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Witness Testifies to Tax Fraud in Manafort Trial; Republican and Democratic Candidates in Close Race in Ohio House Special Election; United Nations Report Indicates Sanctions having Little Effect on North Korea; Protestors Demonstrate Outside NRA Headquarters; Comedian Mitch Hedberg Remembered; LeBron James Gives Interview about Opening a New School in Akron. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired August 4, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: -- Cindy Laporta testified that she and others helped him falsify numbers so that he could save hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes. Laporta was granted immunity from prosecution for her testimony. This is all building up to the biggest witness still to come, Manafort's former deputy Rick Gates, who has now flipped to testify against his former boss. The trial continues on Monday. Here's Evan Perez with more.


EVAN PEREZ: The most damaging testimony so far in Paul Manafort's tax and bank fraud trial was from one of his former accountants. Cindy Laporta told the court that she and others at her accounting firm helped Manafort falsify numbers so that Manafort could save hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes. Laporta is the first witness we've heard from so far who is testifying under a limited immunity deal from special counsel Robert Mueller.

Prosecutors say that Manafort used offshore bank accounts to hide millions of dollars that he was paid while doing political consulting work in Ukraine. He's charged with failing to report those foreign bank accounts and with lying on his tax returns as well as lying on bank loan applications. Laporta said in court that she and others at her accounting firm helped fake $900,000 in income from one of those offshore accounts as a loan. That change saved Manafort as much as $500,000 in taxes for 2014.

Now, this is all building towards the big witness still to come, Rick Gates, who was Manafort's number two and who has now flipped to provide testimony against his former boss. We expect that Gates will testify that he was part of the conspiracy to help Manafort hide this money. Manafort's lawyers, of course, are expected to attack Gates' testimony by pointing out that he has now pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The trial continues on Monday.

Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: All right, joining me now to discuss all this, CNN political commentator and former senior adviser for the Trump campaign, Jack Kingston, former D.C. Democratic Party chairman and attorney A. Scott Bolden, and CNN legal analyst Shan Wu. Good to see you all. So Shan, you were a former lawyer for Rick Gates. He is coming up, potentially, this week. We heard some pretty striking testimony coming from the former accountant who said she cooked -- helped cook the books for Manafort. What will Rick Gates bring to the table? And again, he pleaded guilty in exchange for this testimony.

SHAN WU, FORMER LAWYER FOR RICK GATES: Yes, I think what he's going to bring is he's really at the center of it. And I'm commenting on the public record, nothing attorney-client privileged. But I think the prosecution needs to show that he is pretty much one and the same as Manafort. The defense's job is to begin to pry him apart to be able to blame him, and that has not gone so well this week. I mean, it started out pretty well. Ellis was on their side a little bit. But with the accounting testimony, I was surprised at how weak the cross-examination was.

WHITFIELD: Really? What did you -- what do you think needed to be delivered?

WU: Well, for one thing, when you have immunized witnesses, you have a lot of potential leverage and fodder to say, hey, you're in the pocket of the prosecution, you'll say anything they want. They didn't really hit them that hard on it, particularly one of the accountants, there was a lot of questioning about tax terms. And although that does make it sound complicated, I don't feel they're really scoring any points to hurt their credibility. And I think the worst thing for the defense was that it seemed clear they all thought of Manafort and Gates as pretty much the same person.

WHITFIELD: And we'll see if that happens.

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Part of what she did say was that it was all Manafort. And I think that hurt the conspiracy prosecution. If she was saying that, no, this is all Paul Manafort insisted on signing all the checks and knowing what was going on and nothing happened until he was there --

WHITFIELD: In terms of the bank fraud.


WHITFIELD: In term and cooking the books, trying to evade taxes.

KINGSTON: Yes. And so I think that kind of complicates it a little bit for the prosecution in terms of the conspiracy.

WHITFIELD: So if this is so insular and it's Manafort and his demise, why is -- why does it appear the president seems so nervous, according to people who work with him?

KINGSTON: Well, I don't know that he's nervous, because he's always getting accused of having emotions in one way or the other.


KINGSTON: Yes. But a lot of times people outside the White House are saying things about him. I will -- I want to go back to what Judge Ellis said in May, which is that it was very clear that the true target of this investigation is Donald Trump and they're going to ruin Paul Manafort in order to get him to say something about Trump. And I'm paraphrasing it but that's what Ellis said.

BOLDEN: But he's not saying anything about it.

WHITFIELD: Do you see that as the avenue, potentially?

BOLDEN: Maybe, but we wouldn't even be watching this trial if Manafort had not been chairman of the Trump campaign. But here's the really political and legal thing that just kind of is mind boggling. Donald Trump tweeted today or yesterday about the Manafort trial, and the White House political position has been that this is all about Manafort before he got involved with Donald Trump.

[14:05:07] WHITFIELD: Right, so why inject yourself into it?

BOLDEN: He's injecting himself. Hold on, Jack, don't pivot on me right now. I want to go. Let me go. He interjected himself in a trial that he was not supposed to be a part of simply because Mueller is investigating Manafort. And by the way, Donald Trump is a subject of Mueller's investigation. It makes no sense for him to do that. So the more we hear Donald Trump's name in this trial, the less we hear it in this trial, we're going to -- the Democrats will at least either link it or won't link it depending on how often Donald Trump's name comes up in this trial.

WHITFIELD: It's almost like a reminder, like I know you all are talking about him, but what about me?

KINGSTON: I don't think he can stay out of things. If you think about, also, this --

BOLDEN: So just jump in anyway, right?


WHITFIELD: But it has to be potentially damaging.

KINGSTON: I was a senior Republican senator, I'm not attacking the Koch brothers because they're still good donors of mine, so why stir up that? Why talk about LeBron James or our own Don lemon? The president does get involved in a lot of things.

BOLDEN: It would be much better if he left it.

WHITFIELD: And he could have an opportunity to speak if he really wants to, and his attorneys of course are advising against the president being interviewed by Bob Mueller, but apparently they are still working on questions of parameters, et cetera. Do you see, Shan, that the president just simply cannot resist, even if his attorneys say don't do it, he can't resist but talk about it face-to- face with Bob Mueller.

WU: I think he definitely has a discipline problem in terms of message and I think that's why his lawyers are so worried about him sitting down with Mueller.

WHITFIELD: Why is he so insistent that he would want to?

WU: I think that's a spin-type issue, and they want to set the stage for if Mueller, who does not want to litigate all the way to the Supreme Court, can he subpoena the president or not, if they end up doing the report without Trump's input, I think that's great for Trump, because he can say I would have sat down and told you my side of the story but you didn't want to hear it because your conditions were unreasonable.

BOLDEN: It is very dangerous for the president to sit down with Mueller and his people.

WHITFIELD: It's dangerous for him to tweet.

BOLDEN: Exactly, because it may be persuasive and not dispositive, but he's lending himself to this whole obstruction piece. And it's like building blocks where it's just a tweet or not. It may not be an order to Sessions. It may just a be a hope or a wish but it still plays into a negative narrative.

But the reality is, Donald Trump can't sit down with the Mueller investigators because, one, he thinks he's a superior deal maker. That's what Mueller wants. But secondly, there's pretty good evidence out here that Donald Trump as a narcissist has no relationship with the truth. And if he sits down with Mueller and if he lies or he misleads, OK, then he's looking at a charge or an allegation in this report, whether they can prosecute him or not, of not obstruction but of lying to the FBI.

It's very dangerous for him. Mueller may need it because he wants to know about corruptible intent, but Mueller may also be thinking that if he lies to us, that's a strong allegation, much like the bank fraud in Manafort's case.

WHITFIELD: Jack, last word. How important is the outcome for the president?

KINGSTON: I think it's important, but it's not related to him whatsoever, and everybody agrees with that. But I also think that one of the things that Scott's overlooking, when Andrew Weissman, who goes to the Hillary Clinton victory party and nine of the prosecutors that are on the team Mueller has selected have donated to Hillary Clinton, I think that there is a part --

BOLDEN: So they can't have political beliefs? They don't have political bias. They have political beliefs.

KINGSTON: If the gentleman will yield. Let me say this. There are a lot of fine Democrats and Republicans in this town, and there are a lot of fine independents. It's incredible, incredible that Bob Mueller couldn't find some of the independents but instead got nine partisan donors to Hillary Clinton.

BOLDEN: Partisan donors? So now that I'm a prosecutor I can't have a political belief and I can't exercise my first amendment to give to a candidate. Unbelievable. This must be the new GOP. Jack, this is the new GOP, and an unreasonable one at that. The evidence speaks for itself.

KINGSTON: Let me remind the distinguished lawyer that Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion 11 years.

WHITFIELD: That still did not answer the question of why is the president so concerned about the Manafort trial? We'll leave it right there for now.

KINGSTON: It's politics. It shouldn't be politics. It should be fair. Only one percent of all tax evaders go to trial. You know that.

WHITFIELD: Jack Kingston, Scott Bolden, Shan Wu, thanks to all of you, appreciate it. We'll have you back because we always have so much to talk about.



WHITFIELD: Just never enough time. But thank you. Appreciate it.

Soon, President Trump will head to central Ohio for one of his favorite things to do, rallying his base. This visit coming just days before crucial special election in that state as Republicans fight to maintain control of the House. Aides say they want to hold more rallies just like this because this lifts the president's spirits and it keeps his mind off the thing that he really doesn't want to talk about, the Russia probe.

[14:10:00] CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood joining us now from New Jersey near where the president's golf course and resort is in Bedminster, so what message might we expect from the president this evening from Ohio?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Fred, we're likely to hear President Trump reprise some of his signature attacks on Democrats and the media when he leaves his golf property later today to campaign for Troy Balderson. That's the Republican who is locked in a very tight race in that Ohio special election. And Trump has been active on Twitter this morning, tweeting out his support for Balderson and the candidate's positions on issues like border security.

And Trump also took a swipe at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who Republicans have sought to use as a foil in this race and in dozens of House races across the country. Trump had also gone after Pelosi during his rally in Pennsylvania on Thursday, and he's likely to do so again today from Ohio where opposition to the House minority leader has factored heavily into Balderson's campaign strategy. Trump has already held those two rallies so far this week and sources

tell CNN that White House aides hope to fill the president's schedule with even more political events in order to take his mind off the Russia investigation as Trump is said to be growing increasingly frustrated with the pace of the Russia probe and the coverage to the Manafort trial. So this could be a much-needed distraction for President Trump as Republicans struggle to stop Democrats from notching yet another victory in a district like Ohio's 12th that Trump won easily in 2016. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All, a respite perhaps if only for a moment. Sarah Westwood, thank you so much.

Still ahead, serious accusations that North Korea is violating U.N. sanctions and even ignoring an arms embargo. We'll hear what could happen next.

And the NRA says it is in jeopardy of shutting down some of its operations. Details on the financial troubles of the country's largest pro-gun organization. This as school shooting survivors and other demonstrators rally right now outside the organization's headquarters in Virginia. A live report next.


WHITFIELD: A new report by the United Nations says that North Korea's actively ignoring sanctions and even evading the arms embargo against it. While at a conference in Singapore, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent out this warning.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I want to remind every nation that has supported these resolutions that this is a serious issue and something that we will discuss with Moscow. We expect the Russians and all countries to abide by the U.N. Security Council resolutions and enforce sanctions on North Korea. Any violation that detracts from the world's goal of finally fully denuclearizing North Korea would be something that America would take very seriously.


WHITFIELD: Let's talk more about all this. I want to bring in Jim Walsh, he is an international security analyst and research associate in security studies at MIT, and Samantha Vinograd, she is a CNN national security analyst and a former adviser in the Obama administration. Good to see you both.


WHITFIELD: All right, Sam, you first. Mike Pompeo there accusing Russia of helping North Korea evade sanctions. Is North Korea getting away with skirting sanctions?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think they definitely are, and there's an inconvenient truth, Fred, that we have to be clear-eyed about. Russia and China are stymieing any efforts to hold North Korea accountable for their sanctions evasion. We know that the president very successfully, at least, designed a maximum pressure campaign. President Trump has said it was unprecedented, he's right. He led efforts to really put unprecedented pressure on North Korea.

But the truth is that at this point, Russia and China have made very clear that they are going to block any additional measures at the U.N. Security Council to hold North Korea accountable for sanctions evasion. So at this point we have reports coming out that North Korea is doing everything to flout international sanctions. They're illegally importing, they're illegally exporting. They're sharing or sending arms around the world. But there's not much that we can do about it because of what Russia and China are unwilling to do at the United Nations.

WHITFIELD: So, Jim, this friendly exchange, if you want to call it that, of letters this week between North Korea and the U.S. by way of the counterparts such as Mike Pompeo, what does this mean to you? And what do you suppose the information or the rhetoric that is being exchanged that way, how helpful to the process might it be?

WALSH: It's not helpful. And let me politely disagree with Sam. I don't think the center of gravity here is Russia and China as far as the sanctions go. I know those people on the U.N. panel of experts, I've met with them, I've briefed them. This is the same report they've been giving for years and years, which is that there really sort of lax sanctions enforcement. It's been true for a while. My guess is their next report's going to say the same thing.

The real locus here, the center of gravity is really what should be happening, which is a negotiation between Pompeo and the North Koreans. Unfortunately Mr. Pompeo is being undercut by his own president because the president will tweet nice things about North Korea, North Korea's great, North Korea is that, and then Pompeo shows up and tries to play the heavy, and the North Koreans sort of laugh at him because they know the president likes North Korea and says nice things about them.

So rather than focusing on sanctions, we should be focusing on getting an agreement. That thing in Singapore wasn't an agreement. It was some nice words on one piece of paper. The Iran nuclear deal, 159 pages negotiated over three years, that was an agreement. And so we need to -- the North Koreans aren't going to give everything up before sanctions relief. This is going to have to be a reciprocal process where they do stuff and we do stuff, and they do stuff and we do stuff. But none of this happens until we have an agreement, an actual agreement, and so negotiations have to begin in order to get that agreement.

[14:20:03] VINOGRAD: Right, but there is one difference here, Jim, and obviously this report has been happening for years, there has been -- this is the swiss cheese of sanctions enforcement in many ways. But the difference is that the United Nations did put unprecedented pressure through their sanctions resolutions on North Korea, particularly with respect to a fuel embargo, that some could argue helped lead North Korea to the negotiating table. And now this negotiating table, as you pointed out, is an open-ended process about talks, we're talking about talks at this point. But if sanctions aren't being enforced and North Korea is still having access to revenue, access to products, the incentive for them to sit down at the table in any kind of meaningful way is lessened.

WALSH: I would disagree and say I've interviewed North Korean defectors about sanctions, and I really doubt that sanctions are the cause of what this outcome is. But I will say this. When did the North Koreans last do something that was a positive step? When they destroyed that engine test site for the ICBM. They did it two days or a day after "The Washington Post" had a big story saying the president was getting frustrated and angry with the North Koreans. That tells me the North Koreans are going to ratchet this according to whether they think Trump is angry or pleased with them. And so the administration has to get its act together and have a consistent message and the president has to stop undercutting Pompeo.

WHITFIELD: All right, both very strong sentiments. Jim Walsh, Samantha, we value you both. Thank you so much.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

WALSH: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, the National Rifle Association says it is facing major financial trouble, so bad that it may be, quote, unable to exist. Why it says it might be forced to shut down some of its media operations.


[14:26:17] WHITFIELD: All right, right now gun control activists are protesting outside NRA headquarters in Virginia. The families of school shooting victims are taking part in the demonstration. Let's get right to CNN correspondent Karin Caifa in Fairfax, Virginia. Karin, what's happening?

KARIN CAIFA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, the formal program of this protest that was organized by a number of student and other gun control groups, including March For Our Lives, the formal program has concluded. And as you can see behind me, both sides are represented and interacting. There has been this barrier that was set up by police to keep those who were here to counter-protest the group separated. Although before the formal program of this protest got under way, the two sides, some of them were interacting in a thoughtful dialogue.

But for the most part, they are separated right now after what was a very poignant program here on the 18th birthday of one of the Parkland shooting victims, Joaquin Oliver. His father, Manuel, is here and painted a mural, really trying to keep his son's memory alive. Another Parkland parent trying to keep his daughter's memory alive is Fred Guttenberg. He spoke about his 14-year-old daughter Jamie earlier today.


FRED GUTTENBERG, DAUGHTER KILLED IN PARKLAND, FLORIDA SHOOTING: For those who say not now, this is not the right time to talk about it, or after a few months have passed that we should all just move on, I say, I didn't pay attention to you before, and I don't plan to start now.


CAIFA: Also present here at today's rally were Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school students including David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez who have become young activists in the wake of that shooting just six months ago. Another thing to note about the timing here today, Fredricka, about three months until the midterm elections and there is an active effort among these young people to get people registered to vote and have their voices heard.

WHITFIELD: Karin Caifa, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

Ten months after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, the motive remains a mystery. Investigators say they were never able to determine why the Las Vegas shooter opened fire on a music festival from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in October. Fifty-eight people were killed and hundreds were injured. The investigators' final report released just yesterday does conclude the shooter acted alone.

Still to come, NBA superstar LeBron James fulfills a promise to his hometown. Details on his plan to offer at-risk kids free tuition and meals next.



LARRY CHARLES, WRITER/DIRECTOR/COMEDIAN: It doesn't make any sense, and it's sad and tragic. And that's where the comedy is.


WHITFIELD: A new episode of "The History of Comedy" takes a look at the passing of comedic legends and how the connection with their audiences makes the loss even more significant. Here's a preview.


LARRY CHARLES, WRITER/DIRECTOR/COMEDIAN: It's sad, it's tragic, and that's how life is. It doesn't make sense and it's sad and tragic. And that's where the comedy is.

MITCH HEDBERG, COMEDIAN: You can't please all the people all the time, and last night, all those people were at my show.


MIKE BIRBIGLIA, COMEDIAN: Mitch Hedberg is, I believe, one of the great comedians of all-time. If you look at what he's writing on the page, it's almost like comedic haiku.

HEDBERG: When it comes to racism, people say, I don't care if they're black, white, purple, or green. Hold on now. Purple or green? You got to draw the line somewhere.

I like rice. Rice is great when you're hungry and you want 2,000 of something.

One time a guy handed me a picture and he said, here's a picture of me when I was younger. Every picture is of you when you were younger.


PETE HOLMES, COMEDIAN: Mitch Hedberg is like joke MacGyver. He's handing you the ingredients in the set-up and you're like, this isn't an airboat and it's not going to rescue us, MacGyver, but then it does. It's like a very absurd bait and switch.

HEDBERG: I think big foot is blurry. That's the problem. It's not the photographer's fault.


NEAL BRENNAN, WRITER/DIRECTOR/COMEDIAN: People who die in their 30s, you don't get to see them flourish, and it is a rip-off. You're like, man, I wish I could hear how they would process the world today.

HEDBERG: I love you guys. Thanks for coming to my special.



WHITFIELD: "The History of Comedy" airs tomorrow 10:00 p.m. eastern and pacific on CNN.

[14:35:04] NBA superstar LeBron James may be taking his talents to Los Angeles this season, but he hasn't forgotten about his hometown of Akron, Ohio. James' foundation teamed up with the Akron public school system to create an elementary school to support at-risk children. CNN got a tour of the I Promise school, which opened on Monday. Students enrolled there will get free meals and tuition and free college tuition at the University of Akron if they graduate high school. CNN's Don Lemon sat down with James to talk about what motivated him to take on such a monumental task.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for doing this.

LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: Thanks for having me.

LEMON: Everyone who knows I'm doing this says, much respect, much respect for I Promise. But you have so much going on. Why do you want to do this? JAMES: I mean, the kids talked to me, either verbally or I can just

hear their mental. I am one of them, not too far removed, so it wasn't even a question. It happened organically.

LEMON: You just did it. You figured this was the best thing for you to do. Are you nervous about this? Because I remember when Oprah was opening her school, she was like, it's such a big responsibility, I don't think I've ever been as nervous about anything or felt this level of responsibility.

JAMES: It's not that I'm nervous. I'm more excited about it. I'm truly excited and truly humbled and blessed that, first of all, that the Akron public school system in my hometown even did this joint venture with us, allowed us to make something like this happen. And then just my support system and my foundation, Michelle Campbell, first of all, the number one point person in my foundation, they brought this whole thing together and brought it to me. And I was like, absolutely. Let's not -- absolutely. You can't get nowhere in life without help.

LEMON: Without help. You were, I think, a third grader who interviewed you for "Teen Vogue" and asked you about the challenges and about a single mom. And I relate to that because I grew up with a single mom, who's my hero. Your mom is your hero. Is that one of the reasons this is important to you?

JAMES: Absolutely. And it's one of the huge reasons that it's important because the everyday struggle that me and my mom had to go through at that age, being in the third and fourth grade and for us to be in a position where we can bring, like, this into fruition and see stories of kids that's going through the same thing that I went through, it even makes it even more of, like, yes, we did this. This is why we should have done it.

LEMON: But how do you conquer those fears? Jaden was his name. He talked about hearing gunshots, walking through, being tempted by drugs and all those things. How do you think they -- how do you get them to understand that's not the path they have to take?

JAMES: I think being in a support system, and that's what this is all about. I think for me, when I did go to school or when I was playing little league sports, being around kids and being around people that had fun and kind of speak the same language as you, it allows you to kind of escape away from the drugs and the violence and the gunshots and things that go on an everyday basis. And that's what we're here for right now. That's why I'm opening this school to be able to get these kids' mind away from and their body away from. We even, you know, made the hours of being in school longer, from 8:00 instead of 3:00 to 5:00.

LEMON: We said that's a long time.

JAMES: Yes. We want them here, so we can let them know not only do we want you here but we really do care. We really do care about what happens with you.

LEMON: People say, he's an athlete, right? Athletics are big. But this is a STEM school. It's science, mathematics, reading.

JAMES: All of that. Math, reading, social studies all the way down to gym class to music, arts, all -- everything.

LEMON: It's wholistic.

JAMES: Absolutely.

LEMON: That's important. Are athletics important to these kids? Do you think it's their minds right now?

JAMES: I think both. I think athletics are important but also their mind. I think both. I think it just plays -- it just brings -- when you're a part of sports and you're a part of -- it just brings so much camaraderie and so much fun. We are in a position right now America, more importantly, where this whole -- this race thing is taking over, and -- one, because I believe our president is kind of trying to divide us. But I think --

LEMON: Kind of?

JAMES: Yes. He is. He is.


JAMES: I don't want to say kind of. He's dividing us, and what I noticed over the last few months that he's kind of used sport to kind of divide us, and that's something that I can't relate to because I know that sport was the first time I ever was around someone white. And I got an opportunity to see them and learn about them and they got an opportunity to learn about me and we became very good friends. And I was like, oh, wow, this is all because of the sports. And sports has never been something that divided people. It's always been something that brings someone together.

LEMON: Do you remember any of your first experiences around someone who was different than you, someone who was white, you said, because that was through sports. Do you remember what it was and what was your reaction?

[14:40:03] JAMES: It was different. I mean, they -- first of all, from a -- they ate dinner at a different hour than I've ever ate dinner before.

LEMON: Like earlier?

JAMES: Like supper at 6:30 in the afternoon. I thought it was afternoon. They called it evening time. It was the first time I ever seen a pantry. You understand? Like for me, everything, where I grew up, everything was on top of the refrigerator. I went to my white friend's house, they had a pantry. So I learned about that as well.

But they just -- they kind of lived life without care, no worry. And I wanted to get to a point, maybe I could live life without no care or worry either, being around a lot of my white friends growing up. And it was just a pretty cool thing. LEMON: And even bedtime. Bedtime is 7:30, 8:00.

JAMES: Yes, yes, no. Wasn't none of that. None of that for me on this side. None of that.


LEMON: I'm glad you mentioned that because I've been watching you, especially over the -- I've been watching you for a long time. This is not the first time I've interviewed you. I remember interview you for your website, some other things that you did. But something has changed in you over the last year or two. Is it what's going on in the country, racially? Is it politically?

JAMES: I think it's a little bit of everything. I think it starts with the Trayvon Martin situation. And the reason it starts with that, I believe, is because having kids of my own, having boys of my own, it hit home for me to see and learn that story and to think that if my boy left home and he never returned. That kind of hit a switch. That kind of hit a switch for me. And from that point on, I knew that my voice and my platform had to be used for more than just sports.

LEMON: Right. Good for you. Good for you, man.

You said that, your boy never returned home, but then there are people, kids are returning home, and you think about the kids that are being taken away. The same thing, like your heart breaks when you think someone comes over, they want a better life, and all of a sudden their kids are being taken away from them. Can you imagine that?

JAMES: No, I can't imagine that. And we've always grown up saying this is the land of the free and opportunity here in America, and to be a parent, to be a father, to be a husband, and to think that you could have a beautiful family one day and then the next day they could be taken away is something that you never, ever could imagine.


WHITFIELD: Coming up, is LeBron James considering running for office? We'll bring you more of Don Lemon's sit0down with the NBA superstar next.


[14:47:04] WHITFIELD: All right, back now with more of Don Lemon's sit-down with NBA superstar LeBron James. Don sat down with the NBA superstar during the opening of his new I Promise school in Akron, Ohio, a joint project between James' foundation and the Akron public school system. James has a message for children of color facing adversity.


LEMON: You were talking about athletics, right, and how you think that this president is dividing. And I think about the kids now. Like they're -- there are kids who are selling water. I interviewed a little kid who wanted some action figures and he was out doing stuff with his mom, and he got like the cops called on him. How do you tell these kids, even with that, when you're just living while black, how do you get them to keep going?

JAMES: I think --

LEMON: You know the incidents I'm talking about.

JAMES: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think the best way to tell them to keep going is no matter how successful you could become, no matter who you are, when you're an African-American kid, man or female, you're always going to be going against obstacles. And it's one of two things that you can do. You can allow it to affect you and for you to be great, or you can allow it to empower you even more and to rise above it.

And I think if we look at some of the greatest leaders of our time, you look at Muhammad Ali, you look at Dr. Martin Luther King, out of all the adversity they went through, they never let it down them. They always used it to say, OK, this is even more motivation. This is even more a way for me to even be more powerful, and they're the reason why we are here today.

LEMON: Your challenges become goals, and your haters become your motivators.

JAMES: Absolutely.

LEMON: Right?

JAMES: Absolutely.

LEMON: So, you were saying -- you were talking about the -- using athletics to divide people.


LEMON: You've heard what the man in charge, you've heard what the president has said about Marshawn, about Steph, about, it seems like it's --

JAMES: Kaepernick.

LEMON: Kaepernick.


LEMON: Men of color who have means and a platform.


LEMON: What's up with that?

JAMES: What's up with that is it's all wrong. It's not up, it's down. And for him to, like I said, use sports to divide us is something I can't sit back and not say nothing. LEMON: You tweeted about a couple of things. You tweeted about when

Steph Curry, when he, he called him -- you called him a bum, but Steph had already said I'm not going to the White House.

JAMES: He already said he wasn't going, and he tried to use it after that to say, well, you're not invited. You can't uninvite me to something I've already said I'm not going to go to. We all know Steph Curry, model citizen, great kid, comes from a great background, great family.

LEMON: Great father.

JAMES: Great father, and so many different kids -- so many kids, white, black, Hispanic, all different races love what he's doing, and rightfully so. There's no reason for anyone to ever attack him. And that's -- I felt that.

[14:50:08] LEMON: Whenever there's something like he's in trouble, he can't wiggle his way out of something, he'll bring up the National Anthem thing or kneeling and standing. Do you think he uses black athletes as a scapegoat?

JAMES: At times. At times. And more often than not. I believe he uses anything that's popular to try to negate people from thinking about the positive things that they could actually be doing and try just to get our minds to not be as sharp as possible right then, just to, either from kneeling, from football players kneeling, look at Kaepernick, who was protesting something he believed in, and he did it in the most calm fashion.

LEMON: Respectful.

JAMES: Very respectful. He did all his due diligence. He was knowledgeable about it, and everyone knew why he did it. You look at all the NFL players that are still kneeling and things of that nature. You look at Steph. Look at, Marshawn Lynch, you look at all these instances of why he's trying to divide our sport, but at the end of the day, sport is the reason why we all come together.

LEMON: What do you -- I just wonder where we go from here, because to a lot of people, Charlottesville was just it. You tweeted, I think you said, is this what our country is? Make America great again? I'm paraphrasing your tweet, but I think that was the sort of, for everybody, like, all right, that's enough. I can't believe this.

JAMES: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, we all felt that. I don't think you -- it didn't matter what color you are to feel that, to feel that tension, to feel like our great country, that we all wake up every day in the land of the free as we believe, with great opportunities to be even more than what people expect you to become. For that to happen, you just feel like that was his tipping point.

LEMON: Were you, I guess, maybe you were surprised, maybe you weren't, the whole n-word incident at your house, when you had the n- word painted. JAMES: I don't know if I was surprised. I don't know if I was hurt.

I don't know if I was disappointed. It was so many different emotions. More importantly it was the conversation that I had to have with my boys, that it was -- that hurt me. But at the same time, it also enlightened me and also knew that no matter, as I stated, when I did the interview after that, that no matter how big you can become, no matter how successful you are, no matter what you do in the community, not matter what you do in your profession, being an African-American in America is always tough, and they're always going to let you know that you are the n-word, no matter who you are, and that was just a reset.

LEMON: Even when you have LeBron's status and LeBron money.

JAMES: It doesn't.

LEMON: You think it's harder to be -- when you see these incidents about people living, just being black, and what happened to you at your house and all that, do you think it's harder now, or do you think it's always been there, we're just seeing it because of cell phones?

JAMES: I think it's always been there. But I think the president in charge now has given people -- they don't care now. They throw it in your face now.

LEMON: Do you -- would you ever run for office?

JAMES: 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, they said, listen, they've got no one. If you don't run, Trump's going to win, would you run?

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


LEMON: But if there's no one, you would run.

JAMES: Let's see first.

LEMON: The last question is, what do you hope happens from this school? Because I've got to tell you, I walk through. I am impressed. Everybody's impressed. This is a great thing you're doing. What do you want to happen? What do you want this to go from here?

JAMES: What I want to happen, every kid that walked through those doors, every kid, from the 240 kids that we're starting with right now, third and fourth grade, to the 2022 where we're going have first through eighth grade, we want every kid that walks through that school to be inspired, to come away with something where they can give back. And it doesn't matter -- it could be anything, but just for kids in general, all they want to know is that someone cares. And when they walk through that door, I hope they know that someone cares.

LEMON: And you're going to L.A., but is your heart here?

JAMES: My heart is always here. Akron, Ohio, that's why I'm doing this school right here today.

LEMON: Yes. You excited about L.A.?

JAMES: Absolutely.

LEMON: One more question. What would you say to the president if he was sitting right here?

JAMES: I would never sit across from him.

LEMON: You would never. You don't want to talk to him?

JAMES: No. I'll sit across from Barack, though.


WHITFIELD: All right. And the school, I Promise, well, it's not just for students. There's also a program to help parents get their GED, and those involved say it's all about fostering a sense of community. And congrats to LeBron James and to the school, I Promise.

[14:55:05] Thanks so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Washington. The news continues with Ana Cabrera after this.


ANA CABRERA: We're live in the CNN Newsroom. Great to have you with us this weekend. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

President Trump making good on his promise to hit the road full throttle for Republicans this summer. In just a few hours, he'll be pumping up GOP voters in Ohio in a deep red district that he won easily on Election Day. Now, a Republican win there is by no means a given. These two are fighting for a congressional seat in Tuesday's special election.