You have to pick the person who can beat Donald Trump. Maybe people think he is the best person.

BLOW: What anybody thinks at this early stage doesn't matter. It won't be who we think it is, anyway. But someone will emerge who will be the candidate. That person will do -- maybe they will win -- whatever -- they will do their best. It's all about juxtaposition.

LEMON: OK.

BLOW: Yeah.

LEMON: I got to go.

BLOW: It's about how much contrast --

LEMON: I love it when you guys drop by. Next time, you're paying for dinner. Wait, no food here. You're paying for drinks.

BRUNI: You got it.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Thank you. When we come back, President Trump threatening again to shut down the government if his border wall isn't funded. Is there a battle brewing within the president's own party?

[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: With just 99 days to go until the midterms, a lot of Republicans are probably not happy to hear the president say this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: As far as the border is concerned and personally, if we don't get border security after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown. It's time we had proper border security. We're the laughing stock of the world. We have the worst immigration laws anywhere in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Let's discuss now, former Republican Congressman David Jolly is here, also CNN political commentators Alice Stewart and Mike Shields. By the way, congressman and Mike, did you guys realize you're dressed exactly alike?

(LAUGHTER)

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Keeping up with you, Don.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID JOLLY, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Believe me, I did not plan on that tonight.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I did not get the dress code memo. Sorry about that. LEMON: Oh, we need a little laugh. OK, so listen, good evening, everyone. Mike, why is the president threatening his own party with a government shutdown at the height of a campaign season? SHIELDS: I want to disagree with something you said at the beginning slightly where you said not many people want to hear this. The president's immigration proposals all poll close to 60 percent. He wants a deal on DACA. He wants border security and a border wall.

He wants to create merit-based immigration. He wants to get rid of the visa lottery and add those numbers back to people legally entering the country. That program is actually incredibly popular with independents, Republicans --

LEMON: Mike, Mike, Mike --

SHIELDS: Now, shutting down --

LEMON: Let me clarify. I think -- of course with the base. I'm talking about Republicans in Washington. Do you think lawmakers really want to deal with the government shutdown? That was the crux of my question.

SHIELDS: You're right. I was getting to that. My point is his immigration policies are actually pretty popular across the country. The process for getting to them is really messy. He has to deal with Congress. And so this is one of the few ways that he can try to leverage them, which is to say, look, I'm going to shut the government down.

No one in Congress wants to do that. I suspect in the end he won't do this but he continually is making this point and sending a message to them that he wants to get serious about border security so that they can unlock this immigration problem they have.

We will see what happens. I don't think it will actually -- I don't think it will actually shut the government down. But it certainly is a leverage that he can hold over the Congress to try and get what he wants.

LEMON: All right. Just so you know, late June, 57 percent -- there is a Gallup poll. Fifty-seven percent of people say they do not want a border wall. Now as far as conservatives, I'm not sure, I don't have the number on conservatives, 73 percent of Republicans want a border wall to your point. But most people in America don't.

SHIELDS: The entire country wants border security.

LEMON: Right.

SHIELDS: That's what they want.

STEWART: Don, I think what's important also to keep in mind if you continue to play that soundbite, he did -- he was very forceful on where he stands with regard to shutting the government down. But he also when he was asked by a reporter about that, he said it is open for negotiation, this is not a red line. So in my view, this is another way for him to be firm on something that got him into the White House.

LEMON: You think it's a good negotiating tactic?

STEWART: It certainly gets the attention of those in Congress. They don't want a shutdown now or ever, and they certainly don't want one leading into midterm elections because they understand how difficult that will be for Republicans.

[23:45:06] And talking with many members of Congress this evening since he made this announcement, they view this as a wake-up call, they need to get together on this. Seventy percent of Americans do feel as though we need to provide protection for dreamers and that means DACA.

So we need to incorporate DACA into this conversation and we need to also as the president said all those things that Mike talked about, ending chain migration, ending the visa lottery, protection for dreamers, and funding that wall.

LEMON: OK.

STEWART: These are things the president is firm on and he clearly is going to make that front and center.

LEMON: Congressman, go, what do you think?

JOLLY: Sure. So, three months out, this is a message reset by the president who is suffering from historically unpopular numbers. The tax bill is not working. He is under investigation by Bob Mueller. There are questions about Russia. He did not get Obamacare repealed. He has changed macroeconomic policy Republicans have believed in for decades.

And so this is a message reset to something that purely works with Republicans. But the other element here, Don, is this. Donald Trump is very selfish. He is willing to throw his own party, the party he hijacked, to the wolves to protect his own popularity numbers. The shutdown is terrible for Republicans typically, and I've been through 20 years of shutdowns, presidents win.

Usually though in the past 20 years, it's a divided government. This is a case of a Republican president and a Republican Congress. Donald Trump is willing to throw congressional Republicans into the lion's den to protect his own popular numbers by pushing immigration going into the last 99 days.

LEMON: All right. More to talk about the president doubling down on immigration and the border wall when we come back.

[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So the president is doubling down on his demands on immigration. But I want you to listen to what one Fox News host says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSE WATTERS, HOST, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FOX NEWS: He wants merit- based.

JUAN WILLIAMS, POLITICAL ANALYST, FOX NEWS: Yeah, and he wants to cut --

WATTERS: Go after illegal immigration by bringing in the best and the brightest.

WILLIAMS: Oh, please.

WATTERS: So we don't bring in some guy's uncle from Zimbabwe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Wow. Back with me now, David Jolly, Alice Stewart, and Mike Shields. So, David, Trump and his supporters said that they want merit-based immigration, but do comments like this give away what they really want or is this just a flip and comment, do you think?

JOLLY: No, it is cold war for xenophobia. Don, look, just look at history. Last cycle it was the threat of Syrian refugees. And we demonized Middle East refugees who are fleeing for their lives. And if you look at the data, it actually was the lowest crime rate of population in the United States was the refugee population from the Middle East.

Now they are demonizing Central American families who are trying to save their families from crime and poverty and get their kids to a better life. And we are separating them at the border and we are demonizing them. We can have a merit-based system. And certainly we should reform legal immigration.

But what this president has done is finally giving permission to speak to this very dark tones of race and nationality and xenophobia and there is no getting past that in the Trump administration.

LEMON: Mike, the man in that clip -- I forgot his name. He is Fox. Watters. Jesse Watters could have picked up any -- could have picked any country for example there, but he picked an African nation. What does that say?

SHIELDS: I can't speak for Jesse Watters. I think it is unfortunate. He shouldn't do that. I mean, look, what the policy saying is, we shouldn't have a visa lottery which just randomly selects people from around the world and allows them into the country, regardless of need or merit or anything else.

And actually what the policy suggests is, those immigration numbers won't go away, they will actually be added to the people that are in line to speed up the people legally trying to enter.

It is sort of setting an example through policy to say, not a random system that was created in the '70s, but a system of people who are trying to enter the country legally that are waiting should be rewarded for going through the process the right way, because we are a country of laws, we are a country of immigrants, and we want to reward the people that do it the right way. And so that's what the policy speaking. So I can't -- I don't know why you would use that particular example and he certainly should be more eloquent in describing what I think is a great policy and like I said, polls over 60 percent.

LEMON: Alice, to be quite honest, doesn't it sound like he's saying what the president said when he said, why can't we have more people from countries like Norway instead of shithole countries?

STEWART: I think that was not an appropriate comment whatsoever and that's not unusual for him. That's just how he is. But I think to Mike's point, I think the focus should be more on what this merit- based system is about. And it is about not looking at where a person, the geography of a person, but their desire and need to come to this country under legal means, assimilate into our country, learn our language, have a job, become educated.

And those are the things -- we would do that if we wanted to hire someone for a job. We shouldn't have any different standards for people that want to come into this country. That is the focus and that's the priority for a merit-based system. And it think that makes the most sense.

SHIELDS: A merit-based system similar to Canada, by the way. That's their system.

LEMON: I understand, but not everyone who is coming into this country, you know, and a lot of your ancestors, I would think, were not people who were the best and the brightest. Not to disparage you but -- and immigration is not like a job application.

It's not like you are picking people for college to go to work for a Fortune 500 company. I don't think, you know, income and educational level and all that, is that something we really want to put as part of our immigration system, congressman?

[23:55:00] JOLLY: No. So, look, I disagree. I think there's a middle ground between merit-based and creating a diverse legal immigration system. But there is an incredibly important legal distinction here that Republicans often ignore and I frankly think half the Republican caucus doesn't even understand, which is the difference between legal immigration, those seeking to immigrate here under traditional mechanism and those seeking refugee status or asylee status.

What has happened under the Trump administration is we have victimized refugees and asylees. Those who are looking frankly to save their own lives and their families lives. We have conflated them with a group of people who are looking to simply immigrate to the United States like they may want to immigrate to any other nation in the world. That is where Trump has failed to lead.

SHIELDS: Our policy is what victimizing the people, not Republicans in Congress. Our policy victimizes them by tricking them into --

JOLLY: A policy supported by Republicans.

SHIELDS: We have ports of entry. We have an asylum --

LEMON: I got to go. But you know what, we should look at people who are --

JOLLY: OK, hey, Mike, you turn away the family at the border, Mike. You do it. You turn it away. You turn away that family with a child at the border because you know what, I wish if I was a father in Central America, I had the courage to do what these parents do to get their parents to the United States. You're willing to turn them away.

SHIELDS: David, the policy encourages them to do that.

LEMON: OK, gentlemen, I really have to go. I'm late. Sorry about that. We are into the next show. But we should look at people who come in and stay -- overstay their visas. That's a big immigration problem, but people don't want to talk about it.

They just want to talk about people coming across the border because that creates fear and drives people to the polls, but take a look at that if you want some fact-checking. Good night.

[24:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)