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CNN TONIGHT

Liar in Chief in the Oval Office; Russian Spy Penetrated Trump's Orbit; U.N. Calls Out Trump Over Media Issue; A Member Of Nixon's Enemies List Speaks Out On The Trump White House; Is Russia Trump's Watergate; Who Decides What Is Racist. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 3, 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: News continues right now, let's turn it over to Don Lemon and CNN Tonight.

DON LEON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Anderson. This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

President Trump is breaking records when it comes to lying, the lies from this president are coming fast and they're coming furious.

At the end of his first year in office the president has made -- had made 2,140 false claims. Well, this week he reached a total of more than 4,229, nearly double.

In June and July alone, Trump averaged 16 false for misleading claims per day. That comes from our friends at the Washington Post by the way who are doing a lot of heavy lifting, cataloging all the false and misleading claims President Trump has made since he took the oath of office.

Well, this president's complete disregard for the truth is shocking. But it probably shouldn't be. After all, he told us this himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So why don't we take a moment, shall we, to break down just a few of the president's most recent lies? Just this week, he again threatened to shut down the federal government, to shut it down on October 1st if Congress doesn't give him the money for his favorite campaign promise, you know what that is, to build a wall on the southern border.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We started building our wall, I'm so proud of it. We started.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: We have 1.6 billion. And we've already started. You saw the pictures yesterday. I said, what a thing of beauty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, I don't know, Mexico was supposed to pay for that, remember, we shouldn't forget about that. But the wall, this is the truth, has not, not, not been started. And that 1.6 billion, that's for new fencing on a portion of the border, not a wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Mexico's going to pay for the wall, I'm just telling you. They're going to pay for the wall and they're going to enjoy it, OK? They're going to enjoy it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, again, clearly Mexico is not paying for the wall since the president is demanding the money from Congress. And then there is this on taxes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We passed the biggest tax cuts and reform in American history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So the fact is, the Trump tax cut, are you listening, everyone? Is the eighth largest since 1918, the eighth largest, not the largest in history. The president also seems to be having trouble keeping his facts straight about the steel industry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: U.S. Steel just announced that they're building six new steel mills.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So if you care about the truth, nope, that's not the truth. The only thing U.S. Steel has announced is that it will restart two blast furnaces, restart two blast furnaces, not six new steel mills.

And it's probably no coincidence the president seems to be especially truth challenged when it comes to Russia. And this tweet from July 24th, he famously claims Russia will be pushing for Democrats in the midterms because, according to him, they don't want Trump.

But I want you to listen closely. This is Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin himself coming from his own mouth, he said at the press conference after that disastrous summit in Helsinki.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yes, I did, yes, I did because he talked about bringing the U.S./Russia relationship back to normal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He said for himself he wanted Trump to win, not the Democrats. It should be no surprise that President Trump has made more than 378 misleading statements about the Russia investigation so far. His favorite being, branding it a witch hunt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's a total witch hunt. I've been saying it for a long time.

They call it the rigged witch hunt. I have this witch hunt.

It's a witch hunt, that's all it is.

They have phony witch hunts.

It's like a witch hunt. It's like a witch hunt.

The witch hunt continues. The entire thing has been a witch hunt.

This is a pure and simple witch hunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: A lot of witches have been caught. But it's not a witch hunt, no matter how many times he says it. The fact is, special counsel Robert Mueller has brought 191 criminal charges against 35 defendants.

There have been five guilty pleas, five guilty pleas so far. And former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is on trial right now in the first case to come out of the Mueller investigation. Those are the facts.

[22:05:01] So here we are again, asking the same question we have asked before, and will ask again, I'm sure, who are you going to believe? Are you going to believe the president who has made well over 4,200 false or misleading claims so far? Or are you going to believe your own eyes and your own years? Facts still matter. The truth still matters. We're living in reality, not an alternative reality.

I want to bring in now CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem, also CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero, and CNN contributor Garrett Graff, the author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the war on Global Terror." Thank you all for joining us. Juliette, I'm going to start with you, so lie after lie, and the disappointing part is, this isn't new. It's not by accident. And we'll no doubt hear and see more next week.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, that -- I mean, that is not a lie. We can be assured of that, and the sort of continuation or the repetition of the lie becomes Donald Trump's own reality.

I think what you're also seeing, though, is that his sense of what reality is bumping up against the reality of facts. And you're seeing it mostly, of course, in the Russian investigation.

Those facts don't lie, the number of people who have pled guilty, the number of people who are testifying, the number of indictments that are going on, the ties that are getting close, if not within essentially the Oval Office, and so I think part of the lying is a reaction to the reality that Donald Trump is facing, at least as it pertains to the Russia investigation at this stage.

LEMON: Yes. So Garrett, and then we have, you know, this news that the Manhattan madam, Kristin Davis met with Mueller's team, investigators said they're interested in her ties to Roger Stone. Why does Roger Stone's name continue to pop up in this investigation?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what we know so far in the public reporting is that Roger Stone appears to have had contact both with Guccifer 2, which is the GRU Russian military intelligence officers who attacked John Podesta and other Democratic e-mails, as well as with WikiLeaks which was the platform where these e-mails came out. And that's just based on public reporting.

But that stuff is relatively old. And so part of what's interesting about Mueller's ongoing interest in this, I think he's up to seven or nine different Roger Stone advisers or colleagues that he has been interviewing, is that he has some sort of ongoing interest with Roger Stone.

And obviously we don't know what it is. But we know that Mueller doesn't yet know the thing that Mueller is looking for. And that, in and of itself, is pretty interesting to us.

LEMON: Yes. Every -- every step of the way, Carrie, Mueller has -- you know, he's been methodical in who he meets with. He's laser focused, he certainly wouldn't be meeting with this woman unless he had good reason to do so.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's right. I mean, I think Garrett's on the right track, which is that the investigators and the special counsel team, they are interviewing people around Roger Stone.

And so whatever is the piece of the investigation most likely the piece that goes to the heart of the inquiry into whether there were individuals affiliated with the campaign, Roger Stone being one of them who actually may have had advanced knowledge or been involved in some way with the Russian influence campaign, they are circling around Roger Stone to determine how much information they can learn based on what witnesses say, as well as what their documentary evidence or the digital evidence that they're obtaining says.

And then they'll determine whether or not they want to talk to him specifically, whether that's through a voluntary interview or whether that's through grand jury or whether they decide they don't need to talk to him at all.

But they're figuring out the answers to what their questions would be for him in advance through these other witnesses in his circle.

LEMON: And Juliette Kayyem, I am sure a lot of people are wondering what does the Manhattan madam have to do with the Russia investigation?

KAYYEM: I think that 2018 was missing was the Manhattan madam, and let's remember, she came into sort of prominence in the Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York. Sometimes it's the 1980s and 1990s all over again.

So, their -- look, their relationship is described as that they've had ties. We don't know what those ties are. We don't know what the nature of the relationship is. He represent -- or she ran for office once. He was her campaign manager. She worked for him once.

And so the fact that she voluntarily came forward, maybe either because she has exonerating evidence or because she sees as Carrie was describing the sort of -- you know, the wagons circling around one person and she may have information.

[22:09:58] So, you know, Mueller is a busy guy. He's not interviewing people that may not have something relevant. And the fact that this cast of characters that surrounds the Trump campaign from 2016, you know, everyone from, you know, Stone to the, you know, Stormy Daniels to now the Manhattan madam, you know, that's the nature of the people he hung out with.

And that's a character quality that is represented in the president of the United States. There's no -- that's not a judgment. It's just these are the people he surrounded himself with.

LEMON: Yes. I was in my neighborhood the other day and I saw them from afar, and I was like, my gosh, there's the Manhattan madam and Roger Stone in the same neighborhood, it was so odd.

(CROSSTALK)

KAYYEM: I know. The fact we're reading about Eliot -- right. The fact that we're reading about Eliot Spitzer again is it's sort of -- you have to be of a certain age to remember this.

LEMON: Yes. So Garrett, I want to read this statement. This is from Roger Stone. He says, "Kristin Davis is a long-time associate of mine. I'm the Godfather to her 2-year-old son. She knows nothing about Russian collusion, WikiLeaks collaboration or any other impropriety- related to the 2016 election which I thought was the subject of this probe. I understand she appeared voluntarily. I am highly confident she will testify truthfully if called upon to do so."

What do you think of that, Garrett?

GARFF: Well, Juliette had a point there that I wanted to emphasize and expand upon. Which is Mueller is not on a wild goose case to turn up sort of criminal investigations, criminal charges against anyone for anything.

And in fact, it was CNN's reporting originally on Monday this week that showed that he has turned over the Tony Podesta and Vin Weber ends of his investigation to the Southern District of New York, the Manhattan federal prosecutors.

And what that means is that what he's actually doing, and we see this with the Michael Cohen case and we see this in a number of other instances, he's handing off things that don't seem related to his core Russia probe.

So the fact that he is staying focused on Roger Stone means that he thinks Roger Stone is the center or part of the center of this Russia question. This isn't sort of some unrelated tax charges or, you know, some prostitution or escort charges dating back to the 1990s, totally unrelated. This is something that is central to Bob Mueller's investigation that Roger Stone is the key to unlocking.

LEMON: OK. I need you guys to stick around. We're going to continue on for one more round after this.

When we come back, a former Trump campaign aide socialized with alleged Russian agent Maria Butina, just weeks before the election, inviting her to his birthday party. That is according to the Washington Post. I wonder what they talked about.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So breaking news now on alleged Russian agent Maria Butina. The Washington Post reporting tonight that Butina reached out to a former Trump campaign aide just weeks before the election, closer contact with Trump's team than previously known.

So, back with me, Juliette Kayyem, Carrie Cordero, and Garrett Graff.

So let me just explain a little bit more about this, Juliette, because I want to ask you about this breaking story now.

KAYYEM: Yes.

LEMON: And this is from the Washington Post about Maria Butina, the allege Russian agent. They're reporting that she sought out interactions with J.D. Gordon who served as Trump's campaign director on national security for six months before he moved over to the transition team. That's according to testimony and documents provided to the Senate intelligence committee. Significant? KAYYEM: Absolutely. Because what we have to remember is the case

that's trying to be made, so right now she's in jail. So let's just -- but then what she's saying or not saying is going to be relevant for any investigation.

But what's more important is the extent to which we are now seeing how early on in this campaign the national security team, right, this is not like some finance person, this is the -- one of the leads of Trump's very small national security team were receptive to someone like Maria. Right?

I mean, in other words, no other campaign in the history of the presidency has had so many Russians hanging out around the various teams. And so what this reporting shows is that those overtures were very, very close to the election day itself, and they were social enough that people -- that she was invited to birthday parties and concerts and whatever else.

So these aren't random. I saw her at a conference kind of relationships. These are actually she gets invited by leaders, once again, I'm going to say it again, of the national security team and not some other part of the Trump campaign.

So I think this is very significant, both in terms of how close it was to the campaign, and how close her ties were to the national security apparatus of the Trump transition.

LEMON: This is some of the details, I just want to get them right here, Garrett, they exchanged e-mails in September and October of 2016, J.D. Gordon invited Butina to a concert and invited her to a birthday party. I mean, what we're seeing is an alleged Russian agent getting close to someone in Trump's orbit. Right?

GRAFF: Yes. And, remember, there are some unanswered, loose threads involving J.D. Gordon already in this investigation. He was involved in the attempt to change the platform language of the Republican -- at the Republican convention to make it more pro-Russia, more anti- Ukraine.

That was the same convention, of course, that had Paul Manafort, had Rick Gates, where Jeff Sessions was meeting with Sergey Kislyak on the side of the convention.

So there -- this sort of begins to unspool perhaps some really interesting and intriguing avenues that could help us answer some of the fundamental unanswered questions we still have about what transpired in the middle of the Trump campaign in 2016.

LEMON: So Paul Manafort's accountants testified today, Carrie, and one of them is Cindy Laporta who got immunity. And she said that she falsified a $900,000 loan amount so that Manafort could pay less in taxes. How damning, is that really damning for Manafort?

CORDERO: Well, it's very significant testimony and it's fairly dramatic as well. Because you have somebody who is serving as an accountant to him. She has been granted immunity so that she would testify and not incriminate herself.

[22:20:03] And she has admitted that she knew some of what they were doing was illegal. So I think that testimony probably was very powerful. And the cooperation of the accountants and the bookkeeper, what that does is that provides additional details and context to what I think is really a very document-heavy trial, and a document-heavy case.

In other words, most of the serious evidence that will support the elements of the crime, if the jury does find him guilty, will come from the actual documents themselves and the falsified records. Someone like this, though, she provides a face and personal knowledge of what was going on behind the scenes.

LEMON: So, Carrie, this is really a preview, right, of what we're going to hear from the prosecution star witness, Rick Gates?

CORDERO: Well, in some ways, Rick Gates will, I think, provide even more details if, in fact, he does testify. He will have additional questions from the defense about, you know, his cooperation agreement as well. And he was part of this scheme.

LEMON: Right.

CORDERO: So that adds a different dimension to his testimony where she was someone, as I understand from the proceedings today, who expressed remorse at having known that some of this was wrong activity, but has a little bit of distance in that she was the accountant, she wasn't the person sort of pursuing the scheme.

LEMON: With so much -- Juliette, with so much evidence against Manafort, what is his strategy? Is he banking on a pardon from the president or a mistrial?

KAYYEM: His strategy may be just to delay this as long as possible and hopefully win in court. I mean, I think at this stage we don't know his strategy because as Carrie was pointing out, the evidence does seem pretty damning so far. It's document heavy, but also you have these five witnesses who worked with him day in and day out who are testifying against him.

So it's -- you know, we always are looking for is there sort of some grand strategy to all this different people's behavior, whether it's Stone or Manafort or, you know, the former national security adviser.

Maybe the strategy is every man to himself now. I mean, I think these are how conspiracies unravel, right, is that no one knows what the other person is doing. So Flynn doesn't know what his deputy is saying. Stone doesn't know what Flynn is saying.

And this -- I mean, this is basically how conspiracies fall apart. So there may not be a grand strategy for any of them except for self- preservation at this stage, and some of them looking at the writing on the wall, this is why we have so many plea agreement at the stage -- or guilty pleas at this stage, are saying you know what, the only -- the only saving grace at this stage is if I -- if I pleas -- but -- plead.

But you know, this is -- you know, you're seeing people basically not know whether they'll survive the unraveling of the grand conspiracy. So it's every man and woman in some cases to themselves.

LEMON: Garrett, just to wrap it up here. I know you don't have a crystal ball. Can you take us forward to next week? What do you expect?

GRAFF: Well, what I think we're going to see is, you know, Paul Manafort try to push this forward as best he can, you know. I think he is probably holding out hope that there might be one juror in the midst of this who has listened to the president say that this is a hoax, that this is a witch hunt, that Paul Manafort, you know, is being caught up and railroaded by the special counsel.

You know, it's a pretty damning case based on evidence and testimony. But all you need is one juror sitting there saying, you know, I don't know that I buy this.

LEMON: All right. Thank you all. Have a good weekend.

When we come back, the U.N. Human Rights Office condemning President Trump's attacks on the media saying he is violating not only freedom of the press, but human rights. Is president -- is this president damaging this country beyond repair?

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The United Nations Human Rights Office is condemning President Trump's attacks on the press. They say his rants violate press freedom and international human rights law.

Let's discuss now. Martin Halperin -- Morton Halperin, he served on Nixon's National Security Council and ended on Nixon's infamous enemies list, now he's a senior advisor to the Open Society Foundations. Also with us, Douglas Brinkley, CNN presidential historian. Good to have both of you on. Good evening.

MORTON HALPERIN, SENIOR ADVISOR, OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATIONS: Thank you. Good to be here.

LEMON: Doug, you and experts say that President Trump's attacks on the press are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts. So what does it say, what does it say to you that the U.N. Human Rights Office is calling out the President of the United States?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I'm glad they're calling him out. We're in a crisis where we have the president here who's attacking the First Amendment, you know, saying horrific things about journalists, creating a feeling of violence against even the people like Jim Acosta at CNN wherever he goes.

You know, when we deal with the Nixon years, Don, and look back, you know, Nixon was trying to -- his enemies list was looking at the -- you know, who -- how that we can seek the IRS on people.

But now I'm worried about violence towards journalists because of the way Donald Trump talks about the fake news media, talks about being disgusting, the enemy of the people.

So he's embarrassing us internationally. But worse, I think journalists are starting to feel threatened by his presidency.

LEMON: So as a historian, to hear the president of the United States refer to the press as an enemy of the people, has that ever happened before?

BRINKLEY: It's horrific. I mean, you know, Nixon, I mentioned, kept an enemies list, and was starting to go after people, but he is really trying to incite violence against reporters. How else can you interpret it?

If they're the enemy, you're supposed to stamp out the enemy. And he doubles down on it, plays games with it, thinks it's funny. And so, I think we have a big problem with Donald Trump's -- it's because he's not a reader in the end, but his misunderstanding of even what the role of journalism is in our Constitution, the First Amendment.

LEMON: So, Morton, you were actually on President Nixon's enemies list.

HALPERIN: Yes, I was.

LEMON: Give me your reaction of what we have seen from the Trump White House. Is history repeating itself right now?

[22:29:52] HALPERIN: No, now, it's far worse than anything that occurred during the Nixon administration. Nixon did not attack the press as a group. He did not do anything which intended to incite violence against the press.

He did many things which were inappropriate and I think he would have been and should have been impeached if he had not resigned. But Donald Trump is a far more evil and dangerous man, and he is, I think, trying to intimidate the press.

He is encouraging his followers to conduct violence against the press. And I think the great shame is that the rest of the Republican Party, which spoke out against Nixon, is, with a few exceptions, not doing what they should be doing, which is defending the constitution and siding with the rest of us and saying this man has to go.

LEMON: So, you know, I guess part of the media, you know, and you are now sort of de facto, right, by extension, so you're enemies of the people. But I'm just wondering what it was like living as someone he pointed out specifically, like one person as an enemy of the President of the United States.

HALPERIN: You're asking me how I felt to be on the enemies list?

LEMON: Yes. HALPERIN: Actual, next to my name it said a scandal would be helpful

here, but it clearly was more of an aspiration on their part than anything that they tried to do. By the time we learned of it, the existence of the list from John Dean, Nixon was in big trouble. And I don't think people who were on the list felt in any physical danger, certainly. And not much political danger. We felt the country was coming around to understand that Nixon could not be allowed to continue to be President and that he had to be removed from office by a constitutional process.

People, looking back, though they may have been investigated by the IRS inappropriately. I never felt that, and have never been audited, in fact, by the IRS, but this is a wholly different situation. This is a situation in which the press, the American public is being told not to trust journalists, not to believe in facts. And supporters of the President --

LEMON: And journalist feel threatened. You said you didn't then, people didn't feel threatened, but journalists do feel threatened now, when they're being in pens, roped off and pointed out in the back of the auditorium, and people screaming at them. People feel threatened now and they're getting specific threats against them.

HALPERIN: It had claimed the nation, but it's the rest of us that have to defend the press, because, as we all know, a free press is a vital element of our constitutional system.

LEMON: Absolutely. Doug, you say that Nixon seems like a statesman compared to Trump. Talk to me about that.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes, I mean, you know, Nixon went in 1972 to China and the famous break through with China, he had reporters with him, it was a selection who were friendly, but he had unfriendly reporters with him. He was trying to win and court the press on public opinion in some ways. Where Donald Trump wants to destroy them and tamp them out.

The good news is, Don, you are one of this. You are part of history now, there's a group of journalists who have stood up to Donald Trump, are doing deep investigation at "Washington Post," "New York Times," people like Michael Schmidt, Phil Rucker, many others are going to go down in history -- Maggie, of course. These are brave figures.

Now remember, in the Nixon enemies list, beyond -- besides Morton, I mean Paul Newman made the list and the great journalist Daniel Shore, and both of them -- particularly Newman said it's the great moment of my life, I made the list. I think, 50 years from now people are going to look at this as great journalism going on here and who stood up to a President acting like a despot, and who held the President accountable. You're going to have a who's who of great journalists, that are working at the New Yorker, or Wall Street Journal, etcetera and there are a lot of them.

LEMON: In the history books, that is what really writes the story, the history book. And, I mean, write it in terms of writing it out, and also correcting it as well. Facts. So Morton, Nixon secretly taped you and others within his White House. Do you think that the Trump administration is using similar tactics?

HALPERIN: I don't think so, because as a result of learning about the taping, not only by Nixon, but by Roosevelt, by Kennedy, by every post-war President, the Congress put in a system, the focal FISA cord, and FISA warrants system, and I think that system is well designed and makes it very difficult for the President to try to conduct surveillance without going through the process of the courts. And I don't think the rest of the government would participate in it.

In Nixon's time the FBI was told to wiretap and wiretap, and they had been told that by every President, Congress had never told them it was illegal. And so they did it. I do not believe they would do it now. I think the bureaucracy knows what the war is, the war is absolutely clear, and I think they would resist.

[22:35:10] LEMON: Douglas, it looks like you want to say something. I've got to run, but go on, please.

BRINKLEY: WikiLeaks and Russia doing the intimidation force, meaning journalists that may be being targeted by nefarious forces internationally now are having their personal e-mails and the like stolen, which is another form of surveillance.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, gentlemen, I appreciate it, have a good weekend.

HALPERIN: Thank you.

LEMON: When we come back, more backlash for the "New York Times" after their latest hire was revealed to have tweeted some really offensive things a few years ago. Were her tweets racist? And who decides? That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Listen, "The New York Times" is trying to diffuse the uproar created with the hiring of their new writer Sarah Jeong. The critics are outrage by her history of controversial anti-white tweets. She calls it countertrolling, they call it racism. So, let us -- what is it?

[22:40:13] Let us talk about it. I want bring in now CNN political commentators, Matt Lewis and Symone Sanders. Also with us is Ying Ma, a former Deputy Director of communications for a pro-Trump super PAC. I am so glad to have all of you this evening.

So, Symone, I just want to read, this is some of Sarah Jeong's tweets that her critics say are offensive, many of them dating back five years, and one tweet she wrote that couldn't enjoy the show "breaking bad" because the premise is just -- and here's what she says, the premise is just white people being miserable. And that it must be so boring to be white. She also tweeted, can't #cancelwhitepeople and oh, man it's kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men. And white people have stopped breeding, you'll all go extinct soon. That was my plan all along. Dumb f-ing white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs -- I hate saying that word, I will just say peeing on fire hydrants. I don't why -- I just hate that word. You say these tweets are not racist?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think Sarah's tweets are racist. Look, first of all, I think it's important to note that these tweets were dug up by a right wing -- I mean, it's not even conservative. It was a right wingers, people that identify with the white supremacist ideology and they were taken out on context. That being said I subscribe to the notion that I tweet, write or e-mail anything that I don't want splashed across the pages of "The New York Times."

LEMON: Does it matter who dug them up?

SANDERS: No, but I think it matters that it is selective. That is what I am saying so, some of the tweets are taken out of context. I think in Sarah's explanation she noted that some of it was countertrolling. Would I have written anything like that? Absolutely not. But it is not racist for this reason, one, Don, racism, being racist is not just prejudice, it's prejudice plus power. So one could argue that some of her tweets, even within context, note that she has a prejudice, perhaps, against white men, but that, in fact, does not make her racist. I don't think she is a racist. I absolutely think we're conflating two conversations.

LEMON: Does it make her a bigot?

SANDERS: No, I don't think it makes her a bigot either. Again, I think you have to look at the tweets within the context. Could we -- could she be prejudiced, could she have some not just implicit, but, you know, negative bias towards white men in America due to perhaps what she is experienced throughout her life?

Probably, absolutely. Does that mean, though, that she is, in fact, racist? No because race is prejudice plus power. Could she be prejudiced? Absolutely. But I think we're conflating many different conversations and we have to be clear about what we're talking about.

LEMON: Ying, what do you think, are these tweets racist?

YING MA, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, PRO-TRUMP SUPER PAC: I think the tweets certainly are racist, whether Sarah herself is a racist, I think that is a different question. Because if you look at her tweets, in fact, I actually spent quite a bit time --

LEMON: Can you separate those two for me?

MA: So if I could continue, I actually looked at a whole bunch of her tweets, a lot more than what you just read out loud. And that is quite a bit of time I can't get back, but it's clear that she is a young lady who's very confused, very indiscreet, who's trying to be very funny, but who is failing spectacularly. And you sort of have to feel sorry for her that she somehow went through one of the best universities in the country, Harvard law, and what she does is spends her entire time obsessing about white people and saying nasty things about white men and white women, but it's so -- also clear from her remarks that she doesn't think all white people are what she describes. And so there is a certain element of attempting to be humorous, but

not actually succeeding. However, if you look at her tweets, and if you actually do look at the context, the context is that she is purposely saying racist things against white people for you know, what she believes is great effect.

LEMON: Ok. I'm not -- again, I'm not sure. So how do you separate --

MA: What I would say about what Symone just said, I think there is a great deal that is sad here. What it reflects is what is really sad about identity politics in America in general is that race is your defining characteristic. And if you are somebody who is not white you get to say all kinds of vile things about white people.

And there's no consequence. And I think what is sad here is that here is a young woman who is obviously very smart, smart enough to get into Harvard, and yet she spends all her time saying all these nasty things about white people, as she knows they're at least racially tinged, if not racist, but she goes on doing that, because that is how she is been taught.

LEMON: I've got to get Matt in. So, Matt, listen, she issued an apology, her own apology, about her old tweets alongside a screen shot of just two examples of the types of the messages she receives.

[22:45:08] One reads, if I saw you, I would sock you in your lesbian face, and shut the "f" up, you dog-eating bleep. She says she was countertrolling. So what's wrong with punching back?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I guess we all get a get out of jail card now, because anything anybody has ever been fired for saying or tweeting could be countertrolling if that is an acceptable excuse. Look, I'm not a big fan of this mob mentality where we go off things people tweeted five years ago and take them down.

Having said that, you and I both know that if Matt Lewis had written or said anything remotely like this about another race, or sexual orientation, I certainly wouldn't have a job on Monday. I actually think there's -- this is a political story as well as a media story. You know, there are -- look, I think white people have historically been privileged, but there are a lot of working class white Americans out there, maybe you're a Vietnam vet, maybe you're struggling with cancer, maybe you're unemployed, your factory went bankrupt, and you are living in Ohio, and you're watching somebody working at the "New York Times" who went to a great college shame you for being white, we wonder why Donald Trump is able to turn all these folks against us in the media.

Well, guess what? If you're a white Republican living in Ohio or Michigan, and you have the idea that the media doesn't like you, isn't this proof that, in fact, that is the case, that the "New York Times" is hiring somebody who has tweeted hundreds of tweets, like not just a handful like this, would get hired at the "New York Times" of all places? I think it kind of reinforces, sadly, Donald Trump's message. LEMON: I've got to take a break, but I want to continue this. So

we're going to go on, but this is the thing. You don't have to respond by Twitter. It always gets you in trouble, because there's no context. If you're going to do something like that, then you write an article where there's context, where you can respond to people and it's just not sitting out there like that. And I do have to say, Matt, I think it's a very good point, if I saw something like that from you I would say, you know what, I'm not sure Matt should be working here anymore and you probably would not be working here anymore. Who gets to decide what's racist or not? We'll talk about that after the break.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. So the firestorm is heating up over -- in the wake of the "New York Times" hiring of Sarah Jeong, a tech reporter were a history of anti-white tweets. Back with me now, Matt Lewis, Symone Sanders and Ming Ma. Symone, you were saying, you want to respond on that?

SANDERS: Yes. I think, Matt brings up an important point about the media and why it is so important about the way folks talk about this quote/unquote issue of Sarah and her tweets in "The New York Times" is extremely important in the media, because, again, without any context, if you are not providing the full picture, just reading some of the articles that have been written over the last 24 hours or even saying some of the segments on cable news, you would think that Sarah is just a flaming anti-white, you know, person. And that is just not true. I think we have to -- there is just a fuller and deeper conversation.

LEMON: But she did something really silly. I mean, let's be honest. She said something very silly.

SANDERS: I said that up top, Don. I said, I would not. Someone shouldn't be writing things because --

LEMON: let me read a statement and I will get a word from you. This is the New York Times, not her, her journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her the subject of frequent online harassment for a period of time. She responded to the harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers. She sees now that this approach only served the feed the vitriol that we too often see on social media. She regrets it and "The Times" does not condone it.

SANDERS: I want to be clear, I'm not defending the fact that --

LEMON: Ok. You don't have to. Just because someone -- just because someone said something terrible about you on social media does not mean you have to respond. Go through my social media feed, and I never respond. Everyone said I can't believe that stuff is on there. I don't care. I'm not racist, so I'm not going to be drawn into it by responding to a stupid bigot on social media. And if I did, guess what? CNN would fire me.

SANDERS: Perhaps. Look, Don, I agree with you. I don't respond to the trolls either, but all I'm saying is the -- for instance, the assertion that because Sarah referred to white people in her tweets she is somehow now against all white people when we all know that --

LEMON: But Symone, I don't think that is the point. That is not the point that she is against all white people. It sounds like you're making an excuse for someone who actually did something that is bigoted.

SANDERS: Don, I'm trying to figure out why you feel that way. I literally said that it is not OK, that I would have not written it -- I don't want no one should write things they don't want ending up on the front page of the "New York Times" or anywhere else. I wrote that it was silly, I said that.

LEMON: But the point that she is not bigoted against all white people. That is not the point, though.

SANDERS: I think it is important Don, because that is what everybody says. Conservative websites are not even conservatives. I don't want the say that because I have really great conservative friends. But right wing websites, right wing publications and folks that identify with the white supremacist ideology are currently online spreading this.

LEMON: OK. I got you. There are two other people on the panel. We'll fight on text message after the show. You're wrong, Don. No, you're wrong, Symone.

[22:55:00] You want to respond to that, Ying? Do you want to respond to that?

MA: So, I think all this hemming and hawing about whether this is racist or not, and oh, my gosh, you know, can this woman say this and not hate all white people, I mean, I looked at a lot of her tweets and I said earlier that I don't think she feels that way about all white people. But I do think that one of the reasons that Donald Trump won was because he rejected all of this hemming and hawing. He rejected all of this identity politics. He rejected that it was Ok for a young woman educated at Harvard, one of our elite institutions to run around talking nasty things about an entire group of people of a particular race.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: I'm sorry, but Donald Trump was hateful. Donald Trump --

MA: Donald Trump is an equal opportunity offender.

SANDERS: Donald Trump said that --

(CROSSTALK)

MA: And he would offend people of all colors, but not because of your race.

LEMON: It doesn't make it OK.

MA: Hold on a second. Hold on a second. Actually, what I was saying earlier was that the sad state of identity politics makes it not OK for us to talk about race. And so when we talk about border security.

SANDERS: That is wrong.

MA: Apparently if we want tougher border security, your anti- Hispanic. When we talk about --

LEMON: Hold on. What do you mean identity politics that it's not OK to talk about race?

MA: Well, the reason why this young woman has spent a couple of years -- actually, I think it was three years on Twitter practically all the time saying nasty things about white people, her anti-white comments, where do you think she gets that --

LEMON: You think because of identity politics, let me ask you, you think because of identity politics that when I bring up subjects like this and I talk about race on this show that people call me a race baiter. That is because of identity politics?

MA: I don't think there is anything wrong with talking about race, Don. What I do believe is that identity politics has suffocated our public discourse and that it has made it impossible for people to see beyond race.

LEMON: All right. Ok. Matt, I've got to get you in and last word, we're over.

LEWIS: I think for a lot of Americans who have had a very liberal idea that we should have a color-blind society. And for a long time a lot of white Americans didn't even think of themselves as white, actually. And what's happened is there has been a rise of race consciousness. And I think the alt-right has actually been behind that. They want white people to feel like a tribe.

And for a long time white people didn't really feel that way. A lot of white people, most white people. And I think what happened here what this journalist did at the "New York Times" has actually helped the alt-right, to help white people start to feel like they're a tribe under attack and that they need to stick together. I think that is very unproductive.

LEMON: You know that is false. I got to go. You know that is false and this whole idea.

LEWIS: I think it is happening. I don't like the idea.

LEMON: It's really silly, the word color-blind. You want people to be able to see your color. You want people to be able know --

LEWIS: But Don, I want you to judge me as a person, as an individual, as --

SANDERS: And as a person, I'm a black woman. I want people to see that I'm a black woman.

LEMON: And that it's OK to be different. I don't want people to look at me and think that I'm just some blank person on the screen or some blank person in person. Can you put them back up on the screen, I am not done with them yet.

LEWIS: White people does white people that is generalizing.

LEMON: OK. We got to go. Thank you.

LEWIS: OK.

MA: Thank you

LEMON: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)